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Siwa and its significance for Arabic dialectology

Lameen Souag
Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik
No. 51 (2009), pp. 51-75
Published by: Harrassowitz Verlag
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43525858
Page Count: 25
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Siwa and its significance for Arabic dialectology
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Abstract

Siwi, spoken at the oasis of Siwa in western Egypt, is best known for being the easternmost Berber language, but its very substantial Arabic element includes not only much of its lexicon and syntax but also several aspects of its morphology. The q reflex of qāf and the final ʾimāla of historic ā to ī shown in loanwords alone suffice to establish that the greater part of this influence derives neither from the Sulaymi Bedouin dialect spoken throughout western Egypt and eastern Libya nor from the modern Cairene dialect whose influence is spread throughout Egypt through media; instead, these two features link Siwa to other Egyptian oases. Some Arabic elements borrowed into Siwi grammar, notably the negation system including lā and qәt̤t, the actor noun formation a-CәCCēCī, and possibly the phenomenon of demonstrative agreement with the addressee, underline Siwi's archaism relative not only to the currently dominant Arabic dialects of the region but in some cases to most or all modern Arabic dialects. The depth of Arabic influence on Siwi, including several borrowed templatic morphemes at least one of which is inflectional, suggests very close social contact, and historical sources indicate a settled Arab presence in the oasis alongside Berber in the twelfth century. The Arabic element of Siwi thus appears to be a key resource for Arabic dialectology, providing a new source of evidence on sedentary Arabic dialects that reached western Egypt and Cyrenaica independently of the Banī Sulaym and probably prior to their 11th century arrival.

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