L. Souag: Berber and Arabic in Siwa (Egypt) – A Study in Linguistic Contact [PDF]


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Berber Studies Volume 37

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296 pp.
2 maps: Berber-speaking towns of eastern Libya and Egypt, Reflexes of *q in Egypt and Libya, 11 Sample texts, numerous tables and charts

Text language: English

This book examines loanwords and intra-Berber relationships of Siwi, the easternmost Berber language, with regard to the influence of migration on the language. The complex contact history of Siwi is shown to have involved at least three distinct varieties of Arabic at different periods. The Arabic component of Siwi includes loanwords and calques with no surviving counterpart in modern regional dialects, indicating a significant time depth and casting light on the history of spoken Arabic as well as of Berber.

The effects of contact upon the grammar are analysed in detail, following and expanding upon the author’s doctoral thesis. These effects comprise the morphology in terms of the application of Arabic non-concatenative templatic morphology to Berber adjectival roots and nouns, the use of calquing, the simplification of the complex verbal morphology characteristic of Berber as well as the borrowing of en­tire paradigms of numeral+measure phrases from Arabic, described here in detail for the first time. This provides a lexically based entry path for syntactic rules. The usual Berber focus-marking constructions are entirely replaced by Arabic forms, affecting both morphology and syntax. As a necessary prerequisite for the description of contact, this work at the same time examines inherited forms in comparative Berber perspective.

Siwi itself is inadequately documented; this book, based on in situ fieldwork, describes Siwi grammar in greater detail than any previous publication. While Siwi continues to be spoken by all community mem­bers, its circumstances are not propitious for long-term survival; its documentation is thus a matter of some urgency. This book accordingly includes not just fieldwork-based grammatical and historical an­alysis and illustrative sentences, but also a selection of Siwi texts spanning multiple genres and produced by speakers of different ages. These include retellings of Islamic stories and accounts of a popular reli­gious festival specific to Siwa, along with popular religious poetry; as such, it casts light on Islam in the Siwan context as well as on Berber culture.

In the same series a grammatical sketch of Siwi Berber, a study of the speech sounds of Siwi Berber and a collection and analysis of Siwi Berber texts have been published, as well as an ethnographic study of craftsmanship and architecture in Siwa:

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