An unexpected corpus: Russian version

Over at his blog Panchronica, Guillaume Jacques expresses his delight about The Jesus Film, that product of some American Protestant sect that has now been translated into an enormous amount of languages, even ones for which written material is extremely scanty. It has certainly been of great help to me as I’ve learned Ossetian, and the existence of separate Albanian translations for Kosovo and the Republic of Albania will help foreign learners feel comfortable with both the Gheg and Tosk variants of that language.

While there is probably no other film so widely translated as The Jesus Film, for my own particular purposes I’ve been pleased to find something else, and where the story is less likely to be familiar to the viewer: the Soviet cartoon Трое из Простоквашино (“The Trio from Prostokvashino”) has been dubbed into a number of languages, mainly from Southern Russia and the Caucasus, for example:

  • Ossetian
  • Ingush
  • Lezgian
  • Karachay-Balkar (I was very surprised by how difficult this language is to understand, I thought I would be able to follow it pretty easily after learning Kipchak languages from further east);
  • Lak
  • Kumyk
  • Tatar (under the translated title Простоквашинодан өчәү)

Clicking the links in the sidebar, one can find one’s way to other cartoons in various languages of the former USSR. There’s even an entire playlist of Ossetian-dubbed cartoons.

Mari uštə̑š ‘verst’ as a calque on Kipchak

All of the Kipchak languages except Karaim referred to the Russian verst as čaqïrïm, a derivation of the verb čaqïr- ‘to shout’, that is, a verst was seen as the distance a shout would carry.

In Mari, a word for verst is MariE W uštə̑š, for which Tscheremissisches Wörterbuch gives no etymology. One’s eye is then drawn to a verb on the same page, uštal kolten ‘I shout’, which would support deriving the Mari term in the same way as the Kipchak.

The odd thing is that this verb is attested with the meaning ‘shout’ in only one dialect in Tscheremissisches Wörterbuch, that of Krasnoufimsk in the Eastern Mari diaspora. Everywhere else, ueštaš (with an e that reduces and drops out dialectally) is met only in the meaning ‘to yawn’. In Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Tscheremissischen (Mari), Bereczki et al. reject the longstanding Uralic etymology for this word (some Ob-Ugric verbs for ‘yawn’) and instead propose a simple etymology from onamatopoeia: u, representing the sound one makes when shouting or yawning, followed by the denominal verb-forming suffix -Všt-.

The irregular correspondences in uštə̑š between the Mari dialects along with the fact that not all dialects have the verb from which it is derived, underscore how this noun must have been calqued by a dialect in relatively close contact with Tatar, and then mediated to the other dialects.