Sokna Text III: The Good-for-Nothing

This third of five texts collected by Sarnelli (1925: 33) concerns someone who is evidently a good-for-nothing–he has no trade (or rather, his trade is that of a good-for-nothing!), and mostly seems to hang around eating and sleeping with other folk, until this habit gets him into trouble.

There are a number of aorist forms in this text, which seem to have the function of expressing hypothetical as well as habitual actions (also as the main verb of a ‘to want’ construction).

Text III

zěmân ẹ́llân íǧǧěn n ěṭṭufêǐli
Once there was a good-for-nothing

  • zěmân adverbial usage of Arabic zǝmān ‘once, once upon a time’
  • ẹ́llân 3pl.m. ‘(there) were’, existential ‘to be’
  • íǧǧěn number ‘one’
  • n genitive particle ‘of’
  • ěṭṭufêǐli n.m. ‘deadbeat’ (Sarnelli: ‘scroccone’), perhaps from the Arabic diminutive eṭ-ṭufeyl of ṭifl ‘child’ (?).

eṣṣana‘āt-énnes mímmi adiyûf sẹn nax sârěṭ nax áktar
His trade (was that) when he would find two or three or more,

  • eṣṣana‘āt-énnes n.f. ‘trade, craft’ < Arabic aṣ-ṣana‘āt الصنعات with 3sg. possessive suffix
  • mímmi ‘when’
  • adiyûf aor.3sg.m. of af ‘to find’
  • nax ‘or’
  • sẹn number m. ‘two’
  • sârěṭ number ‘three’ (though probably šârěṭ, as in Sarnelli’s glossary). a Proto-Berber numeral! Sokni joins Fogaha and Siwi Berber with š<k (cf. Ghadames kárǎḍ)
  • áktar ‘more’ < Ar. akṯar اكثر with (Western Libyan) dialectal [ṯ] > [t].

adiqqím díd-sẹn lē̱n adiyéčč díd-sen.
He would stay with them until he would eat with them.

  • adiqqím aor.3sg.m. ‘to stay’
  • díd-sẹn conj. ‘with’ + 3pl.m. object pronoun ‘them’
  • lē̱n ‘until’ (probably dialectal Arabic lēn/nēn ‘until’)
  • adiyéčč aor.3sg.m. ‘to eat’ (Sarnelli has the aorist as adičč)

marra yuséd yufâ ifá̱ssen n imarrîwen.
Once he came (and) he found ten men.

  • marra ‘once, one time’ < Arabic marra ‘one time, a time’
  • yuséd pf.3sg.m. ‘to arrive, to come’
  • yufâ pf.3sg.m. ‘to find’
  • ifá̱ssen number ‘ten’, literally ‘hands’ (sg. fūs = ‘five’, literally ‘hand’)
  • imarrîwen ‘men’

itrék eššuġl-énnes azẹ́l udínak we yěqqím díd-sen.
He left his work that day and remained with them.

  • itrék pf.3sg.m. ‘he left’ < Ar. tarak ‘he left’ (probably reflecting a WLA dialect form with initial epenthetic vowel)
  • azẹ́l n. ‘day’
  • udínak ‘that’
  • we conj. ‘and’ < Ar. wa ‘and’
  • yěqqím pf.3sg.m. ‘he stayed’
  • díd-sen ‘with them’

yěnn-âs íǧǧen sě ġúr-sen: mádd i-išuġǎl-é̱nnek!
One of them said to him: “Go to your work!”

  • íǧǧen ‘one’
  • sě ġúr-sen sě-ġúr ‘from’ (Fogaha s-ġúr ‘from’, see El-Fogaha III), sen is the 3pl.m. indirect object clitic; ‘one of them’, literally ‘one from them’
  • mádd impv.2sg. ‘go’
  • i- directional particle i ‘to, toward’
  • išuġǎl-é̱nnek n. ‘work’ + 2sg.poss. ‘your’ (I assume the initial i to be the Arabic definite article, rather than part of the Sokni directional particle i/iyi).

yěnn-âs: lā līẖ šûġǔl xēr nē wā!
He [the good-for-nothing] said to him: “I have no work better than this!”

