Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Algerian Sign Language

According to Glottolog, the least documented language in Algeria is neither Korandje nor some Berber variety, but rather one that might not immediately leap to mind: Algerian Sign Language. If you have some idea of what to look for, though, there turns out to be a lot more available than might be expected; here's a brief bibliography gleaned from online:
  • Boutaleb, Djamila. 1987. Les enfants sourds en Algérie : Problèmes d'acquisition de la langue écrite [Deaf children in Algeria: Problems of written language acquisition]. Thèse de doctorat 3e cycle, Université Sorbonne Paris. 408pp. [Abstract: This thesis deals with the problems of deafness in Algeria, more particularly in schools where an attempt is made to pin down the causes of failure in the learning of language by deaf children. In order to understand the difficulties, it had seemed appropriate to examine the problem of deafness itself and its consequences on schooling and social life. This will be the subject of the first part. The emphasis will be on this "difference" which affects primarily the development of language and which may cause schooling delays and create psychoaffective problems and social problems. The current conflict of methods, oralism sign language, makes it possible to reconsider the status of deaf children thanks to the findings of linguistics and the works of psycholinguists and sociolinguists, of whom some current ideas will be presented in this work. In the second part, the deaf community in Algeria will be illustrated with some historical and socio-educational characteristics, for, to know the past and present living conditions of the deaf gives us the means to understand their actual level in the practice of the written language, which will be examined in the third part. The observed difficulties lie at the syntactic level, as well as the lexical, grammatical, and orthographic levels. The choice of deaf francophones, deaf arabophones, and hearing pupils benefits our analysis. This study is made in a pedagogical prospect but is integrated in a set of psycho-sociolinguistic views.]
  • مديرية النشاط الإجتماعي (الجزائر) [Direction des Affaires Sociales (Algérie)]. n.d. قاموسي الأول في لغة الإشارة : الجزء الاول [My First Dictionary of Sign Language: Volume 1]. Algiers. 50pp.
  • Djama, Amal. 2016. Les points communs entre la Langue des Signes Algérienne (LSA) - dialecte de Laghouat, Sud de l’Algérie - et la Langue des Signes Française (LSF) [Commonalities between Algerian Sign Language (LSA) - dialect of Laghouat, southern Algeria - and French Sign Language (LSF)]. Dossier, licence SCL « Acquisition et dysfonctionnement » (SCL F14), Licence 3, AMU, Faculté ALLSHS d’Aix-en-Provence. 5pp. [Comparison of 25 signs].
  • Guiroub, Mustapha. 2010-09-27. «La langue des signes algérienne est une revendication des sourds» [Algerian Sign Language is a demand of the deaf]. El Watan. [Notes that Algerian Sign Language is descended from French Sign Language (LSF), but that about 50% of the vocabulary is different; that there are many differences within Algeria between the North and the South; and that efforts at standardization are being undertaken.]
  • Lakhfif, Abdelaziz. 2009. Un Environnement de Traduction Automatique du Texte Arabe vers la Langue des Signes Algérienne (LSA) [An Automatic Translation Environment from Arabic Text to Algerian Sign Language (LSA)]. Mémoire de Magistèr en Informatique, Université Badji Mokhtar - Annaba. 134pp. [The only specific information about Algerian Sign Language given is a brief discussion of its legal status, pp. 16-17; as far as I can see, the author seems to have no contact with Algerian signers.]
  • Mansour, Mohamed Seghier. 2007. Langage et surdité, Description de la langue des signes des sourds oranais [Language and Deafness. Description of Oranais Sign Language]. Mémoire de magistère, Université d'Oran Es-Sénia. 124pp. [An analysis of sign formation in Algerian Sign Language as spoken in Oran, with a brief discussion of syntax, and some background on the language's history taken mainly from Boutaleb (1987).]
  • Ministère de la Solidarité nationale, de la Famille et de la Condition féminine (Algérie). 2017. Dictionnaire de la langue des signes algérienne : 1560 mots signés les plus usités. Trilingue Arabe - français - langue des signes. 29 thèmes de la vie quotidienne / قاموس لغة الإشارة الجزائرية : 1560 كلمة الأكثر استعمالا. ثلاثي اللغة : عربي - فرنسي - لغة الإشارة. 29 موضواعا من الحياة اليومية [Dictionary of Algerian Sign Language: 1560 most used signs. Trilingual Arabic-French-Sign language. 29 themes from daily life].
  • Ministère de la Solidarité Nationale (Algérie). 2008. Langue des signes algerienne : Guide de recherche et de recueil des signes [Algerian Sign Language: Guide for research and sign collection]. Algiers. 50pp.
  • Ministère de la Solidarité Nationale (Algérie). 2008. La langue des signes [Sign language]. Algiers. 14pp.
And - perhaps more usefully - a brief videography: Let's round this off with a school: Of course, one obvious question remains open: is there really just one sign language in Algeria?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Baghrir as a battleground

I really don't have the time to post these days, but I couldn't resist letting you all know about a strong contender for the most ridiculous language-related controversy I've ever seen: the Moroccan baghrir scandal. "Baghrir" بغرير, as North Africans will know, is a kind of delicious pancake typically served with honey. A recent Moroccan primary school textbook incorporates (presumably for the first time) a picture of this regional delicacy, captioned with its name: الْبَغْرِيرُ. Pretty banal, right?
Image result for ‫بغرير دراسية‬‎

Apparently not. A furore erupted on social and traditional media, as ordinary people and self-styled experts lined up to lambast the Ministry of Education for this shocking betrayal of the Arabic language. Fouad Bouali of the National Coalition for the Arabic Language fulminated: "Citizens don't need "baghrir" or "slou" in their school texts... "The use of folk expressions in school texts caps the tendency towards dialectalization". Prof. Mohamed Nabil Esrifi of Ibn Tofail University wrote a letter to the head of government:
In shock, a shock whose bitterness I share with millions of Moroccan citizens, at the insertion of "popular Darija" expressions in approved school texts, which has spoiled our appetite for our favourite dishes such as "briwat" and "baghrir" and "ghribia", and raised our blood pressure and body temperature... I address you this letter to put an end to the rise in idleness and neglect of the career of a whole generation, the dissolution of educational content, and the stultification of the act of education."
Naturally, some took a more sensible view, such as Dr. Mohsen Akramine:
"We cannot reject a group of names that we commonly use in our social life on a regular basis, such as "briwat bellouz" and "baghrir" and "ghribia". so what problem does the term "baghrir" create in nurturing learning in class?... We cannot restrict the Arabic language to the language of "the lion and the blade" [two archaic terms are used, but English is rather poor in synonyms for "lion"]; the Arabic language cannot remain stuck in the classroom and the lecture hall, completely isolated from our daily business."
As far as I can see, none of the shocked citizens complaining about this has ventured to suggest an acceptable Standard Arabic synonym for "baghrir".  Nor have they ever objected to the word's routine presence in cookbooks - which, along with schoolbooks and religious texts, are basically what keep most North African bookshops alive.  So is the idea simply that this impure term must be kept out of the sacred space of the classroom, or what?  My mind is boggled - or, as they say in Algeria, مُخّك يحبس.