Monday, April 23, 2018

The Relationship of the Nubian and Meroitic Languages

The Meroitic language was a lingua franca. As a result it includes many words from the languages spoken in the Meroitic Empire.
For a long time we were unable to recover the languages spoken during the Meroitic period because Meroitic was not deciphered. Since my decipherment of Meroitic now we can recover some of the languages spoken by the Meroites.
Brother Anas Elbashir, after comparing Colloquial Sudanese Arabic to words in my Meroitic Word List, has illustrated the continued use of classical Meroitic terms among contemporary Sudanese.
1.1To determine the past of man, scientists use historical and comparative linguistics. Historical linguistics seeks to describe the way languages change or maintain their structure over a period of time. The present state of a language is its synchronic state; whereas the transition from one state to the next is the diachronic state. Comparative linguistics is that branch of linguistics which discloses and studies similarities and difference between related languages.
 1.2There are two types of relatedness between languages: genetic and typological.  The closeness of languages depends on the number of rules the languages have in common. A genetic relationship means that a group of languages descend from a common ancestor. A typological relationship means that languages have a few common structural features. The closeness of languages depends on the number of rules the languages have in common.
 1.3There is an ethnic relationship behind a genetic relationship of languages because a genetic relationship suggests a family relationship. The basic objective of the comparative linguist is to isolate words with common or similar meanings that have systematic consonantal agreement with little regard for the location of the vowels. Consonantal agreement is the regular appearance of consonants at certain locations in words having similar meanings and representing similar speech sounds.
1.4Meroitic and Nubian share a genetic linguistic relationship. These two languages share many kinship terms, nouns and verbs. The Nubian terms are from Dongolawi, Modern Nubian, and Old Nubian.

1.5 In Tables 1 and Tables 1a, we see 34 cognate Meroitic and Nubian terms. Analogy exist between  Nubian and Meroitic terms. In relation to Meroitic and Nubian terms 41% show full correspondence and 59% had partial correspondence.

1.6There is Nubian and Meroitic Consonantal Correspondence
Nubian                                                        Meroitic 
tak       'to cover'                                        te 'to put. To lay'                                                                                                   
t'a        'to come'                                        tña  'come into being'                       
tok, tuk 'leave, set in motion                tk
tay              'girl'                                        to 'feminine suffix           
aba, abo        father                                            ab   
essi                  sister                                               šr
samil                chief,king                                   sr, sl

ur                         king                                             wl,wr                                                                          
toud                    son                                               mte                                                                            
wel                      dog                                               wle
*den,tir            to give                                           d                                                                  
diya              'place'                                               te                                                                                                
diya              'village'                                            to   'to dwell'                                                                                          
da                country'                                           t                                                                                      
ker         pick up'                                             kd  'to bear'  
nukt       glory'                                                 ñt   ‘honor’                                                                                                                                                                                    
unn      'to give birth'                               tn 'to be born'
uȠur  'to know'                                               aḫ 'to learn
ɛ=/= e                                  
ɛrri, έrr    'new'                                          er 'produce, evoke'                                                                                         
dawi   'road'                                              ato   down the road'                          
ursέ   'root'                                               ro  'foundation'   
n'al   'see'                                                 ni ' to shine,to illuminate  
en    'women'                                       -ñ '3rd per promoun 'her'                                                                      
màša  'sun'                                        'Sun God
Ƞul   'white'                                          in-ne  'radiance'                                                                  
màša  'sun'                                          'Sun God'     

1.7Nubian and Meroitic also share vowel correspondence
a/e     u/w
a/I     i/i
e/e   o/u                                                                                                        

1.8In conclusion, the Meroitic Empire was made of diverse African nations speaking a variety of African languages. Some of the speakers of these languages migrated into West Africa, while other Meroites remained in the Nile Valley.  This comparison of Meroitic and Nubian illustrates that Nubian was spoken in the Meroitic Empire.
1.9Some linguists would question the ability to compare Meroitic to modern Nubian languages. We can compare these languages due to the linguistic continuity theory .
1.10The rate at which  languages change is variable. It appears that linguistic change is culture specific. Consequently, the social organization and political culture of a particular speech community can influence the speed at which languages change.
1.11 Based on the history of language change in Europe most linguists believe that the rate of change for all languages is both rapid and constant (Diagne, 1981,238).  The idea that all languages change rapidly is not valid for all the World's languages.
1.12Dr. Clyde Winters,  ( 1996), explained that  the rate at which languages change is variable. It appears that linguistic change is culture specific. Consequently, the social organization and political culture of a particular speech community can influence the speed at which languages change. Based on the history of language change in Europe most linguists believe that the rate of change for all languages is both rapid and constant (Diagne, 1981, p.238).
1.13The idea that all languages change rapidly is not valid for all the World's languages.The continuity of many African languages may result from the steady state nature of African political systems, and long standing cultural stability since Neolithic times (Diop, 1991 ; Winters 1996).
1.14This cultural stability has affected the speed at which African languages change.The political stability of African political institutions has caused languages to change very slowly in Africa (Winters 1996). Diop (1987, 1991) argue that a sedentary life style may account for the conservative nature of a language.
1.15This leads to the hypothesis that linguistic continuity exist in Africa due to the continuity or stability of African socio-political structures and cultural systems. This relative cultural stability has led African languages to change more slowly then European and Asian languages. Diop (1974) observed that: First the evolution of languages, instead of moving everywhere at the same rate of speed seems linked to other factors; such as , the stability of social organizations or the opposite, social upheavals. Understandably in relatively stable societies man's language has changed less with the passage of time (pp.153-154). In the case of Nubian languages, we know that while some Nubian speakers migrated into Eurasia after 1500 BC, most Nubian speakers probably remained in the Nile Valley.
1.16This comparison of Meroitic and Nubian shows a genetic linguistic relationship exist between these two languages. The linguistic evidence of a relationship between Nubian and Meroitic supports the  African linguistic continuity concept.

Further Readings:

Griffith, F.Ll. 1909. Meroitic inscriptions. In Areika, (ed) by MacIver, D.R. & Woolley, C.L. Vol.1. Philadelphia.
Griffith, F.L.1911a. Karanog. The Meroitic Inscriptions of Shablul and Karanog. Philadelphia: Eckley B. Coxe Jr Expedition to Nubia. Vol.VI.
Griffith, F. Ll. 1911b. Meroitic Inscriptions: Part I. London: The Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Griffith, F. Ll. 1912. Meroitic Inscriptions: Part II. London: The Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Beja and Meroitic ,
Anas Elbashir Ahmed Musa , Old Sudanese Language and Meroitic ,
Clyde Winters (1996) . Linguistic Continuity and African and Dravidian languages  ,International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 23 (2):34-52.

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