  • lī-ẖ pf.1sg. ‘to have’
  • xēr Arabic comparative adjective خير xēr ‘better’
  • usually ‘of’, but following comparatives ‘than’ (cf. Ar. xēr min ‘better than’)
  • pronoun ‘this’

yěnn-âs: bâlek anněmmúḥbes!
He [the other guy] said to him: “Maybe we will be imprisoned!”

  • bâlek adv. ‘maybe’ < Libyan Arabic bālǝk ‘maybe’ (ultimately from Turkish)
  • anněmmúḥbes aor.1pl. (medio-passive -mm-), Berber conjugation of an Arabic root (Libyan Arabic yeḥbes ‘to be in prison’)

yěnn-âs: rětíx! am nīš, am kīníu; wu yeqqím.
He said to him: “Fine with me (lit. I agree)! Like me, like you”; and he remained.

  • rěṭíx pf.1sg. ‘to agree’, from Arabic rḍw (with [ḍ] rendered as [ṭ]–this shows the underlying Arabic dialect rendering of [ḍ] rather than ELA [ð̣])
  • am ‘like, as’, though in the previous text this had a long vowel: ām
  • nīš 1sg. personal pronoun ‘I’
  • kīníu 2pl.m. personal pronoun ‘you’

sagín-ten wu ssikmẹ́n-ten d íǧǧit n tâsqâ, wa qqěsẹ́n fellâ-sen.
They led them and made them enter a house, and closed (the door) on them.

  • sagín-ten pf.3pl.m. + 3pl.m. direct object suffix ‘they led them’
  • ssikmẹ́n-ten causative + 3pl.m. direct object ‘they made them enter’
  • d preposition ‘in’
  • íǧǧit n tâsqâ n. ‘a house’, literally ‘one of house’ (íǧǧit is f.)
  • wa qqěsẹ́n pf.3pl.m. ‘and they closed/locked’ (Sarnelli: ōqqěs ‘to close/lock from outside’)
  • fellâ-sen preposition ‘on’ + 3pl.m. object pronoun ‘them’

yeglíg eṭṭufêili wu yěqqím qârîb i-îmi n tawō*rt.
The good-for-nothing was disturbed, and remained near to the doorway.

  • yeglíg impf.3sg.m. Arabic verb ‘to be disturbed’
  • qârîb ‘near’ from Arabic qarīb (note the interesting phenomenon of two Arabic loans appearing next to each other, each with a different realization of qaf; the first is no doubt a more recent loan, as no contemporary Libyan Arabic dialects have q.)
  • i– directional particle ‘to, toward’
  • îmi n. ‘mouth’ (i.e. the opening of the door, or doorway)
  • tawōrt ‘door’

yuséd ěssâyáf, yurâ tasergilt, yufâ ěṭṭufêǐli nẹ́tta ěddûni.
The executioner came, opened the lock, (and) found the good-for-nothing, he (was) bad(?).

  • yuséd pf.3sg.m. ‘he came’
  • ěssâyáf n. ‘executioner’ < Arabic السياف es-sayyāf ‘executioner, swordsman’
  • yurâ pf.3sg.m. ‘he opened’
  • tasergilt n.f. ‘lock’
  • yufâ pf.3sg.m. ‘he found’
  • nẹ́tta 3sg.m. independent pronoun ‘he’
  • ěddûni perhaps meaning something like ‘bad’ (some Arabic dialects have dūnī ‘bad’)

yussufō*ġ-t, ya‘bâ asíḥḥar.
He tossed him out, (and) wanted to kill (him).

  • yussufōġ-t pf.3sg.m. causative of yeffọ́ġ ‘to exit, go outside’ + 3sg.m. direct object clitic
  • ya‘bâ pf.3sg.m. ‘he wanted’ (takes an aorist verb)
  • asíḥḥar aor.3g.m. of the verb aḥḥar ‘to kill’ (originally from Arabic nḥr).

yeqqím itéll wu yěnnâs: nīš ingî sě ġúr-sen!
He began to weep and said to him: “I am not one of them!”

