Siwi, a Berber language of Egypt, shows gender/number agreement of medial demonstratives with the addressee. Such phenomena are crosslinguistically very rarely reported, and are not discussed in major surveys of the typology of demonstratives (Diessel 1999; Imai 2003). However, within person-oriented demonstrative systems, such marking amounts to an iconic representation of addressee anchoring. The pragmatics of Siwi demonstratives thus cast light on the nature of the mapping from person to place that such systems reflect (Greenberg 1985). Comparative eastern Berber data suggests that demonstrative addressee agreement may be more widespread than the literature reflects.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Sunday, April 06, 2014
Some years ago, Jeffrey Heath wrote a key study of Moroccan Arabic phonology, Ablaut and Ambiguity. Among the questions he tackled was the status of تش č: one phoneme, or two? One way to check is to look at its behaviour in diminutives. Words beginning with two consonants in a row form their diminutives by inserting an i after the two consonants, eg لسان lsan "tongue" > لسيّن lsiyyən "little tongue". Words beginning with one consonant followed by a vowel form the diminutive by replacing the vowel with و w and adding i after it, eg شيخ šix "old man" > شويّخ šwiyyəx "little old man". We thus see from تشوينة čwina that تش č behaves like a single consonant in Algerian Arabic, not like a cluster of two consonants. Since ج j is pronounced as an affricate in the north-central dialect under discussion, this conclusion makes sense. For Morocco, judging by Heath's account, the situation is more ambiguous, and speakers don't really seem sure how to form the diminutive; perhaps the same is true in other parts of Algeria.
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Saturday, March 29, 2014
- What kind of insufferable pedant "translates" merguez مرڤاز into Standard Arabic, on a butcher's signboard I spotted, as naqāniq نقانق "sausage"? And would they still do so if they were aware that the latter is a Greek loanword, deriving from loukanikos? Sometimes I feel that the problem with Modern Standard Arabic, for Algeria, is precisely that it's modern and standard: too extensively modernised to connect Algeria satisfactorily with its pre-colonial past, and too standardised for Algerians to feel comfortable tinkering with its vocabulary.
- There are very few Berber loanwords here that retain the nominal prefix, but I heard one or two new ones. The list so far: amalu أمالو "wet shady spot", axiṛ أخير "good morning", aqsil / lə-qsil أقسيل "grass sp.", tirẓəẓt تيرززت "small wasp", taɣənnant تاغنّانْت "stubbornness". None, unfortunately, seem to have plurals...
- Talking of which, I registered for the first time the handy "conjunction" məqqaṛ مقّار "at least", a concept I had previously had to express using French (au moins) or Standard Arabic (ʕala l'aqall) when speaking Darja. This conjunction is shared with Kabyle, but also with Andalusi Arabic (makkār مكّار) – Corriente derives it from Greek ō makarie "lucky you", but I'm not sure whether to accept that etymology.
- I belatedly realised that ṣəṛwəl صرْول, cypress, is actually from Arabic sarw سرو, with an unexplained extra letter. Another case in point: rəɣwən رغْون "to foam up" – cp. rəɣw-a رغوة "foam (n.)". Where extra letters like these come from is one of the great mysteries of Semitic, frequently discussed but never really explained.
- There's not much true code-switching into French going on here, at least not in my social circle, but I did overhear the following excellent sentence: ṛana en plein ṭyab رانا آن پلان طياب "we're in the middle of cooking". Note that en plein is selecting for a verbal noun: one could say ṛana mʕa ṭṭyab رانا معا الطياب "we are (busy with) cooking" with a preposition and a verbal noun, or ṛana nṭəyybu رانا نطيّبو "we are cooking" with a finite verb, but not *ṛana ṭṭyab.
- An interrogative relative clause with an unexpected nominal head: makaš drari mʕa-mən təlʕəb ماكاش دراري معامن تلعب "there are no kids for her to play with". The negative existential context is presumably what favours it.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Oddly enough, however, not only language but even etymology is being used as a tool of division. As I looked through page after depressing page on the events, I was surprised to notice that, while Mzabi pages, and neutral ones, spelled Ghardaia غرداية (Ghardāyah), Chaambi pages rather consistently spelled it غارداية (Ghārdāyah). The latter spelling turns out to be based on a folk etymology, deriving the name of "Ghardaia" from Arabic ghār "cave" plus Dāyah, the name of a woman – who some Chaamba claim was from the Arab tribe of Said Atba, proving that Arabs got there before the Mzabis did (قبائل الشعانبة… بنو سُليم الجزائر.) Mzabis have a version of the same etymology, in fact (chanson amazigh mozabit) – but according to them, Daya was a saintly Ibadi woman from Touat, proving that they were there first.
