Arabic and Arabic-script writing tradition in West Africa dates back to the 12th century AD, if not earlier. Local scholars were familiar with the linguistic ideas which formed part of Islamic education. Arabic grammars and dictionaries were popular in the region. The interest in the study of Arabic resulted in the development of local Arabic and bilingual vocabularies, sometimes written in verse, as well as some works on Arabic grammar. A few versified vocabularies and grammars of West African languages were also composed. Almost all of them were written in Arabic and used Arabic linguistic terminology.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries several works were written in West African languages using Arabic script. One such work, "Littafen nahwowin Hausance" ("The book of Hausa grammar"), is analysed in the paper. The work demonstrates a special approach to the parts of speech in Hausa (the verb deprived of the "person-aspect complex" is seen as a noun, although it may be used independently in the Imperative). This is a larger work of traditional lexicography, with notes on folk etymology, pragmatic rules, grammatical gender and possessive pronouns in Hausa.
The shift from Arabic to Roman script and the decline in the use of Arabic did not lead to the disappearance of the earlier linguistic tradition. New grammatical works and vocabularies in Arabic script (including a Fula-French vocabulary in Arabic script) were published. All these writings have been largely ignored by the linguists working at the universities in West Africa and abroad.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
West African grammars in Arabic script
I want to see this talk by
Hiroyuki Eto Nikolai Dobonravine (though I'm not likely to be in Dublin for it):