Sunday, June 10, 2018
Most Songhay varieties have reflexes of two near-synonyms for "go out": *hùnú and *fáttá. Usually, the distinction seems to be roughly "leave (a place or event)" vs. "go out of (an enclosed or concealed space)". In Northern Songhay - the subgroup most isolated from the rest for longest, spoken in the Sahara - only reflexes of *hùnú seem to be attested, covering both senses (eg Korandje hnu). This could be interpreted as reflecting Northern Songhay's general tendency to reduce its inherited vocabulary by widening the usage of generic terms. In light of the Chadic data, however, it is tempting to interpret it the other way around: did Northern Songhay preserve the original situation, while a West Chadic borrowing spread throughout the rest of the family via the Niger River?
Saturday, June 09, 2018
The first examples I've managed to find come from a late 19th or early 20th century manuscript of 8 pages, belonging to the family of Alphamoye Baber Djenepo, to which the cataloguers gave the title مكتوب في اللغة "writing on language" (which, after passing through a layer or two of translation, ended up in English as "Philology"). It's an obviously incomplete part of an alphabetical poem (unknown to Google) recounting the life of the Prophet, which gives for each letter of the Arabic alphabet in order a section rhyming in that letter. The language is somewhat obscure, and is copiously annotated - mainly in Arabic, but every so often in Songhay.
On p. 8, for instance, we see the Arabic word تَعَوُّذِ "seeking God's protection" glossed with the Songhay word sumburku "holy formula, spell":
On p. 9 of the same, we see Arabic نَادِ "caller" glossed with Songhay kaati "call, shout":
This particular example is too recent to contribute much to Songhay philology, but it at least proves that Songhay was used to gloss manuscripts in Djenne, and suggests that it would be worth looking through the collection for other examples.
(Added after posting): On p. 5, we find Arabic تمساح "crocodile" glossed with Songhay kaarey "small crocodile sp.":
(PPS): And in this undated fragment of Maqamat al-Hariri, p. 4, we find another identifiable Songhay gloss (or at least a word found in Djenne Chiini): tangara for قضيب "rod, staff", followed by عجم "non-Arab" to make its status clearer:
Friday, June 01, 2018
The only Berber cognates Taine-Cheikh suggests for ägur are reflexes of a verb that may be reconstructed as *agir "throw; rise (of sun)" (eg Tashelhiyt gr, Kabyle gər, Chaoui gər). Presumably the semantic shift of "throw" to "draw water" would be explained via the idea of throwing the bucket down the well. If the comparison is accepted, then the verb shows an innovative semantic shift specific to Zenaga. (It would be interesting to see if Tetserrét shares this, but unfortunately the relevant term doesn't seem to have been recorded.)
If the Zenaga word is indeed cognate to the suggested Berber forms, then it seems reasonable to draw the conclusion that proto-Songhay borrowed *gúrú "draw water" from an early relative of Zenaga. This would fit well with the evidence for a Western Berber language having played an important role in the history of at least northern Mali. If not, then it would become tempting to draw a conclusion much harder to fit with what is known of the region's history: that Zenaga borrowed the word from proto-Songhay.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
In general, Taine-Cheikh's Vʔ corresponds regularly to Ismail's V:, with the length clearly marked, as distinct from Taine-Cheikh's short V, which Ismail consistently transcribes short. Thus:
|cows||tiššīđan||ətšiʔđaʔn / ətšiʔđän|
There are only two contexts where this correspondence does not hold. In the context / _C#, if C is a stop or fricative, Ismail retains the glottal stop; if C is a sonorant, it disappears without affecting vowel length. (More examples of this context would be useful to confirm the exact conditioning.)
Word-finally, the variety Taine-Cheikh describes has no overtly realised glottal stops (*ʔ > Ø / _#); the contrast, however, is maintained, since all originally vowel-final words now end in h (*V > Vh / _#). In Ismail's dialect, the latter change never happened:
Nevertheless, the two classes have not completely merged; final *i remains i, but final *iʔ becomes u:
In the variety Taine-Cheikh describes, long vowels derive not from *Vʔ but from *Vh (ultimately *Vβ). Given that vowel length can be a reflex of a former glottal stop in Ismail's dialect, the next thing we need to check is what happens to *Vh there; it turns out that there too it yields long vowels:
The regularity of these correspondences is a testimony to the accuracy of both parties' work, and confirms the value of Zenaga as a data source for Berber historical phonology.
