Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Siwi addressee agreement and demonstrative typology

My article "Siwi addressee agreement and demonstrative typology" has just been published, in STUF 67:1. In this article, I discuss the semantics of Siwi demonstratives, focusing especially on a phenomenon that I briefly covered in a post from 2012, Siwi: addressee agreement and addressing Aljazeera. Here's the abstract:
Siwi, a Berber language of Egypt, shows gender/number agreement of medial demonstratives with the addressee. Such phenomena are crosslinguistically very rarely reported, and are not discussed in major surveys of the typology of demonstratives (Diessel 1999; Imai 2003). However, within person-oriented demonstrative systems, such marking amounts to an iconic representation of addressee anchoring. The pragmatics of Siwi demonstratives thus cast light on the nature of the mapping from person to place that such systems reflect (Greenberg 1985). Comparative eastern Berber data suggests that demonstrative addressee agreement may be more widespread than the literature reflects.


John Cowan said...

Sounds really interesting, but 30 euros, yeesh. No preprint available online?

David Marjanović said...

Preprints are almost exclusively limited to physics. I know one biology preprint, and that's it.

Anonymous said...

Hahah. Hilarious. The Aljazeera jounalist was tyring his desparate best to tell us that Siwa was "Arab territory". He posited the "Arabness" of Siwa as "a serious question" that needs "settling and confirmation". He also spoke of "Israeli visitors" and questioned the Berber Siwi residents prompting one of them (the guy with the turban who said earlier that he's proud to be a Berber and an Egyptian) to say that "we [Siwis] hate the Jews more than anybody in the world"!

Well, bravo Aljazeera! You really did put this "Israeli crisis/threat" to a rest for now. The Israeli conspiracy has been vanquished! Aljazeera and this journalist in particular demonstrated once again their usual pathology of Arabization, Islamization and Anti-Jewism at their full colors. A sick nation that runs on a mix of hatred and conspiracy theories as its primary fuel.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

A comment so obviously lacking in self-awareness – complaining about ethnic "hatred" while calling Arabs a "sick nation" and Arabization a "pathology" – hardly deserves a reply. Nevertheless, since such reactions are not exactly unique:

If you clicked through to the post with the video, then you should have noticed the context: "a previous episode of the same program had featured an Egyptian guest academic who made bizarre and unfounded claims that Israelis were visiting a traditional Siwi religious festival in busloads as part of a plan to Judaise the Siwis – an allegation which the Siwis got very annoyed about." In fact, this episode was filmed as an indirect result of Siwi complaints to Aljazeera about the airing of that allegation, so it's no wonder that the claim came up, although it would have been kinder to edit out some of the more intemperate responses.

As for the question of "Arabness", Siwis have no difficulty in considering themselves as simultaneously Amazigh and Arab, and they have every right to do so. More important to them than either macro-identity, though, is being Siwi.

Anonymous said...

Hi. You're putting words in my mouth. I didn't say the Arabs (i.e. every Arab) are sick. I said "it's a sick nation". The Arab nation as a whole is very sick of course because anti-Jewism is so horrendously widespread among Arabs and Arab-Islamic-minded people (such as so many Muslim Berbers, Persians...), to rightly call it a social pathology. This doesn't mean that every single Arab or Muslim is anti-Jewish of course but hundreds of millions of them are. The West was pathological concerning black people and other nations and slavery, so we have the right to call the West a "sick nation" as well (in past tense mostly) because hatered against black people was so prevalent and accepted, just like non-political anti-Jewish comments are so prevalent and accepted in every single Arab or Muslim Berber person and family I've ever known or visited. You as a well informed intellectual are 100% aware of this pathology. You are aware of the words used in Darija/Darja in Morocco and Algeria in everyday life. You're just trying to hide it, for your own (ultimately well-meaning) reasons, and maybe it'll go away. But hiding and camouflaging this pathlogy is just wrong.

Deliberate Arabization (the one we see in this video is an expression of it) is absolutely a pathology. Trying to usurp a nation's identity and replace with yours is pathological. If a well educated group of people tried to convince you that Algeria is a French territory and nation, because tens of millions of Algerians speak French pretty good and because France was there for 100 years, what would you find of them?

No matter what the source of that rumor/story of the Jewish visitors to Siwa, the fact is: anti-Jewism always comes up, whether the Jews came or not. This hysterical way of denying that Israeli visits have taken place is in itself anti-Jewish. Why would an entire population refuse that an Israeli human being come and visit Siwa and enjoy the place or even perform some rituals without him harming anybody? Well, nothing, unless they have inherent and timeless hatred against Jews in their totality. This of course is rooted in religion.

