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):

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.


Anonymous said...

Your link is broken. There's an extra br-tag with angle brackets at the end. Of course, anyone can get it to work by removing the extraneous bits after 'html'.

Lameen Souag said...

Fixed - thanks!

MMcM said...

Due to the rather strange layout of the list, I think you've confused Prof. Nikolai Dobronravine's talk with Prof. Hiroyuki Eto's. The former is an Africanist. (I think I've seen him associated with the Unicode 4.1 extensions to the Arabic block to support Ajami.)

You may have noticed the sub thread in the Yoruba one over at languagehat, wherein Eliza references a paper on the Arabic orthography for Yoruba. I wanted to read Ayo Bamgbose's 1964 paper that led to the post-independence reforms of the Roman-based orthography, but the local library has lots its copy.

Lameen Souag said...

Oh... I think you're right. That makes more sense, come to think of it. Interesting link as well (