Semantic development of Arabic-Iranian borrowings in the Kazakh language: Analysis of Religious concepts

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The original meaning of many modern Kazakh words of Arabic-Iranian origin is associated with ethical categories, spiritual and moral values. In this study aimed at identifying a layer of words borrowed by the Kazakh language from the Arabic and Iranian languages, and investigating their semantic development a descriptive method and methods of lexicographic and lexico-semantic analyses of words were applied. The study results demonstrated that the semantic development of Muslim terms in the Kazakh language included reinterpretation, and their acquisition of new meanings in the Kazakh literary language. Desacralization of religious concepts signified by these words occurred in the languages from which these words were later borrowed by the Kazakh language.

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Studies of Arabic borrowings in the Kazakh language consider Arabic-Iranian borrowings (Arabisms and Iranisms) in unity [1–5]. The works of Kazakh scientists L.Z. Rustemov [6–7], G. Burkitbai [8] present a detailed information about Arabisms in the Kazakh language, along with the Iranian (Persian) vocabulary, borrowed in the period of 15th–19th centuries through the medium of other languages. Dictionary of Arabic-Iranian religious lexicon borrowed by the Kazakh language compiled by the largest expert on Arabic-Persian borrowings in the Kazakh language L.Z. Rustemov in 1991 [7] reflects Arabic and Iranian spelling and meanings of 278 lexical units of Arabic and Iranian origin. The result of scientist’s long scrupulous work were Russian-Kazakh dictionaries of Arabisms with many illustrations from the Kazakh language, a detailed analysis of the ways of absorbing Arabic vocabulary by the Kazakh language and the ways of its phonetic development [6]. The dictionaries consist of words included in the active vocabulary of the modern Kazakh language (for example, Alla, aruak, aulie, din, meshit, etc.), but the use of many lexemes in them is limited to religious texts or fiction works of pre-revolutionary Kazakh authors that have not become public (ansar, badana, desromal, jabbar, ida, isnad, maulit, etc.) [7]. This vocabulary is known to people who have received a special religious education in madrassas, Muslim schools.

The revival of the Islamic tradition in Kazakhstan since the end of the 20th century has caused an influx of new borrowings, including the re-borrowing of Arabisms that were previously assimilated by the Kazakh language and underwent various phonetic changes that caused a discrepancy in their spelling and pronunciation.

Another valuable source is the dictionary of N.D. Ondasynov [9] titled by the author himself an “Explanatory dictionary of Kazakh vocabulary borrowed from the Arabic language”. The scientist cites more than 400 widely used Kazakh words of Arabic origin and hundreds of examples of various phonetic and graphic design of Arabisms assimilated by the Kazakh language.

Assimilation of Arabisms by the Kazakh language is connected with their oral entry into the Kazakh speech and borrowing from different languages, as well as translation of Kazakh writing in the first half of the 20th century: first from Arabic graphics into Latin, then — in the early 40s of the 20th century — into Cyrillic. Different vocalization of Arabic borrowings is accompanied by semantic differentiation that contributed to the vocabulary enrichment in the Kazakh language (for example, ілім / teaching and ғылым / science, мереке / holiday and береке bereke / prosperity, abundance, зағип / 1) crippled; 2) blind and зайып / spouse, etc.)

New approaches to the development of Islamic vocabulary are stated in the latest lexicographic editions. “Dictionary of Religious Terms” [10] includes about a thousand Muslim terms that are actively used in the religious practice of modern Kazakhs. According to the compiler, over the past 20 years, a considerable number of works devoted to various aspects of religious knowledge have appeared in the Kazakh language.

The author of the dictionary regretfully states that the religious vocabulary used in the works of poets Bukhar-zhyrau, Shalkiiz, Abai, Shakarim, Mailykozha that at one time became an active part of the Kazakh literary language, became passive during the Soviet period [10. P. 3]. For the same reason many works of the great Kazakh poet Abai are not fully comprehensible to a modern Kazakh reader.

R. Mukhitdinov describes the religious style in the first religious publications of the post-Soviet period that are characterized by violation of the norms of the literary Kazakh language, the use of syntactic structures not characteristic of the Kazakh language, and inappropriate use of specific vocabulary complicating text perception. He considers discrepancies in the spelling and explanation of religious terms observed in modern Kazakh publications to be an important lexicographic problem. At the same time, explanatory dictionaries of the Kazakh language do not give precise definitions of these words as religious terms [10. P. 4].

The influence of the Arabic language on different Turkic languages was not the same. Arabisms came to the Azerbaijani, Tatar and Uzbek languages much earlier and in greater numbers than to Kazakh and Kyrgyz, into which they penetrated largely through neighboring languages (In the west of Kazakhstan — Tatar, in the south — Uzbek, Tajik) [3]. Due to this fact, Arabisms have undergone a serious phonetic transformation in the Kazakh language.

Arabic vocabulary occupies a greater share in the Kazakh language than Iranian (Persian), although the latter is more ancient. L.Z. Rustemov suggests the entry of Arabic-Iranian vocabulary into the Kazakh language within two periods. The first period is connected with the history of the Turkic tribes until the 15th century — before the formation of the Kazakh people; the second period lasts from the 15th century until the October revolution [6. P. 4]. The greatest flow of Arabic borrowings happened in the Middle Ages and at the period from the 18th century to the end of the 19th century [3. P. 55]. According to N. Nurtazina, there are more than 20 thousand Arabic words in the vocabulary of the modern Kazakh language [11. P. 24].