Every human has the right to adopt 2 or 45 identities. But intellectually, it doesn't make sense to have 2 or more identities. It's like having 2 or more heads. With culture it is different, because a single person can be multi-cultural and multi-lingual and culture itself changes over time. But identity is one and never changes, hence the word "identity". But identities can be killed or forgotten.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

"Trying to usurp a nation's identity and replace with yours" is how nations are created in the first place. Abraham was born a Chaldean, George Washington was born an Englishman, and the first Frenchmen were a motley collection of ex-Gauls, Romans, and Franks.
Siwis today "know" they're Amazigh for the same reason they "know" they're Arab, or Egyptian: educated outsiders came and told them so, and they decided it sounded plausible and useful. Identity is partly a matter of choice, and that's as it should be.

Anti-Jewish prejudice is certainly a problem among Arabs, just as anti-Arab prejudice is among Jews. "Inherent and timeless hatred", on the other hand, is a contradiction in terms. Hatred cannot be inherent, nor can it be timeless – and, in this particular instance, it obviously has a great deal to do with recent history.

Anonymous said...

Yes, many empires usurped other national identities and lands and sovereignties, but does the creation of empires justify the usurping?

Empires are after all just a form of organized theft. They steal the good stuff and they leave their language, religion, and settlers or outposts behind.

It's ironic that the Levant and Egypt, Assyrian and Coptic heartlands, were usurped and lingually Arabized by the old Arab/Muslim dynasties and now they are the main source of the Arab expansionist ideas, not Arabia.

Does the creation of empires justify that current intellectuals and journalists try to usurp and deny other identities and replace them with theirs?

I have seen some of the weirdest bigoted texts in Lebanese, Egyptian and Saudi TV and newspapers and websites where writers from those far countries have a problem with the Berber identity of North Africa; denying it, claiming its Arab origin, or calling it a French conspiracy. Why would a Lebanese or Saudi person have a problem with a Berber North Africa independent from their imaginary Arab world? I think it's because those Arab and Arabized journalists and intellectuals are brought up in an environment with a super-inflated self-image about Arabs [e.g. the kind of self-image that claims that Avicenna and Rhazes were Arabs]. They believe so religiously in the "Arab world from the gulf to the ocean" that any pre-existing nation within this geographical frame must be extinguished or assimilated. When dictators behave in such bigoted ways, we get it. But when an entire generation of Arab writers and intellectuals have this disease of Arab expansionism and nations-denialism, that's the disaster right there. And we're seeing its fruits in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. Because when the Baath-minded politicians and the local intellectuals and religious leaders are so used to denying others they will eventually turn on themselves and start denying one another.

Anonymous said...

The size of Arab/Muslim anti-Jewish hatred is ludicrously greater than the size of Jewish /Western anti-Arab hatred both qualitatively and quantitatively. There are 15 million Jews, 150 million Arabs, 1.5 billion Muslims and 900 million Westerners (EU+US+Canada+AUS).
Compare how many Jews and pro-Israel Westerners burn Arab and Iranian flags and commit other childish acts, to how many Arabs and Muslims do the flag burnings, rants on TV and the like.

You have a vague definition of identity. Partly a matter of choice?! Well then, what's the difference between it and culture, if we follow this reasoning?

I think that those Berbers who define themselves as "both Berber and Arab" are mistaking identity for culture, and many of them mistake religion for identity, when it is actually just culture.

Usually they say that because they speak both Berber and Arabic, or because their parents are bilingual, or because they are Muslim and they feel a connection with the Arab prophet and Koran.

I argue that what they're trying to say is: I am a Berber/Siwi in identity, but I am Muslim in religion, and I speak Arabic too, and I have multiple cultures (i.e. food, clothing, social...): Berber, Siwi, Arab, Islamic. And my country is Egypt.

Most people don't know the difference between identity and culture and don't analyze things like that. So they simple take refuge in the simple contradictory format: I am both Berber and Arab...etc, especially that most Berbers and Arabs share the same religion, which makes this contradictory definition okay for them.

I think if the Algerians and the French shared the same religion, you would see millions of Algerians make the same false and contradictory claim of being both Berber and French, Arab and French, or Algerian and French, just because so many people speak French and love speaking French in Algeria.

My definition of identity (whether societal or personal) is:

- what you are that you didn't choose
-it doesn't change
-you can't throw it away


-the things you choose to believe or to have
-it changes
-you can throw it away and replace it with something else (e.g. religion and lifestyle)

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

"What you are that you didn't choose, that doesn't change, and that you can't throw away"? Ethnicity in general, and being Arab or Amazigh in particular, is something that 1) someone certainly chose – if not you personally, then one of your ancestors, or his boss; 2) obviously does change, as Egypt and Iraq illustrate; and 3) can be thrown away, as anyone looking at 3rd-generation emigrants can see. If that's your definition of identity, then people don't have ethnic identities (only genetic ones) and nations don't have identities at all. There are, of course, already hundreds of thousands in France who do say that they are Berber and French, or Arab and French – and, for better or worse, their great-grandchildren will probably just say they're French.

