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The Gadabursi Somali Script

The Gadabursi Somali Script

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The Gadabursi Somali Script
The Gadabursi Somali Script

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Published by: newwaver203239 on May 31, 2009
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The Gadabuursi Somali ScriptAuthor(s): I. M. LewisSource:
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,
Vol. 21,No. 1/3 (1958), pp. 134-156Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African StudiesStable URL:
Accessed: 28/01/2009 21:30
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 Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of  London.
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THEGADABUURSISOMALISCRIPTByI. M.LEWISTthemoment,bothinthe BritishProtectorateand inSomalia,theadoptionofastandardorthographyforthe Somalilanguageisfiercelydebated.1Indiscussionofthe merits ofthevariousscriptsproposed,technicalproblemsoforthographyhavetosomeextent been lostsightof.Nationalisticargumentshave favoured 'Somaliwriting'('Ismaaniya)whilereligiousorPan-IslamicargumentshavesupportedanArabicscript.Thisarticle
9
discusses an ortho-graphyinventedsome20yearsagobyawell-knownGadabuursisheikh,Sheikh'AbduratmaanSh.Nuur,thepresentGovernmentQ-tiofBoramaDistrict
8
inthe west of the BritishProtectorate. Thescripthasnot,as farasI amaware,beenpreviouslydescribedinthe literature onSomaliland.4Ipublishit here withnointention ofattemptingtocontribute tothealreadyabundant confusioninthechoice of astandardorthographyfor Somali.Sh.'Abdurahmaan'scriptisofconsiderableinguisticandethnologicalnterest,sinceitseems,after'Ismaaniya,to bethesecondnon-ArabicSomali ortho-graphytobeinvented inSomaliland.6TheproblemsinvolvedindevisingascriptforSomali andthe Sheikh'sachievement can bestbeappreciatedfwereviewbrieflythehistoryofattemptsto writeSomali,in Somaliland.Weare notconcernedwithstudies madeby professionalEuropeanphilologists.
1Thedisputeovertheadoptionofanorthographymaybestudiedfrom thenumerousarticleson thesubjectwhich haveappearedoverthepastfewyearsin BritishSomalilandn theperiodicalWarSomaliSidihi,andinSomaliain IICorriere ela Somalia and morerecentlyinSomaliad'Oggi.Abrave,ifunwise,attemptto solve theproblemwasmadein March1957bytheGovernmentofSomaliawhich launchedWargeyskaSomaliyed,anewspaperprintedentirelyin aphoneticallyaccuratebutsimple transcriptionofSomaliin romancharacters. Thepublicationof thisjournal,usingromancharactersasamediumforSomali,raised such a storm ofpopular protest-especiallyfromtheadvocates of'Ismaaniya-thatithad tobewithdrawn frompublicationafterafewnumbershadappeared.
2
Ispenta little under twoyears,during1955-7,mainlyin the BritishProtectorate,as Fellowin SocialAnthropologyof theColonial SocialScienceResearchCouncil, London,towhosegenerosityI amgreatlyindebtedforfinancingmyresearch.
3
Place-namesin thisarticle arenormallyspeltaccordingtogeneralAdministrativeusagein theProtectorate.InwritingotherSomaliwordsAndrzejewski's transcriptionasusedinBell, 1953,andAndrzejewskiandGalaal,1956,isfollowed.Propernames ofpersonsalthoughofArabicorigininmanycases arerepresentednthisorthographywiththeir Somalipronuncia-tion. TheSomalipronunciationof otherArabicexpressionsusedisalso indicated.4Theexpression'Somaliland'isusedheretodenote all theSomalicountries,andnotsimplythe British Protectorate.
5
Severalattemptsappeartohave beenmadebySomalis,with inmanycasesEuropeanencouragement-governmentalormissionary-towriteSomali in roman characters.Suchscripts-otherthan theconventionalsystemsusedbyofficialsforwriting personalandplace-namesinroman characters-haveacquiredlittleor nogeneralcurrency.Adaptationsof romancharacterstorepresentSomali soundsare,ofcourse,notinventions in thesensethattheGada-buursi andcIsmaaniyascriptsare.
 