A.K. Sultangalieva believes that the Arabic borrowings preserved in modern Turkic languages “belong to the class and social nomenclature, religious terminology” and their relative scarcity (compared to the Tatar and Uzbek languages) is explained by “the weakness of the Arabic influence on Kazakh culture as a whole” [12. P. 23]. At the same time, the materials analyzed by us indicate that Arabisms literally permeate the fabric of the modern Kazakh literary language, being used in many spheres of human life.

G. Burkitbai examines the presentation of Arabic vocabulary in Kazakh lexicographic practice, and suggests combining all Arabisms borrowed by the Kazakh language into five thematic groups: 1) scientific vocabulary, 2) socio-political vocabulary, 3) vocabulary related to education and everyday life, 4) vocabulary related to Islam, 5) vocabulary expressing Abstract concepts [8. P. 49].

The first group of Arabic borrowings consists of terms that have become international, and, in our opinion, came to the Kazakh language through Russian: азурит / azurite, азимут / azimuth, алгебра / algebra, цифра / digit, зенит / zenith, etc. Their foreignness is felt by native speakers, although few people know that they are Arabisms. Part of the Arabic vocabulary is fully mastered by native speakers of the Kazakh language, and is not perceived as borrowed: нүкте / dot, амал / method, шартты / conditional, дәреже / degree, etc. [8. P. 47].

The second group of Arabisms includes socio-political vocabulary: тәрбие / education, ғибадат / worship, кәмелет / coming of age, мұғалім / teacher, әліппе / alphabet, әдебиет / literature, мәдениет / culture, емтихан / exam, емле / rule; household vocabulary (although there are few of them): дүкен / shop, қаражат / means, қаржы / finance, алқа / necklace, necklace, сабын / soap, әтір / perfume, cologne, әсел / honey; daisy, шарап / wine, арақ / vodka, etc.; Islamisms that have long become familiar to the hearing of a native speaker of the Kazakh language are айт (ait), азан (azan), әмин (amen), бата (bata), дін (din), имам (imam), иман (iman), құбыла (kubila), құрбан (kurban), парыз (paryz), шариғат (sharia), сүннет (sunnet), etc. [8. P. 47].

The Revival of interest in religion and appearance of a large number of translated literature about Islam replenished the language with new Islamisms, including those that were previously known to Kazakhs, but in a different wording: Аллаһ (Allah), фикһ (fikh), бисмилләһ (bismillah), нафил (nafil), истиғфар (istigfar), ахырет (akhyret), махлуқ (makhluk), сүннәт (sunnat), ыхлас (ylas), тауфиқ (taufiq), ахыр (ahyr), үммәт (ummat), мүшрик (mushrik), мунафик (munafik), риуаят (riuayat), рекат (rekat), күфүр (kufur), etc. Clarification of meaning, systematization of pronunciation and spelling of these words is one of the primary tasks of Kazakh scholars [8. P. 48].

The largest group of Arabisms represented in Kazakh dictionaries is Abstract vocabulary: out of 787 words extracted by continuous sampling about 50 % of words express Abstract concepts шипа (healing), әрекет (action), ақыл (mind, mind), ықтияр (will, freedom of action), зейін (attention), пікір (opinion), апат (catastrophe), уақыт (time), дәреже (degree), айып (guilt), мәжбүр (forced), тағдыр (fate), назар (attention), әлем (peace), адал (honest), ғашық (In love), жапа (oppression, torment), кәмелет (coming of age), өмір (life), etc. Household vocabulary and didactic vocabulary are in second place and make 25 %. Arabisms related to religious practice (Islamisms) making about 15 % are in third place. The other two groups cover about 10 % of words.

Analysis of studies of Arabic-Iranian (Persian) borrowings shows that ArabicIranian elements in medieval Turkic written monuments comprise 36.7 %. In the language of Kissa-dastans published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they make more than 30 %, and Arabic words among them exceed three times Persian words. As stated by L.Z. Rustemov [6], about 15 % of Arabic-Iranian borrowings are used in the active vocabulary of the modern Kazakh language (20th century), and about 7 % are used in the passive vocabulary. At the same time, scientists note that many Arabisms were not taken into account by the compilers, since they did not get into the file fund of the A. Baitursynov Institute of Linguistics [8. P. 61].

Materials and methods

In this study, we aimed at identifying a layer of words borrowed by the Kazakh language from the Arabic and Iranian languages, and investigating their semantic development. Accordingly, the following tasks were set: 1) analyze theoretical studies and dictionaries of Arabic vocabulary in the Kazakh language; 2) analyze Arabisms in the Kazakh language taking into account their ethical and religious meaning, identified by processing religious and philosophical works of Muslim scientists; 3) identify specific manifestations of the semantic narrowing of Arabisms meanings.

A descriptive method and methods of lexicographic and lexico-semantic analysis of words were applied to describe the semantic development of ArabicIranian borrowings.