Monday, May 28, 2018
- "he knew me": yūgah-i
- "he knew you m.": yūgah-ku
- "he knew you f.": yūgah-kam
- "he knew him": yūgaz-zu
- "he knew her": yūgaz-zað
- "he knew us": yūgah-ānag
- "he knew you m.pl.": yūgah-kūn
- "he knew you f.pl.": yūgah-kimmið
- "he knew them m.": yūgaz-zin
- "he knew them f.": yūgaz-zincað (maybe; not quite sure how چَّٰ is supposed to be read)
- "he was owned by me": yiššag-i
- "he was owned by you m.": yiššak-ku
- "he was owned by you f.": yiššak-kam
- "he was owned by him": yiššak-tu
- "he was owned by her": yiššak-tað
- "he was owned by us": yiššag-ānag
- "he was owned by you m.pl.": yiššak-kūn
- "he was owned by you f.pl.": yiššak-kamað
- "he was owned by them m.": yiššak-tan
- "he was owned by them f.": yiššak-tinyað
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
- Pougetoux is a diminutive of:
- Pouget, which is a diminutive (in -et) of:
- Occitan puech / pueg / puog / poujhë "hill", which comes from:
- Latin podium "balcony", which comes from:
- Greek πόδιον "foot of a vase", a diminutive (in -ion) of:
- Greek πούς "foot", which comes from:
- Proto-Indo-European *pod-s "foot"
In the course of this long history, no less than three different diminutive suffixes have been accreted on to the original root (although I'm not quite sure about the identity of that -oux.) I wonder whether that generalizes; do words meaning "hill" tend to accrete more and more diminutive suffixes as they develop over time?
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Running this through R again to get its eigenvectors, the first two principal components are easily interpretable:
- PC1 (eigenvalue=7.3) separates Songhay into three low-level subgroups - Western, Eastern, and Northern, in that order - with an obvious longitude effect: it traces a line eastward all the way down the Niger river, jumps further east to In-Gall, and then proceeds back westward through the Sahara.
- PC2 (eigenvalue=1.1) measures the level of Berber/Tuareg influence.
The resulting cluster patterns have a strikingly shallow time depth; as in the Arabic example in my last post, this method's results correspond well to criteria of synchronic mutual intelligibility (Western Songhay is much easier for Eastern Songhay speakers to understand than Northern is), but it completely fails to pick up on the deeper historic tie between Northern Songhay and Western Songhay (they demonstrably form a subgroup as against Eastern). It's nice how the strongest contact influence shows up as a PC, though; it would be worth exploring how good this method is at identifying contact more generally.
* Strictly speaking, this may not quite count as PCA - I'm starting from a similarity matrix generated non-numerically, rather than turning the lexical data into binary numeric data and letting that produce a similarity matrix.
Update, following Whygh's comment below: here's what SplitsTree gives based on the same table:
Monday, May 07, 2018
Given the popularity of Principal Component Analysis (PCA) in population genetics, it's worth a historical linguist's while to have some idea of how it works and how it's applied there. This popularity might also suggest at first glance that the method has potential for historical linguistics; that possibility may be worth exploring, but it seems more promising as a tool for investigating synchronic language similarity.
Before we can do PCA, of course, we need a data set. Usually, though not always, population geneticists use SNPs - single nucleotide polymorphisms. The genome can be understood as a long "text" in a four-letter "alphabet"; a SNP is a position in that text where the letter used varies between copies of the text (ie between individuals). For each of m individuals, then, you check the value of each of a large number n of selected SNPs. That gives you an m by n data matrix of "letters". You then need to turn this from letters into numbers you can work with. As far as I understand, the way they do that (rather wasteful, but geneticists have such huge datasets they hardly care) is to pick a standard value for each SNP, and replace each letter with 1 if it's identical to that value, and 0 if it isn't. For technical convenience, they sometimes then "normalize" this: for each cell, subtract the mean value of its (SNP) row (so that the row mean ends up as 0), then rescale so that each column has the same variance.
