Friday, December 14, 2012

Nightmares in the desert

Sleep paralysis, more colourfully known as "old hag's syndrome", is a phenomenon that seems to have left traces in the folklore of just about every culture around the world; but it also seems to be commoner in some areas than others. In particular, while rare to the point of unfamiliarity in Britain or in my Algerian hometown of Dellys, it seems to be familiar to almost everybody in Tabelbala (and, similarly, within the US, it seems to be commoner among African-Americans than whites). The following Kwarandzyey text explains how it is experienced there, and as such might be of some medical interest:
ah, tsaddərts ndza askundzan ləxla aɣudzi. ndza aggwạ niš nn axnuq ka, e! asbạ uɣ bsəlləkni kʷəll, ləxla aɣudzi. nəmgwạ ɣaṛ nəmtqaqa. bəɣ sabmmə̣w niši. nəbʕəyyəṭ, nbəẓẓəgga ndza nən žžəhd... wara affu asmmə̣w niši ni ɣar nn haya si. nən kudzi, amgạ ttsən. attsən amgwạbzda ɣaṛ ndza bəssyas... nəbʕəyyəṭ, nəbẓəgga; wara affu issabmmə̣w niši. uɣu ibtsas tsaddərt. abgwạ niš adaɣ ka nn axnuq ka, amgwạ niši nən kəmbi ka ndza an tsiyu, amkạnika mʕad - ʕad nəmmiħəmda ṛəb si, həlla ʕad nəmfạktsi. xəd nəffạktsi nəmdza ufff! itsa adri.
Oh, sleep paralysis, if it gets hold of you, it's a terror. If it sits on you at your throat, he! there's no one to save you, it's a terror. You start just squawking. Nobody hears you. You're shouting, you're screaming with all your might... no one hears you, you're just on your own. Your blood runs slow. It's slow, it starts moving only slowly... You shout, you scream; no one hears you. This, they call "taddert". It sits on you here, at your throat, it sits on your hands with its feet, it hits at you until - once you praise God, only then do you wake up. When you wake up, you go "Phew!" It's gone.

Particularly if you speak Berber or Arabic, this text should pose an interesting challenge: how many words can you recognise? How much of it can you gloss?

15 comments:

lethargic-man said...

"Particularly if you speak Berber or Arabic"? How much do you expect people to recognise if they don't? Well, I'll have a go; I'm not averse to making a fool of myself in the presence of vastly more knowledgeable people in the name of a fun challenge...

"ʕad" and possibly "mʕad" are (sc. (here et passim) borrowed from the Arabic cognate of) עַד; "nəmmiħəmda" contains the root חמד/حمد, and "ṛəb" may be רב, depending on what exactly an ṛ is. And "sabmmə̣w" might just be a rather mangled שמע.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

That's the spirit! Well, you're right about ʕad, iħməd "praise", and ṛəb(bi) "the Lord". mʕad "until" is actually from Arabic mīʕād, root wʕd, so probably cognate to Hebrew mōʕēḏ. sabmmə̣w divides up as s- "not" -bab- "progressive marker" mə̣w "hear", though, so no relation to šmʕ.

PhoeniX said...

I'm pretty sure ləxla is Arabic, but I'm completely clueless what word it might be.

I believe that in the tekst it is supposed to be 'terror'.

tsaddərts certainly looks like a Berber word. But I'm on sure what it would be derived from.

kinda looks like ddər 'to live' , but The exact formation looks cognate to the tarifit word for 'house' taddaat. I have no clue how to reconsile that with the meaning 'sleep paralysis' though.

žžəhd <- Ar. al-jahd 'effort'.

Anonymous said...

ħnq 'strangle', right?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

ləxla seems to be from Arabic xlʕ "startle, scare". I need to double-check its meaning, though.

I don't have any good etymology for tsaddərts; maybe cp. Tamasheq ədǎl "(hen) brood (sit on eggs)"?

Right about žžəhd, of course. There's a good deal more Arabic vocabulary in there, though - several verbs, for example...

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

xnq "strangle", yes - very good.

Anonymous said...

Looks like -ẓəgga and -ʕəyyəṭ, 'shout' and 'scream', could be Arabic, though I don't understand why *q>g in the first one, and I can't find an Arabic source for the second one.

I'm guessing ttsən 'slow' is Berber, because of the initial geminate.

lethargic-man said...

xnq: Aargh: how did I miss that?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

*q>g is normal in Bedouin dialects of Arabic throughout the Arab world. ʕəyyəṭ is common in Algerian Arabic, but its etymology is problematic. One might compare Arabic 'aʕyaṭ "long-necked", but more likely it reflects reshaping of a Berber form, cp. Tuareg təɣuyyət "shout".

ttsən is actually Songhay *tiŋ "heavy"; the initial geminate is grammatically conditioned (it marks the perfective.)

Anonymous said...

So why *q>g in one word but *q>q in the other?

PhoeniX said...

ʕəyyəṭ is common in Algerian Arabic, but its etymology is problematic. One might compare Arabic 'aʕyaṭ "long-necked", but more likely it reflects reshaping of a Berber form, cp. Tuareg təɣuyyət "shout".

Aujila Berber also has the root ʕəyyəṭ. Isn't that just a Stem II derivation of Ar. ʕāṭa ‘to yell, scream’?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

q/g: Different borrowing routes; axnuq from Berber, which got the root from an urban dialect; ẓəgga direct from the local Bedouin dialects.

ʕāṭa "to yell, scream": where did you find that word? The derivation would be perfect, but it's not in Lane or Lisan al-Arab, or any other dictionary to hand.

Anonymous said...

The root ʕ-y-ṭ is common in eastern Arabic dialects as well, so probably not derived from Berber. See for example Stowasser & Ani, A Dictionary of Syrian Arabic: ʕayyaṭ 'to yell', p. 268; Woodhead & Beene, A Dictionary of Iraqi Arabic: ʕāṭ 'to yell, scream', ʕayyaṭ '(intens. of ʕāṭ)', p. 331.

PhoeniX said...

Unexciting as it may be, I found it in Wehr's dictionary of modern written Arabic.

Actually, now I look at it. Not even in the Stem I form, but only in Stem II.

3yT II to yell, scream, cry out; to shout, call (3alaa for), call out (3alaa to s.o.), hail (3alaa s.o.); to weep, cry.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Thanks. Given the Eastern Arabic examples, it's clearly not likely to be Berber. But Wehr includes a great number of post-Classical expressions and meanings; I suspect this is one of them. There is something similar in al-Firuzabadim though: وعِيطِ، بالكسر مَبْنِيَّةً: صَوْتُ الفِتْيانِ النَّزِقِينَ إذا تَصايَحُوا، أو كلمة يُنَادَى بها عندَ السُّكْرِ أو عِندَ الغَلَبةِ،