Wednesday, August 30, 2023

More miscellaneous Darja notes

These may or may not be of interest to anyone but myself; I'm posting them essentially so I don't forget them.

A couple of idioms:

  • ər-riħ f-əš-šbək الريح في الشبك "wind in the net" - empty talk
  • ʕla šufət əl-ʕin على شوفة العين "on the sight of the eye" - as far as the eye can see
  • ṣufa ṭayṛa صوفة طايرة "a flying piece of wool" - flighty, capricious
  • tɣiḍni ʕəmṛi تغيضني عمري "my life makes me feel pity" - I feel sorry for myself
  • qʷʕədna ki ʕəbd waħəd قُعدنا كي عبْذ واحد "we stayed like one person" - we kept working together

And another proverb: əɣʷləq bab-ək ma txəwwən jaṛ-ək اغُلق بابك ما تخوّن جارك "Close your door and you won't make your neighbour a thief" - I guess you could loosely render this as "Good fences make good neighbours". Note that the corresponding verb xwən "steal" خْون forms a minimal pair with xun خون "betray", confirming that semivowels are distinct from the corresponding vowels.

As discussed earlier, the name of the town of Djinet is pronounced variously with a final t or d. As a convincing argument for the latter pronunciation being more correct (if the historical evidence hadn't been sufficient), someone pointed out to me that people from Djinet are called jnanda جناندة. The version with t presumably reflects Turkish influence as well as folk etymology.

fut فوت "pass" is used as a serial verb in a construction whose exact semantics I need to figure out better, typically in subordinate clauses: ila fətt šədditu إلا فتّ شدّيتهُ "once you've grasped it..."

Two interesting bits of maritime vocabulary are walyun واليون "apprentice not-yet-sailor who cleans the fishing boat in port" and ṛədfun ردفون "shrimp net". For the latter, I wonder if the first element might be Spanish red "net"; but I can't see what the fun would be in that case. For the former, I hardly even know how to find out what the translation into other languages around the Mediterranean might be. Suggestions for etymologies are welcome!

(Update thanks to jitaenow on Twitter: walyun is from Neapolitan guaglione, and is ultimately cognate with "galleon".)

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Delicious Berber apples

While most Berber varieties use an Arabic loanword for "apple", several are reported to preserve a non-Arabic word: Jerbi a-ḏəffu (Brugnatelli), Nefusi dəffu (Motylinski), Zuara a-dəffu (Baghni). This word was derived by Vycichl (1952) from Punic *tappūḥ, a derivation generally accepted in subsequent work; Kossmann (2013:146) explains various forms along the lines of ta-dəffaḥ-t as blends between this and the Arabic form. Such an etymology makes sense on extra-linguistic as well as linguistic grounds: domestic apples originated much further east, in Central Asia, so a loanword is expected a priori, and given the important role of Carthage in early North African history, Punic appears the obvious source.

Talking to a speaker from near Batna yesterday, however, I realised that the Chaoui word for "apple" is really aḍfu, with an emphatic d. This cannot be explained in terms of regular sound change from the Punic form: the distinction between d and is in general very stable in Berber, particularly in the absence of any adjacent emphatic or laryngeal, and the apparent loss of gemination is also irregular.

The solution is Berber-internal. In more westerly varieties (cf. Nait-Zerrad, p. 451), we find a root ḍf-t for "taste, savour": Ait Atta t-aṭfi (verb iṭfi-t), Tashelhiyr tiḍfi (verb aḍfu-t), Zenaga taṭfih - also borrowed into Korandje təṭfi. While its geographical distribution seems relatively limited, nothing about this root suggests a foreign origin, and its attestation in Zenaga suggests a priori that it goes back to proto-Berber. We may therefore plausibly assume that at some point it was familiar to Chaoui speakers, if it isn't still. An otherwise unanalysable term for "apple" would therefore have been reinterpreted as, essentially "the tasty one".