Lexical borrowings were selected from the classical Sufi work [13] and were further defined in the lexicographic sources: Explanatory dictionary of the Kazakh language, Kazakh-Russian and Russian-Kazakh online dictionary, Philosophical Encyclopaedic Dictionary, A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary, Dictionary of Religious Terms, Arabic-Kazakh Explanatory Dictionary. Arabic-Iranian borrowings were comparatively analyzed by the results of the free associative experiment conducted with the word-stimulus Islam among the native speakers of the Kazakh language [14].

Analysis and discussion

Lexical borrowings were analyzed in the classical Sufi work [13], from which, in particular, about 100 words with a specifically religious meaning (explained in detail in the text by the author of the work) were extracted. The words that entered the Kazakh language through the medium of other languages have long been assimilated by it and, having lost their specifically religious content, were included in the active vocabulary of the modern Kazakh language: адам (man), айқын (obvious), ақиқат (truth), ақымақ (fool) ақыл (reason), аманат (mandate, pledge), аспан (heaven), асыл (valuable), әлем

(peace), әмір (command), ғарыш (cosmos), ғаріп (unhappy, destitute), ғұлама (scientist), дәреже (degree), дидар (face), дүние (world), діл (mentality), жан (soul), зат (thing, essence), керемет (miracle, wonderful, very), кілем (carpet), кітап (book), қалам (pen), қаһарман (hero, hero), қиял (dream), қияли (dreamy), қуат (strength, might), құдірет (might), назар (attention), нұр (light), махаббат (love), мұғалім (teacher), мұхит (ocean), мүсәпір (wanderer; needy, homeless), мысал (example), Отан (homeland), парасат (intelligence; sanity), рас (truth), раушан (rose), рух (spirit), рухани (spiritual), рұқсат (permission), сиқыр (magic, witchcraft), себеп (reason), сипат (quality), сұхбат (communication), табиғи (natural), тағам (food, food), тағдыр (fate), тәртіп (order), хабар (message), хал (state), қадір (respect), хайуан (animal), халық (people), ыждағат (diligence, diligence), ілім (teaching) and many others. The meanings of these words in the modern Kazakh language is given in parentheses.

Lexical and semantic analysis demonstrated that the original meaning of many modern Kazakh words of Arabic-Iranian origin is associated with ethical categories, spiritual and moral values preached in the past by religious figures. In the process of semantic development of Muslim terms in the Kazakh language most of them have undergone a process of reinterpretation, and entered the literary Kazakh language with a new meaning. We do not exclude that the process of desacralization of religious concepts signified by these words could occur in languages from which these words were later borrowed by the Kazakh language (Turkish, Tatar, Uzbek, Tajik, etc.). Desacralization is “the devaluation of sacred (sacred) patterns, religious beliefs, ideological attitudes, etc.” [15].

As a result of the comparative analysis of the semantics of some words in the modern Kazakh language and their religious and terminological content, the specificity of the semantic development of Arabic-Iranian borrowings was identified. The Kazakh word имандылық is derived from the Arabic  gniworrob نامَيِإ ʾīmān — “faith or belief” denoting in Islamic theology “a believer’s faith in the metaphysical aspects of Islam” [16–17]. In the dictionaries of the Kazakh language, the term имандылық has the following definitions: “humanity and its norms” [18. P. 354] “morality; humanity” [19]. The adjective иманды (from иман “faith”), from which the analyzed word is derived, is translated as follows: “1) believer; righteous; 2) conscientious; honest; decent” [19]. Thus, the derived word имандылық lost the semantic feature linking this word with religion (“believer, righteous”). At the same time, recently we have seen the actualization of this feature in connection with the revival of Islam in Kazakhstan and the emergence of a large number of Muslim literature in which the word имандылық is used in the original meaning “piety, righteousness”.

The word нұр (nur) is represented in the dictionaries of the modern Kazakh language in the meaning of “ray, light, radiance” [18. P. 619]; “light; ray of the sun; radiance” [19]. In egaugnal cibarA ehtرون is defined as light, brightness, gleam, glow, illumination [20]. The original religious meaning of this term is “divine light” [21. P. 14]. Thus, in the Kazakh language, this word has lost the semantic sign of “divine”, that is, we can talk about narrowing the meaning.

The word сұхбат (sohbat) in the modern Kazakh language is used in several meanings “1) conversation between two or more people; 2) meeting, conversation; 3) Interview taken by a correspondent” [18]; “1) conversation; dialogue; conversation; 2) interview” [19]. The original meaning of this word is “spiritual conversation on religious topics”: “One of the common methods used <…> in the process of spiritual education <…> is the “word”, or sohbet (conversation). Every word of a person who cleansed his heart and nafs reflects his spiritual state. Sincere words spoken from the heart find their way to the heart of the interlocutor, exerting a beneficial influence on him” [21. P. 255]. The meaning of the analyzed word was associated with spiritual conversations of religious content.

The words “sahaba” and “sohbet” are formed from the same root. In the Arabic  egaugnal هباحص (sahaba) is defined as “the companions of the prophet” [20]. As stated in Topbash, “sahaba” means a person who, having believed in the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), was honored to attend his spiritual conversations” [21. P. 271]. Here we observe a narrowing of the meaning, namely the loss of features “spiritual”, “religious”.

