Thursday, August 24, 2006


Going through my recently acquired copy of a North-African Judeo-Arabic šarħ of the targum to Song of Songs (thanks oldshelf :o), I stumbled across the following:

qāl Šlomo en-nabī: qadāš zēn bēt əl-miqdās matāʕ allāh... (1:17)

Jay C. Treat's brilliant translation and the original Aramaic text (אמר שלמה נבייא כמא יאי בית מקדשא דיי) inform me that the qadāš zēn part means "how beautiful!". Hm. I'd be the first to admit that my knowledge of the maghribī dialects is sketchy at best, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect some form of kīf for "how". That is, if I was expecting this word to appear here as it does in English in the role of an exclamatory particle. In CA, one would have to resort to (as in the famous example of laħn al-ʕāma, i.e. Mā aħsanu/aħsana 's-samā').
And so I'm a little puzzled: Handbuch (p. 258) lists qaddāš as "das Vorherrschende Frageadverb für 'wieviel'". Willms' Einführung (p. 51) describes qədd-əš as the North-East Algerian word for "wieviel(e)". Willms also mentions qədd with the meaning of "same size as, same extent as, same kind as" in hist list of prepositions next to kīf and zay. "Same size/extent/kind as" (see Maltese daqs) is certainly a bit closer to "how" than "how much" and the interrogative particle "what" -āš/-əš appears to be a suffix often used to create other interrogative particles (b-āš, kīf-āš, ʕl-āš, w-āš or k-āš). But still - that would make qaddāš an interrogative particle, maybe (and that's a big 'maybe') a relative particle. How does it then wind up being used in an exclamatory sentence? Is it a normal current use, a normal use in the 19th century, both, just another case of a typical šarħ translation or something completely different? Any thoughts?


Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

This is perfectly normal current usage: ashHal mliH/wa`er/Twil "how good/difficult/tall!" (ashHal, of course, like qeddash, is "how much?")

Congratulations on starting a blog, by the way - it looks interesting already!

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Indeed, even in Classical (or at least MSA) you can say stuff like kam hiya jamiilatun for "how beautiful it is", right?

bulbul said...

Thank you very much for clearing up my doubts, Lameen, and also for being the first to comment here :o) I would very much like to write as interestingly as you do, though I fear that this notebook of mine will mostly feature incoherent ramblings...
As for kam hiya jamiilatun, I remember my teacher (who was from Egypt and refused to speak anything but perfect fusHa to us) chastising one of my classmates for using this very phrase. Then again, my memory could be deceiving and I will be more than happy to defer to you on this.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

It's probably a dialectalism then - but it sure gets a lot of Google hits...

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