  • yeqqím itéll pf.3sg.m. yeqqím functions as inchoative with following impf. itéll 3sg.m. ‘to cry, weep’
  • nīš 1sg. personal pronoun ‘I’
  • ingî ‘not’ (Fogaha nk-)
  • sě ġúr-sen ‘one of them’, literally ‘one from them’ (see above)

yuzén assîyáf išâwar lěḥkûmet.
The executioner sent himself off (and) consulted the authorities.

  • yuzén pf.3sg.m. ‘he sent’
  • išâwar impf.3sg.m. of Arabic verb يشاور īšāwǝr ‘to consult’
  • lěḥkûmet n.f. ‘government’ from WLA l-eḥkūma

ěnnân-ās: ōḍbaḥîm-as anẹddiyûsěd.
They said to him: “Call him (and) we will come.”

  • ěnnân-ās pf.3pl.m. ‘they said’ (compare innân- in text II) + 3sg. indir.obj. pronoun
  • ōḍbaḥîm-as impv.2pl.m. ‘you call him’. the initial ō is odd, but the Arabic text simply has an alif.
  • anẹddiyûsěd aor.1pl. ‘we will come’

yèmmadd-âsen eṭṭufêǐli ii-lěḥkûmet, yěnn-âsen: eṣṣanǎ‘āt-énnu ěl‘amr-é̱nnu kúll ṭufêǐli.
The good-for-nothing went to them, to the authorities, (and) said to them: “My trade, for my whole life (is that of) a good-for-nothing.”

  • yèmmadd-âsen pf.2sg.m. ‘he went’ + 3pl. indirect object ‘to them’
  • ii-lěḥkûmet directional particle i-/iyi- + n. ‘government, authorities’ (note double marking of indirect object of the verb)
  • eṣṣanǎ‘āt-énnu 1sg. possessive ‘my work, trade’
  • ěl‘amr-é̱nnu 1sg. possessive ‘my life’ (with ěl‘amr probably reflecting Arabic li-‘amr-ī ‘for my life’, rather than ěl- being the definite article.)
  • kúll ‘all, whole’ < Arabic kull ‘all’

yěnn-âs el-ḥâkim: in kān atétrāk eṣṣana‘āt-énnek, aksárrax.
The judge said: “If you leave your trade, I’ll set you free.”

  • el-ḥâkim n. ‘judge’ < Arabic el-ḥākim ‘judge’
  • in kān atétrāk conditional construction headed by Arabic in kān ‘if’
  • eṣṣana‘āt-énnek 2sg.m. possessive ‘your trade’
  • aksárrax aor.1sg. (?) Sarnelli’s transcription has aksárrah (with -h not -ẖ), even though the Arabic text has ح [ḥ]; perhaps the dot was just omitted, since we’d expect a 1sg. ending here.

yěnn-âs: térkěẖ eṣṣân‘āt ěddâl ḥáttā kān ‘ázzǎmen fěllâ, āmadíx abādé̱n!
(The good-for-nothing) said to him: “I have (already) abandoned this trade. Even if they invited (me), I would never go!”

  • térkěẖ pf.1sg. ‘I left’ of Arabic root taraka ‘to leave’
  • ḥáttā kān Arabic conditional ‘even if’, followed by perfect verb
  • ‘ázzǎmen pf.3pl.m. of Arabic verb ‘azzam ‘to invite’
  • fěllâ This preposition has not yet occurred without an indirect object suffix, so I’m not completely sure what its function is here. Perhaps it is just a peculiar form of the 1sg., with féll– marking the object of the verb (note that in Awjili felli- becomes felliwi in the 1sg.).
  • āmadíx aor.1sg. ‘to go’
  • abādé̱n adv. ‘never’ from Arabic abadan ‘never’
 -A. Benkato

Awjila Songs II

This song expressed the love for a cousin.

ul-innôḫ iṭâra a-îmma
iġâlli wullîs in’ámma

‘My heart has flown, o mother / He wants the daughter of my aunt’

