Intra-Berber borrowing in Yefren

At a recent conference, I met the Libyan activist Maziɣ Buzexxar, who was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Yefren Berber.  As we have already seen for “hand“, words that end up as CuC monosyllables in Yefren (and elsewhere in Zenati) regularly correspond to uCeC in Nefusi (and Ghadamsi).  One such word is “straw”: lum in Yefren (as in Siwa) vs. ulem in Jadu (and alim in Kabyle).  Thus, in Yefren, “a pile of straw” is aguday n lum.Milky_Way_Night_Sky_Black_Rock_Desert_Nevada

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the Milky Way is referred to as “the Road of Straw” or “Road of the Straw-bearers“, with the scattered stars conceived of as straws fallen from the load being carried, rather than, as in Greek tradition, as milk.  Yefren is no exception.  But in Yefren, according to Maziɣ, the Milky Way is called: abrid n ulem (which he understood, with no difficulty, as meaning “road of straw”).

If the facts are correct – obviously confirmation with more Yefrenis would be better – then the explanation is obvious: Yefren borrowed its term for the Milky Way as a whole from the Nefusi communities to its west, while keeping their original word for “straw”.  Intra-Berber borrowing – borrowing of words from one Berber language into another – must have been an important phenomenon historically, but it is often made invisible by the sound correspondences being trivial.  In this case, the Nefusi vowel shift makes it unusually conspicuous.  More such cases should be sought.

“Meat” and “drink” in Libyan Berber

The previously mentioned Facebook group has been continuing its activity – particular credit should go to Sami Halasa and Faycel Marir, for asking many dialectologically interesting questions.  Two recent ones seem interesting enough to share, and illustrate slightly different isogloss patterns – as usual, the Jebel Nefusa minus Yefren+Al-Qalaa and Wazzin stands out, but this time it shows significant internal divisions too, in a different place each time.

Meat“: aksum in dark green, aysum in green, usəm in yellowish-green, isan in white.

meat-berber-map

Aksum/aysum is pretty well universal in Berber along the Mediterranean – showing the usual Nefusi vowel shift in usəm – while isan is more associated with Tuareg.  It’s possible that isan is related to aksum/aysum/usəm: in Ghadames, it appears that isan is actually the irregularly formed plural of aksəm.  If so, however, I don’t understand the relationship well: was -um a singulative? or perhaps just -w, with -un-w > -um?

Also interesting is “he drinks“: isəss in green, itəssu/isəssu in yellowish green, yəssaw in white:

drink-berber-map

Of these, isəss, as the most irregular form, is presumably original (cf. Kossmann 2008); the other two have been partially regularised to fit better with more common conjugations.  The Nalut form looks exactly like Siwi, but that may be coincidence.  Sokna shows a combination of both innovations: itəssaw.

Awəssu

Umberto Paradisi is known best for the work he did on the several understudied dialects of Awjila and El-Foqaha. However, he has also published one text on Zwara Berber. I have rerecorded this story and discussed it with a native speaker, below you find the translation.

My informant told me that this ritual is still celebrated today.

tə́lt iyyám n uwə́ssu á ytəmm di-s əlmizán g užənná.

“During the three days of Awəssu, Libra will appear fully in the sky.”

  • tə́lt iyyám ‘three days’
  • n ‘of’, Paradisi records an m here as an assimlation of the n plus a following u. When I recorded this story, my informant would consistently pronounce it without the assimilation, despite the original text that I showed him having a translation. This seems to be an indication that for the speaker this rule is not active, or at least not in this context.
  • uwəssu ‘A summer ritual’, in the Etat d’Annexion (EL awəssu)
  • a Marker of the future
  • y-təmm aor.3sg.m. ‘to finish, complete’, in this context ‘appear fully’
  • di-s ‘in’ in the pre-prepositional form + 3sg. prepositional pronoun ending.
  • əlmizán ‘Libra’, a constellation that consists of three starts.
  • g ‘in’
  • užənná ‘sky’, in the État d’Annexion

íḍ aməzwár a yə́ffəɣ ítri, táni a yə́ffəɣ táni n itrán, əttálət a yə́ffəɣ ttálət n itrán. Baʕdén əlmizán.

