Gazelles and cookies

A name one often sees on restaurants in Turkey is “hazal”. The word doesn’t appear in all Turkish dictionaries, and that is because the word is in no real sense Turkish. It comes from the Arabic “غزال” (whence the English “gazelle”) which means “deer”. As anyone who knows anything about Ottoman Turkish knows, this would be “gazal” in Turkey today, and in fact it IS “gazal”, but with the meaning “gazelle”, not “deer”.

In (Kurmancî) Kurdish, it is “xezal”, and Kurdish “xe”s tend to match up to Turkish “ha”s, so this is a reasonable enough explanation for why a Kurd might name their restaurants “hazal” (both places with this name I have eaten at were Kurdish-owned). But how did “غ” become “x”?

For the answer, we have to go back to Bedirxan, who determined that the letter “ẍ” (which nobody writes today) ought to represent the sound “غ”, based on the fact that although some Kurds pronounce this sound, by and large Kurds conceive of this as nothing more than a voiced realisation of the “خ” (x) phoneme (hence his reluctance to represent it with a variation on “g” as Turks do). In fact most Kurmancî speakers I’ve encountered pronounce this word as “xezal”, not “ẍezal” (despite what Şivan Perwer sings so beautifully in the video above), so it was logical to choose a varient of “x”. It is because Kurds conceive of “غ” as a voiced “x” while Turks conceive of it as a fricative “g” that the Arabic “غريب” became “garip” in Turkish and “xerîb” in Kurdish.

PS: So long as I’ve brought up the Arabic root “غ-ر-ب”, I might as well mention that it is also the source of “kurabiye” (“cookie”, so “the exotic/foreign sweet”, more or less). In an apparent coincidence, Hebrew “עָרֵבֿ” (seemingly cognate, 3årëbh) means “tasty” or “pleasant”.

PPS: Isn’t it interesting that “ẍezala min” (my deer) and “delala min” (my dear) rhyme in Kurdish and are homophones in English? Although I suppose “my doe” is a better translation of “ẍezalA min”, with “ẍezalÊ min” being translatable as “my stag” (Kurds and their grammatical gender!)

PPPS: In Azerbaijan “qəzal” is in use. All instances of word-initial “ق” and “غ” in Persian (whether of Arabic or Aryan origin) become “q” in Azerbaijan, so there is no need to presume Kurdish as the intermediary language. On the other hand, in Armenian (which has its own commonly used “غ” phoneme) there is a female name “xazal” based on the Arabic “غزال”. This seems to be evidence of Kurdish as the intermediary language to me, but the site I found it on also assures us that this is an Armenian sound change (based on the East/West voicing/devoicing issue, although isn’t it usually that Eastern non-aspirated voiceless stops become voiced stops in Western Armenian?)