The sporadic translation of some Arabic words in a text’s margins
This is the fifth post in a series on types of Ajami. Read the initial introduction here and find all of the posts here.
Type 4 refers to the occasional and random translation of some Arabic words in the margins of the main text. Such “Occasional Ajami” is found in manuscripts that usually reflect a more advanced level of Islamic education; when Arabic is the sole scholarly language and there is no need to use local languages as props as in intermediate phases of learning.
Continue reading “Occasional Ajami (Type 4)”
Ajami phrases written above or below corresponding Arabic phrases in the space between the lines.
This is the fourth post in a series on types of Ajami. Read the initial introduction here and find all of the posts here.
In “interlinear” Ajami manuscripts, annotations in Ajami are systematically applied to the source Arabic text in order to explicate its grammatical structures and render accurate translations.
Continue reading “Systematic Interlinear Ajami Glosses (Type 3)”
Manuscripts where Ajami phrases follow Arabic phrases on the same line.
This is the third post in a series on types of Ajami. Read the initial introduction here and find all of the posts here.
“Intralinear Ajami”, in the strictest sense, refers to African language phrases following Arabic ones written on the same line. Similarly to Type 1 (which I reviewed in my previous post), such Ajami, which I call Type 2, is written in a continuous act of writing.
Continue reading “Intralinear Ajami (Type 2)”
Ajami documents that are exclusively or predominantly in an African language.
This is the second post in a series on types of Ajami. Read the initial introduction here and find all of the posts here.
“Ajami primary” refers to manuscripts that are predominantly or exclusively written in an African language. They are the best studied and until 2010s they were the only focus of Ajami research.
Single Ajami texts can roughly be subdivided into three subtypes: poetry, history and correspondence.
Continue reading “Ajami primary manuscripts (Type 1)”
Welcome to a series of posts, exploring types of African Ajami manuscripts
This is the first post in a mini-series on types of Ajami manuscripts. See all the posts here.
What forms do “Ajami manuscripts” actually
This post, the first of a mini-series, seeks to answer this question by giving a general description of Ajami types along with some hints as to how they change across time. Subsequent posts will be more in-depth looks at each individual type with specific examples and discussions of their relevance for research.
Continue reading “Types of African Ajami”
A “way of speaking” particular to learned Muslims of West Africa.
As part of my work in the Ajami Lab, I am currently working to analyze and contextualize the existence and emergence of Manding’s scholarly Islamic register.
Manding is a West African trade language spoken by tens of millions of people. From one perspective, it is well documented. There are a range of linguistic grammars and dictionaries that describe both the four major varieties–Bambara, Jula, Maninka and Mandinka–as well as smaller local dialects.
While such studies are essential, they reduce variation in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar to a question of dialectology. Differences in the ways that we speak with one another, however, are never just a question of dialect.
Continue reading “Manding’s Islamic Scholarly Register: An Initial Look”
Where can one find African languages written in Arabic script on the internet?
One need not go to West African or anywhere else to contribute to research of manuscripts that contain instances of African languages written in Ajami (that is, Arabic characters).
What follows is a list of the most prominent collection of Ajami texts and or resources available on the internet that I could find.
Continue reading “Online Ajami Sources and Resources”
Today, one is more likely to come across Manding written in N’ko than in Arabic (or even Latin) script. But did N’ko stifle Ajami or emerge from it?
This post is related to this publication which was accepted in the African Studies Review in September 2019.
Robust traditions of Ajami exist and have been relatively well documented and studied for major West African languages such as Wolof, Hausa, and Fulani. It surprising then that thus far there have been few Ajami texts found for major Manding varieties such as Bamanan, Maninka and Jula.
Today, in many Manding-speaking areas, one is more likely to come across the language written in N’ko than in Arabic (or even Latin) script.
Continue reading “Connections between N’ko and Ajami”
By Coleman Donaldson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
The interlinear glosses written in African languages of West Africa often have a descriptive metalinguistic marker, asserting the presence of an Ajami segment.
Our blog has the acronym A-LABEL: we deal a lot with the African languages between the lines. But why “label”? This is because the interlinear glosses written in African languages of West Africa often have a descriptive metalinguistic marker, asserting the presence of an Ajami segment. This marker is typically a graphic variation of the word ʿajamī (عجمي – the form written on our logo) or ʿajam. Another way of the metalinguistic labelling of the Ajami glosses found in the manuscripts is the Arabic phrase fī kalāminā ‘in our language’ (في كلامنا) and its variations (for the use of ʿajamī and fī kalāminā in Soninke and other Mande manuscripts see Ogorodnikova 2017: 122-125).
Continue reading “The Revelation: The earliest known use of ʿajamī as a label”
More on “invisible” Ajami from our colleague Nikolay Dobronravin who already wrote for our Ajami Lab a piece on invisibility of Ajami writing in Nigeria, Chad and Sudan. This time he takes us to Darfur (‘the land of the Fur’) to explore a history of Ajami writing in Fur, a Nilo-Sahran language spoken in the west of the Republic of the Sudan.
Read his fascinating account of Fur Ajami: The Fur (For, Fūranq bilī, Poor’íŋ belé) variety of Ajami: an invisible tradition.
Following Nikolay’s lead outlined in the above paper, I am heading to London next week to consult Kītāb Dālī , the mysterious Fur law book. Who knows, maybe we are just a short flight from another Ajami discovery.
The conventions we use to transliterate African languages from Arabic to Latin script.
One of the hardest things about working on Ajami manuscripts is interpreting the African language that is written in the Arabic script. This is because oftentimes certain contrastive sounds (phonemes, nasalization, tone) are not marked.
Continue reading “Transliterating Ajami into the Latin script”
Working through Ajami manuscripts can be slow-going. Here is a standard workflow using Tropy that can make it a little easier.
Working through Ajami manuscripts can be slow-going. One important tool in our workflow is the open-source software Tropy from the same people behind everyone’s favorite reference management software Zotero.
Continue reading “How to use Tropy to analyze Ajami manuscripts”
Presentations and slides from the Ajami Lab’s Nov 2018 workshop
While preparing some new material on types of Ajami manuscripts and specific approaches to study them (based on this talk), I post here an updated programme of the last year’s workshop. A big thank you to all participants and presenters! Here are the links to slide presentations (following the order of the talks in the programme):
Continue reading “Updated abstracts and presentations from Ajami Lab Workshop, 31 Oct-1 Nov, 2018”
Jula lexical data from Jan 2019
I spent most of January in western Burkina Faso doing research related to linguistic registers and Quranic education and scholarship in Jula-speaking areas.
Continue reading “Jula lexicographic data on Zenodo”
Identifying an African language written in Arabic script may be problematic even for speakers of the language. It is especially challenging when the Ajami items are represented by isolated words in the margins of an Arabic manuscript. Moreover, if the Ajami item is not visually linked to the intended Arabic phrase or word, it is almost impossible to tell what the Ajami item means and in which language it is written.
Continue reading “Identifying languages of Ajami commentaries”