“On the first night a star will come out, the second (night) the second of the stars will come out, on the third (night) the third of the stars will come out. After that: Libra.”

  • íḍ ‘night’
  • aməzwár ‘first’
  • y-ə́ffəɣ aor.3sg.m. ‘to come out’
  • ítri ‘star’
  • táni ‘second’
  • itrán ‘stars’, should be in the État d’Annexion, but is apparently not distinguished form the État Libre in Zwara.
  • (ə)ttálət ‘third’
  • baʕdén ‘then, after that’

Səbʕa u xamsín g unə́bdu a yə́ffəɣ əlmizán.

“After fifty-seven (days) in the summer Libra will be out.”

  •  Səbʕa u xamsín ‘fifty-seven’, litt. 7 and 50. Completely Arabic construction.
  • unə́bdu ‘summer’, EA of anəbdu

Tə́lt iyyám n uwə́ssu kmə́lən At Wíllul á fləl l íləl a ʕúmmən u baʕdén a rə́wwḥən s íləl.

“During the three days of Awessu, all At Willul will go to the sea to swim and then they will leave the sea.

  • kmə́lən “all”
  • At Wíllul,  Tribe name
  • flə-n aor.3pl.m. ‘to go’, with assimlation of the final n to the next l
  • l ‘to’
  • íləl ‘sea’ (EA = EL)
  • ʕúmm-ən aor.3pl.m. ‘to swim’
  • rə́wwḥ-ən aor.3pl.m. ‘to return’
  • s ‘from’

Saʕ(a) árbʕa báʕd ázgən n íḍ á fləl l íləl, qábl yə́qqas n tə́fəwt, a ʕúmmən.

“Four hours after the middle of the night they will go to the sea, before the rising of the sun, they will swim.”

  • Saʕ(a) ‘hour’
  • árbʕa ‘four’
  • báʕd ‘after’
  • ázgən ‘middle’
  • qábl ‘before’
  • yə́qqas ‘rising’ Etat d’Annexion of the verbal noun iqqas ‘rising’
  • təfə́wt ‘sun’, Paradisi records təfwít or təfúyt, my informant clearly says təfə́wt.

Lbáʕḍ n míddən əggáyən g iləɣṃan d yisán d iɣyál l íləl.

“Some of the people will bring in camels and horses and donkeys to the sea”

  • lbaʕḍ ‘some’
  • míddən ‘people’
  • əggáy-ən impf.3pl.m. ‘to bring’, of the verb ə́wəy ‘to bring , take’, which shows that the lengthened counterpart of w is gg in Zwara
  • iləɣman ‘camels’, technically in the État d’Annexion, but indistinguishable from the regular form.
  • d ‘and’
  • yisán ‘horses’ in the EA
  • iɣyál ‘donkeys’ in the EA (indistinguishable from EL)

Kúll lʕáylət a tʕúmm wə́ḥḥd-əs af iman-ís.

“Each family will wash themselves separately”

  • Kúll ‘each’
  • lʕáylət ‘family’
  • t-ʕúmm aor.3sg.f. ‘to wash/swim’
  • wə́ḥḥd-əs  ‘alone’, often used as a sort of preposition that takes prepositional endings in Berber, in this case the 3sg.m. form.
  • af ‘on’, or in this case ‘by’
  • iman-ís  reflexive pronoun with 3sg. possessive suffix -ís.

Árgaz a yátəf g íləl g tḥazamít nəɣ əg tkmíst, taməṭṭut a tátəf l íləl əg tkmíst.

“The man will enter the sea in a robe or shirt, the woman enters the sea in a shirt”

  • Árgaz ‘man’
  • y-átəf aor.3sg.m. ‘to enter’
  • tḥazamít ‘robe’
  • nəɣ ‘or’
  • tkmíst ‘shirt’
  • taməṭṭut ‘woman’
  • t-átəf aor.3sg.f. ‘to enter’

A qqímən g íləl ssáʕət nnəɣ ssáʕət d wə́zgən.

