Gaddafi Jr tries Libyan

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Lameen Souag at Jabal al-Lughat discusses "Gaddafi Jr's speech":

In his rather desperate speech today, Saif Al Islam Gaddafi opened with a sociolinguistically very interesting statement:

əlyōm saatakallam maʕākum… bidūn waraqa maktūba, 'aw xiṭāb maktūb. 'aw natakallam maʕakum bi… luɣa ħattā ʕarabiyya fuṣħa. əlyōm saatakallam maʕakum bilahža lībiyya. wa-sa'uxāṭibkum mubāšaratan, ka-fard min 'afrād hāða ššaʕb əllībi. wa-sa'akūn irtižāliyyan fī kalimatī. wa-ħattā l'afkār wa-nniqāṭ ɣeyr mujahhaza u-muʕadda musbaqan. liʔanna hāðā ħadīθ min alqalb wa-lʕaql. (YouTube – first minute; conspicuously dialectal bits bolded)

Today I will speak with you… without a written paper, or a written speech. (N)or even speak to you in the Classical (fuṣħā) Arabic language. Today I will speak with you in Libyan dialect, and address you directly, as an individual member of this Libyan people. And I will speak extempore. Even the ideas and the points are not prepared in advance. Because this is a speech from the heart and the mind.

Read the whole thing.


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  2. HP said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

    Let me see if I understand the sociolinguistic significance.

    Some years ago, I was employed by a mid-sized corporation that was failing due to massive mismanagement. Employee morale was at rock-bottom, so the CEO called an all-hands meeting to give us a similar "heart-to-heart" talk, which began with the following anecdote: "Last week I was in Paris trying to make reservations at the Ritz — and I'm sure you all know what that's like."

    Within weeks, he was publicly escorted from the building by the Board of Directors.

  3. J Lee said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    I'm curious whether his friends and intimates call him "Sword of Islam" at, say, a match.

  4. GeorgeW said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

    J. Lee: The Sword of Islam had lots of warnings in his folksy, unprepared, unwritten speech, about the threat of Islamists taking over if the dear leader stepped down. Some sword he is.

    I actually think it was largely unprepared as he kept repeating himself throughout. Maybe he had a few points to written and he kept making them and making them and making them . . . . . "Libya is not Egypt." "There will be chaos without us," "the economy will collapse without us."

  5. Janice Byer said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

    "I speak from the heart" is among those transparent speech tics like "trust me" that betray calculating self-interest Gaddafi Jr doth protest his populism too much.

  6. Nijma said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

    There a video of a chant here from Souq al Jummah in Tripoli. Don't know what you would call it, maybe an iambic tetrameter as opposed to the trochaic tetrameter ("hey, hey, LBJ…") of American protest marches, but the cadence is instantly recognizable to me as a Middle Eastern protest march.

  7. Cameron said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

    My question is his knowledge of Libyan history. In every translation I have checked, Gaddafi raised the spectre of the "civil war of 1936." The thing is, there was no such war. There was an Italians vs. Libyans conflict that becane pretty intense in the late 1920's, but that was a colonial-type struggle more than a civil war and, anyways, it was long finished by 1936. Translation error, or stunning, embarassing ignorance of his country's own history?

  8. GeorgeW said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 5:49 am

    Cameron: I did several word searches of "The Arabs: A History" (Kindle Edition) by Eurgen Rogan which is a history the Arabs from the the Ottoman period forward. He mentions no Libyan civil war at that time.

  9. Janice Byer said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 9:18 am

    Nijma, for music, that chant, so far as I know, has all ours beat. To my ear, at least, there's an echo of some of its momentum in the rhythm of what boys shouted in protests ignited by Nixon's unlawful escalation of the war into Cambodia:

    "Hell, no – we won't go! Hell, no – we won't go! Hell, no – we won't go!…"

  10. Linda said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 10:24 am

    @ Nijma, Janice Byer.

    The chant sounds the same as the old standard "The people, United, Shall never be defeated." Which has the added musical interest of call, response and chorus.

  11. Bob Violence said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 11:50 am

    Translation error, or stunning, embarassing ignorance of his country's own history?

    Maybe he meant the Spanish Civil War?

  12. GeorgeW said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    Bob & Cameron: Come on, give the poor son of a despot a break! When one is speaking extemporaneously and from the heart, these kind of mistakes are to be expected.

  13. Nijma said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

    I haven't seen the translation, but Hourani's history mentions military action in the east of Libya. In 1918 Italy was established on Libya's coast and by 1939 occupied the whole of Libya, "…the appropriation of land by immigrants was important during the period 1918-39." "…Italian rule had been extended from the Libyan coast into the desert by 1934." "In Cyrenaica, the eastern part of Libya, there was an official colonization of lands expropriated for the purpose, and with funds supplied by the Italian government." And most interesting, "During the Italian conquest of Libya, resistance in the eastern region, Cyrenaica, was led and directed by the head of the Sanusi order."

