The Media Is Mainly Chopping Off That Which Is Unique

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

The Chairman of the State Language Committee, Davit Gyurjinyan, is confident that the committee should be in all fields where language is expressed. That is, everywhere.

And use all opportunities to eliminate the barrier between literary and spoken languages, with subtle intervention and support, not sanctions.

The language committee, where 18 people are currently working, is trying to collaborate with the media (for example, Public Television’s program “True or False) to be active in social networks and promote debates. To be more of an advisor, who suggests the appeal of language, the pleasure of understanding and using it, avoiding bombastic rhetoric.

In Davit Gyurjinyan’s opinion, event the text of usual news, the world of the journalist should be shown, otherwise, if one site copies from the other, there wouldn’t be any progress. Including in language.

The language of the public’s text and speeches has changed, it has become more congenial and fierce. Is that good?

Over the years, people wouldn’t fully express their thoughts, because they were embarrassed and afraid. No matter how much it was said that there was freedom of speech, either way, people would control themselves and restrict their message.

In the air, there was an atmosphere of concern, how they would be perceived, how what they said would be interpreted, and weather it would affect their future activities.  It was also important for the official that they would not suddenly fall into their chair.

Then came the youthful revolutionary force and now we see, that there is freedom to a certain extent, even linguistically.

For example, the slogan “dukhov” was discussed a lot As a word for practical use, it’s not to my taste, it’s a foreign word, which has been added to the end of Armenian and so has become Armenian. But since it was a driving force, the people accepted it, liked it, it gained a right of “citizenship” and now is continuing to be used by people who are already in office.

The rhetoric changed when it became fashionable not to conceal thoughts, rather to be even more open, not to check yourself. Do you see danger here? Won’t there be side effects?

For a moment, it seemed that there was a detrimental effect, but in general, that freedom undermined a very important stereotype. As we listen to representatives of state motor inspectors or law enforcement agencies, we do not see an individual even when they speak in different cities and surroundings.

It’s as though they are the same person, because they speak in molds, not saying anything more.

We do not an individual, and now we do. It does not matter whether it is bad or good, we see free speech where a person can also be seen.

The listener can also guess the person’s thinking, linguistic taste, and level of education. It is good that the official’s dead, soulless speech was destroyed, and now from a linguistic perspective we can encounter an interesting phenomenon.

The state of the development of Armenian has brought us to the point where we had literary, sometimes like distilled water, pure language and speech, which developed in its natural way, with jargon elements.

It’s as though there were two different languages. A person could speak naturally in one environment, but when they were brought in front of a camera or recorder, they would close off and we would no longer see the person, rather the template. New words would suddenly appear in their vocabulary that don’t belong to them, which are artificial and fake, and do not have no real character.

The gap between conversational and literary languages was so great that there was a need to approach them.

In fact, a revolution was needed.

Yes, this is the impact and consequence of the revolution. It is very good that between these two manifestations of the language, the ghost disappears little by little. It’s an entirely different issue as to which side is more suppressing, dominating and compromising.

Literary Armenian was almost like a foreign language because it was not spontaneous and free flowing. One of the examples is television language.

On one side there were very clever people who did everything in accordance with the rules of the language,  but their words vanished. On the other side, the language of the street was saturated with grenologies and alienologies, which were brought to television and inflated by the air like an infection into the heads of the public.

And don’t let it seem that the TV can be free of consequences. Teenagers and adolescents copy that undesirable forms of language,and it turned out that the media played a bad role.

Do you mean the soap operas? The soap operas were probably closer to reality than the newsletters, which had been cut off from real life for many years.

I’ve noticed something worse. Soap operas did not represent real life, they brought poor linguistic quality even lower, deliberately composed expressions, attitudes and words that did not exist in real life.

In fact, instead of the commonly spoken folk-language, the lowest level of street language was invented.

The language committee has been watching the language of soap operas, both in the past and now. Basically, it is mentioned what is canonical and what is not, but in reality, language analysis should be done in this way: examine which elements of television programs and films have a positive impact, and which are undesirable and irrelevant.

The analysis should simply be done by a very broad-minded person who understands that Armenian has different genders, age, professional diversity and so on.

But it’s as if the creators of our soap operas are not Armenian and have no clue about the Armenian language.

There’s the impression that soap operas are changing.

At one point, they just reached a wild, barbaric level of thought or linguistic manifestation. Striking, offensive, vulgar, anti-human tones were dominant, and I felt how much the emphasis changed.

Of course that was the public demand.

The language committee also began to study news programs. What were the results?

We have monitored three new broadcasts on several channels. Of course, it is clear that the language of the news is not the same as series, but we have analyzed and sent it to the TV companies.

They were mainly tips regarding logical emphases, and different use of words.

Perhaps everyone would think that the news programs are linguistically impenetrable and faultless.