Sunday, August 27, 2023

An unusual polysemy in Algeria and its cultural background

Today I heard nsəhhlu? “Shall we head off?” The verb səhhəl expresses two rather different meanings: transitive “make easy” and intransitive “head off, leave”. The former is well-integrated into the lexicon: the verbal template BəCCəD regularly forms causatives from triliteral adjectives and verbs, and sahəl “easy” accordingly yields səhhəl, just as barəd “cold” yields bərrəd “make cool”. The latter is much less so: the root shl has no particular ties to motion. A colexification of “leave” with “make easy” is not cross-linguistically common (see CLICS), and a linguist encountering it in isolation in some wordlist would surely be at a loss to account for it.

It is not, however, arbitrary or accidental. The missing link can easily be found by going beyond the lexicon proper into the realm of politeness: a standard expression used by people staying behind to say goodbye to people leaving is ḷḷah ysəhhəl “may God make it [the trip] easy”. (Algerian Arabic etiquette is pretty much all about knowing which blessing to use when.) The intransitive meaning is therefore indirectly derived from the transitive one.

Knowing this, and knowing the extent of lexical-typological convergence in this region, one might predict that a similar colexification should be found in Kabyle. Sure enough, consulting Dallet (1982), one finds sahəl “leave on a trip; (God) make a trip easy”. He even records the corresponding blessing to a person departing on a trip: ad isahəl ṛəbbi, yəlli tibbura! “may God make it easy and open the doors!” Unfortunately, the verb is simply an Arabic borrowing rather than a calque properly speaking, although it’s based on a different verb template than the Dellys Arabic one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Miscellaneous Darja notes

With Twitter apparently determined to become an eX-network, the moment seems right for turning back towards blogging. I might change platforms (Substack sounds promising – any good ideas?), but in the meantime, let’s see if this is still working and post some miscellaneous notes on Dellys Arabic from my holiday.

Today, when a watch started randomly beeping, I heard a cousin say ʕəbbẓi næ̃mpoṛt waħda təħbəs “press any one, it’ll stop”. This is obviously the same construction as næ̃mpoṛt ħaja, and was indeed produced by the same person. So it seems that næ̃mpoṛt is indeed a fixed part of his grammar; but note that it is followed by an indefinite noun (ħaja ‘thing’, waħda ‘one’) rather than an interrogative pronoun as it would be in French (quoi ‘what’, qui ‘who’).

When I heard the verb ykạmiri ‘he’s filming’, I initially thought this was proof positive that the loanverb ending -i had become a productive denominal verbaliser (cp. kạmira ‘videocamera’); after all, there is no French verb camérer. But it turns out that camérer is attested in Algerian French, so the case remains ambiguous.

An old woman to a little girl: ya ṛṛwiħa ttaʕi! “oh my little soul!” The diminutive brings to mind Hadrian’s animula.

The mediopassive verbs ntkəl ‘be eaten’ and ntfəxswell up are old news to me, but somehow I had missed the corresponding participles mətkul ‘eaten’, mətfux ‘swollen’, which show that both verbs are to be analysed synchronically as n-passives (“Form 7”) with t-initial roots, though in both cases the t originally derives from a passive prefix or infix (“Form 8”).

On a trip up the mountain, I heard tuzzalt, which does indeed refer to ‘rockrose’, whatever the correct translation of tazalt might be. But the speaker was bilingual in Kabyle, so the pronunciation might not be representative of Dellys Arabic.

A colonial-era rhyming proverb that was new to me: ləmʕawna f-ənnṣaṛa wala lqʷʕad f-əlxṣaṛa ‘[even] helping the Christians is better than sitting around unprofitably.”

Onomatopeia for the sound of milking: čəqq čəqq čəqq. May help explain the Siwi verb…

As discussed on Twitter, skərfəj ‘grate (v.)’ seems to come from Italian scalfeggiare or something very similar. Along with spərpəħ ‘sprawl about’ it provides a rare example of what looks like a five-consonant root, but should perhaps better be interpreted as four-consonant with an otherwise poorly evidenced prefix s-; cf. sħaj ‘need (v.)’