“Meat” and “drink” in Libyan Berber

The previously mentioned Facebook group has been continuing its activity – particular credit should go to Sami Halasa and Faycel Marir, for asking many dialectologically interesting questions.  Two recent ones seem interesting enough to share, and illustrate slightly different isogloss patterns – as usual, the Jebel Nefusa minus Yefren+Al-Qalaa and Wazzin stands out, but this time it shows significant internal divisions too, in a different place each time.

Meat“: aksum in dark green, aysum in green, usəm in yellowish-green, isan in white.

meat-berber-map

Aksum/aysum is pretty well universal in Berber along the Mediterranean – showing the usual Nefusi vowel shift in usəm – while isan is more associated with Tuareg.  It’s possible that isan is related to aksum/aysum/usəm: in Ghadames, it appears that isan is actually the irregularly formed plural of aksəm.  If so, however, I don’t understand the relationship well: was -um a singulative? or perhaps just -w, with -un-w > -um?

Also interesting is “he drinks“: isəss in green, itəssu/isəssu in yellowish green, yəssaw in white:

drink-berber-map

Of these, isəss, as the most irregular form, is presumably original (cf. Kossmann 2008); the other two have been partially regularised to fit better with more common conjugations.  The Nalut form looks exactly like Siwi, but that may be coincidence.  Sokna shows a combination of both innovations: itəssaw.

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Awəssu

Umberto Paradisi is known best for the work he did on the several understudied dialects of Awjila and El-Foqaha. However, he has also published one text on Zwara Berber. I have rerecorded this story and discussed it with a native speaker, below you find the translation.

My informant told me that this ritual is still celebrated today.

tə́lt iyyám n uwə́ssu á ytəmm di-s əlmizán g užənná.

“During the three days of Awəssu, Libra will appear fully in the sky.”

  • tə́lt iyyám ‘three days’
  • n ‘of’, Paradisi records an m here as an assimlation of the n plus a following u. When I recorded this story, my informant would consistently pronounce it without the assimilation, despite the original text that I showed him having a translation. This seems to be an indication that for the speaker this rule is not active, or at least not in this context.
  • uwəssu ‘A summer ritual’, in the Etat d’Annexion (EL awəssu)
  • a Marker of the future
  • y-təmm aor.3sg.m. ‘to finish, complete’, in this context ‘appear fully’
  • di-s ‘in’ in the pre-prepositional form + 3sg. prepositional pronoun ending.
  • əlmizán ‘Libra’, a constellation that consists of three starts.
  • g ‘in’
  • užənná ‘sky’, in the État d’Annexion

íḍ aməzwár a yə́ffəɣ ítri, táni a yə́ffəɣ táni n itrán, əttálət a yə́ffəɣ ttálət n itrán. Baʕdén əlmizán.

“On the first night a star will come out, the second (night) the second of the stars will come out, on the third (night) the third of the stars will come out. After that: Libra.”

  • íḍ ‘night’
  • aməzwár ‘first’
  • y-ə́ffəɣ aor.3sg.m. ‘to come out’
  • ítri ‘star’
  • táni ‘second’
  • itrán ‘stars’, should be in the État d’Annexion, but is apparently not distinguished form the État Libre in Zwara.
  • (ə)ttálət ‘third’
  • baʕdén ‘then, after that’

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Towards a Libyan/Tunisian Berber dialect atlas

The polls on the previously mentioned Libyan Berber site are a wonderful data source, notwithstanding occasional difficulties caused by inexact transcription.  Here are a few more, selected from the minority of posts that include Wazzin:

Sun“: tufut in white, tfuyt/tfwit in green, təfuṯ in dark green:

berber-sun

Son“: təṛwa in white, məmmi in green:

berber-son

Year“: suggəs/sukkəs in white, asəggas/asəggʷas in green, asəkkʷas in dark green, and (Arabic) əlʕam in yellow.

berber-year

Note that, each time, the eastern and western extremes of the Berber-speaking area of Nefusa – Wazzin, Yefren, and Al-Qalaa – group outside of the core Nefusi area and with more Zenati-like dialects of the region.  One gets the same impression from other posts which sadly exclude Wazzin, eg:

Donkey” (حاشاكم:) ziṭ/aziṭ in white, aɣyul in green, aɣɣul in dark green:

berber-donkey

Dog“: yudi in white, aydi / ayəddi in green, ayḏi in dark green, aɣərzul in blue:

berber-dog

That’s not to say, of course, that the central Nefusi dialect area is always homogeneous; there seems to be a certain number of isoglosses separating the Jadu area from the Nalut area.  Consider, for instance:

Figs“: iməṭkən in white, iməṭšan/iməṭšən in green, ifərgas in blue.  (I’ve ignored a few attestations of the Arabic loan kəṛmus, since they are inconsistent.  The form iməṭšən is attested only in the Nalut area, but some speakers from the same areas are writing iməṭšan.)

berber-fig

For all of these varieties, available grammatical descriptions are at best inadequate; practically nothing has been published on the dialects of Yefren, Wazzin, or even the Nalut region.

“Hand” in NW Libyan/S Tunisian Berber

“Hand”, probably to be reconstructed as *a-fuʔs, is one of the best-conserved words across Berber – I don’t think I’ve come across any variety that has replaced it, much less borrowed it.  Its phonetic form, however, varies significantly, and nowhere more than along the Libyan-Tunisian borderlands.  Recently, a Facebook group for Libyan Amazigh asked its readers how they say “hand”; the results give a pretty good picture of variation across northwestern Libya, which can easily be filled out from published sources for the Tunisian side of the border (notably Gabsi 2003).  I’ve mapped the results below, using the following system:

  • white: ufəs
  • green: afus / əfus (it’s impossible to distinguish the two without better-transcribed data)
  • blue: fus

The most widespread forms across Berber are Zenati fus (eg Rif, Chaoui, Chenoua, Siwi…) and non-Zenati afus (eg Shilha, Kabyle, Awjila…), although in this region the latter comes with a twist not seen elsewhere: at least in Djerba and Zuwara, the a-/ə- disappears if a suffix is added, eg Djerba afus “hand” > fus-iw “my hand” (Brugnatelli 1998:120). The form ufəs is far more restricted: the only region it has been reported in, apart from Nefusa, is Ghadames, a couple of hundred kilometres to the southwest.  And, as the map below shows, even within this region it seems to be limited to a well-defined core area.  The differences between Yefren+Al-Qalaa and the rest of Nefusa are easily explained by the presence of a relatively populous Arabophone region in between, around Zintan (and even a cursory look at the same Facebook group suggests that Berber speakers in this region aren’t getting along too well with people from Zintan.)  For Wazzin, comparison with Douiret suggests that it might represent a continuation of the dialect that used to be spoken in the extreme south of Tunisia.  Yet on this point, even close neighbours like Cheninni and Douiret differ, suggesting a more complex history than one might have expected…

"Hand" in Berber varieties near the Libyan-Tunisian border

“Hand” in Berber varieties near the Libyan-Tunisian border