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Texts in Sinai Bedouin Law.

These volumes contain a selection of texts relating to the customary law of the Ahaywat tribe of central Sinai. Only five of the 69 texts were originally composed in writing; the remainder were spoken in genuine Bedouin dialect and recorded in authentic situations. Even though they represent less than two percent of the total amount of material recorded by Stewart during his fieldwork in 1976-82, they constitute one of the few extensive collections of ethnographic texts published in original dialectal Arabic. Other large collections of high quality are O. Jastrow, Die mesopotamisch-arabischen qaltu-Dialekte II (1981), and P. Behnstedt and M. Woidich, Die agyptisch-arabischen Dialekte, 3: Texte I-Ill (1987-88). Among smaller collections, D. Cohen, Le Parler arabe des juifs de Tunis (1964) is outstanding. Earlier on (1987), Stewart surveyed the literature on Bedouin law (al-Arif 1933, Graf 1952, Chelhod 1971, al-Qusus 1972, Abu Hassan 1974, Mohsen 1975, and others) in the article "Tribal Law in the Arab World: A Review of the Literature" (IJMES 19:473-90), and because he will treat the actual disputes and the law of the Ahaywat in two future volumes (Cases in Sinai Bedouin Law; A Bedouin Tribe and its Law), it seems appropriate here to discuss the present volumes exclusively from the linguistic point of view.

The dialect of the Ahaywat as well as other Sinai tribes documented thus far is closely akin to the dialects of the Negev Bedouin, concisely and competently described by Haim Blanc ("The Arabic Dialect of the Negev Bedouins" [1970], 39 pp.), who also collaborated with the author on linguistic questions. Therefore it was a natural solution to follow Blanc's system of transcription, with a few minor modifications. Blanc's article has been reprinted as an appendix to part 2, and a list of corrections to it is given in the preface (p. xv). The transcription is theoretically well founded; perhaps the only practical drawback is its isolation from the most commonly used systems in the description of long vowels in the final position.

The majority of Bedouin texts published to date are poems and oral narratives following traditional stylistic conventions. Stewart's texts, which among others include many dialogues, thus substantially contribute to the knowledge of the colloquial Bedouin idiom. Carefully interpreted with the assistance of original speakers and other firsthand informants by a researcher unmistakably at home in his subject, the texts serve as a reliable source for linguistic study. Typical of the scrupulous method, all uncertainties have been pointed out.

As to the stylistic levels, the texts are unusually homogeneous: most of them were spoken in genuine plain colloquial style, and the number of borrowings from other dialects or Literary Arabic are few (e.g., Eg. ha-tkun 19:91, ma fis 21:13; LA matalan 30:33, masalan 24:264, masal 24:25). The annotation of the texts is rich and excellent indeed. Only seldom does a linguistic note remain obscure, e.g., "w-innama for OA wa-innama" (24:25), which seems to imply that w-innama in the dialect of the tribe is an item inherited from OA. It may be so, but it might rather be explained as a borrowing from Standard Arabic, perhaps via educated Egyptian Arabic: the retention of the stress in w-innama has led - in accordance with the stress patterns in the dialect of the tribe - to the lengthening of /a/. This is also suggested by the stylistic context: fa lan, hu rub, w-innama ar-rub, masal, les in. . . .

"In the preface to part 1, Stewart gives an interesting account of problems involved in translating idiomatic Bedouin speech. He has chosen not to attempt to convey its style in the translation; as a matter of fact, to understand a literal translation of the figurative Bedouin idiom, special knowledge of the language and culture is needed that would make a translation superfluous. Stewart's translations, though at times free to the point of paraphrase, catch the sense of the texts and faithfully render the original contents. The result is a highly readable English text which gives all relevant information about everything that is of legal significance. What is left of the original stylistic charm after its transition from the spoken to the written word is to be read in the transcriptions in part 2.

Although the linguistic type of the texts is well known through Blanc's article on the dialect of the Negev Bedouin, this collection adds much of interest on all levels of the language. A striking linguistic feature is the vowel pattern CuCuC- in the perf. act. of Form I: kubur, tugul, sugur, tuxun, gulud, urud, kutur, suxun, gusur, xulus (53:4n). While the OA patterns CaCiC- and CaCuC- are regularly represented by CiCiC- in modem Arabic dialects, this dialect seems to have preserved the old morphological distinction between CiCiC- < CaCiC- and CuCuC- < CaCuC-. Among other peculiarities found in the texts, a rare feature of the dialect of the Tarabin may be mentioned, viz., the apocopated imperfect of the verb ja: tijni you come to me' (42:2n.), also used when the verb is not followed by a suffixed pronoun; cf. Ahaywat: tjini. In the dialect of the Ahaywat, the imperfect of the verb a ta is sometimes apocopated: w-ti t atwa `and you give a free truce' (26:33) (five occurrences in all).

The special stylistic traits of the collection include many instances of formulaic speech, most conspicuously in text 37, which abounds in rhymed formulae characteristic of the style used in pleadings, e.g., w-hijjit bilim ind rajl fihim (37:18) `this is the pleading of an inarticulate man before a wise one'. Another interesting stylistic feature is the use of reversed kinship addresses related to the commonly known yaba and yumma `my son, my daughter', used by father and mother, respectively. In addition to the well-known reversed address type ya waladi (a woman is addressed) (69:32), addresses with suffixed 2nd p. pronouns also occur: ya nisibak `my brother-in-law' (35:11), ya axayyak `my brother' (21:94f.), ya ammak `my boy' (15:80) (paternal uncle is speaking), ya xalak `my boy' (15:164) (maternal uncle is speaking).

Abundant lexical information is rendered readily accessible in a 95-page glossary which comprises practically all the items occurring in the texts, furnished with relevant morphological data, often complemented with examples of the use, as well as with references to previous publications. The glossary is followed by a very useful list of phrases comprising 164 fixed expressions.

Stewart's collection of texts is not only an admirably well-edited document of the customary law of the Sinai Bedouin; as a rich and reliable linguistic document it is bound to become a standard work of reference on Bedouin Arabic.
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Title Annotation:2 parts
Author:Palva, Heikki
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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