Anonymous said...

Hi. You don't know that. You don't know that a single person in the distant past chose to call himself and his tribe Amazigh or Arab or Coptic. This ethnic identity might have emerged in group form as a popular linguistic adjective. Or it might have emerged as a foreign adjective.

Looking at identity or ethnicity as a descent from a single patriarch is similar to the mythical genealogies of Arab historians for example when they say that some gentleman called Mazigh was the grandfather of the Berbers. This is nonsense of course. There was most probably no such patriarch. Same applies to all nations including Arabs and Hebrews etc. Even if by some crazy event an ethnicity was "declared" by some originator for some reason, his fellow tribesmen certainly didn't choose it and their descendent clearly didn't choose it either.

We shouldn't confuse this claimed concept of "change in identity" with the actual "death of identity" (i.e. death of the group's collective memory, and their loss of who they are, and their adoption of a new imported or edited identity/memory/story). The identity here didn't change it just died. A new one took its place. Intellectuals like to claim that it changed (maybe to show that they're open and tolerant...etc).

Saying things like "Tunisia's identity was Berber, then Greek, then Phoenician, then Roman, then Arab, then Ottoman-Turkish, then Arab!" is only valid if every "new identity" came after the extermination of the local population. That never happened of course. So, you can't define a Berber better by describing them as a (recent) Arab.

The language argument is also a fallacy. Change of language is misleading for the masses, but it's not an actual identity change. Most people, including intellectuals, fall for it, but an informed person [a person who read some history] can tell you: "I can't speak Berber but I am Berber". I've seen many examples of that.

Anonymous said...

Identity death happens all the time. In Tunisia and almost everybody will tell you they're Arab. They forgot the history of their country pre-Islam and post-Islam, or they read it with a blind spot for Berberity. Same applies to Iraq and Egypt. Copts and Assyrians forgot their history and are now literally mistaken in their identity. An Egytian who says he's an Arab and that Egypt is Arab is an Egyptian who doesn't know or doesn't grasp his nation's history, regardless of his race. Ethnicity is not all, it's a tiny bit in defining a nation's identity at best. History and geography and collective memory are far more important in determining what a nation's identity is.

The identity names "Berber, Arab, Copt, Algerian, Moroccan..." are just words/shells/clothing but it is important to tick the box of the more accurate shell in order not to get misunderstood.

Europe's 3rd generation of N.African immigrants are actually my favorite example of non-ethnic non-racial identity. That's exactly how it should be. They are French, Germans... because they are born and living on French or German native territory and nation. Their parents' identity can stay in N.Africa where it belongs. Of course assimilation in Europe is encourage (rightly so) with the rise of the modern state, while in N.Africa it's still beneficial for many people to claim that they're foreigners from Arabia or Andalusia.

I don't claim that "Berber identity" or "Arab identity" are eternal without beginning nor end. Identity is a human concept for describing "who you are". Culture is a human concept that describes "what you think".

Berber identity certainly emerged in North Africa at some point, maybe with the early Berber arrival from somewhere(s). Maybe they used names to denote themselves that are now extinct. Amazigh is the oldest known one so far. When somebody says N.Africa is Berber it's not about race, it says: our history and memory doesn't begin with the Romans or with the Umayyads, it's a bit older than that.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

As far as I can tell, you think that people should identify with the place they live in – treat its history as their own, and influences from other regions as foreign. That's your choice, and it's one possibility; but other choices are equally possible. Many groups, including Bedouins, Tuaregs, Fulani, and Jews, traditionally identify not with a place but with a highly mobile tribe; this works well for nomads and traders, who need an portable identity. Many other groups, including a lot of North Africans, traditionally identify primarily with a town and only secondarily with any larger area. They both have a point. If identity comes from ancestry, then why should a Turkish-descended family in North Africa care about Berbers? And if it comes from place, then why should a person in Algiers care about Oran? You don't choose your ancestors or your birthplace or the culture in which you were raised, but you do choose how much to identify with each of those things.

A Tunisian who realises that most Tunisians are descended from Amazigh is wise. A Tunisian who thinks that fact automatically makes all Tunisians today Amazigh, despite having a different language, culture, and self-image, is as deluded as a Frenchman claiming to be a Gaul, or a Scotsman claiming to be a Pict.