How long can one word be?

One of the fun little sidelines that come with learning an agglutinative language like Uyghur is  competing to find the longest possible word.   Things that need a whole sentence to say in English can be expressed in Uyghur with one long word.

I remember talking some years ago with a linguist who was studying the Kyrgyz language. Kyrgyz morphological rules  are so utterly strict and consistent that he was able to devise a computer program to produce for him the longest possible word in Kyrgyz. (He never told me the actual word and I am afraid I do not remember how many syllables it had.) In any case, once ha had the word, the next question was: Is this word a real part of the living Kyrgyz lexicon or is it purely hypothetical?

To find the answer, the linguist went to a remote part of Kyrgyzstan and sought out and elderly Kyrgyz man.  He presented a scenario involving a certain person carrying out a certain action in a certain way in a certain context, and so on.  He then asked how this man would sum up the situation in his own words.  Sure enough, so the linguist claimed, this senior Kyrgyz spontaneously used the very same word the computer had come up with.

Uyghur has some features that would make it harder to program than Kyrgyz. Nevertheless, the search is always on for the longest word. Recently I came across a contender that was put forward with the offer of a prize to anyone who could beat it. The word consists of 47 letters and 18 syllables.

Here it is in kona yeziq and UKY:



I am not convinced that the construction “-mayliwat-” is valid.  If we reduce it to “-maywat-” then the word looks correct to me.  Even then, this word still weighs in at a respectable 17 syllables.

So, what does the word actually mean?

Here’s my stab at it:

I dunno, maybe it’s because you all are unable to bring them together.

What do you think?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *