A few years ago Lameen had a post on Ibn Hazm, “comparative linguist of the 11th century” (I wrote about it here); now he follows up with Ibn Hazm again, and Cypriot Arabic, whose first paragraph links to “a full translation online of the fifth chapter of Ibn Hazm’s … Iħkām fī Uṣūl al-Aħkām, …a chapter remarkable for anticipating the ideas of a language instinct and of conlanging, and for clearly stating the relationship between Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac” and whose second describes a remarkable Cypriot variety of Arabic (Ethnologue’s Arabic, Cypriot Spoken—I regret to report they misspell the village where it is spoken as “Kormatiki” rather than Kormakiti), which he says “is far more incomprehensible to me than any mainstream Arabic dialect I’ve ever heard, including the Levantine Arabic from which it presumably derives – a remarkable case study in how much isolation from related varieties speeds up language differentiation.” He links to a YouTube program called Sanna (لساننا – our language) where you can hear it spoken. In case anyone isn’t already aware of Lameen’s blog, it’s well worth bookmarking.


  1. Charles Perry says:

    Sanna? Should that be Lisanna?

  2. @Charles: not in Maronite Arabic, apparently. :-)
    I’ve linked it too. Being utterly superficial, I find it interesting that Wikipedia claims Arabic script is used, but the language revival program uses Latin script. I wonder if they ever used Greek script. Given they are not Orthodox, probably not.

  3. Nick,
    I wonder if they ever used Greek script. Given they are not Orthodox, probably not.
    In his glossary of CMA, Alexander Borg mentions Fr. Antonis Frangiskou and his Arabic-Greek glossary written entirely in Greek script.
    Speaking of whihc, Arabic and Syriac prayer books of the Kormakiti Maronite community apparently feature transcriptions of both languages in Greek script.

  4. Bulbul: thank you. My mind’s stuck in the Millet mold; obviously the modern-day Republic of Cyprus, script is no longer a confessional matter, and Greek script would be a default.
    I admit to disappointment there doesn’t seem to be a skerrick of Arabic at the Kormakiti village home page (although there is a lot of mention of the Maronite clergy).
    To my embarrassment, I had no idea Kormakiti was in North Cyprus, and most of the villagers, deemed to be of the Greek community, fled south. (2004 article on Kormakiti. Pardon the Aramaic once again.) Endangered languages don’t get helped by that kind of thing.
    Only one of the forums at kormakiti.net is dedicated to Arabic. Both Greek and Roman script are used there. Did not notice any Arabic script.
    Cute thread on “do all the present tenses in our language start with /p/”? The exceptions, it turns out, are due to Greek interference…

  5. OK, *this* is interesting, from the Kormakiti forums. It’s referring to Borg’s Roman alphabet. I translate (from Greek, which is clearly the default language now):
    “The Xki Fi Sanna society for Cypriot Maronite Arabic had a very successful function. There will be an article with photos soon on the official site of Kormakitis.net.
    I’ll just make one comment and I expect an answer from certain people.
    Some young people took an interest in the language of their village, and with the help of a linguist [Borg] they have created an alphabet, for better or worse; and all the “well-wishers” on the evening of Sunday 30 December [2007] said “but this isn’t right” or “that isn’t right”. And so many years when they should have done something about it, they didn’t. I’m not talking about our archbishop, who put his view forward and did well to. I’m talking about the Kormakitians proper, who did nothing for so many years. I’m not talking about the government, who complains that we don’t keep them informed. (Gentlemen, you were the ones who told us “it’s your language, you’ll have to save it yourselves”.) I’m talking about the renowned linguists who only want a language for their studies, without doing anything when they were asked for help.
    Well, here’s the language, here’s the alphabet, let’s all get together to save it, and the stories and fairy tales should be put aside.
    Also, if some people thing they’ll get money out of the language, they can think again. “We struggle not for lucre.” And we’ve proven it.
    Those of you interested, struggle with us to save the language!
    Happy New Year, Best Wishes: Snin Xtir ou kaise sine ztite.
    Elias Zonias.”
    Response1: Archaiologos says: “I had some questions about the script Borg proposes. I’ve discussed them with Borg, and he’s clarified them to my satisfaction. So I’m convinced by the new script, it’s simple and consistent, and I will keep using it. But friend Zonias, do explain to me how to install ş in my computer — and on this forum.”
    Response 2 from Archaiologos: Antonis Frangiskou (who writes the Arabic column in the Maronite Press newsletter) would prefer to write in Greek, but has acquiesced with the editors of the Maronite Press, and uses Borg’s Roman alphabet. But he has tweaked it: sh for ş, ou for u, d conflating d and δ. Archaiologos agrees with those modifications.

  6. This is an amazing resource you have I would probably bookmark this link. I’ve learned so many languages from this site. I believe this is the best way to understand other languages and cultures. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Nick,
    thanks for the translation. I, um, I… I can’t read Greek.
    *Hangs head in shame, hides in the closet with a copy of Colloquial Greek*

  8. Bulbul: I know you’re not a Maroniticist (?), but if you need more Greekage, just holler. My friend Tasos Kaplanis, over at my blog, mentions he has a Maronite student working on identity issues in the Greek literature written by Maronites.

  9. Great translation – interesting to get a peek at the orthography debate. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t go for Greek script, actually.

  10. Michael Cooperson says:

    Re the dropping of li- from lisaan, I suspect the syllable was at some point interpreted as a definite article and thus dropped to form a new indefinite, saan. I vaguely recall something similar happening in Maltese.
    Great blog, and great post!

  11. Nicholas,
    thanks, I will, if the neeed arises. FYI, I’m more of a peripheralvarietiesofarabicist.
    Oh and on a related note: it would seem that the Council of Europe noticed Cypriot Maronite Arabic. Wonder if they read Lameen’s blog or Hat’s :)
    I’m not sure what you mean. Maltese kept the ‘l’ in lisān: lsien.

  12. @Lameen: Frangiskou of course had gone for Greek; and the people advocating the reform said explicitly that Roman script allowed more phonemic distinctions than Greek.
    That’s not inherently true: you can diacritic Greek—Greek dialectologists do—and you can digraph Greek—Tsakonians do. But there’s more of a tradition of digraphs and diacritics in Roman. And it turns out people are still chafing about in Maronite orthography: just because it’s in Turkish, doesn’t mean it’s widely available on Roman keyboards in Greek Cyprus.
    Of course, a lot of it is also about Roman now being default-foreign-script.

  13. Ah, the wonders of Html markup. They’re chafing about the letter <ş> .

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