Thursday, January 04, 2024

Ngər "die out"

In Algerian Arabic, ngər نڨر means "to perish, to die out, to become extinct", used primarily of patrilineal families; nəgru نڨرو "they died out" typically means they died leaving no descendants bearing the family name. I've usually heard it in reference to small families that had no sons, but it can also be caused by mass killing, as recent events horribly remind us; expressions used in the news, alongside "wiped out", include the oddly bureaucratic formulation "erased from the civil registry".

This verb has no connection to Arabic نقر naqara "peck, hollow out, etc.", as its non-emphatic r betrays. It is a denominal verb formed within Arabic from the Amazigh (Berber) noun anəggaru "end, latter", derived from the verb gʷri "remain behind" (originally *ăgrəβ; forms cited are from Kabyle). Nevertheless, it has been been reborrowed from Arabic into a wide range of Amazigh languages, e.g. Kabyle ngər, glossed by Dallet as "die leaving behind neither descendants nor relatives; die out (family); be exterminated".

This concept, unambiguously expressed by a single word in most North African languages, doesn't seem to be lexicalised in English. Is it lexicalised elsewhere?