Using this data matrix, you then create a covariance matrix by multiplying the data matrix by its own transposition, divided by the number of markers: in the resulting table, each cell gives a measure of the relationship between a pair of individuals. Assuming simple 0/1 values as described above, each cell will in fact give the proportion of SNPs for which the two individuals both have the same value as the chosen standard. Within linguistics, lexicostatistics offers fairly comparable tables; there, the equivalent of SNPs is lexical items on the Swadesh list, but rather than "same value as the standard", the criterion is "cognate to each other" (or, in less reputable cases, "vaguely similar-looking").
Now, there is typically a lot of redundancy in the data and hence in the relatedness matrix too: in either case, the value of a given cell is fairly predictable from the value of other cells. (If individuals X and Y are very similar, and X is very similar to Z, then Y will also be very similar to Z.) PCA is a tool for identifying these redundancies by finding the covariance matrix's eigenvectors: effectively, rotating the axes in such a way as to get the data points as close to the axes as possible. Each individual is a data point in a space with as many dimensions as there are SNP measurements; for us 3D creatures, that's very hard to visualise graphically! But by picking just the two or three eigenvectors with the highest eigenvalues - ie, the axes contributing most to the data - you can graphically represent the most important parts of what's going on in just a 2D or 3D plot. If two individuals cluster together in such a plot, then they share a lot of their genome - which, in human genetics, is in itself a reliable indicator of common ancestry, since mammals don't really do horizontal gene transfer. (In linguistics, the situation is rather different: sharing a lot of vocabulary is no guarantee of common ancestry unless that vocabulary is particularly basic.) You then try to interpret that fact in terms of concepts such as geographical isolation, founder events, migration, and admixture - the latter two corresponding very roughly to language contact.
The most striking thing about all this, for me as a linguist, is how much data is getting thrown away at every stage of the process. That makes sense for geneticists, given that the dataset is so much bigger and simpler than what human language offers comparativists: one massive multi-gigabyte cognate per individual, made up of a four-letter universal alphabet! Historical linguists are stuck with a basic lexicon rarely exceeding a few thousand words, none of which need be cognate across a given language pair, and an "alphabet" (read: phonology) differing drastically from language to language - alongside other clues, such as morphology, that don't have any immediately obvious genetic counterpart but again have a comparatively small information content.
Nevertheless, there is one obvious readily available class of linguistic datasets to which one could be tempted to apply PCA, or just eigenvector extraction: lexicostatistical tables. For Semitic, someone with more free time than I have could readily construct one from Militarev 2015, or extract one from the supplemental PDFs (why PDFs?) in Kitchen et al. 2009. Failing that, however, a ready-made lexicostatistical similarity matrix is available for nine Arabic dialects, in Schulte & Seckinger 1985, p. 23/62. Its eigenvectors can easily be found using R; basically, the overwhelmingly dominant PC1 (eigenvalue 8.11) measures
latitude longitude, while PC2 (eigenvalue 0.19) sharply separates the sedentary Maghreb from the rest. This tells us two interesting things: within this dataset, Arabic looks overwhelmingly like a classic dialect continuum, with no sharp boundaries; and insofar as it divides up discontinuously at all, it's the sedentary Maghreb varieties that stand out as having taken their own course. The latter point shows up clearly on the graphs: plotting PC2 against PC1, or even PC3, we see a highly divergent Maghreb (and to a lesser extent Yemen) vs. a relatively homogeneous Mashriq. (One might imagine that this reflects a Berber substratum, but that is unlikely here; few if any Berber loans make it onto the 100-word Swadesh list.) All of this corresponds rather well to synchronic criteria of mutual comprehensibility, although a Swadesh list is only a very indirect measure of that. But it doesn't tell us much about historical events, beyond the null hypothesis of continuous contact in rough proportion to distance; about all you need to explain this particular dataset is a map.
(NEW: and with PC3:)
Wednesday, April 04, 2018
Korandje ạ usually derives from *ar or *or. In several inherited Songhay words, however, ạ seems to derive from *a not followed by *r: thus kạṣ-əw "rough" < kas-ow, bạzu "skin bucket, waterbag" < baasu, hạmu "meat" < *hamu, kə̣kkạbu "key" < *karkabu. Yet *a otherwise usually yields a in similar contexts: contrast gani "louse" < *gani, akama "wheat" < *alkama, dzam-a "do it" < *dam-a. It looks as though the vowel in the following syllable is what makes the difference: if it's rounded, you get ạ, otherwise you get a (though one or two exceptions suggest that the story may be more complicated: notably, "difficult" is gab-ə̣w < *gab-ow.) Assuming this rule, *gaadu should regularly have yielded gaaru in mainstream Songhay and gạḍu in Korandje.
