Sunday, November 25, 2007

Update from Tabelbala

I've gotten a clearer idea of the linguistic situation here. Apart from Kwarandjie, which, as I've said, is the main language of three of the four villages (and used to be the lingua franca of the oasis), and of course Arabic, there are a few families here (in Ifrenyu and el-Karti) speaking Tamazight - specifically, the dialects of the Ayt Khebbach and Ayt Atta tribes of southern Morocco. They seem to have traditionally been nomads in the general vicinity who settled down here in the seventies or so, although much outnumbered by the (Hassaniya Arabic speaking) Rgaybat who constitute what little population there is in the desert surrounding Tabelbala. I've been doing a little fieldwork with them, focusing on vocabulary that might be relevant to Kwarandjie etymologies, and have been struck by how rarely they seem to provide the source for Kwarandjie's Berber vocabulary - even when the word is quite common in Berber (as it often is not), like adra for "mountain", they seem to use a different one (in this case, tawrirt). The speakers I've spoken to have a rather impressively large vocabulary, but often seem quite embarrassed to speak the language at all - one at first quoted me a local proverb "Esshelha ma hi klam, weddhen ma hu lidam" - Shelha isn't language like ghee isn't (some sort of highly valued medicinal fat product.)"

The list of tense/aspect/mood particles continue to grow - a particularly impressive example I encountered yesterday was `a-s-a`a-m-k-dri (1S-neg-prox.fut.-subj.-yet-go), meaning something like "I've totally stopped going." (ma tlitsh nruh kamel). Actually, -s-a`a-m is a contraction that probably deserves a single lexical entry, but never mind. Note the `ayns in historic Songhay vocabulary here, deriving from original gh.

The phonological issues I mentioned last turn out to derive historically from deletion of an emphatic r, not from any significant difference in the consonants themselves. Not sure yet how to deal with them synchronically, though...

5 comments:

nix said...

Unless it's a different product, ghee is clarified butter, made by heating the said butter and skimming off the solids. It is very common as a frying medium in Indian cooking.

Nowadays it is also available with a vegetable oil base.

Anonymous said...

I believe ghee (lidam = smen per here) is being compared to (some sort of highly valued medicinal fat product), not glossed as it.

anhomily said...

I didn't realize that Hassaniya was spoken all the way out there... do the Rgaybat have a more Kwarandjie influenced (as opposed to Zenaga influenced) lexicon? The socio-linguistic hierarchy seems interesting there (especially the self-denigration of 'shelha' alongside relatively extensive vocabulary). Do the Rgaybat refer to them as 'ajmi - this is how Mauritanians refer to Tuaregs often (or even other beydhan who spend time with non-beydhan). I am curious about the use of this term in light of one of your previous posts, as well as my own inaugural post which touches on aljamiado (<'ajami, supposedly) writing.

Afifay said...

Ddhan = smen (arabic) = udi (tamazight) = ghee (english) = as described by nix

Lidam is not ghee ; it is animal fat (from common meat, bones, etc.) obtained after cooking and is therefore regarded as more nutritive than ghee. It is not a medicinal product (cholesterol !) In tamazight, this word has the same root (DM) as tadumt (also tadunt) which means fat (adipose tissue).

>>> the word is quite common in Berber (as it often is not), like adra for "mountain", they seem to use a different one (in this case, tawrirt).

Adrar pl. idurar in tamazight is an important-looking mountain like Aures, Djurdjura, Atlas, Alps, Andes etc. whereas awrir pl. iwriren is a hill or a less impressive mountain and its feminine diminutive tawrirt is a hillock or a small hill. I guess the panorama in Tabelbala exhibits more tiwririn or à la rigueur iwriren than idurar !

>>> a particularly impressive example ... was `a-s-a`a-m-k-dri (1S-neg-prox.fut.-subj.-yet-go)

You what ? that's indeed very impressive ! Can anyone explain or redirect us somewhere on the web where we might understand ...

alle said...

I was also surprised to learn there were still Reguibat all the way up there. If you find the time to please a Western Sahara nerd like me, couldn't you ask around for some man-on-the-street opinions on the Sahara issue? Reguibat tribesmen form the hard core of Polisario, but who knows what those not in the Tindouf camps feel about the issue -- Algerian gov. tutelage hasn't always been gentle, I think, ... and elsewhere in Algeria, it doesn't seem to be a big issue at all. So it would be interesting to see how Algerian Reguibat have reacted to it, given all that.

Well, if you find the time. If not, nevermind.