“The will stay in the sea for an hour or an hour and a half”

  • qqím-ən aor.3pl.m. ‘to stay’
  • ssáʕət ‘hour’
  • nnəɣ = nəɣ ‘or’
  • wə́zgən ‘half’ (EA, EL= ázgən)

Lbáʕḍ n mídden á yfat əlmúžət sə́bʕa məṛṛát.

“Some people will dive into the waves seven times.”

  • y-fat aor.3sg.m. ‘to dive’
  • əlmúžət ‘wave’
  • sə́bʕa ‘seven’
  • məṛṛát ‘times’, notice that this noun doesn’t have an automatic article. Nouns that mostly come in pairs with numerals, will borrow the complete syntagm from Arabic, where it does not come with the article.

Kull íǧǧən ikə́ttəḥ g áman af ttáni

“Each one enters the water a second time.”

  • íǧǧən ‘one’
  • i-kə́ttəḥ  impf.3sg.m. ‘to enter’, I do not know this verb, from the context I assume it means ‘to enter’.
  • áman ‘water’, I would expect the form g wáman here, with an État d’Annexion, but I do not have that recorded, nor did Paradisi record it.
  • ttáni ‘second (time)’

U baʕdén a rə́wwḥən l tiddárt.

“And after that they return home.”

  • rə́wwḥ-ən aor.3pl.m. ‘to return’
  • tiddárt ‘house, home’

A rə́kkbən účču d údi xaṣ y uwə́ssu.

“They will prepare účču d údi especially for Awessu”

  • rə́kkb-ən aor.3pl.m. ‘to prepare’
  • účču d údi a specific type of dish, whose preparation is explained below. Literally it translates to ‘food and butter’.
  • xaṣ ‘only, just, especially’

A trə́kkbəd áman u baʕdén a s tə́mbrəd tísent u baʕdén a yáyzəg u baʕdén a t-ə́mbṛ-əd árən u baʕdén a yḍáb,

“You prepare (i.e. cook) the water and then you add salt to it and then it will cook, and then you put (in) flour and then it will be ready”

  • t-rə́kkb-əd aor.2sg. ‘to prepare’
  • -(a)s 3sg. Indirect Object marker with ellided a due to the future marker a.
  • t-ə́mbr-əd aor.2sg. ‘to put’
  • tísent ‘salt’
  • y-áyzəg aor.3sg.m. ‘to cook’, the perfective of this verb uzə́g lacks the irregular y-infix found in the aorist and imperfective.
  • árən ‘flour’
  • y-ḍáb aor.3sg.m. ‘be ready, ripe’

báʕd lli a yḍáb, a tḥə́rrkəd s uɣə́nǧa u baʕdén a t tə́mbṛəd g ədzíwa n qə́šquš u baʕden a tnə́ɣləd áfəlla-s údi.

“Afterwards it will be ready, you will stir it with a ladle, and afterwards you put in a wooden bowl and then you will pour butter on top of it.”

  •  báʕd lli ‘afterwards’
  • t-ḥə́rrk-əd aor.2sg. ‘to stir’
  • s ‘with’
  • uɣə́nǧa ‘ladle’ (EA, aɣə́nǧa is the EL form).
  • t 3sg.m. direct object marker, fronted because of the a future marker
  • ədzíwa ‘bowl’
  • qə́šquš ‘wood’
  • t-nə́ɣl-əd aor.2sg. ‘to pour’
  • áfəlla-s ‘above, on top’, with 3sg. prepositional ending
  • údi ‘butter’

Adam Benkato points out that the dish being described is known as ʕasīda in Libyan Arabic.

Á ččən účču báʕd lli a rə́wwḥən s íləl, talži qabl ázgən mm áss.

