An early source of Awjila Berber words

Recently, I found a reference to a short letter by Moritz von Beurmann in which he describes 10 Aujili words. The interpretation of the data is difficult; Both the account of some of the words is surprising, and the transcription leaves much to be desired. Since this letter was published in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gezellschaft in 1862, it means we can freely access it. Below follows a list of the ten words recorded by von Beurmann, with an analysis, and comparison to the forms that we find in Paradisi.

  • tignani ‘head’, by far the most interesting lexical item, as it is completely unknown in other sources. The usual word for ‘head’ according to Paradisi, and even Müller is tgîli. The Aujila word attested in Paradisi is unusual, as it does not have any connection with other Berber languages. Berber languages usually have a form iɣf. The word tignani like tgîli has no cognates in other Berber languages.
  • schahr, suf ‘hair’, as the editor points out, these words must be Arabic loanwords šaʕr ‘hair’ and ṣūf ‘wool’. Both words have original Berber words in Paradisi (aževû, tāft), and one wonders if Beurmann didn’t accidentally enquire about these words to an Arab speaking person, rather than an Aujili speaker.
  • fuss, fussum ‘hand’, this word is attested in Paradisi as afùs ‘hand’. It seems that von Beurmann interpreted the initial a as a separate word, and has not included it in his transcription. One wonders where the fussum form comes from. Most likely, it is the plural físsen.
  • imin ‘water’, a famous Aujili word also attested in Paradisi: imîn. Aujili appears to be the only Berber language that doesn’t have aman for ‘water’.
  • itfukt ‘sun’, a surprising word, not because it looks un-Berber, but because it looks un-Aujili. Forms similar to this noun are found in Many Berber languages, for example Tuareg təfukk (< *təfukt), and Zng. toʔf̣(f̣)ukt. But, unlike most other Berber languages, in Paradisi’s account of the language, we find tāfût, with the consonant k missing. It is difficult to interpret these two contradictory accounts. Perhaps von Beurmann recorded the form before the k was lost, something not completely unlikely, as the word was recorded almost a hundred years prior to Paradisi’s publication.
  • funas ‘cattle’, this is clearly the same as Paradisi’s afunâs ‘ox’, once again the initial a was removed.
  • logum ‘mountain’, the editor notes that von Beurmann originally wrote a small Arabic letter Ghayn on top of the g to indicate that this word should be read as loɣum. Which, certainly is not likely to mean mountain. As you can see in von Beurmann’s overview, the usual word for ‘Mountain’ in Berber is adrar. This word rather looks like Paradisi’s alóġom ‘camel’. This teaches us something interesting about the way von Beurmann collected his data. He clearly did not have a language in common with his informant, so instead, he drew pictures of the thing he was inquiring about. So he drew the picture of a mountain, seen from the side, his informant then recognized this shape as the hump of a camel, and promptly gave him the word alóġom.
  • tina ‘date’, this word for Data is unattested in Aujila, but widely known in Berber, but this form is very surprising. From Ghadamès taβēnawt ‘date tree’ and Tuareg tehăyne ‘date’ we know that this word contains a as its first root consonant. This root consonant is always reflected in Aujila as v, but in this word, it is absent.
  • lachbub ‘dried dates’, this word is also attested in Paradisi lḥabb pl. laḥbûb, it is in fact a loanword from Arabic ḥabb pl. ḥubūb ‘grains; seed’, which underwent a rather radical change in meaning.

2 Responses to An early source of Awjila Berber words

  1. Lameen Souag says:

    Perhaps tina is just an orthographical issue. The original was written in Arabic script, so it would not have been difficult to confuse تبنا with تينا; the editor might have assumed on the basis of the Siwi form that a dot was missing. What is “date” in Awjila normally?

  2. Marijn says:

    That is indeed a possibility.

    The most general word for “date” is lḥabb pl. laḥbûb. But Paradisi recorded many more words.

    agengûi pl. ñgûwen “green date” (Notice the highly unusual plural formation)

    Funnily enough we also find this word agĕngûi as a name for a sparrow.

    cf. Sok. agingín ‘small date palm’

    akîtel ‘date born from bad pollenation’

    amerġâu pl. merġâwen ‘yellow date, close to maturity’

    cf. Sok. arġâu ‘date’

    qårzâṭ pl. qårzâṭen ‘dried dates for livestock’

    aziwâi pl. ziwâyen ‘a bunch of dates’ (not sure if you call a branch with dates on it a ‘bunch’, but I think so; grappolo di datteri in Italian)

    cf. Fig. aziwa ‘stem of a female palm’; Ouar. taziwayt ‘bunch’; Mzab taẓiwayt ‘complete bunch’ To. (H Y) teẓewt ‘small branch’

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