Sunday, August 27, 2006

Myths about Darja (Algerian Arabic): 1 "Darja has no rules."

In light of the interest attracted by the previous post, and of several discussions I've had about this topic in real life lately, I'll be posting regularly (?) on a few of the several myths widely believed in Algeria about Algerian Arabic, and often elsewhere about other Arabic dialects.

1. "Darja has no rules."

Every language has rules. You can see some of these rules in action by examining the effects of changing word order: for example خالد شاف روحو (khaled shaf RuHu - Khaled saw himself) is perfectly fine, but خالد روحو شاف (khaled RuHu shaf - Khaled himself saw) is totally bizarre. This is not because of some inevitable law of human thought: in Japanese, "Khaled himself saw" would be the correct order. Likewise, ما شفْتْشْ الطّونوبيل (ma sheftsh eTTunubil - I didn't see the car) is fine; شفتش ما الطونوبيل (sheftsh ma TTunubil) or ما شفت الطونوبيلش (ma sheft eTTunubilsh) are ridiculous. أنا راني نكتب (ana Rani nekteb - I'm writing) is fine; حنا راني نكتب (Hna Rani nekteb) or حنا رانا نكتب (Hna Rana nekteb) are absurd. If you speak Darja, you'll be able to see this instantly, even though no one ever taught you that one was right and the other wrong, and even though all of them would be wrong in FuSHa. The difference between Darja and FuSHa is not that FuSHa has rules and Darja breaks them; rather, Darja has different rules, and, whereas the rules of FuSHa are usually learned at great effort from teachers who learned them from grammar books written hundreds of years ago by people like Sibawayh who themselves had to go and spend hours in the desert with the few Bedouins who still spoke "proper" FuSHa, the rules of Darja are usually learned unconsciously from your own parents and relatives and followed effortlessly from the moment you're old enough to talk - as those of FuSHa were back in the 7th century when some people still spoke it as a mother tongue.


bulbul said...

Un-lovin'-believable. I thought we were past that "Language X has no rules" BS. Someone should do research into how this meme manages to survive even though one single utterance would be enough to disprove it.
Lameen, would you mind if we nudged you from time to time to make sure this series doesn't go on hiatus to often? :o)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Lameen,
I just want to contribute with a piece that I saved from your former geocities website about the Algerian Derja.
So here are all the contents available to download: derja.pdf

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Thank you so much Lameen,
I just want to contribute with a piece that I saved from your former geocities website about the Algerian Derja.
So here are all the contents available to download: derja.pdf

jilal said...

Lameen ce que tu raconte sur ce posting c'est des jeux de mots qui utilisent les algeriens aux quotidient.ou bien la prononciation de certains mots ou phrases selon les region.pour dire la méme chose.
Mais reviest a mon precedent commentaire pour dire que la darja algerienne est née.par la mal prononciation du mot d'origine.
1-"Fichta" un mot espagnole,qui veut dire"fiesta".
2-Terboula un mot français qui veut dire"Tir boulette"
Donc la darja algerienne est née,par la mal prononciation de la langue etragé preuve aussi que la darja est née par nos grands parents analphaphétes.qui disent toujours "N'rouh fakansse"

Lameen Souag said...

Tu connais une region ou on dit "sheftsh ma TTunubil", ou un comedien qui a fait un tel "jeu des mots?" Moi, je crois que c'est impossible.

Quant a la "mal prononciation", est-ce que c'est a cause de l'analphabetisme que le francais ne prononcent pas le Haa dans "Sahara", et ne prononcent pas les voyelles anglais dans "sandwich"? Est-ce les anglais doivent "corriger" sa prononciation anglicisee des mots d'origine francais comme "guard, beef, crayfish, garage, profound"? Comme les francais et les anglais, nos grands parents ne voulaient pas faire entrer les sons etrangers (comme "p", "v", "an", "u", etc.) dans sa parler; s'ils utilisaient un mot etranger, ils l'ont fait conformer aux lois phonologiques du dardja. C'est nous les jeunes qui ont oublie ce principe simple, en utilisant des milliers de mots francais sans besoin - et meme apres ca, le plupart des mots dardja sont et resteront arabes.

alle said...

I'm going to Algeria in a few days, for a few months - among other things hoping to get time to study the dialect - and I can't tell you how lucky I am to stumble over your PDF grammar. Thanks a whole lot, and keep up the good work.

Adam said...

This "Language X has no rules" (or some variant thereof) seems to mean that the language is not a formal language with a prescriptive standard that most people study. I've also heard it said that Yiddish has no grammar. For most people, rules and grammar are things that you study in school, that you have to consciously apply, and are likely to get wrong and be corrected on. Rules that come naturally and that nobody ever gets wrong aren't real rules, in the popular conception.

Anonymous said...

Darja hia trig!
tahia dzair.

J.M. said...

How can I get a hold of the Algerian PDF grammar?? Thank you!

J.M. said...

How can I get a hold of the pdf of grammar? thanks!

Anonymous said...

Go to Amazon
You have for example "Principes de l'idiome Arabe En Usage À Alger" written by
J. Honorat Delaporte

and other sevral old book reprints! very useful