    Libya's King Idris, who Qaddafi deposed in 1969, was Senussi. Qaddafi's family was involved in guerrilla resistance against the Italians, but independent of the Idris group. Someone else may be able to comment on the British operating behind Italian/German lines in WWII, from the Senussi Benghazi hinterland.

    protest chanting:
    Here is another chant with the same cadence as the previous one. They are said to be chanting "God, the people, and only Libya!" The protesters in the first video are chanting بالروح بالدم نفديك يابنغازي , "With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you Benghazi!"

  14. Canehan said,

    February 23, 2011 @ 6:23 am

    The British Long Range Desert Group, and Popski's Private Army, an official British Army unit formed and led by Vladimir Peniakov, operated in the hinterland, and coastal areas, near Benghazi in WII. Peniakov established strong personal relations with leading Senussi sheikhs there, and was able to live for months at a time within easy reach of Italian forces. As I recall he was only once given away to the Italians, evaded them easily, and the betrayers were dealt with, with extreme prejudice, by other tribesmen.

    The Italians had put settlers on the most productive land so evidently the tribes resented them.

  15. Mark F. said,

    February 23, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    I realize this post is a few days old, but I was wondering if I could calibrate my understanding. Earlier, in a post about Tunisia, you wrote

    For those who aren't familiar with Arabic diglossia, a plausible analogy would be to equate "Classical Arabic" with Latin, to compare "Modern Standard Arabic" (MSA) to the variety of Latin used in the Vatican (with words and phrases added over the years to refer to more recent objects and concepts), and to link the various "spoken" Arabics (sometimes called "colloquials" or "dialects") with modern Latin-derived "Romance" languages like French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, etc.

    I thought this was a pretty striking characterization, but now I'm puzzled. My impression is that if you took a passage of Spanish, Italian, or (certainly) French, and bolded the parts that differed conspicuously from Latin, you would have a lot of bold text. Is Libyan spoken Arabic unusually similar to MSA, or was I taking your statement too literally, or am I misunderstanding in some other way?

  16. Mark F. said,

    February 23, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    An alternate possibility, I guess, is that Gaddafi Jr's Libyan Arabic is strongly influenced by his MSA.

  17. John Cowan said,

    February 24, 2011 @ 3:04 am

    Mark F.: What's happening here, as Lameen makes clear, is that this speech actually is in MSA with just a few Libyan Arabic touches here and there.

  18. Nijma said,

    February 24, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    JC, Yes, Lameen marks the portions of the speech that are exclusively MSA, but I suspect that what is not clear to John F (and what is not clear to me either) is what part of the remaining speech is exclusively colloquial and what part is an overlap of the two languages/dialects.

    By way of example, a friend of mine who studied both Jordanian and foosHa Arabic told me the parts of the face, eyes, nose, mouth, etc, are exactly the same in both colloquial and foosHa, except for the eyebrows (or was it eyelashes?) That's a lot of similarity for two languages that are supposed to be as mutually unintelligible as Europe's Romance languages. On the other hand, a Jordanian neighbor of mine used to teach school in Jordan where they are expected to speak foos-ha in the classroom, but only do so when an inspector from the ministry of education comes around. She rattled off a series of entirely unique MSA phrases that she had memorized. Another difference I know of is that colloquial only has something like 8 verb tenses while MSA has something like 11. But how many verb tenses are likely to come up in one speech?

    Some of the comments on that thread are enlightening, but the examples given in English tend more towards different registers of the same language rather than the mutual unintelligibility of the Romance language model. Perhaps someone who sprinkles Latin phrases into an English speech would be a better example–or perhaps not, since I understand MSA was not derived from colloquial, but the other way around, (sort of).

  19. Nijma said,

    February 24, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    Rather, I meant to say the marked portions of the speech are exclusively dialect.

  20. kato said,

    February 25, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    Just to clarify. By 1936, the Libyan resistance against the Italians was effectively finished. As much as I try, I can't think of a major event or conflict that took place in Libya at that time. Perhaps Gaddafi Jr was trying to support his father's position that civil war is a possible outcome of the people protesting his regime by coming up with an example far enough back in history that most young people wouldn't be able to prove it wrong or right.

    As for the speech, most of it was in MSA. He hardly spoke a complete phrase in Libya. The most conspicuous Libyan feature was na-, but even that was limited. Additionally, he pronounced qaf as /q/ as much as or more than /g/. The point is there was no part of the speech that was exclusively dialectal (He speaks the Tripoli dialect).

  21. Edwin said,

    August 5, 2011 @ 3:45 am

    But how many verb tenses are likely to come up in one speech?

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