Friday, August 12, 2016

Berber feminine nouns in Dellys Arabic: an update

In Dellys, Berber nouns borrowed into Arabic are not very common, and ones that preserve the Berber nominal affixes are even rarer, so I'm always on the lookout for them. A few days ago, listening to my eldest aunt, I heard one that was completely new to me, in an old idiom:
xəlləṭ tazalt u bəḷḷuṭ
خلّط تازالْت وبلّوط
mix up tazalt and oak/acorns (ie mix good with bad)
Tazalt was described as a vine with white flowers; probably the reference is to Cistus (rockrose), whose Kabyle name is tuzzalt, "little iron". Why that would be particularly easy to confuse with an oak tree is beyond me. There are a few other plant and animal names retaining the Berber feminine circumfix t(a)-...-(t), including tirẓəẓt تيرززت (a kind of small wasp), tubrint توبرينْت (a kind of seaweed), taɣanim تاغانيم (a variety of fig, from Berber taɣanimt "small reed"), and originally plural timəlwin تيملْوين (another variety of fig). Otherwise, this circumfix seems to be almost exclusively reserved for abstract nouns referring to negatively judged character traits (see previous posts): eg taɣənnant تاغنّانْت "stubbornness", taklufit تاكلوفيت "meddling", tayhudit تايهوديت "malice", tastutit تاستوتيت "malicious trickiness". An amusing variant on this theme came up recently: taṭnuhist تاطنوهيست "open-mouthed stupidity", presumably a blend of unrecorded *taṭnuhit تاطنوهيست and French -iste. (This in turn derives from ṭnəh "mooring-post", as in "dumb as a post".)


Alexander said...

Why that would be particularly easy to confuse with an oak tree is beyond me.

Maybe the fact that they would be difficult to mix up is the point, ie. they are basically opposites as "good" and "bad" are opposites? For some reason I was reminded of the Qur'anic «وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ» from 6:59, from which we get the Persian (and Urdu) expression "to mix up ratb and yabis", also meaning to mix good with bad.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Opposites would make sense, sure, but why is this plant in particular, out of all the local flora, the opposite of an oak tree?

Drew B. said...

Is the etymology of "tayhudit" related to the Arabic "yahudi", or Jew?

I didn't think so, as Judeo-Berber as tudayt and Jews are called udayen, if I'm not mistaken.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Yes, it is - this form would seem to be a partially Berberised Arabic word rather than an originally Berber word.