Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Teach Yourself Songhay: A Timbuktu manuscript poem

Of the non-Arabic content I mentioned earlier, a few images are online. One work partly in Koyra Chiini, the Songhay language of Timbuktu, is available on Aluka (subscribers only): A poem explaining several Songhay language phrases. The portion of the poem available online reads as follows:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم والصلاة والسلام على النبي الحبيب
يا سائلا عن لغة السودان * اسمع جوابا عند ذي التبيان
الله يركي ان غادي الرسول * صلاة جنقر صوم حومي
قالوا تيمم تيمما وضؤ الولا * بكيرة كبر على من صلا
قراءة ايسو كذا النداء * تسليم سلم غاراي دعاء
فطرة فرمي هكذا السحور * ايسحري عشاء قالوا هوري
ثم الغذاء عندهم ايسركسي * مع ايسركاري عند بعض جنس
قالوا فلن لجملة الفلان * اسماءهم غابب لاتوان
العرب لارب عندهم توارق * شرع كذا سيت كل ضيف
الرجل هر كذلك قلت ايحر * وامراة وي كذا جرى اجر
الوشطير جملة الصبيان * كمس ددم باقية العيدين

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
and blessings and praise be on the beloved Prophet.
O asker about the language of the Sudan [Songhay],
Hear the answer from one who will explain.
God is Yerkoy, ŋga diya the Messenger;
Prayer is jiŋgar, fasting is haw-mee.
They say teymam for tayammum; wudu is alwalaa;
Takbir is kabbar for whoever prays;
Reading is ay cow and likewise calling;
Greeting is sallam, gaara yo is dua.
Breaking fast is feer-mee; likewise, suhoor
is sohore; dinner they say hawre;
then lunch for them is ay cirkose,
along with ay cirkaare for some people.
They say fulan for all the Fulanis;
Their names are gaabibi, and none other;
Arabs are laarab among them, and Tuareg
surgu, likewise sete is every guest.
A man is har, likewise I say is ay har;
A woman is woy, likewise he ran is a jur;
Alwaši-terey is all the youth;
Kimsi, dedem are the rest of the holidays.

The transcriptions are based on Heath's dictionary of Koyra Chiini, except where incompatible. The manuscript is undated, but the language is so close to present-day standards that it can hardly be more than a couple of centuries old at most (although, oddly, the author renders c as س). The poem is anonymous; it seems to be followed by the start of another work, by the Imam Abu Abdallah Muhammad al-Mahdi, in a different (and much more elegant) hand.

The Fulani materials scanned are a little more extensive: there's a poem praising the Prophet Muhammad and another by Uthman dan Fodio, if you care to give them a try.


Anonymous said...

What's the difference between the two 'lunch' words? Is it dialectal, a change in progress, or something else?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

At present, according to Heath, cirkaare is "breakfast", while cirkose is "lunch"; but Hacquard and Dupuis, writing in 1897, render both tjirkarey and tjirkosey as "déjeuner, dîner". Perhaps cirkaare originally referred to a mid-morning meal, "elevenses". Of the two, only cirkose seems to have widespread cognates in Songhay.

jdm said...

I'd love to have a crack at the dan Fodio poem if you can send a copy - I can't get through the paywall with my current access. I wonder how similar the Fulani is to contemporary Fuuta Tooro Pulaar...

John Cowan said...

Given that déjeuner was originally 'to break fast', like its Spanish cognate desayunar (both < DISJEJUNARE), confusion expressed through French is not surprising.