Ammud əglimǝn – A story from Awjila

Ibrahim Sultan, a member of the Awjila Berber community and resident of Awjila, recently posted an interesting story pertaining to local history on his Facebook. The story is about one of the older mosques of the oasis (see here for a short video showing such extremely old mosques there) given in Arabic, but the most important part is a few phrases in Berber, which provide a compelling climax to the tale. The Berber is of course written in Arabic script, and provides an interesting glimpse at how a semi-native speaker would write Awjila Berber. Ibrahim seems to have heard the story from an older, probably fluent, Awjila speaker and then written it down in somewhat summarized form using his own words. The fact that he does not speak Awjili fluently probably explains some of the oddities in verbal morphology, agreement, and syntax. Indeed, there are a number of interesting features of  Ibrahim’s idiolect, though I’ll only mention a few here (but there is a comments section for a reason!).

We’ve obtained Ibrahim’s permission to re-post and translate; the original Arabic is given first, as Ibrahim wrote it, followed by a translation, and rough transcription of the Berber based on the standards of Marijn’s new book. A line by line parse is after the jump.

‫امود اقلیمن …. یحکی ان غزاه جاءو لیغزو اوجله قبل عدة اعوام مضت .لباسهم من الجلد .. وعندما جاء المؤذن لرفع اذان الفجر تعرضو له لکی یوضح لهم الاغنیا فی البلاد والقاده لیبداء الغزاه منهم .. فقال لهم المؤذن .. دعونی ارفع الاذان اولا لکی اسهل علیکم الامر .. فالناس ستاتی لتصلی بلا سلاح وانتم یا غزاه اختبو تحت هذا الجدار .. ولا تتحرکو حتی تقام الصلاه .. فوافق الغزاه .. .. فاذن المؤذن الاذان التالی .. بالامازیغیه .

“ammud əglimǝn … It is said that some raiders came to raid Awjila a number of years ago. They wore leather clothes. When the muezzin came to call the dawn prayer, they presented themselves to him so that he could tell them who the leaders and rich people in the town were so that they could start with them. So the muezzin told them ‘Allow me to call the prayer first, that way it will be easier to show you. The people will come to prayer with no weapons, and you should all hide under this wall. Don’t move until the prayer starts.’ The raiders agreed, and so the muezzin called the prayer with the following words, in Berber:”

الله اکبر ..تقلیمن اوشندا . یغلینی کا غارکم حاجت یغلین یوغنتت سغارکیم . الله اکبر الله اکبر … وان غارص تان افیو ایقیدادس، ایاغید دتکم تان ابدار ابزالیم .. وناغارص کا وان افیو یتادت اید افیر الفلانی ..یصفصفین ‬

‫اید افیر ادفعات فلسین .الله اکبر الله اکبر

allahu akbar təglimən uša-n=da. yə-ġǝlliy-ǝn=a ka ġar-kim ḥažət yə-ġǝlliy-ǝn y-uġ-ən=tǝt sġar-kim. allahu akbar allahu akbar. wan ġaṛ-ǝs tan afiw iqidadǝs, a=yaġi=d dit-kim tan abdar əbẓalim…u na ġaṛ-ǝs ka wan afiw yǝ-tadǝt ayǝd afir alflani .. yǝṣǝfṣǝfin ayǝd afir adfǝʕat fǝll-ǝssin. allahu akbar allahu akbar.

Allahu akbar. Leathered-ones(?) came. They do not want you to have anything, they want to take it from you. Allahu akbar, allahu akbar. He who has a gun should bring it, and with you gunpowder. He who does not have a gun should come to such-and-such a wall. They should set themselves up in rows and push this wall over on them!”

