Saturday, March 29, 2014

Random Darja notes

I'm currently on a short break in Dellys, which is providing many incidental opportunities for linguistic observation. Here are a few, randomly chosen and not guaranteed to interest anyone but me:

- What kind of insufferable pedant "translates" merguez مرڤاز into Standard Arabic, on a butcher's signboard I spotted, as naqāniq نقانق "sausage"? And would they still do so if they were aware that the latter is a Greek loanword, deriving from loukanikos? Sometimes I feel that the problem with Modern Standard Arabic, for Algeria, is precisely that it's modern and standard: too extensively modernised to connect Algeria satisfactorily with its pre-colonial past, and too standardised for Algerians to feel comfortable tinkering with its vocabulary.

- There are very few Berber loanwords here that retain the nominal prefix, but I heard one or two new ones. The list so far: amalu أمالو "wet shady spot", axiṛ أخير "good morning", aqsil / lə-qsil أقسيل "grass sp.", tirẓəẓt تيرززت "small wasp", taɣənnant تاغنّانْت "stubbornness". None, unfortunately, seem to have plurals...

- Talking of which, I registered for the first time the handy "conjunction" məqqaṛ مقّار "at least", a concept I had previously had to express using French (au moins) or Standard Arabic (ʕala l'aqall) when speaking Darja. This conjunction is shared with Kabyle, but also with Andalusi Arabic (makkār مكّار) – Corriente derives it from Greek ō makarie "lucky you", but I'm not sure whether to accept that etymology.

- I belatedly realised that ṣəṛwəl صرْول, cypress, is actually from Arabic sarw سرو, with an unexplained extra letter. Another case in point: rəɣwən رغْون "to foam up" – cp. rəɣw-a رغوة "foam (n.)". Where extra letters like these come from is one of the great mysteries of Semitic, frequently discussed but never really explained.

- There's not much true code-switching into French going on here, at least not in my social circle, but I did overhear the following excellent sentence: ṛana en plein ṭyab رانا آن پلان طياب "we're in the middle of cooking". Note that en plein is selecting for a verbal noun: one could say ṛana mʕa ṭṭyab رانا معا الطياب "we are (busy with) cooking" with a preposition and a verbal noun, or ṛana nṭəyybu رانا نطيّبو "we are cooking" with a finite verb, but not *ṛana ṭṭyab.

- An interrogative relative clause with an unexpected nominal head: makaš drari mʕa-mən təlʕəb ماكاش دراري معامن تلعب "there are no kids for her to play with". The negative existential context is presumably what favours it.

14 comments:

Abu Ilyás said...

Actually مرڤاز happens to be Andalusi (cf. Vocabulista in arabico, p. 461, s.v. 'longaniza': ). Concerning مقّار it is rather strange that Corriente did not consider Persian مگر (however cf. Italian 'magari', Spanish 'maguer').

David Marjanović said...

Where extra letters like these come from is one of the great mysteries of Semitic, frequently discussed but never really explained.

Oh, not just Semitic: they're suspiciously similar to the phenomenon of "root extensions" in Indo-European.

Abu Ilyás said...

Extra -əl in صرول might relate to Romance diminutive suffix -el, "characteristic of tree nouns" (on this see Corriente, A Dictionary of Andalusi Arabic, 1997, p. 250).

Abu Ilyás said...

It seems Björkman was rather misguided when he said that "sarwal or serwel or serwil for «cypress» is formed from the well-known word sarw with the article after it" (EI, s.v. 'sirwal').

Lyamin Benshrif said...

I thought Dellys was part of Kabylie...Apparently not. So where is exactly the Kabyle western border ? And because of geo proximity aren't many of people there are Kabyle in origin?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Thanks for the comments - I'd never have guessed merguez was Andalusi too! Root extensions are also a thorny problem in Berber...

Dellys was administratively part of Kabylie during and immediately after French rule, but even in 1844 its inhabitants spoke Arabic. Of course many or most are ultimately of Kabyle origin, but there are also Andalusi and Turkish families and immigrants from further west. Not far east or south, though, the villages speak Kabyle.

Lyamin Benshrif said...

