Common Words in Languages


Abdul Hai Habibi


The art of recognition of languages has developed extensively in recent years and, like other sciences, which are based on experimental foundations, the know-how of languages is also gaining scientific recognition.

†It has been established that words and phrases in a language follow a defined order, just like other living organisms, and natureís laws are applicable to languages just as they are to the universal order of life.

Just as the environment has an impact on peopleís lives words and phrases also come under the effect of changes from one location to the other and are influenced by environmental factors.

The law of transition and adaptation is also seen in languages. When a particular word is transferred to a new environment it adapts to the changes in its new surroundings. From the beginning humans have been borrowing words from each other, they are changed and structured in accordance to the needs of a particular society or culture and put in use in a new form.

Words have the tendency to get adapted and changed, and among nations where there are social and business ties, words get transferred from one society to the other. Sometimes the words travel a long distance and get assimilated into a language that is spoken in a distant land. As a result different languages share some common words and the transfer of words from one language to the other is a common feature.

For example a large number of languages spoken in Europe have been derived from Latin and we see that English and French have common words. Similarly a lot of the words of Aryan languages are from the same root. For example, a large number of words spoken in Pashto and Persian, are common or very close to those in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. We see that the aas آس (horse) of Pashto, asp اسپ of Persian and asho of Sanskrit are very close. Similarly, the word dewa ډیوه (lamp) is common in Pashto and Sanskrit. Not a single language is free from sharing common words with some other language and we see that a language is not free from the impact of other languages.

Science has proved that all the languages of the world belong to different families and every language is related to one family or the other. Each family has its own peculiar root which is shared among different languages related to that family. Based on this factor every language is tied to its root which is shared by several languages. If we are to accept this factor then the notion that a language is pure does not ring true.

For example Aryan languages which are spoken in India, Afghanistan, Persia and other European nations have all derived from one common Aryan language and they share common words. Among these languages, Pashto is close to Sanskrit and Avesta, and also has a relationship with Persian. We see that Pashto shares a lot of words with Indian languages and Persian, which are alive and in use in these languages. For example hut هټ and hati هټی, which means a shop, are common with Sanskrit and other Indian languages and as such rud رود (river), dewal دیوال (wall) and buna بنه (family), and many others, are words common with Persian.

We consider these common words to be a part of the language and do not want to eliminate them from our language. We also have a lot of Arabized words in our language which have been assimilated into Pashto and these should not be considered alien words. Words such as kames کمیس (shirt), pata پاتا (a throne), meras میراث (inheritance), nara ناره (groan) are among this group. These words are now considered to be a part and parcel of Pashto words.

During the time of transfer of words, distance words also get assimilated into a language, which do not have any resemblance to its family of language. For example Sanskrit is an Aryan language while Arabic is a Semitic language and a lot of Sanskrit words have found their way into Arabic due to the influence of trade between the two regions. Sanskrit words such as apat, chandan, mushka, kapur, and taanbul, which have been assimilated into Arabic, have taken the form of afat آفت , sandal صندل, musk مسک, kafur کافور and tanbul تنبول in Persian. We see that these words are in use in Pashto also such as apat اپت (calamity), chandarn چندڼ (sandal) and kapur کاپور (vine). So these words can be considered to be common between the Semitic Arabic and Aryan languages and are used in Persian in their Arabic form. They have been Arabized in accordance to the principles of Arabic vocabulary and needs.

There are a plethora of words which have been assimilated from one language into another. Here I will talk about the background of one word (puz) پوز.

Sounds and words display a peculiar characteristic in every language which I consider the innate quality of words. When words assimilate they acquire a certain meaning. For example the sounds (seen س and tae ت) convey the meaning of to stop and this root is commonly used to convey the same meaning in a number of Aryan languages. The Pashto hastedal هستیدل , the Persian hast هست and the English stay, stand and stable and many other words have this same element. Hence we can say that the sounds (seen and tae) are elementary letters in Aryan languages. Similarly (pae پ and zae ز) are elemental sounds in Pashto denoting high and in Pashto puza پوزه or paza پزه means a snout because it defines a higher place. Puza in Pasho is also used to mean a mound. In Persian puz پوز means anything which protrudes like the muzzle of a dog. This word is commonly used to identify the higher part of an animalís face and if it is used for a human it is considered to be an insult. We use puz-e sag پوز سگ (the muzzle of a dog) or puz-e shagal پوز شغال (the muzzle of a jackal), which denotes a protrusion. Puza پوزه in Persian means anything which protrudes. In Pahlavi puz پوز has the same meaning.[1]

From this evaluation we see that (puz, puza and paza) all have an Aryan root and their elementary letters are (pae and zae). This Aryan word got assimilated into Arabic a long time ago and underwent a great deal of transformation over the centuries and is still in use in Arabic. The Arian (puz پوز) has been in use in Arabic for a long time and Arab linguists have used it to mean the snout of a dog.[2]

This word is in use in Palestine with the same meaning. For example if one wants to silence another person in an insulting way he says (sad buzak سد بوزک) meaning silence your mouth.

I just used this word as an example. There are a plethora of words in Arabic, Persian and Indian languages which have been borrowed from one language into another over historical times and they are considered to be a part of the language.

Let us see what we can do about these common words?†

If we are to delve into the transformation of a language then we need to eliminate the (paza پزه) of Pashto since this word is used both in Persian and Arabic even though we do not have any alternative word for it in Pashto, nor are we in a position to make up another word for it. Therefore we do not have a choice and should continue to use the Pashto (paza پزه or puza پوزه). There are thousands of other such examples and we need to preserve these words in our language and not discard them just because they are used in other languages.

There are those who want to purify a language and want to introduce new words. Such an endeavor does not have a strong foundation and I think that such a move is an improper aspiration.[3]



[1]Farhang-e Nezam.

[2]Shefa al-Ghalil.

[3]Kabul Magazine, Vol. 2, pp 1-3, 1946.