The Languages of the World according to Evliya, by Robert Dankoff

From Mahmud Kaşgari to Evliya Çelebi
Studies in Middle Turkic and Ottoman Literatures [Chapter 19]

Robert Dankoff
Professor Emeritus of Ottoman & Turkish Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

For roughly forty years, from 1640 to 1680, Evliya Çelebi, who was born and raised in Istanbul, travelled throughout the Ottoman domains, and into its peripheries — west as far as Vienna, north to Kiev and the land of the Kalmuks, east to Tabriz, south to Sinnar and Abyssinia. Wherever he went, he recorded local speech, and included the samples in his voluminous Seyahatname. Although he states repeatedly that the world-traveller must know 147 languages, he gives specimens of some thirty non-Turkic languages, plus samples of at least the same number of Turkish dialects or other Turkic languages.

Evliya's mother was Abkhazian, and it is perhaps not wholly accidental that the first full-blown specimen of a foreign language in his work is that of his mother's tongue. After all, Evliya already knew quite a bit about the Caucasus, and he took the first opportunity to travel there. In addition to Abkhazian, he recorded some Ubykh, Qaytaq, Georgian, and Mingrelian. These have been known to Western scholarship since 1850 when Hammer published his English translation of book II of the Seyahatname. Subsequent studies brought these specimens to the attention of Caucasian specialists.

The full article in PDF can be downloaded by clicking here (836 KB)

See also

 + The Caucasian language material in Evliya Çelebi's “Travel book” A Revision, by Jost Gippert




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