Richardson’s Sokna phrases 2: Purism gone mad?

Last time, we looked at a sentence about Richardson himself.  A rather more difficult but also more interesting second sentence, less directly reflecting Richardson’s circumstances, is given on the next page of the manuscript, also in Yusuf’s messy handwriting rather than Ali’s neat hand:

English: The Consul in this city sold twenty bornouses and five barracans.
Sokni: مقرن نن نصارى يزنزالتمورت اتمروين انبراس ادفوس انجرايديه
Arabic: القنصل في هذه المدينه باع عشرين برنوص وخمسة حول

This may be rendered as: məqqrən n ənnṣara yəzzənza t tamurt timərwin ən branəs əd fus ən jraydiyya “the chief of the Christians sold in this country twenty burnouses and five barracans”.

  • məqqrən : big one, ie chief. The vocalisation is just a guess, but the word is obviously based on the widespread Berber form for “big”, recorded by Sarnelli as (retranscribed) məqqar.  Note the purism: the speaker was obviously familiar with Consuls, but chose to paraphrase the foreign concept rather than use a loanword.
  • n: of (pan-Berber)
  • ənnṣara: the Christians (Arabic)
  • yə- 3MSg; -zzənza sell (perfective form).  Given by Sarnelli.
  • ttamurt = d tamurt: I’m assuming that  ‘l- here was intended to mark initial gemination (obligatory for the Arabic definite article ‘l- before a coronal), representing the assimilation of d “in” to the initial t.  According to Sarnelli, tamurt is “(inhabited) country”, whereas “city” is rather tamədint – is this another case of purism?
  • timərwin: The vowel i in the first syllable is just a guess based on morphology; it could be simply tmərwin.  Even by Yusuf’s standards this word is not easy to read – at first I mistook it for gṣərwin.  It also takes us even further into extreme purism.  Formally, this is a feminine plural of widespread Berber mraw “ten” – but Sokni doesn’t even use mraw for “ten”, it uses ifəssən “hands”, according to both Ali and Sarnelli. (Actually, ifəssən was probably an argot term substituted for an Arabic loanword.)  In Tuareg, number+təmǎrwen forms 20-90, but timǎrwen alone would just be “tens”.  However, Arabic ʕašrīn is formed as if it were a plural (using -īn) of “ten” (ʕašar-) , providing a model for the Sokni usage.  In other words, he’s using an Arabic calque, and probably in order to avoid an Arabic loanword.
  • branəs: burnouses (Arabic pl.)  A burnous is a kind of North African cloak.
  • əd: and, with (pan-Berber.)
  • fus: hand / five.  There is direct manuscript-internal evidence that this is a purism rather than being the normal word – see my older post.
  • jraydiyya: barracan, a type of black gown. (Arabic.)

Hitherto unattested words: məqqrən; nnṣara; timərwin; branəs; jraydiyya.

Lameen Souag

About Lameen Souag
Descriptive/historical linguist

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