Tagdal is extremely inadequately documented – there are only three published resources on it that I know of (see my Northern Songhay bibliography), none of which provides even a sketch grammar (although a sketch grammar by the missionary linguist Carlos Benítez-Torres should be coming out in a couple of years, in The Oxford Handbook of Language Contact). It would be a rather interesting language to study, both as a case study in extremely intense language contact and for what it indicates about regional history. (Unlike most Tuareg tribes, the Igdalen are thought to have come from the west, and they seem to have played a prominent role in early medieval history; their original language, like that of the Idaksahak, was quite likely not Tuareg.) Unfortunately, the political situation described in that documentary makes fieldwork rather difficult to undertake for the moment.
Monday, February 03, 2014
Aljazeera video of mixed Tuareg-Songhay language, Tagdal
Aljazeera's documentary Orphans of the Sahara is worth watching for anyone interested in Tuareg language, as well as Tuareg politics – the producers took the very commendable decision to do most of the interviewing in Tuareg, giving a much more representative picture of Tuareg opinions than if they had stuck to interviewing French speakers as many other journalists do. Other languages of the region, apart from Arabic (and other ethnic groups' opinions) are rather less well represented, but about ten minutes into the first video, my ears perked up as I realised that I wasn't hearing Tuareg any more. As the camera follows Mohammed Igdali's first meeting in many years with his grandmother, somewhere outside Agades in Niger, you hear them speaking in a language that sounds oddly like Tuareg yet has a completely different grammar (from about 10min13s to 10min52s): In fact, this language is Tagdal, the language of the Igdalen tribe – a close relative of Korandjé, the Algerian language I studied for my doctorate. Most of its vocabulary is from Tuareg (or sometimes other Berber varieties), but its grammar and a few hundred of the commonest words are from Songhay, a language family spoken mainly further south along the Niger River. I can make out "Maxámmad Xásan, nənn áahay. – ɣann áahay ah?" (Mohammed Hassan, your grandchild. – My grandchild?), in which "grandchild" (áahay) is Tuareg and the possessive pronouns "your" (nən) and "my" (ɣan) are Songhay, as well as "nən bárar ɣo ggóra nə́n moo ka" (your child who is sitting in front of you), in which only bárar "child" is Tuareg, while the rest is Songhay. This is the first recording of Tagdal I've ever heard.