Friday, December 21, 2018

We're all related: a calque from Kabyle into Darja

Algerian Arabic (or at least Dellys Arabic) has a verb for "be related to" (as family): kul كول, taking the dative, as in waš y-kul-lek? واش يكوللك "what relation is he to you?" In the reciprocal form, this yields tkawel تكاول "be related to each other"; "we're related to each other" is ne-tkawl-u نتكاولوا. These only seem to be used in the (present) imperfective; I've never heard anyone say *kal كال.

This verb clearly derives from an Arabic word still used in its own right in Algerian Arabic: kun كون "be", with regular assimilation of n+l to ll and reinterpretation of the root. waš y-kul-lek واش يكوللك "what relation is he to you?" was originally waš y-kun-lek واش يكونلك "what is he to you?" But that construction seems rather odd and unidiomatic from a Classical Arabic perspective. You don't normally use an equational verb "to be" in the indicative present tense like that, in Classical Arabic or even in Algerian Arabic; you would rather expect something with a pronoun, like *wašen huwwa lik واشن هو ليك (which you don't hear). What's going on here?

Flipping through Dallet's (1982) enormous dictionary of Kabyle as spoken by the Ait Menguellet, I came across the answer. The Kabyle verb ili "to be" (imperfective ttili) matches Arabic kun كون fairly well in its usage. In the imperfective, with the dative, it means "be related to" (his gloss: "être parent avec, avoir relation de parenté à"): d acu i-m tettili? "what relation is she to you?") It likewise has a reciprocal myili (imperfective ttemyili) "have in common; be related to each other", which in the latter sense only seems to show up in the imperfective: nettemyili "we're related to each other".

It seems clear that the Algerian Arabic verb derives from an excessively literal translation - a calque - of the Kabyle expression, probably by people whose first language was Kabyle. But since then it's taken its own path; whereas in Kabyle the meaning "be related to" remains a context-specific sense of the verb "be", in Algerian Arabic the change of n to l has allowed it to become an independent lexeme in its own right with no one-to-one Kabyle translation equivalent. Contact catalyses change, but the resulting change follows its own path.


David Marjanović said...

There are interesting implications here for PIE roots, and "root extensions".

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

The specific mechanism wouldn't work well in PIE - no way to get the end of the root adjacent to the preposition. But the general principle is worth considering.

David Marjanović said...

Sure, prepositions wouldn't work, but postpositions or directional adverbs might (behind imperatives perhaps), and more tightly bound morphemes probably would.

Farhaoui Morad said...

I've always thought hearing : يكونلك with an an "N". Not sure it was an attempt from people around me to "correct" it or it was always like that.
That reminds me when we used to be kids, it was difficult for us to pronounce then name Arnold ( the Shwarzeneger ). Most of us called him: Arlond !
Most of Algerians also say: Jornane instead of Journal (a newspaper).
Exchanging "N" with "L" and vice versa seems very common in many dialects and languages.
I've read once لوبي (Lubi) and نوبي (Nubi) to describe someone black. Not sure it has something to do with Lybians and Nubians though.

Anonymous said...

En kabyle, on trouve aussi l'expression wwi k-illan pour dire qui es-tu mais qui veut littéralement dire qui te possède ? Ce verbe illi : posséder à néanmoins disparu de l'usage courant et ne subsiste - en kabyle - que figé dans cette expression.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

The evidence for calquing is less clear-cut than I thought (although it still seems strong for the reciprocal form at least):

بناء هذه العبارة شائع في المشرق أيضا للسؤال عن العلاقة أو القرابة العائلية. فستسمع مثلا في الجزيرة: وش يكون لك فلان أو إيش يصير لك. وفي الشام: شو بكون لك، شنو يكون لك، شيكون لك... إلخ