In the reinterpretation of the word нәпсі (nafs), the narrowing of the semantic scope is clearly presented. In the dictionaries of the modern Kazakh language it is defined as “sexual desire, lust” [18. P. 615]; “lust; sensual attraction; lust” [19], though in egaugnal cibarA ehtسفن is defined as “1) soul, spirit, psyche, mind; 2) soul, human being, person, individual; 3) self, person, being, essence, nature” [20]. At the same time, according to Muslim ethics, nafs is “the low side of the soul” [21. P. 33], “the animal (passionate) soul of man” [13. P. 4]. Being one of the manifestations of the ego, nafs is all the low aspirations of the soul aimed at satisfying the needs of the flesh beyond necessity, immoderation in anything: “Unlike Christianity, Muslim ethics did not consider the presence of carnal desires to be something shameful. The main thing was to have moderation in them. Excessive in Islam was replaced by synonyms “vile, shameless” (Ethics). “The biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in the test called life is “nafs”. Nafs is always associated with negative traits, although it is based on an invaluable propensity that encourages positive behavior. The task is to purify nafs from negative qualities by spiritual education and extracting precious essence from it” [21. P. 114]. The manifestations of nafs, among other things, include a tendency to gluttony and slander, envy, greed, lust, contempt for others, etc. In the Kazakh language, we observe narrowing of the semantic scope of the word: the semantic component “carnal” that includes various low aspirations of a person is reinterpreted as “lustful”.

We also observe the loss of the religious component in the functioning of the word ықылас (ikhlas) defined in Kazakh as “1) good intention. 2) diligence” [18. P. 942]; “1) attention; desire; sincere feeling; diligence; 2) diligence; zeal; diligence; 3) initiative” [19]. In  egaugnal cibarAصالخإلا means “sincerity, honesty, integrity” [20]. The religious meaning of the term ikhlas is “sincere service to Allah”: “In religious terminology, the word “ikhlas” is used to denote the fulfillment of prescribed actions only for the sake of the Lord’s satisfaction, which excludes even the shadow of other intentions from falling on them, and protecting the heart from any self-interest, committed with the desire to get closer to the Almighty Creator” [21. P. 37]. There is a semantic narrowing because of the loss of features “service”, “Allah, Lord”.

Analysis of Kazakh phrases and paremias represented by religious terms demonstrate expanding of the semantic volume of a word in the Kazakh language. Thus, the word дүние (dunie) is a key word-representative of the concept of the same name of Kazakh culture, as evidenced by the Kazakh linguists Zhirenov [22], Nurdauletova [23] and others.

Дүние (dunie) is a word of Arabic origin, the religious and philosophical meaning of which is “life on earth” [10. P. 26]. In modern dictionaries of the Kazakh language, the word дүние (dunie) has several meanings: “1) the world, the universe (earth with everything that exists on it); light (world, universe); 2) light, life; 3) wealth, goodness; property” [24. P. 221]; “1) the world; the universe (the earth with everything that exists on it); light (world, universe); 2) life; light; 3) wealth; good; property” [19]. In the Explanatory Dictionary of the Kazakh language by T. Zhanuzakov, the meanings of the word дүние (dunie) are presented as follows: “1) the whole world, the world; 2) property, furniture; 3) treasure, wealth, buried treasure; 4) life; 5) a group, a set of natural and social phenomena existing in a certain environment; 6) (In combination with some words) a lot, pretty much, much [18. P. 209].

Phrasemes and paremias with a component дүние (dunie) can be categorized into the following groups:

“world”: дүние жүзі (dunie zhuzi) “the whole world; the globe”, дүние тану (dunie tanu) “to know the world”, дүниенің төрт бұрышы (duniening tort buryshy) “literally: four sides of the world”, жан дүниесі (zhan duniesi) “inner world”, дүниеге кең (duniege keng) “a generous person”, жануарлар дүниесі (zhanuarlar duniesi) “animal world”, өсімдіктер дүниесі (osimdiketr duniesi) “flora”, рухани дүние (rukhani dunie) “spiritual world”; дүние кезді (dunie kezdi) “to wander”, дүниенің жартысындай (duniening zhartysyndai) “huge, literally: like half of the world”;

“life”: жарық дүние (the bright world), бұл дүние (“this” world as opposed to the “beyond the grave”), дүниеге келу (to be born; literally: to come into this world), дүниеден хабары жоқ адам (a person who is not versed in anything, literally: a person who does not know life), қайда қалмаған дүние (where ours did not disappear), дүниеге бойын алдырды (to go to all the trouble, to surrender to the temptations of life), дүние есігін ашты (to be born, literally: to open door to the world), дүние есігін теуіп ашты (to be born, literally: to kick open the door), дүниені кең салды (to enjoy life), дүниені көрді (to know life), дүниені қан сасытты (to destroy, to exterminate, literally: to give the light a bloody smell), дүниенің азабын/машақатын/бейнетін тартты/шекті (to be humiliated), дүниенің дәм-тұзын татты (to wander a lot, to know life), дүниенің тозығы (life adversity, humiliations), дүниенің тұтқасын ұстады (to hold power in his hands), дүниенің тілін біледі (about a wise, prudent person, who has seen a lot, literally: he who knows the language of life), дүниені тәрік қылды (to be disappointed in life), дүниені тептірді/дүниені шайқап өтті/шалқытты (to live a happy life full of pleasures), дүние өртеніп бара жатса да(whatever difficulties, trials be, literally: even if the world is engulfed in fire), дүниесі тар (to be preoccupied with something, to concentrate on thoughts about someone, literally: his world is small); “death”: о дүние (the afterlife), дүние салу (to die, literally: to leave this world), дүниелік (a hopeless person (about a sick person), дүние бақи (to die, leave this life), дүниеден өтті /кетті/озды/көшті/жөнелді/қайтты/дүние салды (to die);