الترجمه … وصف المؤذن ما یبغی الغزاه لناس وقال لناس ان غزاه لابسین جلود قادمین لسلبکم و من عنده بندقیه او بارود یحضرها معه للمسجد .. والاخرین یاتی لکی ندفع علیهم الحائط المختبیین تحته ..ووصف لهم الطریق التی یسلکونها بحث لا یشعر الغزاه بحضورهم وعدد الاهلی داخل المسجد .. فاستجاب الناس .. واسقطوا الحائط علی روس الغزاه.. ومن نجاء اطلقوا علیه النار وقتل الغزاه بالکامل .. وتم انقاد المنطقه من شرهم .. بقت هذه القصه سر من اسرار اوجله لکی لا تتعرض المنطقه تدعیات الانتقام .. … .. فکتیرین یستهین باللغة وفوائد اللغه .. … من قصص الاجداد..‬

The muezzin described what the raiders wanted from the people, and told them that raiders wearing leather were coming to rob them, so whoever had a rifle or ammunition should bring it to the mosque. And others should come to push down the wall the raiders were hiding under. And he described the way they should come so that the raiders would not sense their presence, or that of the number of families inside the mosque. So the people responded, toppled the wall on the heads of the raiders, and opened fire on whoever survived that. In this way they killed all the raiders, and the area was saved from that evil. This story has become one of Awjila’s secrets, so that it (Awjila) wouldn’t fall prey to revenge. Many people trivialize the language and interest in the language… but well, this is one of our ancestors’ stories.”

Ibrahim told me that the mosque (known these days as مسجد تونيت masjid tunit) has been abandoned for about 10 years now, and that its eastern wall is still of mud brick, while the western one (perhaps the one toppled on the invaders?) is now made of cement.

Phrase-by-phrase parse (with thanks to M. van Putten):

  • allahu akbar təglimən uša-n-d=a.
    allahu.akbar leathered.ones come:res.-3pl.m.-come=res.

The word təglimən “leathered ones(?)” is odd. It looks like a feminine, but in that case we would expect təglimin تقليمين; but the feminine in general doesn’t make sense here unless this is supposed to be some kind of Arabic-calqued collective plural.

  • yə-ġǝlliy-ǝn=a ka ġar-kim ḥažət yə-ġǝlliy-ǝn y-uġ-ən=tǝt sġar-kim
    3sg.-want:pf.-3pl.m.-res. neg. to-2pl.m. thing 3sg.m.-want:pf-3pl.m. 3sg.m.-take-3pl.m.=DO.3sg.f. from-2pl.m.

— yə- is only a 3sg.m. prefix in ‘regular’ Awjila. But this writer more often makes a y-…-n plural (as in Siwi, probably inspired by Arabic?).

— The verb ‘to want’ can apparently be used in the resultative without a change in meaning. ġar-kim is treated as a verb, which it isn’t. What is meant is: “They do not want you to have a thing, they want to take it from you”

  • wa-n ġaṛ-ǝs ta-n afiw iqidadǝs, a=y-aġi=d dit-kim ta-n abdar [**n] əbẓalim to-3sg. fire ??, fut=3sg.m.-take:fut=take seed(?) (of) onion

“He who has the one (f.) of fire [i.e. a gun] iqidadǝs [unknown word], he will bring it with you (pl.) onion seeds [i.e. gunpowder]”

— Suggestions for the analysis of iqidadǝs, anyone?

— A comment on the post mentions that abdar əbẓalim (literally “onion seeds”) is the Awjili expression for “gunpowder”. Of course, if you know what onion seeds look like, the comparison is very apt. abdar is surely a borrowing of Arabic biðr ‘seed’. In abdar əbẓalim there is no genitive particle n, however, making this more like an Arabic iḍāfa construction.

  • wa-n [typo’d as u nā] ġaṛ-ǝs ka wa-n afiw yǝ-tadǝt ayəd avir ləflani .. to-3sg. neg fire 3sg.m.-push:impf this(?) wall such-and-such

“And he who does not have the one (m.) of fire [i.e. a big gun?], he comes (to) (this?) wall such-and-such”

 — If yətadət is really ‘he will/must come’, Ibrahim must have made a typo for itašada; and if that is the case, he is using an impf. to express a future tense, perhaps under Arabic influence.

  • yǝ-ṣǝfṣǝfi-n ayǝd avir ədfǝʕ-at fǝlli-sin. allahu akbar allahu akbar. this wall push:imp.-2pl.m. on-3pl.m. allahu.akbar allahu.akbar

“They set themselves up in multiple rows, this wall push it over on them! Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar”

— ədfǝʕ-at is a nice example of a second-person plural imperative.



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