Introduction to Multilingual and Native Script Spice Indices
The rationale for indices
Before cooking can start, ingredients have to be identified. Thus, my site takes considerable care to translate the names of spices in as many languages as possible. To ease the access to this whealth of information, a large number of indices is provided that should allow to identify a name encountered in some dark corner.
The richest and most general index is the Alphabetic Spice Index that contains the names of all spices in all languages. On the down side, it is very long and somewhat inconvenient to handle; to compensate for that, a language selection tool is available to narrow the output to particular geographic regions, linguistic groups or any other combination of single languages. That tool is pretty powerful, but slow and not fully stable across different web browsers (some people may also find it little intuitive).
The alphabetic index has another, more fundamental drawback: It has to convert (
transcribe) all spice names from their various native scripts into the Latin Alphabet. This is usually problematic for languages that use scripts with a structure radically different from the principles of the Latin Script. Those with a knowlegde of the native script will therefore prefer to search without transcription. A further advantage of that approach is that the native lexical ordering conventions of the script can be honoured.
All native script indices have a common basic structure, which consists of an intoduction to the writing system, a selection form and a list of lexically ordered spice names grouped according to the initial letter. Variation occurs due to the special properties of each script. The introduction may be short or lengthy, but as a minimum, its shows the character repertoire and the transliteration employed in the index; by
transliteration, I mean a lossless (or nearly lossless) mapping of a script into the space of Latin Characters, though not necessarily on a character–to–character basis. Only in rare cases this transliteration will be equal (or even similar) to the everyday transcriptions used in the spice articles, where legibility is more important than accuracy. The language selection form allows to restrict the output to a subset of the total languages and will occasionally support other criteria as well. The spice names appear line by line, and include transliteration, translation (might be inaccurate in those cases when one spice article deals with several plants) and language code.
Some scripts are in use for more than one language; in such cases, I have created Multilingual Indices which present several languages in a way appropriate to their common writing system. This works even with different scripts if they share a large degree of structural similarity. An extreme example of that type is the Indic Index, where I was able to combine more that 20 languages written in about 10 different scrips.
Occasionally, I write a language in a script normally not used for it – Hebrew letters, for example, are a strict subset of Arabic Letters, and thus to is easy to write Hebrew Language in Arabic Script. Few people will profit from such artificial spellings, but an Arabic cook interested in Israeli Cuisine is an example to the contrary. The reverse configuration (Arabic Language in Hebrew Script) is not as quite as easy, but it also can be done, even without introducing ambiguity.
The following indices are explicitly constructed as multilingual; this is, they contain at least two languages, each having a significant literary tradition of its own.
- Cyrillic Index
- The Cyrillic Alphabet is in use from Eastern Europe through the Caucasus and Central Asia up to Siberia and Mongolia. My collection is pretty complete for the Slavic languages spoken in Eastern and Southern Europe, but many gaps remain in the more Eastern areas of the former Soviet sphere of influence (13 languages, 1200 names).
- Greek Index
- The Greek Alphabet is the medium for writing various versions of the Greek language since about 2500 years. I present classical ancient Greek plants names and such in the modern Greek tongue (250 names). Several historical languages also used Greek Letters or something very closely related to them; of all these, I could include only Coptic, the sacral language of Egyptian Christianity.
- Arabic Index
- Arabic script used to be ubiquitous in the Islamic World; yet, during the last century, many Islamic communities switched to Latin or Cyrillic. I have reasonable support for the two most important literary languages of Islamic culture, Arabic and Persian; more languages from Western Asia (Kurdish) and Greater India (Pashto, Urdu, Kashmiri) are supported to some extent (500 names). Also, I have Hebrew transliterated into Arabic.
- Hebrew Index
Hebrew Square Scriptis used only for two major languages: Hebrew and Yiddish, both of which I have covered reasonably well (360 names). Also in this index is Aramaic, which uses a writing system related to Hebrew, and Arabic in Hebrew transliteration.
