Friday, March 07, 2014

Korandjé tale (Conte en korandjé - قصة بلبالية)

In the early 1950s, the French anthropologist Dominique Champault made a number of sound recordings in Tabelbala. Champault’s recordings have recently been made available online by the Centre de Recherche en Musicologie, through Cécile Funke’s archival work. Many are in Arabic or French, but the Korandjé ones are an irreplaceable resource for the study of the language; in her time, the language was under rather less pressure and verbal arts were in much better health.

One of the easiest recordings for me – the sound quality is good, and the language simple – is a short folk tale about a cat, narrated by Zohra Adda (70-01):

Like “the house that Jack built”, this cumulative tale helps children learn to understand recursive causation. There are a few dialectal or idiolectal differences from the Korandjé I’ve heard, minor but striking to my ears. Following Marijn van Putten’s example, I’ll put it up here – comments very welcome! Etymology is marked by colour: yellow for Arabic, blue for Berber, and unmarked for Songhay.

عيحاجانيس عسكاتنيسي: – حاجيتك ما جيتك
ʕa-yħaža=ni.s ʕ
I have told you, I haven't come to you (ie “Once upon a time”):
Je t’ai raconté, je ne suis pas venu à toi (c’est à dire “Il était une fois”) :
Comments: This is an alarmingly literal translation of the widespread North African “Once upon a time” formula, ħajit-ək ma jit-ək. This fixed formula is barely interpretable in Arabic, but one grammatically possible parse corresponds to the Korandjé here. iħaža, of course, is a Maghrebi Arabic loan, from ħaji “tell a story” (possibly via Berber).

1. إيشنّ احّلّق موشفُكدّا. – خلق الله قطا صغيرا
išann a-ħħəlləq muš=fʷ kadda.
God 3Sg-create cat=one small
God created a little cat.
Dieu a créé un petit chat.
Comments: išannu, historically a compound “our master”, has fallen into disfavour in modern Tabelbala; most speakers now prefer the dialect Arabic equivalent mula-na. ħəlləq “create” is from Maghrebi Arabic xləq, with an irregular shift x > ħ, probably the result of place dissimilation, paralleled in the Arabic of the Touat region (cf. Bachir Bouhania). Songhay, Berber, and local Arabic all have more or less the same word for “cat”, so it’s difficult to say which source Korandjé got the word from; provisionally, I assume it’s inherited.

2. آدر آبينبش. – ذهب يخدش
a-a-dər a-ab-inbəš.
3Sg-PF-go 3Sg-PROG-scratch
He went scratching (in the ground).
Il est allé gratter.
Comments: inbəš “scratch” is Maghrebi Arabic nbəš.

3. افُّ ابساتاكا اتّاس: توغ نبابتلاّ؟ – مر به أحد فقال له: عمّا تبحث؟
a-ffʷ a-bbsa-t-a.ka a-tts=a.s tsuɣ n-bạb-tsə̣llạ?
Nom-one what 2Sg-PROG-seek
Someone passed by him and told him: What are you looking for?
Quelqu’un est passé à côté de lui et lui a dit : Qu’est-ce que tu cherches ?
Comments: I’ve never heard any modern speaker pronounce “seek” as emphatic; the pronunciation I always heard was [tsɛlla] / [tsɨlla]. For the etymology of this Berber loan, cf. Zenaga pf. yə-llāh, impf. yə-ttälla(a)h “chercher” (Taine-Cheikh 2010); unusually, it seems to derive from the imperfective rather than the perfective.

4. ايتا عابتلاّ (ذ) إدرامن. – ها أنا أبحث عن النقود
əytsa ʕ-ab-tsə̣llạ (ḏ) idṛạmən.
lo 1Sg-PROG-seek (?) money
I'm looking for... money.
Je cherche... de l’argent.
Comments: There’s a clearly audible before “money”, but I can’t figure out a plausible reason for it. əytsa “lo!” is probably Berber, cp. Kabyle aṯan. idṛạmən “money” is a formally plural noun taken from Berber, ultimately from Arabic dirham (itself from Greek drachma).

5. ما نبغ إدرامن؟ – لماذا تريد النقود؟
n-bə̣ɣ idṛạmən
why 2Sg-want money
Why do you want money?
Pourquoi veux-tu de l’argent ?
Comments: “Want” is one of two quasi-verbs in Korandjé – the other is “exist” – that does not take mood/aspect morphology. I’ve heard maɣạ and mạʕạ for “why” > Berber ma-ɣər, but never just ma/mə as here. bə̣ɣ “want” looks suspiciously like Arabic bɣa, but actually it has a regular Songhay etymology, *baga.