What we actually get, however, is gạḍi. Why? Well, Korandje has a rule of final high vowel deletion phrase-internally: if a word ends in i or u, its final vowel will be deleted unless it comes before a pause, ie most of the time. (Basically the opposite of Classical Arabic.) In a number of words, this seems to have led to confusion between original -i, -u, and consonant-final words. For instance, ạṣạnkri "skink" comes from Berber asrmkal, which should regularly have yielded ạṣạmkər; the i is unetymological (Souag 2015). In effect, speakers must have been hypercorrecting final high vowels - a fact which suggests that, if Korandje survives, it may be on its way towards phonologically losing them altogether, much as Classical Arabic did with final short vowels.
Monday, March 19, 2018
The most likely answer is that they didn't. Rather, they adopted or adapted these placenames' spelling from English - specifically, from the widely translated work of Thomas Shaw, an English reverend and Oxford fellow who spent several years in Algeria in the early 1700s, a century before France occupied Algiers. He spelt the two towns' names as Jinnett and Dellys respectively - a spelling which, in English, yields the almost exactly correct pronunciations /d͡ʒɪnɛt/ and /dɛlɪs/.
Shaw's book was translated into French by 1743, and the translator retained the English spellings of both names. In a later edition no doubt prompted by the French invasion (1830), Jinnett got amended to Djinnett - someone had finally got around to noticing that English j is pronounced like French dj, not like French j. The doubled letters, useful for indicating vowel quality in English but serving no purpose in French, were lost within a decade, as seen in Eyriès (1839). But the i of Djinet, and the y of Dellys, remained to testify to a period when French geographers relied on an English traveller to tell them about Algeria - and to confirm most colonists' lack of interest in how the locals pronounced these names.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Even now, however, I am being too generous to Jordan Peterson’s intellect. I have been presenting him at his most comprehensible and polished. I have not been giving you the full experience of actually listening to him talk. Sitting through a Jordan Peterson lecture is very different to watching a rapid-fire television interview. Below, please find a fully-transcribed portion of 17 minutes of Peterson’s speech.[...] (NOTE: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ATTEMPT TO READ THE ENTIRETY OF THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE. READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO FEEL WEARY, THEN SCROLL QUICKLY TO THE END.)Just to stack the scales a bit further, the transcription features no paragraphing. Nevertheless, I did read it - much quicker than watching some random video for 17 minutes! -and, rather anticlimactically, found a perfectly coherent and reasonably entertaining (if very likely unfair) parenting anecdote, obviously intended to illustrate the importance of setting boundaries. I rubbed my eyes and thought "How is it that an intelligent, well-educated native speaker of English can apparently not only see this transcript as an incoherent mess but also assume all his readers will? Am I crazy, or is he?"
The answer is simple: good speaking is not the same thing as good writing. Take a great talk, one that keeps a non-academic audience riveted, and transcribe it verbatim; it will almost always look rambling and repetitive on the page, unless you're already accustomed to reading such transcripts (part of the job for a descriptive linguist, but a rare experience for most people). That's simply the nature of the medium, and adequately explains the expected audience reaction. Maybe it even explains the author's reaction, if the only context he ever encounters long talks in is academia.
One of the author's main points - a valid one, I think - is that academics need to communicate better with the public for everyone's sake:
[...] he is popular partly because academia and the left have failed spectacularly at helping make the world intelligible to ordinary people, and giving them a clear and compelling political vision.If so, the first step is to learn appropriate discourse strategies. You don't talk to confused young people on YouTube as if you were addressing a learned seminar, much less writing a article. Nathan Robinson surely realises this himself - but, by going for cheap laughs at the expense of a perfectly ordinary example of spoken language, he's not only weakening his main point but encouraging the very blindness to orality that makes it difficult for many academics to communicate with the public. Academics can surely do better - let a thousand learned YouTube channels bloom! - but not without (re)learning how to talk to the people they want to talk to.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Research substantiates that both “lion” and “hunter” are plausible according to analyses of Proto-Highland Eastern Cushitic wherein “kas” is to stab, pierce or cut and the suffix of “wara” creates “agent nouns”. In modern “Ethiopic” languages such as Tigrinya and Ge’ez (as well as in some other African languages) the word “Wagatwara” means “hunter” and in earlier etymons of this word the “g” is rendered a “q” and the “t” is rendered an “s”.