We have made many interesting discoveries in this seemingly pure rule-adhering Armenian language. We wanted to raise the quality of literary Armenian, which is also a matter of society and state just like the change of the language in soap operas.

Our goal is to promote the Armenian language, in order to meet the linguistic state and expectations of the Armenian society of the 21st century. Changing the language should not be overwhelming with a doctrinal stance, but by supporting, explaining, indicating ways and so on.

The function of the language committee is quite vague. We usually remember this structure when non-Armenian lists were discussed. Will that perception change?

The language inspection seemed to have turned into the language police. It seems to me that the struggle (to chase after this or that street sign, measure letters etc.) has become almost an end in itself. This is a sad fact.

I would like that tough stance to end, and that street signs stop being considered a primary issue for the Armenian language.

In the digital world, the Armenian language is quite different, and it becomes a digital instrument. Meanwhile, a circle of scandalous people are still talking about fines, litigation and punishing people.

I try to explain that even after the revolution, the state has even falsified the fines for traffic violations. Penalties have been reduced, denied and changed.

It is more important for me to have Armenian letters on the internet than a few street signs.

We try to make sure that search engines enter the words in Armenian and all state bodies, schools and so on which have a .am address also function with a ․հայ address.

What problems do Armenian writers and searchers have?

If in the past, from the fifth century, we were able to mirror the terms and invented wonderful words that we use even now, then now the changes are happening so fast that we can’t keep up with replacing the terminology with appropriate Armenian words. Also, the field is narrow which we can use these new words.

There are words that are good, but dead, and only for dictionaries.

If you use a word, it becomes commonplace. And a lonely, singular word can be embellished by its composition, but will remain just a statement. It will be fully Armenian only when it is used.

Language propaganda is not just saying that Armenian is the state language and it must have a priority (that is clear and irrevocable in the constitution, our mind, and will), but also the usage of words in different platforms and groups.

Newspapers, magazines, television and radio should be genuinely diverse, talk about different spheres of life, and not limit themselves to gossip where there’s no need for new words. Gossip does not imply the need for that quality.

A new high level is needed, which means that the journalist should be of a high level.

I think the media owners ought to address this issue more.

Information managers should not exclude topics that imply the emergence of new language tools. There are people who speak very well, but we do not see them.

We will not go any further if one website takes words from the other.  

A journalist’s readiness, the level of their intelligence, resources, knowledge (also language) is important. Lack of knowledge is the reason for someone saying something stupid, two days later this stupid thing is repeated by everyone else, especially journalists and officials.

If you do not have the means to understand, the horizon, an inclusive outlook, you think at once “oh, something new, let me use it too,” and you don’t even think about it for half a minute, is that idea or wod worth putting into circulation or not.

That is why almost all the websites and journalists are saying and writing the same thing. Mostly, there are small pieces of information that appear to be a police record, molded, with limited vocabulary, and maybe even cut out by the editors.

They mainly cut out that which is original, meanwhile hence originality gives new words, imagination, new means of expression. Now it’s all in the background.

The news does not mean something that’s been cut up, that does not show us the journalist’s world. Unfortunately, there is little difference between journalists’ handwritings. And that is as important for journalists as it is for writers.

Of course, what I say does not concern all journalists, but there should be those who will be recognized by society not only to scandalous materials, but also with language and original thinking.

A lot depends on school, where it is not encouraged to play with, invent and transform words, it is still a Soviet requirement to only memorize texts.

Fear, constraints, which lasted another thirty years after the Soviet era, have drawn a square border, out of which we can’t get out of. The main reason for this is the teaching of language at school and university, where the chopping begins, and the freedom of a person to manifest themselves and think becomes restricted.

Then all of a sudden, chicks come out of the incubator, who come out manifesting the same linguistic quality.

This is a contentious, ideological problem that has been infused for years. A strange thing ends up happening, you ask a child to write about autumn and they will write something about patriotism, as they are sure that that is required.

The same is done by the media, moreover, they reward that work.

I have heard from non-Armenian font writers that writing in transliteration is easier because their spelling errors don’t show. Is spelling the only reason?

It’s noticeable that non-Armenian font writers have diminished in social networks, and it’s interesting that they are a looked at from above, and they are frowned upon. And there are those outcomes.

On my Facebook page, I have asked several times for people not to write using Latin letters otherwise I will not respond to the posts. I don’t pressure, but people start pressuring from the sides, saying, at least in this space, write in Armenian letters. Now, if there are more of these spaces, similar islands, the situation will change.

I see that people on social media tell people who write in Latin letters that they are ready to help if the problems are technical and so on. In other words, the way they talk to people should change.

I think language propaganda should be very delicate. It is not done by beating the hammer on the head that he finds in his hand.

And it is not worth standing in the square, tearing up your clothes and shouting that we are willing to die for the sake of the Armenian language and homeland. Instead of calling out those crazy things, it’s better to work by taking newer and more delicate approaches.

Interview by Nune Hakhverdyan

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