6. عمذينذي فركا. – لأشتري بها حمارا
ʕə-mm- ə dzay=ndz.i fə̣ṛka.
1Sg-IRR- uh buy=with.3Pl
So I can buy a donkey with it.
Pour que j’en achète un âne.
Comments: Modern speakers usually have a slightly more reduced vowel in “buy” – [dzɛi], or even just [dzɨi]. Note the 3Pl, agreeing with idṛạmən.

7. ما نبغ فركا؟ – لماذا تريد حمارا؟
ma n-bə̣ɣ fə̣ṛka
why 2Sg-want donkey
why 2Sg-want donkey?
Why do you want a donkey?
Pourquoi veux-tu un âne ?

8. عمنڤّر لابو. – لأنقل الطين
ʕa-m-dza- ʕa-mm- ə- nəggə̣ṛ lạbu.
1Sg-IRR-bu- 1Sg-IRR- uh- transport clay
So I can bu- so I can- uh- transport clay.
Pour que j’ach- pour que je- euh - transporte de l’argile.
Comments: I’ve never heard “clay” with an emphatic vowel either; modern speakers usually say [læ:bu]. nəggə̣ṛ is presumably from Arabic naqala “transport”, but I need to double-check its meaning is also normally not emphatic now.

9. ما نبغ لابو؟ – لماذا تريد الطين؟
ma n-bə̣ɣ lạbu?
why 2Sg-want clay
Why do you want clay?
Pourquoi veux-tu de l’argile ?

10. عمكا آضّب. – لأصنع الطوب
ʕa-m-kạ ạḍḍə̣b.
1Sg-IRR-hit brick
So I can make bricks.
Pour que je fasse des briques.
Comments: kạ ạḍḍə̣b “make (lit. hit) bricks” is a fixed expression; kạ can be used in some other contexts to mean “work”. ạḍḍə̣b “brick” (pl. iḍḍụbən) is a Berber-style adaptation of Arabic al-ṭūb, which, transmitted via Spanish, also gives us English adobe.

11. ما نبغ آضّب؟ – لماذا تريد الطوب؟
ma n-bə̣ɣ ạddəb?
why 2Sg-want brick
Why do you want bricks?
Pourquoi veux-tu des briques ?

12. عمكيكي ڤا. – لأبني بيتا
ʕa-m-kikəy gạ.
1Sg-IRR-build house
So I can build a house.
Pour que je construise une maison.

13. ما نبغ ڤا؟ – لماذا تريد بيتا؟
n-bə̣ɣ gạ?
why 2Sg-want house
Why do you want a house?
Pourquoi veux-tu une maison ?

14. عمّيكنا محمّد نذا فاطنة إمّيـ – أصنعها، محمد وفاطمة يـ
ʕa-mm-ikn-a muħəmməd ndza fạṭna, i-mm-i-
1Sg-IRR-make-3Sg Muhammad and Fatima, 3Pl-IRR-h-
I’ll make it, and Muhammad and Fatima, they’ll- (Je la construirai, et Mohamed et Fatma, ils –)
Comments: Note that fạṭna “Fatima” shows place dissimilation, a regular process in many Atlas Berber varieties, suggesting that this version of the name reached Korandjé via Moroccan Berber rather than directly via Arabic.

15. عمذاكا محمد نذا فاطنة. – لأضع فيها محمدا وفاطمة
ʕa-m-dza=a.ka muħəmməd ndza fạṭna. Muhammad and Fatima
So I can put Muhammad and Fatima into it.
Pour que j’y mette Mohamed et Fatma.

16. ما نبغ محمد نذا فاطنة؟ – لماذا تريد محمدا وفاطمة؟
ma n-bə̣ɣ muħəmməd ndza fạṭna?
why 2Sg-want Muhammad and Fatima
Why do you want Muhammad and Fatima?
Pourquoi veux-tu Mohamed et Fatma ?

17. عمكيكيغيس تا- إمّيسرحغيس تاوالا. – لأبني لي قـ- ليسرحوا لي قطيعا
ʕa-m-kikəy=ɣəy.s ta- i-mm-isrəħ=ɣəy.s tsawala. fl- flock
So I can build myself a fl- so they can herd for me a flock.
Pour que je me construise un tr– pour qu’ils me paissent un troupeau.
Comments: isrəħ “herd, graze” is Arabic srəħ. tsawala “flock (cared for by turns)” is Moroccan Berber, and is probably a later re-borrowing of the same word that yields Korandjé tsara “(a) time”.