But just now, looking through a Hobyot vocabulary (Nakano 2013:215), I came across an entry that makes all this discussion unnecessary. In Hobyot, "panther" is ḳáyṣ̂ər, with a plural ḳaṣ̂áwrət - clearly related to the term used in the Qur'ān, and clearly (given the ṣ̂) not borrowed from Arabic. The meaning corresponds closely enough to most commentators' consensus on qaṣwarah, while the location - in the extreme south of Arabia - helps explain why the term might have been associated in their minds with Ethiopia. In fact, the irregular correspondence of Hobyot ṣ̂ to Arabic s would suggest a loan into Arabic, rather than common inheritance, even if we didn't know how much this word puzzled the commentators.
Incidentally, the minority interpretation "archers" is presumably based on Persian, where -var added to a noun means "possessor of" - presumably, Arabic qaus "bow" + Persian -var would yield "bowman", and the feminine suffix -ah would form the plural as so often with nouns of profession. In light of the Hobyot form, it also should be clear that the majority of commentators were right to reject this interpretation.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
I've been reluctant to post about the Naima Salhi scandal, since it's obviously being used by this nonentity as a way to inflate her public profile. But when I heard the actual words of her paranoid rant against Berber, I realized I had to. Her words, thankfully, have been overwhelmingly repudiated by her peers. But her "reasoning" is a perfect specimen of a linguistic ideology that many people all over the world subscribe to, with a few instructive twists coming from the diglossic context of Algeria. As such, it's worth a closer look. Here's what she said, translated from - dialectal - Algerian Arabic into English:
"So don't impose on me a language - it's not a language anyway - don't impose on me a language that isn't a vehicle of science; don't impose on me a language that isn't recognized, isn't understood by people outside; what good is it to me? Study science with it? It doesn't have - it isn't a vehicle of science. Study technology with it? It isn't a vehicle of technology. Go abroad with it, to speak to people abroad? They don't know it and don't understand it. For God's sake, what good is it to us?Let's pass over the bizarre misconceptions and factual errors for now (it doesn't have words???), and go to the heart of the matter. It's not an unusual phenomenon anywhere to find speakers of a majority language objecting to having to learn a supposedly useless minority language - look at Swedish in Finland, or Welsh in Wales, or even Irish in Ireland. In this case, however, diglossia introduces a further twist, making her very examples undermine her ideas.
When it comes to the Arabic language - and oh, what a language! - which is the world language, which more than a billion people speak, they say we won't study it; a language which has billions of books, and billions of manuscripts, and billions of - everything - you say you won't study it and don't need it. Then you bring me a dead language, which doesn't have letters, and doesn't have meanings, and doesn't have words - you want to hold me back with it so you can make progress - and you go off, and eventually you get to the point, and you tell me: Me, I'm studying English, and I'm studying German, and Spanish, and Turkish, and you all don't know them. You're going to hold me back with this?
My little daughter was studying in a private school where most of them were Kabyles. She naturally learned the language with them, because her classmates' parents taught them to speak Kabyle, so it would continue and spread. So my daughter, with the best of intentions, learned with them. She'd come and speak it, and I never asked her "Why?" I didn't shut her up; I left her free to do as she likes. But now that we've gotten to the point where it's obligatory, I told her: Say another word in Kabyle (Berber) and I'll kill you, I'll discipline you if you say another word.
And I'm saying it plainly and challenging everyone: When we were going by intentions / naive, we didn't say a thing; now that it's become "push me and I'll step on you", don't push me and I won't step on you. Now we're going to make it about who's stronger? And the most for the stronger one? The majority is stronger. You'd have been better off leaving it down to intentions. Now that you think you're so smart and coming out with insults against us, now I'll insult you.
