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The Language of Poetry in Dhofar

  • T. M. Johnstone

Extract

D. H. Müller says of the Śheri poems which he published in 1907 that they are ‘in einem älteren Mehri-Dialekt abgefasst, der dem Überlieferer nicht ganz verstandlich war’. He goes on to say that despite his best efforts he has not been able to make complete sense of all of the poems he wrote down.

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References

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1 Die Mehri-und Soqotri-Sprache, III, Šḫauri- Texte (Wissenschaften, Kaiserliohe Akademie der [in Wien]. Südarabische Expedition, VII), 1907, 153 ff. On the name Śheri see BSOAS, XXXIII, 2, 1970, p. 296, n. 4.

2 It is also true that my own work indicates that the Südarabische Expedition Śheri informants were the least satisfactory of the native speakers with whom the members of that expedition worked in this area and later in Europe.

3 The language of poetry in Mehri is quite close to that of prose, though a certain proportion of the vocabulary is confined to the context of poetry.

4 On the system of transcription, cf.BSOAS, XXXIII, 2, 1970, p. 296, n. 6. The letters Ś and Ź are here used to transcribe the voiceless and voiced laterals respectively (in place of and ). To facilitate comparison between M and Ś, the convention has been adopted here of writing an initial CC-complex. In M, this complex is to be realized ordinarily as CθC-. In Ś, this vowel is very short or elided.

5 Words which are not commented on are encountered also in prose.

6 cf. BSOAS, XXXIII, 2, 1970, 300, and Muller, , op. cit., p. 157, 1. 15.

7 Ś > S by regressive assimilation.

8 ε < ð ‘that; of; which’. This phenomenon is common in prose. -Sεhn < -Sεṇ < -Sεn.

9 The three base-forms given in this way are 3 m. s. perf./3 m. s. imperf. indicative/3 m. s. subjunctive.

10 In the latter part of this verse the first 1- is the preposition ‘on’(Ar. 'lā), while the second (1, әl) is the preformative of the 1 c. s. of the subjunctive.

11 cf. commentary on poem (1), above.

12 cf. Müller, , op. cit., p. 154, n. 1.

13 The ha.. of the form in the poem is the future particle, which may also be d-ha (= ð-ha ?). The non-occurrence of a second pers. prefix is to be noted. On this cf. BSOAS, XXXIII, 3, 1970, p. 509, n. 79, and xxxi, 3, 1968, 515 ff. This does not occur in M prose or poetry.

14 The symbol // indicates that the imperf. indie, and subj. coincide in pattern.

15 In ἱ-lóh ‘otherwise’ note that the final h contrasts with in the simple negative lo?. The word xat’ ‘letter’ is prose M and Ś usage. Both are borrowed from coll. Ar. khatt.

16 The non-occurrence of Σ in the form is not due to M influence. Comparable phenomena are attested in prose.

17 However, kaal t'aat‘(< t'aad) is much commoner in (Dhofari) Mehri. ka(a)l l)/haad is probably Southern Mehri.

18 Uncontracted, fun is fúnәh ‘before’, and fśunk is ε (viz. ð) әśúnk.

19 To the best of m y knowledge, this typ e of subjunctive form has not been noted before.

20 cf. above, poem 8.

21 εolk' is a free variant of εoðk'. The realization of ð as 1 is not confined t o poetry.

22 The prefix h(a) is a definite article. This example does not occur in Müller, , but cf. ḥamό, p. 154, 1. 11)ḥabu, p. 155, 1. 5. Cf. p. 1, n. 6, above.

23 The form l-bóbni. though etymologically obscure, is common enough usage. Cf. Ś әbÓbn, έbrί, M әbὁob hәbry ‘I adjure my son’ Ś əbόbn(ә) hέt, M әbόobn(ә) héet ‘I adjure you’.

24 cf. Ar. nazāli!

25 ?as'әr is a variant of f as'ar There is some pharyngalization of the first syllable. Cf. p. 5, n. 16.

26 Compare p. 4, n. 13, above.

27 cf. BSOAS, XXXIII, 2, 1970, 301.

28 Where the k'influences vowel quality.

29 It may be noted, however, that Śḥeri is an acceptable name for the language of most Dhofaris, but as a name of a community it clearly denotes a non-sharīf group. The Ḥkīli as people are sharīf.

The Language of Poetry in Dhofar

  • T. M. Johnstone

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