Saturday, November 03, 2012

Blida Atlas Tamazight

In the mountains above the town of Blida south of Algiers, there still survives an isolated variety of Kabyle, a remnant of the era when this region was Berber speaking. If you look through bibliographies for material on this, about the only thing that comes up is Laoust's (1912) Etude sur le dialecte berbère du Chenoua : comparé avec ceux des Beni-Menacer et des Beni-Salah, in which only the Beni-Salah material scattered here and there in the book comes from the region under discussion, while the rest deals with the varieties west of Algiers (almost as badly documented, but not closely related). But I recently came across a PDF that single-handedly changes this. Tamazight de l'Atlas blidéen (from Atlas de Blida) is a 57-page trilingual French-Berber-Arabic dictionary, followed by a sketch grammar, comments on toponymy, and a bibliography. The anonymous authors have done a fine job, and apparently are still working on it.

Leafing through it, I was struck by the extension of deg "in" to "from", replacing seg. While this is clearly not a Zenati variety, it seems to have picked up some Zenati characteristics, as you might expect from its westerly location: for instance, "one" is m. , f. ict. It's kept the word aryaḏ* "lion" (pl. iyraḏen); this explains the form recorded more than a thousand years earlier in Ibn Quraysh (with a slight copying error, 'ry'r), much better then the more widespread Berber form ar/ahar that Cohen (1972) suggested for it. There are some etymological puzzles to be examined - for example, why the prefixed q in iqic "horn", and why the shift d > l in laba "now"? The prefixed j in ijifer "wing" is presumably originally the indefinite article "one", but it occurs in the plural as well (ijufar). The double negative is ur...-k rather than ur... ara, a sort of non-Zenati version of the widespread Northern Zenati ur... -c (which I posted about a long time ago). No doubt plenty more remains to be seen. (* Typo corrected.)


John Cowan said...

Sporadic d > l changes are common in the world's languages. Perhaps the best known is Latin lingua < dingua, cognate to English tongue; similarly lacrima 'tear (eye-water)' < dacrima. An irregularity spreading from one morphological form to another is hardly unexpected either, a kind of anti-leveling.

PhoeniX said...

I had never heard of the word Ayrad before, except for a friend of mine whose last name is Ayrad, which he claimed to mean "lion", which now appears to be correct.

He's Moroccan though, and as far as I know all Moroccan Berber varieties have izem. So I'm curious how that word ended up in his last name.


That also brings up another issue, that Berber has three very distinct terms (or even more?) for 'lion', izem, ayrad and ahar/ar. ahar clearly has the broadest attestation (Tuareg, Zénaga, Ghadamès, Ouargla and also this variety lists a form arr), but I do wonder how such etymologically diverse forms entered the language. I'm also curious what other dialects have ayrad that you know of.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Well, Destaing's dictionary of Beni Snous gives ayraḏ for Beni Snous, Bou Semghoun, and Beni Menacer; between them that covers most of western Algeria, which not coincidentally is where Ibn Quraysh came from. It's also in Beni Iznacen, according to Biarnay - which might explain your friend - and Chenoua, according to Laoust. I don't know if it's found in other areas.

I'd guess that ayrad is historically a compound of some sort with ar, but I don't see how exactly. It's very common for languages to develop euphemisms or circumlocutions for fearsome beasts - Arabic notoriously has dozens of synonyms for "lion", for instance.

Anonymous said...

"Ayrad" is the standard Berber word for "the lion" in Rif-Berber in northern Morocco. This word is known and used by millions of people.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

And that's why we need a proper dictionary of Tarifit! Unfortunately, Serhoual's is still unpublished.