18. ما نبغ تاوالا؟ – لماذا تريد قطيعا؟
n-bə̣ɣ tawala?
why 2Sg-want flock
Why do you want a flock?
Pourquoi veux-tu un troupeau ?

19. عمكواكا هوّا. – لأستخرج منه الحليب
ʕa-m-kaw=a.ka huwwa. milk
So I can get milk from it.
Pour que j’en obtienne du lait.
Comments: As with “buy”, modern speakers usually have a rather more reduced vowel in “remove” – more like [kçəu].

20. ما نبغ هوّا؟ – لماذا تريد الحليب؟
ma n-bə̣ɣ huwwa?
why 2Sg-want milk
Why do you want milk?
Pourquoi veux-tu du lait ?

21. عمكواكا ڤي. – لأستخرج منها السمن
ʕa-m-kaw=a.ka gi. ghee.
Pour que j’en obtienne du s’men.
Comments: By an amusing coincidence of sound and meaning, gi means more or less the same as English “ghee”.

22. ما نبغ ڤي؟ – لماذا تريد السمن؟
ma n-bə̣ɣ gi?
why 2Sg-want ghee
Why do you want ghee?
Pourquoi veux-tu du s’men ?

23. عمْيننذا رسول الله ن تالبّسْت(؟). – لأدهن به ؟؟ رسول الله
ʕa-m-yən=ndz.a ṛạsuləḷḷạh-n tsagʷḍḍə̣st[?].
1Sg-IRR-anoint=with.3Sg Messenger_of_God GEN lock
So that I can anoint with it the Messenger of God’s hair-lock.
Pour que j’en oigne le ?? de l’Envoyé du Dieu.
Comments: I can’t seem to make out that last word – the speaker tails off – but it seems to have the Berber feminine circumfix. ṛạsuləḷḷah is an Arabic compound, rasūl “messenger” and Allāh “God”. By the way, despite appearances, n is not Berber – given the associated word order, it can more plausibly be derived from an irregular shortening of Songhay wane (see Kossmann).

Korandjé is generally thought of as a contact-intensive language – so how mixed is this sample? Well, there are two ways to count (excluding, in any case, bound morphemes and incomplete words), depending on what we do with words that occur more than once. If we count by token, then we count the same word each time it appears; if we count by type, then we count the same word only once.

By token, we have 84 words: 52 Songhay, 12 Arabic, 20 Berber. So 62% of the text is Songhay, 14% Arabic, and 24% Berber.

By type, we have:
  • 24 Songhay words: ka “come”, išannu “God”, -fu “one”, kadda “small”, dri “go”, bsa “pass”, tsi “say”, tsuɣu “what”, bəɣ “want”, dzay “buy”, fəṛka “donkey”, lạbu “clay”, kạ “hit, work”, dza “put, do”, ndza “and, with”, kikəy “build”, kaw “remove”, huwwa “milk”, gi “ghee”, yən “anoint”, aɣəy “I”, ni “you”, ana “he/she/it”, ?muš “cat”
  • 8 Arabic loans: iħaža “tell (a story)”, ħəlləq “create”, yinbəš “scratch”, yisrəħ “herd”, ṛasuləḷḷạh “the Messenger of God”, muħəmməd “Muhammad”, fạṭna “Fatima”, nəggə̣ṛ “transport”
  • 8 Berber loans: idṛạmən “money”, ạḍḍə̣b “brick”, ikna “make”, tsawala “flock”, əytsa “lo”, tsə̣llạ “seek”, ma “why”, tsagʷḍḍə̣st “hair-lock”
So this rather repetitive text has a total vocabulary of only 40 words; 60% of its vocabulary is Songhay, 20% Arabic, and 20% Berber.


John Cowan said...

I took a look at this classic version of "The House That Jack Built". It's far more repetitive, with 382 tokens but only 43 types, making it comparable in vocabulary size. 34 (79%) are native English words. Of the rest, cock, farmer, Jack, married, priest (12%) are French, one with a native ending; tattered, tossed (5%) are Scandinavian with native endings; cat (2%) is Latin; rat (2%) is a Wanderwort.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Nice comparison - thanks for putting together those stats!

John Cowan said...

Center-embedded German version of Jack.