People like me, and people who are real men, and those who don't accept humiliation and aren't used to it, and whose family aren't used to it, won't accept from you something like this. And I now forbid my children from pronouncing a single word in Tamazight. I mean the Frenchified Kabyle made by the MAK and the treasonous terrorist MAK movement. And we need to demand that the MAK is a terrorist movement."
She presents Kabyle as useless for what seem like bluntly utilitarian reasons: it's only spoken by other Algerians and it won't help you study science and technology. Yet most Algerians spend most of their lives in Algeria, and most people anywhere don't study science and technology past high school. By her own testimony, Kabyle is widely enough spoken that her daughter could pick it up in a private school even in a non-Kabyle area. Had her daughter failed to do so, she would presumably have had fewer friends, and found herself excluded from routine social interactions. Yet somehow, for Salhi, that fact doesn't even register as relevant to the question of the language's usefulness. The dialectal Arabic she's speaking is not taught in any school, and the idea of teaching it would no doubt drive her to even greater fury. Dialectal Arabic is by far the most widely used language in Algeria, without which she would find herself deaf and dumb in her own country - just ask any Kabyle outside Kabylie whether it's worth learning - yet that doesn't enter into her definition of "useful" either. A language is "useful", in fact, only if its presence in daily life is so limited as to make it useless in most contexts. Only then can speaking it be a valuable accomplishment that gives you access to coveted jobs, rather than a routine ability that remains invisible until you run into someone who lacks it. Only then is it an appropriate subject for study.
But Tamazight activism threatens to upset that basic rule. If Tamazight ever does become part of compulsory education, that would lead to children studying and getting graded on a language that some of them already speak. How hideously unfair! The Kabyle-speaking children won't need it, and the Arabic-speaking children won't want it. Clearly the only possible explanation for such a move is that Kabyle speakers want to give themselves an unfair advantage at school, and handicap the Arabic speakers. (/sarcasm) The idea that there might be another side to this - that Kabyle speakers would still have to learn dialectal Arabic on their own as they always have, getting no extra credit for that effort, whereas Arabic speakers would be getting government help in learning Kabyle - doesn't even seem to cross her mind.
Monday, February 12, 2018
«Pas le voile, pas la chanson en arabe, même si je trouve que par les temps qui courent, ça ne s'imposait peut-être pas nécessairement, mais en revanche ce qu'elle a posté oui, ça me choque, sur les attentats de Nice, ça me choque». (video)The controversy was, of course, over the parenthetical remark and the scope of its implications. Most listeners understood "these times" as an allusion to the threat of terrorism, and the whole remark as asserting that singing in Arabic was inappropriate because Arabic is associated with terrorism - an implication which naturally provoked some outrage. She responded that "I like French songs on the programme because phonetically that's how you can tell whether someone is articulating or not [...] She could have been Serbo-Croatian and singing in Serbo-Croatian and I'd have said the same". A plausible-sounding justification on its own, but difficult to reconcile with her original wording - why "in these times"? And why was she commenting specifically on the Arabic, when the song had been in both English and Arabic? All things considered, it seems rather more likely that the listeners' interpretation was correct.
"Not [Mennel's] veil, not the song in Arabic - even though I find that, in these times, it may not necessarily have been essential - but what she posted, yes, that shocks me, on the Nice attacks, that shocks me."
However, the really interesting thing about her original sentence is not so much the parenthetical remark as the contrastive focus. She explicitly asserts that Mennel's veil and her singing in Arabic do not shock her; apparently, she is too broad-minded to worry (much) about those little things. But in the process of making that assertion, she presupposes that her audience, less cosmopolitan than herself, might reasonably expect her to be shocked by both of those things. The implicit message has two sides to it: it's better not to let yourself be shocked by people singing in Arabic on a French TV show - but it's also perfectly normal to be shocked by it. Hmm...