“frailty”: бұл дүниеден кім өтпеген? (there are no immortals, literally: who has not left this life, from this world?), дүние сарсаң (confusion, empty, aimless existence, worthless life), дүние — шыр айналған бір дөңгелек (changeable mortal world, literally: life is a rotating wheel), дүние өтті (life has passed), дүние кезек (In life it is this or that; life is changeable), дүние боқ/ дүниенің боғы (mortal world, outdated: property, literally: life is shit), дүние сөзі (empty talk about everyday trifles), дүниенің бұты — бір ақ тиын (life is a penny), дүние жалған (фәни) (changeable, mortal world);

“good/wealth/property”: дүние жинау (to collect property; to collect goods), дүние шашу (to be wasteful), үй ішінің бар дүниесі осы (this is all the property that is in the house);

“money-grubbing”: дүниеқоңыз (things; property, literally: wealth is a dung beetle), дүние қоңыздық (materialism, philistinism), дүние қуу (chase after wealth), дүниеге қызығу (be seduced by good), дүниеге тарлық ету (to be greedy for good), дүниенің түбіне жетпессің (you cannot grab everything, as addressed to the money-grubber), дүние — көздің құрты (you cannot resist wealth; wealth is seductive, literally: wealth is an eye worm), дүниеге көзі тоймаған (greedy, literally: the eyes were not satiated with goods), дүниені бір тиын(ға) санамады/ есеп көрмеді/дүниені тиын құрлы көрмеді (did not regret wealth, despise profit) [24. P. 221; 25. pp. 194–196; 19].

The largest group is represented by the phrasemes in which the word дүние is actualized in the meaning of “life on earth, existence”. At the same time, we see the development of the semantic volume of the word: “mortal life ↔ wealth, goodness, property ↔ money-grubbing, love of profit”.

Semantic development in the direction of “mortal life” is caused by the semiotic opposition of the sacred and profane “бақи ↔ фәни” (baqi ↔ fәni), in the Kazakh version “о дүние ↔ бұ(л) дүние” (o dunie ↔ bu(l) dүnie), which exists in the religious-philosophical system. The contempt for the mortal, changeable, transient world coming from Sufi asceticism is most pronounced in the combinations of “дүние боқ/ дүниенің боғы (dunie boq/dunienin bogy) “дүние жалған (фәни)” (mortal world, changeable, perishable world), where the word жалған is used in the meaning of “lie, falsehood, untruth”. Used as a definition or predicate, the adjective жалған 1) “false; imaginary; fictitious” (жалған дос (zhalgan dos) → imaginary friend, zhangan laagap → false rumors, zhangan soz → false words; false, zhagan tusinik → false representation, zhangan suileu → tell a lie)” homonymous with the noun жалған 2) “outdated: mortal world; life” (жалғанда жаным сүйген жарым сенсің (zhaganda zhanim suigen zharym sensin → folklore: you are my beloved in this life (In this mortal world), (жалғанды жалпағынан басу (zhalgandy zhalpagynan basu) → live in grand style, getting all the pleasures) [24. P. 272].

In the Explanatory Dictionary of the Kazakh Language, these words are presented in a slightly different way: жалған (i) жарық дүние, өмір, тіршілік (zharyq dunie, өmir, tirshilik) “world, life, existence”; жалған (ii) 1) шын емес, алдамшы, өтірік (shyn emes, aldamshy, өtirik) “fake, changeable, deceptive”; 2) жай, жасанды (zhay, jasandy) “artificial, fake” [18. P. 256]. The noun is defined by the author without a mark “outdated”.

The homogeneity of these homonyms (i.e. a single source of their origin) is beyond doubt. The semantic component “fake, false, deceptive” in the word “mortal world, life” did not appear by chance. The concept жалған in the Kazakh worldview is used as an opposition to the concept “eternity” in the context of the Islamic doctrine of life and death фәни ↔ бақи (fәni ↔ baqi). According to the religious view, a short human life is transitory, deceptive, it is just a segment of the path leading to true life — eternity.

The frailty of human life permeates the works of the majority of Kazakh zhyrau (Shalkiz, 15th-16th centuries; Shal Kulekeuly, 18th-19th centuries, etc.), poets of the 19th century (Shakarim Adayberdiyev, Makhambet Utemisov, Shangerey Bokeyev, Murat Monkeuly), in the poetic lines of which the variability, frailty, limitation of human life is included in the concept дүние жалған (dunie zhalgan) “mortal, changeable world” [26]. This motive is popular in modern Kazakh song lyrics, and the appearance of the film of the same name “Жалған дүние” (2012) allows us to imagine the degree of relevance of this concept in modern Kazakh linguistic culture.