“Then they will eat the food after they will return from the sea,  the next day, before the afternoon”

  • čč-ən aor.3pl.m.  ‘to eat’
  • účču ‘food’
  • s ‘from’
  • talži ‘the next day’
  • qabl ‘before’
  • mm is the gentive particle n that has assimilated to the w of the EA of wáss ‘day’, which has subsequently been lost.
  • áss < wáss, where w was lost due to the nw > mm assimilation/

Ázgən mm áss ad ígən amə́kli, kə́sksu nnəɣ əlmakarúnat;

“in the afternoon, they will make lunch, couscous or pasta”

  • ad allomorph of the future marker when it is followed by a vowel.
  • ígə-n aor.3pl.m. ‘to make’
  • amə́kli ‘lunch’
  • kə́sksu ‘couscous’
  • əlmakarúnat ‘pasta’

taməddít ad ígən amə́ssi

“In the evening, they will make dinner”

  • taməddít ‘evening’
  • amə́ssi ‘dinner’

ʕaṛábən nnán g tálet yúm n uwə́ssu di-s əlɣə́lṭət, walákin tíkərkas laʔínna kull lʕáylət tʕúmm wə́ḥd-əs.

‘The Arabs say that in the three days of Awessu there is a transgression, however (these are) lies, because each family swims separately’

  • ʕaṛábən ‘arabs’, notice the somewhat curious absence of the plural prefix i-. Perhaps the form is aʕṛábən
  • nná-n pf.3pl.m. ‘to say’
  • əlɣə́lṭət ‘transgression’
  • walákin ‘but’
  • tíkərkas ‘lies’
  • laʔínna ‘because’

Nətnín qə́lldən lʕádət n iməzwárən.

“They are imitating the custom of the olden days”

  • nətnín ‘they’
  • qə́lld-ən  impf.3pl.m. ‘to imitate’
  • lʕádət ‘custom’
  • iməzwárən ‘ancestors, those that precede > olden days’

At Wíllul ffáləl l íləl g uwə́ssu laʔínna əlfáyttis g əlǧísəm.

“The At Willul go into the sea during Awessu because  its benefit is in the body (i.e. it is good for the body).”

  • ffál-ən impf.3pl.m. ‘to go’ with assimilation of the n to the following l
  • əlfáytt-is ‘his benefit’ = əlfáydət ‘benefit’+ 3sg.m. possessive suffix.
  • əlǧísəm ‘body’

M. van Putten

Towards a Libyan/Tunisian Berber dialect atlas

The polls on the previously mentioned Libyan Berber site are a wonderful data source, notwithstanding occasional difficulties caused by inexact transcription.  Here are a few more, selected from the minority of posts that include Wazzin:

Sun“: tufut in white, tfuyt/tfwit in green, təfuṯ in dark green:

berber-sun

Son“: təṛwa in white, məmmi in green:

berber-son

Year“: suggəs/sukkəs in white, asəggas/asəggʷas in green, asəkkʷas in dark green, and (Arabic) əlʕam in yellow.

berber-year

Note that, each time, the eastern and western extremes of the Berber-speaking area of Nefusa – Wazzin, Yefren, and Al-Qalaa – group outside of the core Nefusi area and with more Zenati-like dialects of the region.  One gets the same impression from other posts which sadly exclude Wazzin, eg:

Donkey” (حاشاكم:) ziṭ/aziṭ in white, aɣyul in green, aɣɣul in dark green:

berber-donkey

Dog“: yudi in white, aydi / ayəddi in green, ayḏi in dark green, aɣərzul in blue:

berber-dog

That’s not to say, of course, that the central Nefusi dialect area is always homogeneous; there seems to be a certain number of isoglosses separating the Jadu area from the Nalut area.  Consider, for instance:

Figs“: iməṭkən in white, iməṭšan/iməṭšən in green, ifərgas in blue.  (I’ve ignored a few attestations of the Arabic loan kəṛmus, since they are inconsistent.  The form iməṭšən is attested only in the Nalut area, but some speakers from the same areas are writing iməṭšan.)

berber-fig

For all of these varieties, available grammatical descriptions are at best inadequate; practically nothing has been published on the dialects of Yefren, Wazzin, or even the Nalut region.

“Hand” in NW Libyan/S Tunisian Berber

“Hand”, probably to be reconstructed as *a-fuʔs, is one of the best-conserved words across Berber – I don’t think I’ve come across any variety that has replaced it, much less borrowed it.  Its phonetic form, however, varies significantly, and nowhere more than along the Libyan-Tunisian borderlands.  Recently, a Facebook group for Libyan Amazigh asked its readers how they say “hand”; the results give a pretty good picture of variation across northwestern Libya, which can easily be filled out from published sources for the Tunisian side of the border (notably Gabsi 2003).  I’ve mapped the results below, using the following system:

  • white: ufəs
  • green: afus / əfus (it’s impossible to distinguish the two without better-transcribed data)
  • blue: fus

The most widespread forms across Berber are Zenati fus (eg Rif, Chaoui, Chenoua, Siwi…) and non-Zenati afus (eg Shilha, Kabyle, Awjila…), although in this region the latter comes with a twist not seen elsewhere: at least in Djerba and Zuwara, the a-/ə- disappears if a suffix is added, eg Djerba afus “hand” > fus-iw “my hand” (Brugnatelli 1998:120). The form ufəs is far more restricted: the only region it has been reported in, apart from Nefusa, is Ghadames, a couple of hundred kilometres to the southwest.  And, as the map below shows, even within this region it seems to be limited to a well-defined core area.  The differences between Yefren+Al-Qalaa and the rest of Nefusa are easily explained by the presence of a relatively populous Arabophone region in between, around Zintan (and even a cursory look at the same Facebook group suggests that Berber speakers in this region aren’t getting along too well with people from Zintan.)  For Wazzin, comparison with Douiret suggests that it might represent a continuation of the dialect that used to be spoken in the extreme south of Tunisia.  Yet on this point, even close neighbours like Cheninni and Douiret differ, suggesting a more complex history than one might have expected…

"Hand" in Berber varieties near the Libyan-Tunisian border

“Hand” in Berber varieties near the Libyan-Tunisian border

Ammud əglimǝn – the mosque of the leathered ones

Ibrahim Sultan, a member of the Awjila Berber community and resident of Awjila, recently posted an interesting story pertaining to local history on his Facebook. The story is about one of the older mosques of the oasis (see here for a short video showing such extremely old mosques there) given in Arabic, but the most important part is a few phrases in Berber, which provide a compelling climax to the tale. The Berber is of course written in Arabic script, and provides an interesting glimpse at how a semi-native speaker would write Awjila Berber. Ibrahim seems to have heard the story from an older, probably fluent, Awjila speaker and then written it down in somewhat summarized form using his own words. The fact that he does not speak Awjili fluently probably explains some of the oddities in verbal morphology, agreement, and syntax. Indeed, there are a number of interesting features of  Ibrahim’s idiolect, though I’ll only mention a few here (but there is a comments section for a reason!).

We’ve obtained Ibrahim’s permission to re-post and translate; the original Arabic is given first, as Ibrahim wrote it, followed by a translation, and rough transcription of the Berber based on the standards of Marijn’s new book. A line by line parse is after the jump.

‫امود اقلیمن …. یحکی ان غزاه جاءو لیغزو اوجله قبل عدة اعوام مضت .لباسهم من الجلد .. وعندما جاء المؤذن لرفع اذان الفجر تعرضو له لکی یوضح لهم الاغنیا فی البلاد والقاده لیبداء الغزاه منهم .. فقال لهم المؤذن .. دعونی ارفع الاذان اولا لکی اسهل علیکم الامر .. فالناس ستاتی لتصلی بلا سلاح وانتم یا غزاه اختبو تحت هذا الجدار .. ولا تتحرکو حتی تقام الصلاه .. فوافق الغزاه .. .. فاذن المؤذن الاذان التالی .. بالامازیغیه .

“ammud əglimǝn … It is said that some raiders came to raid Awjila a number of years ago. They wore leather clothes. When the muezzin came to call the dawn prayer, they presented themselves to him so that he could tell them who the leaders and rich people in the town were so that they could start with them. So the muezzin told them ‘Allow me to call the prayer first, that way it will be easier to show you. The people will come to prayer with no weapons, and you should all hide under this wall. Don’t move until the prayer starts.’ The raiders agreed, and so the muezzin called the prayer with the following words, in Berber:”

الله اکبر ..تقلیمن اوشندا . یغلینی کا غارکم حاجت یغلین یوغنتت سغارکیم . الله اکبر الله اکبر … وان غارص تان افیو ایقیدادس، ایاغید دتکم تان ابدار ابزالیم .. وناغارص کا وان افیو یتادت اید افیر الفلانی ..یصفصفین ‬

‫اید افیر ادفعات فلسین .الله اکبر الله اکبر

allahu akbar təglimən uša-n=da. yə-ġǝlliy-ǝn=a ka ġar-kim ḥažət yə-ġǝlliy-ǝn y-uġ-ən=tǝt sġar-kim. allahu akbar allahu akbar. wan ġaṛ-ǝs tan afiw iqidadǝs, a=yaġi=d dit-kim tan abdar əbẓalim…u na ġaṛ-ǝs ka wan afiw yǝ-tadǝt ayǝd afir alflani .. yǝṣǝfṣǝfin ayǝd afir adfǝʕat fǝll-ǝssin. allahu akbar allahu akbar.

Allahu akbar. Leathered-ones(?) came. They do not want you to have anything, they want to take it from you. Allahu akbar, allahu akbar. He who has a gun should bring it, and with you gunpowder. He who does not have a gun should come to such-and-such a wall. They should set themselves up in rows and push this wall over on them!”

الترجمه … وصف المؤذن ما یبغی الغزاه لناس وقال لناس ان غزاه لابسین جلود قادمین لسلبکم و من عنده بندقیه او بارود یحضرها معه للمسجد .. والاخرین یاتی لکی ندفع علیهم الحائط المختبیین تحته ..ووصف لهم الطریق التی یسلکونها بحث لا یشعر الغزاه بحضورهم وعدد الاهلی داخل المسجد .. فاستجاب الناس .. واسقطوا الحائط علی روس الغزاه.. ومن نجاء اطلقوا علیه النار وقتل الغزاه بالکامل .. وتم انقاد المنطقه من شرهم .. بقت هذه القصه سر من اسرار اوجله لکی لا تتعرض المنطقه تدعیات الانتقام .. … .. فکتیرین یستهین باللغة وفوائد اللغه .. … من قصص الاجداد..‬

The muezzin described what the raiders wanted from the people, and told them that raiders wearing leather were coming to rob them, so whoever had a rifle or ammunition should bring it to the mosque. And others should come to push down the wall the raiders were hiding under. And he described the way they should come so that the raiders would not sense their presence, or that of the number of families inside the mosque. So the people responded, toppled the wall on the heads of the raiders, and opened fire on whoever survived that. In this way they killed all the raiders, and the area was saved from that evil. This story has become one of Awjila’s secrets, so that it (Awjila) wouldn’t fall prey to revenge. Many people trivialize the language and interest in the language… but well, this is one of our ancestors’ stories.”

Ibrahim told me that the mosque (known these days as مسجد تونيت masjid tunit) has been abandoned for about 10 years now, and that its eastern wall is still of mud brick, while the western one (perhaps the one toppled on the invaders?) is now made of cement.

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Two new publications on Eastern Berber

Recently two authors of this blog, Marijn van Putten and Lameen Souag, have both released publications on Eastern Berber languages in the Berber Studies series of Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Lameen Souag has released Berber and Arabic in Siwa (Egypt) describing the contact between Siwa Berber and Arabic as well as providing a very useful insight into the grammar and structure of Siwa itself. Besides the main body of the work, there is a large portion dedicated to a fully glossed and translated text, which also has marked accent throughout. For those interested in the accent in Siwa Berber and the Eastern Berber languages in general, this fantastic material.

Marijn van Putten has released A Grammar of Awjila Berber (Libya). A descriptive grammar of the Awjila language based on all the available written sources, most prominently Umberto Paradisi’s work. It includes all Awjila Berber texts fully glossed and translated and a large root based lexicon in the back.

Awjila Berber – MVP

Siwa Berber – LS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together with the also fairly recently published grammar of Ghadames Berber by Maarten Kossmann (also in the Berber Studies), there certainly is a lot more to read on Eastern Berber than there ever was!

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