Awjili negation and Facebook

Although Ethnologue lists Awjili as “moribund“, it turns out there is a surprising amount of Awjili being spoken on Facebook – and not just the occasional lesson, as at “Amazigh Awjila, Tmazight N Tenere“.  The group “Ašal-ənnax” contains too much conversation to analyse in one post even if I could understand all of it, but the point that especially struck me relates to negation.  Consider:

– قان كا حدي اشفا
gan ka ħaddi ašfa
EXIST not anyone today

We know that Awjili usually negates the verb just by putting –ka after it.  But the apparent double negative here is unexpected; normally, in Berber, you would expect an item like “anyone” to replace the postverbal negative.  Does this mean “There is no one here today”?  If so, then Awjila has lost the usual alternation along with the pre-verbal negator, rather like dialectal English “There ain’t nobody here today”.  Or is –ka here marking a question – “Is there no one here today?”  If so, that would fit rather well with a widespread Arabic dialectal usage of –ši, recently discussed by Wilmsen.  Either result would help us understand the development of negation better.

Looking further down resolves the question.  In fact, we find a comparable sentence accompanied by a translation, in a brief anecdote:

غارسين كا حتىىى ايواتن
ɣar=sin ka ħəttaaaaa iwatən
“at=3PL not any one.F”
They don’t have eeeven one (star).

In almost any other Berber language with a postverbal negator, this would feature only a preverbal negator.  We can conclude that Awjila has indeed extended postverbal negation to sentences with variables and negative polarity items, which in most Berber languages do not take it.

About Lameen Souag
Descriptive/historical linguist

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