Thanks Lameen, having the Jbala/Rif languages shift in Morocco, the border is normally a river or a mountain and happens acc to tribal territory. I didn't realise it was this cosmopolitan, maybe infulence from close Algiers.

I'm interested in determining the original extent of Kabylie, which I gather are the Kutama in Arabic sources. Acc to Ibn Khaldun Setif and constantine are Kabyle too—although apparently not Ktama or some southern branch of Ktama—who shifted to Arabic after the fall of the Fatimids. Still acc to Ibn Khaldun, they'd later deny this origin to avoid blame for having shifted to Shiism. Perhaps in the context of religious reformism brought about by Almoravids/Almohads

Burzazen said...

Indeed, we say in Tizi Wezzu both in Darija/Taqbaylit meqqar to say at least. Most people think it is borrowed from Tamazight.

I don't know whether in Delles you call the cold/icy and wet winter breeze "Azefzafi". It is quite obsolete nowadays, I learnt it lately from old relatives of mine.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

The Kutama were concentrated more to the east I think, around Jijel. Most of that region speaks Arabic now, but the dialects of eastern coastal Kabylie are still strikingly different from the rest, suggesting that there was originally a linguistic divide between Zwawa and Kutama proper. On the west, the coast is Arabophone as far as Dellys, but the mountains inland are Kabyle-speaking at least up to Ammal, and even in the Blida Atlas a few people still speak Berber. Zenati influence can be discerned as far west as Tizi-Ghennif, and the Blida Atlas dialects are a bewildering mixture of Kabyle and Zenati traits.

We call it zefzaf - a nice old word...

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Regarding tribal boundaries: Dellys itself fell outside of the tribal system even before the French arrived, but the local linguistic boundary in the region corresponded to the two neighbouring tribes: Beni-Thour to the west speaking Arabic, Beni Slyem to the west speaking Berber, separated by Oued Oubai. The average Dellsi today hardly knows either name, but the linguistic boundary is still in about the same place.

One more a- word: azayaT "wind-driven rain".

Abu Ilyás said...

Yet "azefzafi", "zefzaf", etc., are Arabic loanwords, aren't they?

Petre Norman said...

A Greek derivation of məqqaṛ seems plausible. Romanian has măcar, with the meanings “at least” and “even if”, generally thought to derive from Byzantine μακάρι. In Modern Greek, “Μακάρι νά' ξερα” means “If only I knew”, so with a meaning similar to Spanish and Andalusi ojalá. An alternative etymology proposed for Romanian is from Persian via Turkish: magar = ma (“not”) + agar (“once”), but this seems a little far-fetched semantically; much more likely that the Turkish is borrowed from the Greek. Old Spanish (from Andalusi?) has maguer in the sense of “even if”/”even though”.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

My main problem with the Greek etymology is the semantics: how do you get from "if only" to "at least"? They're practically opposites. As for Turkish meǧer, it is indeed from Persian magar, but it means, roughly speaking, "contrary to expectations", which is not quite the same thing. Persian magar also means "except", which I suppose is a reasonable source for "if only".

So what did μακάρι mean in Byzantine Greek, exactly?

Petre Norman said...

Yes, the semantics are puzzling. If məqqaṛ and măcar both mean “at least” and both come from Greek, you would expect to find at least some trace of that meaning in Greek from the relevant period. But no. The closest I can come is the (Cretan?) expression “σκιας μαγάρι”, which does indeed mean “at least” ‒ but so does “ σκιας” on its own, so that doesn't help us.

The two meanings of μακάρι in Medieval Greek are essentially the same as in the modern language: “even (if/though)” and “I wish”/”if only”. And those are more or less the meanings that are preserved in Western European languages that inherited the word: Italian, Old Spanish and Old Portuguese.

But in languages right across the Balkans from Bulgarian to Albanian (though not Slovenian, which has magari from Italian), the word makar/məkar is found with the two meanings “even” and “at least”. As well as somehow acquiring the latter sense, the Balkan cognates have lost (if they ever had) the original Greek meaning of “I wish”. The Persian/Turkish derivation doesn't seem to bring us any closer to the meaning “at least” either.

Does məqqaṛ have any other meaning(s) apart from “at least”?