Friday, February 22, 2013

Explaining Korandjé; Darja etymologies

Some readers may be interested in a paper of mine that should be coming sometime soon in the Journal of Pidgin and Creole Linguistics: Explaining Korandjé: Language contact, plantations, and the trans-Saharan trade. It's an attempt to explain how a Songhay language ended up being spoken so far north, in a location so isolated from all its relatives, and when it got there. This is a pre-review version; the one that will actually be published contains a number of improvements. However, your comments are welcome!

French-speaking readers may also be interested in a post I recently made on my other blog, responding to an unusually error-ridden article about the Berber elements of Darja: Les Algériens qui ont oublié les dictionnaires de leurs ancêtres. My initial response was somewhat irritated, as you see, but on reflection there's something fascinating about it as well: how is it that there are dozens of words in daily use in Algerian Arabic that can easily be found in any sufficiently big Classical dictionary, but that are so rare in the Modern Standard Arabic of Algeria that literate people are capable of assuming they must be from some other language? If Modern Standard and Classical are both Fusha - which is how Algerians tend to think of them - then why are these words so systematically avoided by Algerians when they try to write Fusha?

5 comments:

Abu Ilyás said...

Clive Holes calls it "the conscious distancing of written Arabic from anything which smacks of dialect" (Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions and Varieties, Longman, 1995, p. 263).

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

That's part of it, but in this case I think there's more to it - something related to the usual Algerian inferiority complex. It's as though it's more important to make sure Middle Easterners will understand what you write than to make it easier for your fellow citizens to understand, even when choosing between equally classical synonyms - very much the opposite of Egyptians' attitude towards Fusha, for example.

David Marjanović said...

how is it that there are dozens of words in daily use in Algerian Arabic that can easily be found in any sufficiently big Classical dictionary, but that are so rare in the Modern Standard Arabic of Algeria that literate people are capable of assuming they must be from some other language? If Modern Standard and Classical are both Fusha - which is how Algerians tend to think of them - then why are these words so systematically avoided by Algerians when they try to write Fusha?

It is common for German dialects to use words that exist in Standard German, but exist there only in higher, literary registers, so people (myself included) avoid these words when writing for fear of sounding too poetic for prosaic usages.

Abu Ilyás said...

I don't know what you mean by "usual Algerian inferiority complex", Lameen. What about the very process of Arabization partly relying on Middle Eastern teachers?

Etienne said...

This inferiority complex is by no means Algerian only, sadly. Francophone Canadians are so convinced that local French is some corruption of the standard that many seem to undergo a kind of mental short-circuit whenever some "quintessentially canadian" form is shown them in classical French literature.

The problem is that language is conceived of holistically: there is the H variety and the L variety, the latter being a degeneration of the former, and never the twain shall meet. That forms of the L variety may once have existed in the H variety is quite literally inconceivable.