A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time for the Periodic Obscure Linguistics Post

It seems like over the last couple of months we've spent so much time talking about Egyptian elections, Tunisian governments, Naguib Mahfouz' centenary, Bashar with Barbara Walters, banning bikinis (and in counterpoint, the "nude Egyptian blogger" affair and its aftermath and imitators), that I've really neglected to post very much on extremely obscure linguistic points about Middle Eastern languages you've never heard of, for which I apologize. I realize of course that profound historical change, literary genius, and revolution, all interest some of my readers, but for the frustrated pedants among you, relax: I've got links on two languages from two completely distinct language families on different continents: Libyco-Berber (Afro-Asiatic) and Hazaragi (Indo-European). Happy now?

Though these links (which are other people's work of course, not mine) do not quite reach the sublime obscurity of my post on (possible) Punic and Berber influences on Etruscan last June, those of you who need a respite from the contemporary may find them useful.

For Libyco-Berber, the linguist/blogger Lameen Souag, he of the Jabal al-Lughat blog, has posted two pieces on Libyco-Berber at the MNAMON website, one on the writing system, and the other on the language itself. It's obvious not much is known of the latter.(If the second and third links act up, as they're doing for me, you can access them via Jabal al-Lughat.)

Hazaragi lies at the other end of our region, where it is spoken by the Hazaras of Afghanistan. Closely related to Persian, Dari, and Tajik, though it has other influences, including Turkic and Mongolian loanwords, in keeping with the tradition that the Hazara are of Mongol origin. (They're also Shi‘ites in heavily Sunni Afghanistan. This post discusses both their language and their history.

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