A new source for Sokni!

Sarnelli’s sole informant, Shaykh Hassuna, claimed that only 4 or 5 Soknis could speak the language as of 1915; as a result, it has generally been assumed that Sokni Berber is extinct.  However, this appears not to be entirely true.  A person from Yefren named Sɛid n Yunes has posted on Tawalt – in 2010, apparently – a 200-word+ vocabulary in two posts (1, 2) gathered from “an old man of Sokna who still retains a few Berber words”: thank you Said! The authenticity of this vocabulary seems to be confirmed by the fact that it uses words recorded by Richardson but not attested in published sources: thus “judge” is given as bab n tyərṭiwin (master of papers), to be compared to Richardson’s ‘yarṭa “paper”, and tagəlla is “food”, as in Richardson.  The overall agreement with Sarnelli is also good, although quite a few words are previously unrecorded.  On the other hand, the circumstances of collection make it likely that any errors will be in the direction of Yefren Berber or pan-Berber forms; that might explain the case of “ant” below.  Since basically nothing is known about Yefren Berber, this remains an unknown quantity.  The description suggests that the speaker’s knowledge of the language was not great, and some of the verbal forms confirm this, suggesting that he had forgotten a good deal of morphology. The transliteration scheme used is pretty good, though unfortunately it appears to neglect gemination.

Without further ado, here is the first half of the first vocabulary, translated (with no attempt made to reinsert schwas or missing gemination):

  1. ħtb – hold
  2. ygam – he pulls (an odd form, but identifiable with Sarnelli: imperative âgem, pf. yugûm, impf. itâgem)
  3. yhwa – he went down (contrast Sarnelli: yeggéz; possibly a difference in meaning?)
  4. tiṭawin – eyes (Sarnelli: tiṭṭawîn)
  5. susm – be quiet (Sarnelli: sûsem)
  6. ibrgn – tent
  7. zlmuma – lizard
  8. bubriṣ – gecko (an Arabic loan, replacing Sarnelli: timěždémt)
  9. taqṭuft – ant (Sarnelli: tagědfít)
  10. aman n tzdayt – lagbi (palm liquor) (Sarnelli: amân n tezdiṭ)
  11. timrada – outside, wilderness
  12. itftf – he searches
  13. tarunit – a big bag for holding straw
  14. su – he drinks (sic; presumably “drink!” Sarnelli: )
  15. idnks – he bowed his head
  16. tẓalit – prayer (Sarnelli: tzallît)
  17. taɣrit – stick, staff (Sarnelli: taɣarít)
  18. – eat (Sarnelli: éčč)
  19. šnšna – dhikr in the week of a child’s birth, or song (surprisingly similar to Kabyle ššna!)
  20. aman – water (Sarnelli: amân)
  21. tanut – well; twanit – wells (sic! an Arabic broken plural applied to a Berber noun.  Sarnelli: tanût, pl. tnutîn)
  22. izgarn – dates (Sarnelli: izgârěn)
  23. acmrux – date stem
  24. ymad – he went (again suggests problems recollecting verb morphology. Sarnelli: imperative mád, pf. immádda, aor. adimmád)
  25. yumd – he went (ditto)
  26. ymd tamurt – he went to the country (ditto)
  27. tamurt – earth (Sarnelli: tamúrt “country”)
  28. tiršin – charcoal (Sarnelli: tiržîn)
  29. timsi – fire (Sarnelli: tímsi)
  30. tarẓẓt – rabbit (Sarnelli: tyarzîzt)
  31. amaẓnkuṭ – gazelle (Sarnelli: azěnkö*ṭ)
  32. trgu – monster (Sarnelli: törgû “ogre”)
  33. wišn – jackal (Sarnelli: uššén)
  34. yfis – hyena (contrast Sarnelli: witěláxt)
  35. yṭs – asleep, he sleeps
  36. itl – he cries (Sarnelli: itéll)
  37. babniku – his nose (A bizarre form; contrast Sarnelli tunzä*rt)
  38. tamẓuɣt – ear (Sarnelli: tamezzúxt)
  39. iɣras – he slaughters
  40. uzal – knife (Sarnelli: uzál)
  41. amuẓin – boy child (Sarnelli: mûẓiīn)
  42. imẓiṭ – boy child
  43. tmẓiṭ – girl child (Sarnelli: tmö*ẓěṭ)
  44. idwar – the thick thread in a loom (aẓṭa)
  45. gdgud – bag for holding fresh dates
  46. adyaz – song (Sarnelli: adiâz)
  47. tidšt – pot
  48. tamnfalt – bag
  49. tamgdna – small bag
  50. aklu – bag for figs
  51. smit – rope (Sarnelli: tasěmmît)
  52. ja – waterbag
  53. yẓma – he sews; iẓm? ẓmyayṭ (Even more indication of the breakdown of verbal morphology. Sarnelli: imperative éẓmi, pf. iẓmî, impf. izzémmi)
  54. takl:ut – date-almond paste
  55. ingirix – I don’t have
  56. kr zig zig – get up quickly (Sarnelli: ékker zik zik)

About Lameen Souag
Descriptive/historical linguist

One Response to A new source for Sokni!

  1. U-Savaw says:

    Yehwa (he went down) is widely known in Algeria in areas such as Lesser Kabylie, Guraya region near Tenes and Cherchell and certain Shawi dialects. But Sokni dialect semmes very tricky to understand/read it seems, like Cyrenaican Arabic at my taste.

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