Thursday, January 11, 2018
The Algerian flag in the middle is flanked on all sides by easily recognizable signs of Amazigh identity - the letter aza, the abzim pins, etc. - none of which are particularly associated with Blida (even though there are still small Berber communities in the mountains above Blida, not to mention Kabyle migrants.) The main text is in Arabic, but there is one line of Berber in Arabic script - تفاسكا ن يناير tfaska n Yennayer "holiday of Yennayer", using a word for "holiday" that in a Kabyle context amounts to a modern neologism - and two lines written in Tifinagh, whose geometric shapes add yet another easily recognizable symbol of Berber identity. If you try to read those lines, though, they turn out in each case to be simple transcriptions (not translations) of the line of Arabic above them:
"Celebration of the Amazigh New Year"
احتفالية رأس السنة الأمازيغية iḥtifāliyyat ra's as-sanah al-'amāzīɣiyyah
ⴰⵃⵜⴼⴰⵍⵉⴰ ⵔⴰⵙ ⴰⵍⵙⵏⴰ ⴰⵍⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵉⴰ aḥtfalia ras alsna alamaziɣia
"Algerian and proud of my Amazigh identity"
جزائري وبأمازيغيتي أفتخر jazā'irī wabi'amāzīɣiyyatī 'aftaxir
ⵊⵣⴰⵉⵔⵉ ⵡⴱⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵉⵜⵉ ⴰⴼⵜⵅⵔ jzairi wbamaziɣiti aftxr
It's arguably not quite as bad as the Oran case we saw last time; at least this transcription doesn't randomly discard letters. Nevertheless, the message it sends is once again clear: nobody involved in the making of this official, centralized celebration of Amazigh identity speaks Berber, or thought it would be worthwhile to get someone who does speak it to help them out. If the Algerian government seriously wants to make Tamazight official throughout the country, it's got a long way to go...
PS (update 19/01/2018): Not worth a whole post, but I just came across yet another example:
العمال يطالبو... | وزارة الفقر والسّعادة has:
ارحل ...ارحل ....ارحلⴷⴹⴳⴰⴳⴹ is dḍgagḍ, where ḍ happens to look just like an e; explanation is hopefully superfluous...
بالعربية : ارحل
بالامازيغية : ⴷⴹⴳⴰⴳⴹ
بالفرنسية : Dégage
بالانجليزية : Get out
Thursday, January 04, 2018
But I don't have all day to spend beating this dead horse, and doing etymology properly takes time. So let's just have a quick look at the first page of his wordlist (well, probably the second one - the real first one seems to be missing), and leave the other pages as an exercise for the reader.
Out of these 39 words, 18 seem to be unambiguously Arabic in origin - either they share specific sound changes with Arabic to the exclusion of the rest of Semitic, or they use a root not used in the appropriate meaning elsewhere in Semitic. Only two look like being Aramaic rather than Arabic in origin (and the evidence in both cases is fairly weak): "hand" and the patently non-basic vocabulary word "image". (Taleb would add a third, zalame "man", but this word has an at least equally plausible Arabic etymology, making it ambiguous at best.) The remaining 19 words are ambiguous, and could in principle derive from any of more than one Semitic languages - but even there, the situation is not symmetrical; all 19 could derive from Arabic, whereas no more than 11 of them could derive from Aramaic. The unambiguous cases give the following ratio: 18 Arabic : 2 Aramaic : 0 everything else. On that basis, we should therefore expect 90% of the ones ambiguous between Arabic and Aramaic (ie all but one) to derive from Arabic, not from Aramaic, and all of the ones ambiguous between Arabic and another Semitic language but not Aramaic to derive from Arabic. For details, see the following table:
|1||goat||Arabic||does not share Canaanite+Aramaic+Ugaritic *nC > CC; does not share Akkadian *ʕa > e|
|2||god||Arabic / Aramaic||shows innovative gemination of the l, attested only in Arabic and some dialects of Syriac|
|3||good||innovative||the Arabic etymology is obvious, but the root is pan-Semitic so we may generously assume that it could in principle have derived from some other branch|
|4||grass||Arabic||does not share Aramaic and Phoenician *ś > s ; does share Arabic *ś > š|
|5||grind||Arabic / Canaanite||does not share Akkadian *aħa > ê ; does not share Aramaic CaCVC > CCVC|
|6||hair||Arabic / Ugaritic||does not share Aramaic and Phoenician *ś > s ; does share Arabic *ś > š ; does not share Akkadian loss of *ʕ|
|7||hand||Aramaic||although a change of *yad > *īd is natural enough that it could easily have happened independently in Arabic...|
|8||hare||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Akkadian||no distinctive innovations|
