Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ode to repression II

In response to mild popular demand, here's the original of the poem I translated in the last post, in Kabyle orthography for convenience, although this orthography doesn't fit Siwi perfectly - just remember that "ay" (or "a y", or "a i") is to be pronounced like French é. (For those not familiar with this system: "e" is a short schwa, "c" is sh, "ɛ" is Arabic `ayn.) Two points that may help for speakers of other Berber languages: in Siwi the negative is la (not ur), and the future is marked with ga (not ad).

kell ma qedṛaṭ kmec elbed,
la tac-as esserr i ḥedd
γayr belɛ-a netta la ikemmed
kan jebdaṭ-t af cal ga yebṛem
amra wenn ga iṣaṛ-ak ektem,
ejj-a γayr ṛebbwi ga yaɛlem

كلّ ما قدراط اكمش البد
لا تاشاس السّرّ إي حدّ
غير بلعا نتّا لا يكمّد
كان جبدات آف شال گا يبرم
آمرا ونّ گا يصاراك اكتم
اجّا غير ربي گا يعلم

In a village society where everyone knows everyone else and will still be neighbours with everyone else thirty or fifty years on, particularly one that puts a high value on keeping up appearances and presenting a good face to the world, there will always be a lot of thoughts and memories that are best kept to oneself for the sake of keeping one's relations with others good and one's public image unblemished - personal disagreements or dislikes, unfulfillable desires, actions that run counter to the social code... what Ernest Gellner used to call the tyranny of cousins rather than the tyranny of kings. That's what this poem is about: you may be in love with someone unavailable, or you may have reason to hate someone you're supposed to respect, or whatever, but you can't talk about it because of the scandal it would create and the negative impact that would have on yourself and your family. I suspect that if you've ever lived in such a place, you'll get the poem, and if you're born and bred in the city, you probably won't even with this explanation; but tell me if I'm wrong.

9 comments:

bulbul said...

Thanks, Lameen.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see an awful lot of Arabic words in there. Are all of them borrowings or do we have some actual cognates here?

Lameen Souag said...

Yes - as is fairly typical in Siwi, most words are of Arabic origin. The minority of non-Arabic words are in bold below:

kell ma qedṛaṭ kmec elbed,
la tac-as esserr i ḥedd
γayr belɛ-a netta la ikemmed
kan jebdaṭ-t af cal ga yebṛem
amra wenn ga iṣaṛ-ak ektem,
ejj-a γayr ṛebbwi ga yaɛlem

The only cognates visible in this brief text are the verbal inflections (y- 3ms, -aṭ 2s) and object pronouns (direct -a 3ms, indirect -ak 2s, -as 3s). There is a small possibility that la is actually a cognate rather than a borrowing as well - I'm still working on figuring that issue out.

Wejṭuṭi said...

Hello Lameen
What is the second part of the negation if there is one? That is the equivalent of [ur..."ara"], [ul..."ula"] of other varieties? Maybe that could help you establish the origin of "la".
"γayr belɛ-a netta la ikemmed", this is interesting and just sounds like "γir belε-u ma yewğeε-c"! The influence does not seem to be from Egyptian Arabic or Cairene indeed, probably from an earlier form of Maghrebi? Namely before the Banu Hilal, Suleim and Maaqîl tribes travelled westwards? Good luck and please keep us updated!

PS: I noticed the dots under your diacritics are not well positioned, you can download a good keyboard from the Kabyle site imyura.net, you’ll find it at the bottom of the homepage.

bulbul said...

Fascinating. Looks like Arabic roots with Berber affixes and markers all the way. Is it just me or does this look like another example of a mixed/intertwined language (as in Bakker and Mous 1994) or split language (as in Myers-Scotton 2002)?

Lameen Souag said...

wejtuti: There is no second part of the negation, except for an optional Arabic borrowing used for emphasis: قطّ. If you want to contact me, my email address is my first name at gmail dot com.

Bulbul: I wouldn't go so far as to call this a mixed language; if I had picked another text, you might have gotten a different impression, eg (from Laoust, II):

Azidi i`at.t.ica yused i ssaniyet, ikim i ddelw; ddelw yetqel yeggez i adday, yuh.el adday. tused et.t.ab`a, tenz-as, temmw-as: "bu-sliman, tanta `emmar.at. g dawok?"

Still, it's certainly very heavily influenced by Arabic, and not a million miles from something like Lengua Media.

bulbul said...

Thanks for the explanation, Lameen.
I was thinking of Maltese, where it's essentially the same - pick one text, you get hardly a Romance borrowing at all (which is what they sometimes call "malti safi"), pick another one and except for some affixes and the occasional very frequent verb, the text could as well be Italian.

David Marjanović said...

what they sometimes call "malti safi"

Which means?

bulbul said...

David,

'pure Maltese'/

Glen Gordon said...

Excellent! Thanks for the explanation about the culture. You got me. I live in "the city"... or at least I suppose, but I think this has more to do with culture than the size of a city.

In my hometown (Winnipeg, Canada), we're known to be more upfront and casual. Strangely, when I lived in Vancouver (British Columbia), I found that Vancouver was more like as you describe: very image-conscious and prone to shoot the messenger. Yet it's a considerably bigger city than Winnipeg.