This is a special internet edition of the article
“The Caucasian language material in Evliya Çelebi’s ‘Travel Book’. A Revision”
by Jost Gippert (1991).
It should not be quoted as such. For quotations, please refer to the original edition in
Caucasian Perspectives, ed. G. Hewitt, Unterschleissheim / München 1992, 8-62.
The Caucasian language material in Evliya Çelebi’s “Travel book”
When in 1934, Robert Bleichsteiner published the Caucasian language specimina contained in the “travel book” of the 17th century Turkish writer Evliya Çelebi1, he was struck by the amount of reliability he found in Evliya's notations: “(Die Sprachproben) sind, von einzelnen Mißverständnissen abgesehen, und wenn man die falschen Punktierungen und Irrtümer der Kopisten abrechnet, außerordentlich gut, ja zuweilen mit einem gewissen phonetischen Geschick wiedergegeben, was der Auffassungsgabe und dem Eifer Evliyas ein hohes Zeugnis ausstellt. Man muß bedenken, wie schwer das arabische Alphabet, ohne weitere Unterscheidungszeichen, wie sie die islamischen Kaukasusvölker anwenden, die verwickelten, oft über 70 verschiedene Phoneme umfassenden Lautsysteme wiederzugeben imstande ist. Wenn trotzdem die Entzifferung der Sprachproben zum größten Teil geglückt ist, so muß man der ungewöhnlichen Begabung des türkischen Reisenden und Gelehrten schrankenlose Bewunderung zollen” (85).
Bleichsteiner's judgment must be seen under the aspect that the material he had to rely upon was far from being apt for a thorough linguistic analysis: As is widely accepted today, neither the first edition (by Ahmet Cevdet), published in Istanbul between 1896 and 19012, nor Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall's translation, which had appeared half a century earlier3, offer a sufficient basis for detailed studies, both being based on late and incorrect manuscripts only. Now, however, we are in a happier position, since Evliya's original autograph has been identified in the so called Bağdat Köşkü series of Istanbul manuscripts4. On the basis of this autograph, a reconsideration of the Caucasian language material, which in the case of Abkhaz, Ubykh, Circassian, and Megrelian represents the oldest cohesive material available at all, suggests itself. Having Evliya's manuscript at hand, Bleichsteiner's judgment must, as we will see, not only be sustained but even reinforced. No longer having to face the “wrong punctuations and errors of the copyists”, we are in the position to elucidate quite a lot of problematical words and phrases in the language specimens of interest to us here. In addition, even some new material can be adduced.
In the following treatise, Evliya's Caucasian material is arranged in the order he himself presents it: It starts with Abkhaz (in Evliya's words: lisān-i ՙacīb u garīb-i Abāza, i.e. “the strange and peculiar language of the Abaza”; as is well known, Abkhaz was Evliya's mother's tongue) and Ubykh (lisān-i Ṣadşa-Abaza, “language of the Sadşa-Abaza”), both appearing in pag. 258b f. of manuscript Bağdat 304, within the second book of the Seyāhat-nāme. Later on in the same book, we find the Georgian (Şawşad Gürcileriniŋ lisānı, “the language of the Şawşat=Šavšeti – Georgians”) and the Megrelian (Megrel kavminiŋ lisānları, “the languages of the Megrel tribe”) specimen, on pag. 320a and 332b, respectively. The Circassian (lisān-i Çerākize-yi māmalūqa, “language of the Mamluk-Circassians”) specimen is contained in pag. 157b of the manuscript Bağdat 308 within the seventh book.
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