The frequency of the syntagmatic connection жалған дүние “mortal, changeable world” in opposition to the “true, eternal” world (In opposition to фәнибақи (fәni-baqi) contributed to the substantiation of the adjective жалған over time, which in the modern Kazakh language is a noun and synonymous with the word фәни (fәni) “mortal world”:

жалғанға тоймау (zhalganga toymau) “insatiable to love life”, жалғанды жалпағынан басу (zhalgandy zhalpaғynan basu) “to live on a grand scale, getting all the pleasures”, metaphor жалғанның жаннаты (zhalgannyng zhannaty) “worldly paradise, paradise life”. Thus, the appearance of the homonym жалған (i) жарық дүние, өмір, тіршілік (zharyk dunie, өmir, tirshilik) “world, life, existence” was affected by the process of rethinking of жалған дүние жалған (zhalgan dunie → zhalgan), the so-called substantivation took place.

We observe further development of the semantics of the word дүние (dunie) in the groups “good/wealth/property” and “money-grubbing”. The word acquires the utilitarian meaning of “property, wealth”, and numerous phrasemes of the group “money-grubbing” testify to the negative (disapproving, contemptuous) assessment that accompanies the word in this meaning. So, in the combinations of дүние қоңыз (dunie kongyz) “things; property”, дүние қоңыздық (dunie kongyzdyk) “materialism, philistinism”, the internal form “dung beetle” reminiscent of the scarab beetle (қоңыз (kongyz) “beetle”), is clearly presented. The paremia дүние — көздің құрты (dunie — kozding kurty) “one cannot resist wealth”; “wealth is a temptation” figuratively compares wealth to a worm that eats away the eye.

The derrivatives of the word дүние are mostly represented with a semantic component “property”, including a negative assessment as well: дүние-ай (dunieai) “oh, life” (with regret), дүниетану (dunietanu) “world cognition”, дүниелі (dunieli) “prosperous”, дүниелік (dunielik) “property”, дүниелік дүние/мал (dunielik dunie/mal) “prosperity, wealth”, дүние-мүлік (dunie-mulik) “all property”, дүниежанды (duniezandy), дүниешіл (dunieshil) “muckworm”, дүниеқор (duniekor) “curmudgeon”, дүниеқорлану (duniekorlanu) “to hoard”, дүниеқорлық (duniekorlyk) “greed”.

Thus, the semantic structure of the lexeme дүние consists of the components ‘false’, ‘untrue’, ‘deceitful’, ‘changeable’, ‘abused’ (In relation to the meaning “life on earth”), as well as axiological notions ‘disapproving’, ‘contemptuous’ (In relation to the meaning “property”).

We observe a significant expansion of the semantic volume on the example of the religious term иман (iman). “Iman” is the most important, main pillar, the spiritual foundation of Islam” [27]. The religious meaning of the term иман is indicated in Mukhitdinov’s dictionary: “Iman is a religious conviction, faith. This word as a term means indisputable belief in everything that was commanded to believe by Allah and his prophet …, and the proof of this in practice by actions” [10. P. 39].

“The manifestation of cultural and national semantics in the collective consciousness through linguistic units” shows that иман has turned into a “national cultural concept” in Kazakh linguistic culture [28. P. 192].

According to Nurtazina, “the nomadic way of life did not prevent its representatives from assimilating religious morality, the ideas of Sharia, and realizing themselves as Muslims (that is, to accept “iman”) [27]. In Islam, for conversion, it is considered sufficient to accept and pronounce aloud the formula of the confession “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammad rasul allah” (“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”) <…>. The confession of faith was pronounced in various versions and in the native language: Ұрқым мұсылман, дінім ислам, Алла бір, Құран шын, Пайғамбар хақ, құбылам Қағба (Urkym musylman, dinim Islam, Alla bir, Quran shyn, Paygambar khak, Kubylam Kagba) “A Muslim by birth, religion is Islam, Allah is the only, the Quran is true, the Prophet is true, qibla — Kaaba” or simply Алла бір, Құран шын, Пайғамбар хақ (Alla bir, Quran shyn, Paygambar hak). The popularity of words “Bismillah al-Rahman alRahim” (In the name of Allah, most gracious and most merciful) without which no business began, the saying Сөздің басы бісмілла, бісмілласіз іс қылма (Sozdin basy bismilla, bismillasiz is qylma) “The beginning of speech is Bismillah, don’t do anything without it” among Kazakhs speaks about their adherence to Muslim religion [27. P. 13].

Earlier “Kazakhs … had a special type of religious consciousness and behavior, in many respects close to the ideal of Sufism, in which morality, conscience арұждан (ar-uzhdan) came to the fore, and the ritual side was considered secondary” [27. P. 114]. This opposes the true religiosity of nomads to ostentatious religiosity of sedentary Muslims at the end of the 18th-19th centuries — the period of the crisis of Muslim civilization, when “among the sedentary Muslims, many evils flourished, carefully covered by external, ostentatious religiosity” [27. P. 114].

And further: “The best proof of the Islamization of the popular consciousness is the spiritual heritage of the Kazakh Middle Ages, which shows the indissolubility of all spheres of Kazakh culture from their spiritual core — иман (iman) “faith” — the creed of a Muslim, the “heart” of the Muslim religion” [27].

The fact that the concept иман (iman) “faith” has acquired a conceptual-value character in the Kazakh language has become a key category of the traditional moral and ethical system, evidenced by the analysis of the linguistic material.