THE GADABUURSISOMALISCRIPT
I.ArabicScriptsTheintroductionofArabicintonorthernSomalilandsgenerallyattributedtoSheikh YuusufbinAhmadal-Kawneyn(orAwBarkhadle,as he ispopularlyknown)ofashrdfdescent,saidtohave cometoSomaliland as aproselytizerofIslaminthe thirteenthcentury.lTheSharifadvanced theteachingofArabictoSomalisbydevisingaSomalinomenclatureforthe Arabicvowels,fatha,kasra,anddamma,asshown.AlifwithfathaiscalledinSomalialiflakordabey
-)2;
alifwithkasra is inSomalialiflahoosdabey1)3;andalifwith damma sinSomalialiflagodey
(t).4
ThisSomali nomenclaturefor thevocalizationof the Arabicconsonants istaughtto thisdayinprivateQur'anicschoolsthroughoutthecountry.Thesystemattributed toSharifYuusufenabled his Somalipupilstolearntoread andwriteArabic.There is noearlyrecord,however,as faras isknown,ofanyArabhaving adaptedArabicscriptasavehicleforwritingSomali. Butit is notunreasonabletosupposethatSomalis with aknowledgeofArabic haveformanycenturies written a some-timesungrammaticalArabiccontainingmanySomali wordsastheystill doto-day.Apartfrom thesmallproportionof thepopulationwhohavelearntArabicinGovernmentchools,abilitytowriteinArabic sgenerallyimitedtowadaads,5sheikhs,and businessmenormerchants,who havelearntinprivateQur'anicschools.Mostchildren have at onetimeor anotherspentsometime,ifonlyafewmonths,learningbyheart under a sheikhorteacher(macallin)somechaptersfromtheQur'an.Butalthoughthestandard of Islamicinstruction,includingArabic,isoftenquitehigh amongstthose who havespentyearsatsuchschools,theproportionofthepopulationwho canwriteaswell asreadArabicisrelativelysmall.Thiscanbeappreciatedfromthe fact that a mancanenjoythetitleof sheikhwithoutbeingableto write much Arabic andwithonlyaverylimitedabilityto readthelanguage.Anyonewho devotes hislifetoreligionis awadaad,howeverslighthisacquaintancewithArabic.Manymen whopractiseaswadaads,presidingover localreligiousceremonies(allsacrifices,Rabbibari,6heFridayPrayers-ifthecongregationinadistrict issufficientlylargeto warranttheirobservance,dhikrs(inSomalipronunciationdikri-ga),siyaaros,andthe mawliids ofsaints,andall otherreligiousoccasions)andactingasunofficiallocalqad.s,knowonlysufficientArabic toreadfrom
1TheSharff'stombwhich is the scene of an annualpilgrimage(siyaaro-da)mainlyfortheclans of theIshaaqclan-familyissituated some 20 miles to thenorth-east ofHargeisa.SeeWebber,1956. For anindicationof theSharif'srole in Somalitradition,seeLewis, 1956,153.Ihopetodiscuss theSharlfmorefullyelsewhere.
2
Lit.'alif(which)issurmounted'.
3
Lit.alif (which)sundercut'.
4
Lit.'alif(which)ishollowed-out'.
5
Wadaadsa Somalisynonymforthe Ar.sheikh,but inSomalilandthewordsheikhoftendenotesaslightly higherstatus inreligionthandoeswadaad.
6
Literally,'begging,orbeseeching,God'.Otherexpressionsarealsoused,ase.g.AUaah-bari,andinHawiyedialect theprobablypre-IslamiccompoundsWaaqda:ilandWaaqdacin,fromWaaq,one of thepre-IslamicCushiticnames ofGod.
135

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