|9||he-goat||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic||no distinctive innovations|
|10||head||Arabic / Ugaritic||does not share Canaanite *aʔ > *ā > ō nor Aramaic *aʔ > ī nor Akkadian *aʔ > ē ; the form rās (with loss of the glottal stop) is well-attested in early Arabic dialects|
|11||hear||Arabic||does not share Aramaic and Phoenician *s > š (I'm going with Huehnergard's reconstruction of proto-Semitic sibilants here). Note that the correct Syriac form is šmaʕ, not sma3 ; likewise the Hebrew|
|12||heart||Arabic||The initial glottal stop (still pronounced q in, for example, Alawite dialects) can only be explained from the Arabic form, which is a lexical innovation replacing original *libb|
|13||honey||Arabic||3asal is clearly Arabic, and – as I've pointed out before – dabs is attested in Classical Arabic as well as in Hebrew and Aramaic|
|14||horn||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Akkadian / Ugaritic||no distinctive innovations|
|15||horse||Arabic||Syriac ḥsan 'strong' has s, not ṣ, but even if it were cognate, the Classical Arabic and Levantine form still share a semantic shift unattested in Aramaic|
|16||house||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Ugaritic||Akkadian can be ruled out, since it shows a shift *ay > ī which never happened in Levantine.|
|17||hundred||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Akkadian / Ugaritic||The only innovation here, ʔ > y, is not shared with any of the ancient language in question|
|18||hunger||Arabic||Even assuming jūʕ has cognates elsewhere in Semitic, the change g > j is specific to Arabic|
|19||hunt||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Akkadian / Ugaritic||The only innovation here, use of the D-stem, is not shared with any of the ancient languages|
|20||image||Aramaic||Since when is 'image' basic vocabulary? But yes, assuming we can trust the transcription, it shares the aw with Aramaic|
|21||inside||Arabic / Aramaic||Mixed signal here: the meaning looks like Aramaic, but the sound shift g > j is Arabic not Aramaic. In reality, the word *jaww must originally have meant 'inside' in Arabic too; it lost this meaning in Classical Arabic, but kept it in many of the dialects|
|23||kidney||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Akkadian / Ugaritic||The only innovation here, *y > w, is not shared with any of the ancient languages (but _is_ shared with many other modern Arabic dialects...)|
|24||kill||Arabic / Canaanite||Does not share Aramaic CaCVC > CCVC|
|25||king||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic / Ugaritic||Since when is 'king' basic vocabulary?|
|26||knee||Arabic||Shares a unique innovation with Arabic – the metathesis brk > rkb|
|28||laugh||Arabic||Shares a unique innovation with Arabic – the sound shift *ɬ' > ḍ (which came relatively late in Arabic – later than Sibawayh, even – and never happened in any other Semitic language). I can't speak for Amioun, but in general Levantine has ḍaḥak; if Amioun does have ḍaḥaq, the fact that it didn't become *ḍaḥaʔ suggests that the *k > q happened there only after the regular shift *q > ʔ, and hence has nothing to do with the Canaanite or Ugaritic forms.|
|29||leg||innovative||The alleged Ugaritic form is nonsense – Ugaritic had no j sound, and the dictionary of Del Olmo Lete and Sanmartin reveals no appropriate Ugaritic form. It is true that the Levantine form seems to be shared with Ethiopic and some Yemeni dialects, but not with any ancient language of the Fertile Crescent.|
|30||lion||Arabic||A very problematic choice as 'basic vocabulary'.|
|31||live||Arabic / Canaanite / Aramaic||Except that the Levantine form is clearly 'alive', not 'live', making the whole comparison problematic....|
|32||love||Arabic||The Arabic is of course mistranscribed - in his terms, it should be 2a7abba, whereas the Hebrew and Aramaic forms really do have a h.|
|34||man||innovative||'zalame' is etymologically problematic – both Arabic and Aramaic etymologies have been proposed. 'rejjel' is of course from Arabic. dakar is 'male', not 'man'.|
|36||meat||Arabic||This shares a specific semantic shift with Arabic to the exclusion of the rest of Semitic : « staple food » > « meat »|
|37||milk||Arabic / Ugaritic||The root is common to several Semitic languages, but the use of the passive pattern fa3īl in this word is unique to Arabic|
|38||month||Arabic||Pretty sure the normal Levantine form is shahr, not sha7r, not that it makes any difference to the etymology – and for sure Syriac 'moon' below is sahrā, not šahrā.|