According to modern dictionaries, иман means 1) faith (one of the five commandments of Islam, the belief that there is no other god but Allah; faith, religious convictions); 2) honesty, decency, conscientiousness; humanity; 3) conviction. Имандай (imandai) denotes 1) as a symbol of faith (In Allah) 2) true, honest; имандай сырым осы! I honestly admit (In my thoughts, actions). Иманды (imandy) means 1) believer, righteous; 2) conscientious, honest, decent. <…> Имансыз (imansyz) denotes 1) unbeliever, apostate; 2) dishonest, shameless. Имансыздық (imansyzdyk) means 1) disbelief in God; 2) dishonesty [24. P. 347].

The phrasemes and paremias give similar meanings:

“faith”: иман айту (iman aytu) “to recite a prayer of death before death”, иманын үйіру (imanyn uyiru) “to lead to faith before death”, иманы жолдас/ кәміл/саламат болсын! (imany zholdas/kamil/salamat bolsyn! “wish to the deceased: may faith be with him!” imanyn bersin! (wish to the deceased: may Allah give faith), иман сұрау/тілеу (iman surau/tileu) “wait for the best, ask for faith”, иманды құлға жолықсын / иманды құл кез келгір (imandy qulga zholyqsyn/ imandy kez kelgir) “wish: let him meet a believing slave (of God), иман келтіру (iman keltiru) “believe; accept Islam”, иман салу (iman salu) “read the verses of the Quran at the head of a dying person”, иман табу (iman tabu) “become a believer”;

“righteousness, honesty, decency, conscience, humanity”: иманды адам/кісі (imandy adam/kisi) “righteous, decent, conscientious, honest person”, ұят кімде болса, иман сонда (uyat kimde bolsa, iman sonda) “who is conscientious, he fears God”, иманы жоқ (imany zhoq) “shameless, dishonest, impudent”, иманы бар (imany bar) “decent, conscientious, humane”, иман жүзді (iman zhuzdi) “friendly person”, иманмен қаптап қойғандай (imanmen qaptap koyganday) “righteous, literally: as if covered with iman”, иманы бетінде үзіліп тұр (iman betinde uzilip tur) “modest, respectful, educated”, иманын таразыға салу (imanyn tarazyga salu) “evaluate, weigh”, бетінен иманы тамған (betinen imany tamgan) “a fair, decent person; friendly, with pure intentions”;

“conviction”: иманы кәміл болды (imany kamil boldy) “to be deeply convinced”, ол иманына берік (ol imanyna berik) “he is faithful to his conviction”, иманындай сақтау (imanyndai saqtau) “to keep a secret, literally: to protect like faith”, иманын сату (imanyn satu) “to betray”);

“mental balance/imbalance”: иманын ұшырды/иманы ұшып кетті /иманы қалмады/, иманы қашты (imanyn ishyrdy/imany ushyp kettі/imany kalmady/ imany kashty) “very frightened”, иманы қасым болды (imany kasym boldy) “very frightened, horrified”, иманы таяқтай болды (imany tayqtay boldy) “to be horrified”, иманы түршікті (imany turshіkti) “shudder, the hair stood on end”, иманы тас төбесінен шығу (imany tas tobesinen shygu) “very much frightened, literally: iman came out through the top of the head”, иманы таразы қалыпқа келу (imany tarazy qalypka kelu) “calm down, come to his usual state” [24. P. 347; 25. pp. 301–303; 19].

In the semantics of phrasemes and paremias of the latter group, derived meanings associated with the “loss” of иман (iman) are found. The internal form of Kazakh phrases testifies that иман can “fly away”, “run away”, “disappear”, “freeze (like a stick)”, “go out through the crown of the head” reflecting the different degrees of fear experienced by a person. Phraseological unit иманы таразы қалыпқа келді (imany tarazy kalypka keldi) “calm down, come to your usual state” literally means “(his) iman came into balance”.

Thus, the presence of iman in a person means security, peace of mind, harmony, while its loss causes a feeling of fear and horror.

The semantic component ‘justice’ is contained in paremia with the word иман widespread during the period of the institute of biys: Тура биде туған жоқ, туғанды биде иман жоқ (Tura bide tugan zhoq, tugandy bide iman zhoq “A fair biy has no relatives, a biy who reckons with kinship is unfaithful”.

Biy was an arbitrator who administered justice in the Kazakh steppe until the introduction of Russian administrative courts in the second half of the 19th century. Muslim ethics and philosophy were at the basis of sermons, winged words of Kazakh biys, who created a specific genre of Kazakh poetry — билік сөзі (bilik sozi) “biys’ words”. Biys were “educated, well versed in Sharia (which was the basis of legislation in the Kazakh state)”. They “keenly grasped the essence of the doctrine and Muslim law, adapting it to the specifics of the situation, folk customs” [27. P. 105].

