Friday, July 17, 2009

More on Nile Valley Berber [?]

I finally got around to borrowing Bechhaus-Gerst's Sprachwandel durch Sprachkontakt am Beispiel des Nubischen in Niltal. It's tough going because I don't really speak German, but she briefly suggests (p. 37) that the C-Group Culture of 2200 BC-1500 BC in lower Nubia, known as Temehu to the Egyptians, were Berbers (referencing Behrens 1984/5), and that Nobiin-speaking Nubians came in about 1500 BC and replaced them. This would explain the possible Berber loanwords in Nobiin, notably aman "water". Apparently, the archeology shows a change of cultures and of body types around 1500 BC, and ancient Egyptian paintings first begin depicting their southern neighbours as black around this period, while the Egyptian loanwords in Nobiin seem to date to the New Kingdom or later.

The identification of the Temehu with the Berbers is not based on linguistic evidence, as far as I know, and the small inventory of possible Berber loans in Nubian is neither conclusively established nor necessarily dates from as early as 1500 BC. So I don't know how much confidence to put in this scenario. However, it points to an interesting avenue for studies of Berber to explore. A lot of evidence suggests that Afroasiatic originated further east than North Africa, so it would make sense for there to have been Berber speakers in the Nile Valley - that could even be where Berber spread from in the first place. I previously discussed this issue in The Berbers of Southern Egypt.

The book is interesting for other reasons, incidentally - if her scenario for the development of Kenzi/Dongolawi is correct, it has borrowed an astonishing amount of grammatical material from Nobiin.

References:
Behrens, P. 1984/5. "Wanderungsbewegungen und Sprache der frühen saharanischen Viehzüchter", SUGIA 6:135-216.

15 comments:

Trond Engen said...

If nothing else, the name 'Temehu' is intriguing, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Azul,

Are you saying that Berber language originates in Asia? or in eastern Egypt?

Also I am really interested in knowing the experts' opinions about the origins of Berbers as an ethnic group, and whether they originate from Yemen in Asia, or Ethiopia/Kenya in Esta Africa?

Is there any elaborate theory that suggests the North-West African origin of Berbers?

Moubarik Belkasim

Lameen Souag said...

There are a lot of reasons to believe that Berber came from the East - most of its Afroasiatic relatives are to the east, and the archeological cultures most likely to have brought in Berber (notably the Capsian culture) spread from east to west. But where exactly proto-Afro-Asiatic, from which Berber is descended, was originally spoken is not clear. Ehret has argued for an origin in the Red Sea hills of Egypt/Sudan on the basis of the distribution of branches of the family, while Militarev argues for Palestine because he claims that agricultural vocabulary and terms like "sheep" and "goats" can be reconstructed for it.

David Marjanović said...

If nothing else, the name 'Temehu' is intriguing, isn't it?



Why?

Trond Engen said...

Because, if you glimpse on both eyes while looking through the bottom of a bottle in a dimly lighted room, it superficially might resemble what an Egyptian could get out of something akin to Tamazigh ~ Tamahaq.

Moubarik Belkasim said...

I wonder what "Tebu" and "Temhu" really meant.

Besides, archeologists discovered some years ago primitive colored jewelry dating back to 80,000 years buried in the Figuig region, North Eastern of Morocco.

This astonishing discovery tells us a lot about human civilization in North Africa.

Another interesting element is the Berber word "Tagant" which means: Forest, Woods.

The word "Tagant" is found in dry Sahara desert regions of Mauritania and Morocco. This agrees with the fact that the Sahara desert was ages ago a green rain forest.

Why would the locals in Mauritania call a perfectly dry and hot plateau "Tagant" (Forest) if it wasn't really so back then?

David Marjanović said...

This agrees with the fact that the Sahara desert was ages ago a green rain forest.

Not quite. Green, yes, and the big blob in the middle is Lake Megachad, but a rainforest is something different...

(More information here.)

David Marjanović said...

Here, I mean. Grmpf.

Moubarik Belkasim said...

Thanks for the useful links David Marjanović. I think you're right: rain forests are a very weak probability in the history of the Sahara. But I think we could agree on that other forms of forests (less dense) were present in some areas of the Sahara in the last 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.

David Marjanović said...

But I think we could agree on that other forms of forests (less dense) were present in some areas of the Sahara in the last 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.

If you count savanna...

David Marjanović said...

BTW, I completely overlooked the mistake in the book title: im Niltal "in the Nile Valley". Obligatory contraction of in dem.

dormirdebout said...

Hi,

Reading an article on Libyan Bedouin by EE Evans-Pritchard recently, I came across a statement that Berber languages had zero influence on eastern Libyan Arabic. I'm not sure what sources to look at to verify his comment, but I don't think he is right...do you have any idea?

Lameen Souag said...

Certainly not much influence, but not zero either. I noticed at least one loanword (common to all North African varieties): fakaṛūna "tortoise". It would be an interesting issue to look into.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lameen i just answerd on a previous topic on Zenaga Berber
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=13177437&postID=2133270067225659848

Azrou said...

I'm not sure i'm able to understand the things correctly, but as far as i'm aware.. the Temehu are undoubtly Libyans (who are the Libyans?! At least the ancestors of the Berbers), while the Group C are supposed to be Libyans, but this is not sure.