Phonemically this text should probably be interpreted as follows. Note that in three cases a consonant i has been reanalyzed as a ə. While this is certainly the case, it is surprising that Zanon heard and analyzed the schwa as such.

ul-ənnúḫ iṭára a-ə́mma
ə́lli wullí-s ən-ʕə́mma

  • ul- ‘heart’
  • -ənnúḫ 1sg. possessive suffix. In Paradisi, this suffix is always -ənnúk. So, either this changed in the time between Zanon and Paradisi, or we are dealing with a dialectal difference.
  • iṭára ‘to fly’ res.3sg.m. cf. Ar. ṭāra ‘id.’
  • a- vocative particle.
  • ə́mma ‘mother’, with no suffix, therefore ‘my mother’.
  • iġə́lli ‘to want’ pf.3sg.m.
  • wullí- ‘daughter’
  • -s 3sg. kinship possessive suffix.
  • ən- ‘of’
  • ʕə́mma ‘aunt’ < Ar. ʕamma ‘aunt’

Awjila Songs I

Fernando Zanon was a researcher who has written one article (Zanon 1932-33) on the Aujila language. The fascinating thing about this article is, is that it has some very short songs, giving us access to a genre of text not found in Paradisi. They are all two lines, and will be discussed in the series of posts dubbed Aujila Songs.

ġillîġ kām uggūt uggūt.
min ġair tġélli tìkra

Zanon translates ‘I want her so much, so much; and she does not want me’.

Surely this is wrong, as already pointed out by Brugnatelli (1987)

We should reinterpret this as:

ġillîġ-kām uggūt uggūt.
min ġair tġéllit-ì-kra

‘I want you so much, so much / Without you wanting me.’

  • ġillîġ ‘to want’ pf.1sg.
  • -kām, interesting spelling. In Paradisi, phonemically this is /kəm/, the 2sg.f. direct object pronoun suffix.
  • uggūt, uggūt ‘much, much’
  • min ġair ‘without’ cf. Ar. min ġayri ‘id.’
  • tġéllit ‘to want’ pf.2sg.
  • 1sg, direct object pronoun suffix
  • kra argued by Brugnatelli (1987) to be an old form of the negative suffix, different from what we find in Paradisi’s later texts /ká/, shows that the origin of this particle is /kəra/ ‘thing’.

It is however unusual to see negative marking combined with the Arabic min ġair ‘without’, which does not take negative marking in Arabic. Adam has informed me that in Eastern Libyan Arabic you can say min ġeyr mā tiktib šēy ‘without you writing anything’. It is perhaps possible that the element was interpreted to be the negative marker, and then calqued as the Aujila negative marker . But this seems like a convoluted solution.

A better solution perhaps, is recalling the original function of the Berber ulkra/ša/ka negative construction, which literally translates to ‘not … a thing’, which turned into a general strengthener of the negative ‘not … at all’, to eventually lose the strengthening function and simply become the negative construction in many Berber languages.

I think the most elegant solution to this odd construction is interpreting kra to have the meaning ‘… at all’, leading us to the eventual translation ‘I want you so much, so much / Without you wanting me at all.’

Another problem with the kra as negative suffix is that it disagrees chronologically with the data found in Müller (1828). In this, much older work we find the word ghaleika غليكه ‘cheap’, which evidently has to be interpreted as Ar. ġalī ‘expensive’ + Aujila negative particle . So if over 100 years prior to Zanon the negative particle had already become ka, it becomes especially likely that kra is an, etymologically related, but clearly different particle in function.

-M van Putten


Brugnatelli, Vermondo. La negazione discontinua in berbero e in arabo-magrebino. In: Bernini, Giuliano & Brugnatelli, Vermondo (eds.). Atti della 4a giornata di Studi Camito-Semitici e Indoeuropei. Edizioni Unicopli. 1987:53–62.

Zanon, Fernando. Contributo Alla Conoscenza Linguistico-etnografica dell’Oasi Di Augila. L’Africa Italiana 50.4/51.1-4. 1932-1933: 259–276.