Biy-orators were only those people who strictly followed the principles of honesty, incorruptibility, justice, irreconcilability to godlessness. Unlike modern judges, in the steppe judicial practice, biys were not appointed, but were elected by the people. When solving litigations, disputes, and the parties agreed on which biy they would turn to, after which the biy’s decision was made by both parties unconditionally. The crisis of this form of steppe democracy was caused in the 19th century by the introduction of administrative-colonial rule in the Kazakh steppe. The highest justice demanded to be above clan and tribal relations. In this respect, the Kazakh biys stood on the positions of religious universalism” [27. P. 105]. Biys Tole, Ayteke, Kazybek, Zilqara, Baidibek, Shabanbai, Edige, Boltirik, Baizhigit and others, like the steppe poets-zhyrau, condemned the indulgence of their ego — nafs (нәпсі) followed the norms.

Thus, in the traditional religious and ethical system of the Kazakh people, иман (iman) supposes not only “faith in Allah”, and имансыз (imansyz) — not only “unbeliever”. The semantic structure of the Kazakh lexeme иман (iman) “faith” contains the components “righteousness”, “humanity”, “conscientiousness”, “moral rectitude”, “honesty”, “fairness”, “modesty”, “friendliness”, “purity of intentions”, “harmony of soul”, “conviction”, “devotion”, “faith” — moral traits as key categories of ethnic culture based on humanistic principles.

The authors conducted a free associative experiment among the native speakers of the Kazakh language, including Kazakh-Russian bilinguals [14] within the framework of the comprehensive study of the concept of Islam based on the semanticcognitive method [29–30]. The results of the experiment confirmed that the ArabicIranian borrowings analyzed in the present study exist among semantic features of the concept “Islam” (n=877) in the linguistic consciousness of the Kazakhs. In particular, the lexemes имандылық / “humanity and its norms, morality” and иманды / “1) believer; righteous; 2) conscientious; fair; decent” were found among other similar reactions in the respondents’ answers to the word-stimulus Islam: иман (faith) — 43; имандылық (piety, righteousness) — 32, тазалық (purity) — 13; верующий (believer) — 4; адалдық (honesty), адамгершілік (humanity), жүрек (heart), ниет (intention), иманды (believer, righteous), мейірімді (kind), мәдениет (culture), адамды тәрбиелеу (education of man), руханилық дін (pure religion), өте жақсы дін (a very good religion), адамды дұрыс жолға салатын дін (religion leading a person on the right path), ақ жүрек (sincere, kind), тәубеге келу (repentance), мейірім (good), мейірімділік (kindness), верность (loyalty), верный (faithful), жақсылық (good), сабырлық (patience, restraint), сыйластық (mutual respect), сапалық (quality), татулық (harmony), қамқорлық (care), дружелюбие (friendliness), кішіпейіл (modest, courteous), шыншыл (honest), бейбітшілік (peace), спокойствие (calmness), тлеулес (well-wisher), тәрбие (education), тәлімтәрбие (upbringing, training), имандылыққа тән (characteristic of God-fearing), имандылық қазаққа тән (piety characteristic of the Kazakhs), таза (clean), ең таза (the cleanest), чистый (clean) — 1 [14. P. 142].

Thus, the analysis of semantic development of Arabic-Iranian borrowings in the Kazakh language confirmed that the spiritual and ethical culture of the Kazakh people was largely formed under the influence of Muslim ethics, and many modern Kazakh terms and word usage of the ethical and philosophical plan go back to Muslim terminology. The study findings go in line with Manczak [31], stating that number of meanings of a word borrowed from one language into another diminishes. Arabic borrowings in Kazakh have fewer meanings in Kazakh than in Arabic.


The Arabic-Iranian vocabulary borrowed by the Kazakh language makes up a significant layer of the modern Kazakh lexicon and covers almost all spheres of life.

The analysis of examples of the functioning of Arabisms and Iranisms in the modern Kazakh language shows that Muslim terminology, having penetrated at one time along with the Muslim spiritual and religious culture, has been reinterpreted over time. The reinterpretation of the Arabic-Iranian vocabulary in the Kazakh language included desacralization of the concepts and narrowing of their meanings. At the same time the analysis of a number of lexemes indicates a significant expansion of their semantic volume, as the Muslim terminology, having lost its religious content over time, entered the literary Kazakh language to denote various concepts of spiritual (ethical) culture.

However, introduction of the Kazakh people to the traditional spiritual and religious culture and Muslim ethical literature due to revival of religious consciousness in the 20th century expanded the semantic scope of a number of Arabisms in the Kazakh language because of the parallel use of lexemes in their original religious meaning and to designate moral and ethical concepts.

The study results are employed in the development of a methodology for teaching Kazakh as a foreign language through a system of ethnocultural units. The development and implementation of this methodology is facilitated by the rationale for including the words under study, associated with ethical categories and spiritual and moral values.


About the authors

Naziya M. Zhanpeissova

Baishev University

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0690-5172

Doctor in Philology, Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature

302A, Br. Zhubanovykh str., Aktobe, Republic of Kazakhstan, 030000

Gulzhana A. Kuzembayeva

K. Zhubanov Aktobe Regional University

ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8964-3683

Candidate of Philology, Doctor in Philosophy (PhD), Associate Professor of the Department of English and German Languages

34, A. Moldagulova Prospect, Aktobe, Republic of Kazakhstan, 030000

Zhumagul A. Maydangalieva

Baishev University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3189-8880

Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences, Doctor in Philosophy (PhD), Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature

302A, Br. Zhubanovykh str., Aktobe, Republic of Kazakhstan, 030000


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