- Indian Index
- India is a multilingual Babylon. This index benefits from my travels across the Subcontinent and supports all major and several smaller languages of this multiethnic country and its neighbours (21 languages, 1500 names); is also has some 800 plant names in classical Sanskrit, which are, however, of dubious value (due to polynymie). Indian languages written in Arabic or Latin script are to be found somewhere else.
- Chinese Index
- This Index is somewhat special, owing to it being centered around Chinese logographs, which are more semantic that phonetic in nature. In its core, it is monolingual (Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin), yet I could augment it with a substantial amount of Cantonese and Japanese terms, as these languages share their writing system to some extent (760 headwords, including not only spice names but also other Chinese terms apearing somewhere in the Spice Pages).
- Again, this is an expanded monolingual index: It contains the names of spices in Thai and the closely related Lao language, which uses a different but closely related script. There is a lengthy introduction explaining both writing systems rather in detail (400 names).
Several writing systems are bound to one language only; in these cases, I provide monolingual indices. Some are rather borderline cases: Often, small, predominantly oral languages of ethnic minorities are occasionally written with the dominant writing system of the region, typically the script of the respective national language. Yet such languages with small written traditions are difficult to come by, and such spice names can only be collected if one has access to educated speakers, which typically does not work per procura. The following indices are mostly monolingual, but with some luck, a few of them might be expanded to truly multilingual ones.
- Ge‘ez Index
- Ge‘ez ist the classical language of the Ethiopian Church and the writing system used for a number of languages in East Africa. Currently, the index holds a limited number of terms in Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia) plus a few in Tigrinya (the language of Eritrea). Expansion and incluson of more languages (Tigré, Bilin or Hedareb) is possible, but here I rely on readers’ help (80 names).
- Tibetan Index
- Tibetan is a group of closely interrelated languages of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. My currently 50 Tibetan spice names have been recherched in India among exils; they are not very reliable and do not represent any single dialect. It also features a few Dzongkha names which stem from one single hand-written source and are best considered shaky.
- Manipuri Index
- Manipuri (Meitei-Lon) is a small minority language of North Eastern India. It used to be written in Bengali script for the last century, but in recent days, the ancient native Meitei Mayek script is revived. The latter script uses a collating sequence completely different from other Indic scripts and can therefore not be included in the general Indic Index, needing an index of its own. I am not sure whether I got the spellings right, though (50 spice names).
- Thana Index
- The curious Thaana script is used to write Dhivehi, the national language of the Maldives. It has numerous unusual features that are described at length in the introduction to this index. The current count is 60 names, which I found in dictionaries and the internet.
- Kana Index
- Kana is the name of the two syllabaries of Japan, which form part in this countries highly involved writing system. The 250 names presented there stem from the web and cover perhaps all registers, from everyday slang to scientific terminology. A lengthy introductory chapter describes some features of the writing system.
- Hangul Index
- Korean language is written in Hangul, a fascinating and well–designed script which stands apart from all other writing systems due to its scientific principles. I could not resist the temptation to describe the system at length in the introduction. The number of Korean spice names is 270, with similar remarks as for Japanese.
- Georgian Index
- The Georgian script has, as far as I know, never been used for any other language except Georgian and very occasionally for its satellites, Mingreli and Svaneti. The 80 names were collected in the country: On markets, in kitchens and at the fences enclosing family gardens.
- Armenian Index
- Armenian script is also restricted to one single language and its dialects. It holds 80 names, all from the web.
- Vietnamese Index
- Although Vietnamese is written in the Latin Alphabet, the numerous diacritical marks make is convenient to have a dedicated index. It holds 250 spice names found in online resources.
The following list enumerates all the languages for which a native script index is available. Clicking any name will open the index with language selection enabled (if the index is multilingual) so that only one language is shown; if desired, more languages can be enabled with the language selection form. These operations might take a few seconds.
There are many more languages with specific scripts: Khmer (Cambodian), Burmese, Limbu, Lepcha and various Indonesian tongues come to my mind immediately. For all these, I currently lack any spice names, or have themonly in transcription. In case you know such languages and want to help me, please let me know!
- German version of this file
- Table of Contents
- Alphabetic Index
- Botanic Index
- Geographic Index
- Morphologic Index
- Spice mixture Index