Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kouriya

I finally got my hands on an article I had been looking for for a while about the "Kouriya" language of Gourara (around Timimoun, Algeria): Rachid Bouchemit, 1951. Le Kouriya du Gourara, Bulletin de Liaison Saharienne 5, p.46-47. While short, it's significantly more informative than the vague rumours to be found in other sources. "Kouriya", it turns out, was the general-purpose name given locally to any Black African language - "L'unité du terme cache la pluralité des idiomes: Haoussa, Bambra, Foullan, Mouchi, Songhai, Bornou, Boubou, Gouroungou, Minka, Sarnou, Nourma, Kanembou, Karkawi, etc...", in particular as spoken by ex-slaves in the region. Following the abolition of slavery, these languages, no longer reinforced by the arrival of new slaves, rapidly fell into disuse; the new generation learned Arabic and Taznatit instead. By 1951, the author could find only seven or eight speakers of a "Kouriya" in Timimoun, and only two of them spoke the same language, namely Bambara.

While the author leaves the etymology unexplained, I would add that the term "Kouriya", and the corresponding ethnonym kuri, probably derive from Songhay koyra "town, village", used to form the Songhays' own name for themselves, koyra-boro "townsman"; Songhay is, after all, the nearest major ethnic group in the Sahel to the Gourara region.

6 comments:

bulbul said...

Songhay koyra "town, village
Hm. Any relation to Arabic كورة?

jdm said...

Kouriya is a very common Hassaniya name for any Harataniya in Mauritania (similar to Kahayla), but also used in Hassaniya for any non-Arabic speaking groups (with a slightly derogatory insinuation - lkori, laKwaar). I always just assumed it was another word for black that was non-standard, but that was just an impression from usage...

Afifay said...

In Tumz'abt, akuri (m) ikurayen (mpl) takurit (f) tikurayin (fpl) designates a black african person speaking TAKURIT, any sub-saharan language incomprehensible to the local population.

As to its origin, toponyms Koro and Kourou are widely spread across West Africa. The adjective might simply refer to a geographical location.

Also, Kora refers to an african musical instrument which might have been played exclusively by these people.

Lameen Souag said...

Bulbul: nice idea, but كورة is obscure enough that it seems unlikely. I find in the Lisan al-Arab that Ibn Durayd did "not consider it Arabic."

JDM: yes, that's more or less how it's used across a lot of the Sahara, it seems.

Afifay: good find (it's in Ouargla too). I don't think any place named Koro or Kourou has been prominent enough in Sahel history to be the source, but I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't it just derive from Arabic قرية, with the same meaning?

Angelika Jakobi said...

1. The term 'Kouriya' is comparable to the Arabic term 'rutana' in Sudan where it is used as a derogatory term that designates any African language spoken there.

2. I wonder whether the languages covered by the term 'Kouriya' have left some traces in the local Arabic and Berber dialects.