AzSTC Chair Speaks on the Spelling Dictionary
Chair of the Board of the State Translation Centre Afag Masud speaks to an Azerbaijan State News Agency AzerTAC reporter on the recently published spelling dictionary.
- Please tell me what necessity prompted your Centre to prepare a "Spelling Dictionary of the Azerbaijani Language"?
- This is reflected in the implementation of the diverse tasks facing the State Translation Centre, one of the leading language facilities in Azerbaijan. Expert reviews we launched in 2015 have revealed flaws in the content of the webpages of state-run institutions, as well as of official correspondence, language and teaching aids, the mass media, literature, and dubbing. These errors found in the texts were proven to have emanated from one source - the spelling dictionary whose main function is actually to be a warehouse of proper spellings according to accepted usage. It is only natural that the need to study the source itself became an item on the agenda. When we embarked on this process, we saw the bitter truth: the situation was worse than it seemed, and the gap could not be filled by eliminating any shortcomings or errors. Namely, having revealed that the dictionary, which is a listing of proper spelling in Azerbaijani language, was in such frightful condition, we realized that the challenges we faced were accompanied by special efforts towards preserving the purity and proper use of our language and large-scale improvements. So, we arrived at the idea of recompiling a spelling dictionary.
- What are significant differences between the new and previous editions of the dictionary?
- This disparity, first of all, is due to compliance with the requirements of the spelling dictionary format. In other words, it should reflect the true and deserved picture of the Azerbaijani word-stock and list words in single correct spelling rules. Apart from that, thousands of words and terms and definitions with incorrect spelling or used in two or three variants, onomatopoeia belonging to a separate class of words, barking of a dog, crowing of a rooster, bellowing and meowing, words derived from several words or having various distorting suffixes were excluded from the dictionary, and instead of them, 9 thousand Azerbaijani words and terms used in modern life were included in the dictionary.
- Many controversial points arise whenever the new edition of the spelling dictionary comes out. In particular, linguists comment on certain rules and words included in the dictionary. Did you take this aspect into account?
- In fact, spelling dictionary users are never interested in any rules, but they are interested whether words they look up are correctly spelled or not. As for the rules, in the current situation this document itself needs serious editing and correction. I would not like to go into details. In order to introduce a perfectly compiled dictionary to individual users and relevant institutions, the Centre has made every effort, did a tremendous job within a short period of time, and certainly the existing rules and regulations were taken into account during the working process.
- During the 90-year history of the lexicography of the Azerbaijani language, six spelling dictionaries have been published. Even the last dictionary contains 110,000 words. But the "Spelling Dictionary of the Azerbaijani Language" compiled by the Centre contains 65,000 words. What is the reason for this?
- In my interviews, I have repeatedly mentioned the insignificance of the quantitative indicator of the word-stock. In the history of world linguistics, the number of words of any language determined or determines neither its specificity, antiquity, nor richness or perfection. The fundamental problem in this case is the accurate and dignified display of the word-stock, mental characteristics, traditions and customs, history and everyday life of the nation, in a word, to accurately and decently reflect the area and possibilities of the language use, to present words in a single correct spelling. As for statistical data that have increased in number from edition to edition of spelling dictionaries, the analysis and researches have shown that this artificial word growth carried out for many years under the motto "Let's Enrich Our Vocabulary" was a destructive process aiming at degradation of the language and national mentality. I think that this aspect of the problem should be studied in detail and thoroughly. Ultimately, we are not talking about a certain literary or scientific work, or a dictionary of a foreign language, but about the sacred book, which is the maternal charter of the Azerbaijani language, in its importance equivalent to our state attributes, the state emblem and flag. As we protect the honour and dignity of our flag and state emblem, it is the sacred duty of every Azerbaijani to protect the honour and dignity of the language. Today Azerbaijan as one of the leading countries in the world establishes close ties with the international community in all areas, and naturally, day by day the Azerbaijani language as formal and informal communication mediums opens the pathway into the world, creates relationships through translation industry, becomes actual and target for researches, teaching and learning. Foreign ambassadors and diplomats attending our Centre's Azerbaijani language courses find out such strange words from the former spelling dictionaries (“gövdəqucaqlama”, “gəzmələrdəntutma”, “dız-dızoynama”, “eşşəkbelisındırma”) and ask our experts about their meanings which are difficult to explain. The language of each nation, along with its national and spiritual wealth, is a state attribute. We are currently preparing for publication a classification of statistical data detailing the actual system of words excluded from the dictionary. This historical document, containing more than 50,000 words, will be published in a book format and submitted for researches to the State Language Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- Afag khanum, please, tell us about the sources used while finding right words. What fundamental criteria were based on and what innovations were introduced?
- When it was planned to compile a new spelling dictionary, firstly, we started a detail study of national spelling dictionaries that have been published since 1929. Speaking about the selection of words, it should be mentioned that we started the process with detail studies and analyses of various dictionaries, including the “Explanatory Dictionary of the Azerbaijani Language”, “Etymological Dictionary of the Azerbaijani Language”, “Dictionary of the Dialects of the Azerbaijani language", “Phraseological Dictionary of the Azerbaijani Language”, “Arabic and Persian words used in classical Azerbaijani literature", “Dictionary of Azerbaijani Epos”, and other similar sources. Every word not included in the new spelling dictionary, despite being included in previous dictionaries, has been examined in detail. It should be noted that, unfortunately, many of the named sources are also imperfect, with various kinds of distortions and shortcomings. Improvement and reprint of these editions are planned in the future. Speaking of innovations, it is worth emphasizing the quality and analytical work we have done over 5 years with a view to compiling a perfect spelling guide. As noted above, words and terms misspelled in previous dictionaries, used in two, sometimes three versions, are presented in a single, proper spelling. Out of thousands of borrowings from Arabic, Persian and other languages, we have included those that are in usage, and out of thousands of derivative words, we have selected some of them, including 2,000 onomatopoeia and their derivatives with certain semantic meanings. To preserve their further usages, we have provided comments on the meaning of archaisms, as well as on the words and terms that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. The sections “Names of Azerbaijani Folk Songs” and “Names of Azerbaijani Carpets” were newly created, but the sections "Azerbaijani Geographical Names" and "World Geographical Names" were enriched with the names of cities and countries not included in the previous spelling dictionaries.
- According to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “About the State Language”, the spelling dictionary must be developed and published at least once every 5 years. What are your organization's plans in this regard?
- Taking into account the massive demand for a new spelling dictionary, we plan to publish the dictionary annually. Following the edition of the dictionary, the Centre receives a continuous number of appeals and calls. Well, there is a need to publish books, including spelling dictionaries required by individuals and institutions in a circulation of 50,000 - 100,000 copies. This year, we initially produced 500 copies of the dictionary we had with our limitations. Plus, we are set to send a letter to President Ilham Aliyev, Chairman of the Commission on the State Language, to assist in the mass publication of the dictionary. We are confident in sensitivity of our President to this issue, who successfully continues the policy of the state language, pioneered by Nationwide Leader Heydar Aliyev.
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