Sunday, December 28, 2008

Siwa and its significance for Arabic dialectology

Hope all my readers are having/have had a great holiday.

A paper of mine, "Siwa and its significance for Arabic dialectology", should (inshallah) be appearing in ZAL soon-ish. Basically, there's a whole lot of Arabic influence on Siwi, including things you wouldn't expect to be borrowed, like Arabic's rather unusual method of forming comparatives from adjectives. However, this influence shows clear signs of deriving, not from any dialect currently used in or even particularly near Siwa, but rather from a more archaic one, with some resemblance to the dialects of other Egyptian oases quite distant from it and some features not attested in any other Arabic dialect of Egypt or Libya. In the 1100s, according to al-Idrisi, Siwa was inhabited both by Berbers and by sedentary Arabs; I suspect that the Arabs got assimilated into the larger Berber community and that much of the Arabic element of Siwi derives from their now-extinct dialect. If this sort of thing interests you, have a look (you can download it from the link at the beginning of this paragraph) and please feel free to comment on it here or by email.


Glen Gordon said...
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Anonymous said...


Nice study. I always considered Siwi (Tasiwit) as one of the most endangered Amazigh dialects in North Africa. Only the neighboring Elfoqaha Amazigh dialect (Libya) is in a worse state or maybe is already extinct now.

The way that an Arabic-style noun is derived from a pure Amazigh adjective is similar in some Tarifit examples where there is Arabic influence.

Lemlalet < Amellal; Legzalet < Agzal

I was wondering if you are planning to make a Siwi-English-Siwi dictionary meant for Siwi students and amateurs, apart from this academic-level study.

I think that the linguists have the responsibility of writing simplified books for ordinary people and the greater public, apart from their complicated studies meant for academics behind closed doors. Linguists have the duty of contributing to saving vulnerable languages like Siwi.

M. Belkasim