January 26, 2006

Vikings in Vindaloo

I've always been a fan of languages and especially enthralled by one theory that all languages initially had one source. Some linguistics would argue that it is not true since Greek is not related to any other language and has its own linguistic stem yet we find words such as portokalos meaning orange, with a similar burtuqal in Arabic. It could of course be the case that one borrowed from the other.

Another fascinating find for me being half Swedish and Pakistani (Pashtoon), is the resemblanbce of a few Pashto words to Swedish. The word for mother in Swedish is mor (pronounced moor), and the same in Pashto is mor (pronounced more). Father is far, and the Pashto equivalent is plar.

Then we have the Italian word basta, meaning enough. In Pashto we say basde, Arabic has a similar bas, so has Urdu.

The idea of finding similar words in other languages is perhaps not shocking or even strange, for indeed there has been major exchange during the past centuries between cultures but some exchanges never took place, or atleast not to the same extent that woud entail a linguistical swap, such as one between Pashtoons and Swedes, or Pashtoons and Italians.

Reading about languages also made me stumble upon the origins of the Finnish language. Apparently Finnish is directly related to Turkish. Something that also fascinated me about Finnish is its strange connection with Arabic in the sense that for many Arabic words, there is an exact same word yet with a totally different meaning, in the Finnish language.


The Arabic word raha meaning rest, in Finnish means money. There is no word in the whole Swedish, Norwegian or Danish language that even sounds remotely close to the word raha. Yet our Scandinavian neighbour is filled with such examples. Finland and the Arab world haven't exactly had major interactions in the past so one cannot explain it through such reasoning.

One of the world's probably most globally influenced languages is Swahili. With words borrowed from Urdu, Arabic, Portuguese, English, Farsi, German and Bantu, Swahili sure is a linguistic melting pot.


Gari meaning car, borrowed from the Urdu word.
Meza meaning table, borrowed from Portuguese.
Baisikeli meaning bicycle, borrowed from English.
Kamusi meaning dictionary, borrowed from Arabic.
Achari meaning pickle, borrowed from Persian (Farsi).
Shule meaning school, borrowed from German.

Wether or not the Turks were in Finland, or the Finnish in Saudi Arabia or the Pashtoons have kinship traced back to the Vikings of Scandinavia (they have the same temper I might add), languages will continue to hold answers about more than meets the eye for whomever has the time and energy to find the key.


jim said...

Hi Shaykespeara! Haven't read your posts in a while so I am happy to find so many interesting and amusing things to read. By the way, the green picture, is it a painting or made on the computer? I'd like to hear more about your thoughts on languages.

Take care!

BuJ said...

Hi Shaira,

Very interesting insight on the etymology of words. Seems you have quite an amplitude for it, maybe a possibility for future study perhaps?

I've always been interested in etymology especially since 3 years ago I started learning Italian and found so many similarities between that and Arabic. One such example is:

Forno: Italian for oven, borrowed and used in Arabic as Furn.

Mashkalji: Arabic for troublemaker (masculine). In Italian the word is mascalzone which also means rascal.

Maybe this is an indication of the type of exchange of cultures between the Italians and us Arabs :)

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Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Hey jim. Nice to have you back, I'm sure Buj has missed your comments, I know I have. :)

Buj: perhaps it is something to concider for the future, assuming Oxford has such a degree ;) Thank you for enlightening me with more word etymology info. Mashkalji, I believe rashid al majed sang mashkelni one summer... hmm

D. Candy haven't seen you in a while, hope all is well. :)

BuJ said...

I have missed everyone's comments! Gimmie some more!

Interesting info about Rashid Al Majed :)

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