Either version is problematic, since the name is pronounced ɣərdāya (Berber taɣərdayt), not ɣārdāya. The Said Atba idea is especially implausible: in 1053, when Ghardaia was reportedly founded, Ibadi Berbers had been trading across the Sahara for centuries, whereas Arab nomads had barely begun to reach the area. Phonetically, the more obvious etymology is Mzabi Berber taɣərdayt "mouse" – but who'd name a town "Mouse"? Delheure suggested a derivation from tiɣərdin "shoulders", a term found in Ouargli Berber, based on its topography (followed eg here). Dabouz compares it to a Nafusi term reportedly meaning "land next to a wadi". No proposal seems entirely satisfactory, which is itself an indicator of the placename's antiquity.
Be that as it may, this pointed use of "cave of Dāyah" reinforces my impression that what's going on is a mapping of economic grievances onto ethnic/religious categories. Adding this one letter effectively says "Mzabis own this place, but by rights it should be ours" – a thoroughly wrong attitude. الله يهديهم ويهدينا!
Thursday, March 13, 2014
- proposes a classification of Siwi within Berber, and a corresponding probable account of where this Berber variety originated;
- describes the grammar of Siwi, in greater detail than any previous work;
- establishes how, and how much, long-term contact with Arabic has affected its grammar;
- examines the dialectal affiliations of Arabic loans in Siwi, providing further evidence that this contact involved very different varieties at different periods;
- provides a number of fully glossed Siwi texts of different genres, illustrating Siwi grammar and casting light on Siwi culture.
Thanks once again to everyone who helped in this process, and especially my friends in Siwa. To all those who find this sort of thing interesting, I hope the book comes in handy!
Friday, March 07, 2014
Like “the house that Jack built”, this cumulative tale helps children learn to understand recursive causation. There are a few dialectal or idiolectal differences from the Korandjé I’ve heard, minor but striking to my ears. Following Marijn van Putten’s example, I’ll put it up here – comments very welcome! Etymology is marked by colour: yellow for Arabic, blue for Berber, and unmarked for Songhay.
Dieu a créé un petit chat.
Il est allé gratter.
Quelqu’un est passé à côté de lui et lui a dit : Qu’est-ce que tu cherches ?
Je cherche... de l’argent.
Pourquoi veux-tu de l’argent ?
Pour que j’en achète un âne.
Pourquoi veux-tu un âne ?
Pour que j’ach- pour que je- euh - transporte de l’argile.
Pourquoi veux-tu de l’argile ?
Pour que je fasse des briques.
Pour que je construise une maison.
Pourquoi veux-tu une maison ?
Pour que j’y mette Mohamed et Fatma.
Pourquoi veux-tu Mohamed et Fatma ?
Pour que je me construise un tr– pour qu’ils me paissent un troupeau.
Pourquoi veux-tu un troupeau ?
Pour que j’en obtienne du lait.
Pourquoi veux-tu du lait ?
Pour que j’en obtienne du s’men.
Pourquoi veux-tu du s’men ?
Pour que j’en oigne le ?? de l’Envoyé du Dieu.
- 24 Songhay words: ka “come”, išannu “God”, -fu “one”, kadda “small”, dri “go”, bsa “pass”, tsi “say”, tsuɣu “what”, bəɣ “want”, dzay “buy”, fəṛka “donkey”, lạbu “clay”, kạ “hit, work”, dza “put, do”, ndza “and, with”, kikəy “build”, kaw “remove”, huwwa “milk”, gi “ghee”, yən “anoint”, aɣəy “I”, ni “you”, ana “he/she/it”, ?muš “cat”
- 8 Arabic loans: iħaža “tell (a story)”, ħəlləq “create”, yinbəš “scratch”, yisrəħ “herd”, ṛasuləḷḷạh “the Messenger of God”, muħəmməd “Muhammad”, fạṭna “Fatima”, nəggə̣ṛ “transport”
- 8 Berber loans: idṛạmən “money”, ạḍḍə̣b “brick”, ikna “make”, tsawala “flock”, əytsa “lo”, tsə̣llạ “seek”, ma “why”, tsagʷḍḍə̣st “hair-lock”