Cambridge Professor Embarks on Study of the Armenian Dialect of Salmast

Dr. Bert Vaux
Dr. Bert Vaux

Dr. Bert Vaux

LOS ANGELES — Cambridge University professor and specialist in Armenian linguistics and dialectology Dr. Bert Vaux presented a lecture on “The Armenian Dialect of Salmast” at the 2nd Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian Conference organized by Professor S. Peter Cowe of the Narekatsi Chair of Armenian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, which focused on Armeno-Persian Relations and the Persarmenian Community Throughout the Ages.

Professor Vaux explained that despite the Salmast region’s historical importance in Armenian culture, its dialect has yet to receive a proper linguistic treatment, normally being omitted from the standard manuals of Armenian dialects and at-best mentioned as a subdialect of Khoy / Urmia.

He provided an overview of the Salmast dialect and its place in the world of Armenian varieties (particularly, as compared to Khoy, Urmia, and Maragha), and illustrated phonological, morphological, and lexical features of the dialect using traditional riddles and sayings.

Some of the many distinctive Salmast forms discussed included väv ‘who’, khäyir ‘100’, talv ‘husband’s sister’, լապըստրակ lapəstrak ‘hare’, votəpöpikʸ ‘barefoot’, and the use of էր ēr as a past tense marker, as in էնէնց էնք էր գինալի ēnēnts‘ ēnk‘ ēr ginäli = այնպէս գիտէինք ‘thus we knew’.

Professor Vaux mentioned that the greatest Armenian linguist, Hrachea Adjarian, had collected a large corpus of Salmast dialect material during his time teaching in Iran 100 years ago, but was unable to assemble this material into a book-size treatment before his death in 1953.

Professor Vaux hopes to collate the Salmast materials in Adjarian’s Armenian Etymological Dictionary (1926-35) and Complete Grammar of the Armenian Language (1952-71); and, combine them with new words, phrases, texts, and video recordings collected from the last remaining Salmastsi speakers to produce a book-length grammar and lexicon of the Salmast dialect (taking account of its descendants in Karabagh and Armenia, particularly in Vayots‘ Dzor, as well).

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