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RECENT ARABIC LITERATURE 

Le Parler arabe des Juifs d' Alger. Par Marcel Cohen, charge 
de cours a l'£cole des Langues Orientales. Paris : H. Cham- 
pion, 1912. pp. xvii + 559. 

Until quite recent times philological studies were mainly 
devoted to the grammatical speech and literature, and the 
languages of the people were contemptuously disregarded. That 
this attitude is at best one-sided is self-evident. For the grammar 
of a language represents the arbitrary views of a school of a 
certain period, and usually arrests the natural development, 
whereas the common people who remain uninfluenced by 
grammar continue to develop a dialect of their own. Due to these 
considerations, the investigation of various dialects is assiduously 
pursued in modern times. In Arabic especially such studies are 
of vital importance. The classical language, as represented in 
the Kur'an and early poetry is to some extent still the model 
for Arabian writers throughout the globe, but the numerous 
dialects differ so greatly from one another, that a man well versed 
in one will be at a loss to understand another. For the com- 
parative grammar of Semitic languages, dialects offer suggestive 
hints, and Brockelmann in his Grundriss made ample use of 
them. As Jews form a group for themselves, they usually develop 
dialects of their own, which preserve important features of the 
parent tongue. 

That the Arabic dialect spoken by the Jews of Algiers deserves 
special treatment is fully justified by Marcel Cohen's book, which 
is an exhaustive study of this dialect, and throws a good deal 
of light on the development of that language. Such a book 
would naturally have been best written by a native of Algiers. 
It is, however, a remarkable fact that speakers of a certain dialect 
are seldom alive to its importance. Thus Jewish-German, though 
the vehicle of thought of several millions of Jews, and possessing 

3" 



312 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

a rapidly-growing literature, has not been yet treated comprehen- 
sively. And it should be borne in mind that there are a fairly large 
number of philologists whose mother-tongue is Jewish-German. 
It would therefore be unreasonable to wait for a native to write 
a comprehensive study of the dialect of the Jews of Algiers. 
M. Marcel Cohen, who seems to have had an excellent philo- 
logical training, made a careful study of this dialect while 
sojourning in Algiers. He availed himself of the services of 
intelligent natives, who supplied him with apparently reliable 
information. 

In his Introduction M. Cohen gives a short sketch of the Jews 
of Algiers. The usual tragedy of Jews in the diaspora reveals 
itself here. They are swayed by foreign influences, and are the 
first to discard their language and adopt another. There is every 
reason to believe that soon Arabic will cease to be the language 
of the Jews of Algiers, and will be supplanted by French, the 
language of the recent conquerors. M. Cohen also points out 
the characteristics wherein this dialect differs from the other 
dialects spoken by Muhammadans or Jews. He maintains that 
this is a real dialect, and not a jargon, as it is usually considered 
by the non-Jewish population of Algiers, and by Barges in his 
work on Tlemcen. This view can, however, be contested, and 
our decision depends on the exact definition of the term Jargon. 
This Jewish dialect contains a considerable amount of Hebrew 
loan-words to make it unintelligible to non-Jews. In this respect 
it resembles Jewish-German, which is commonly known as jargon. 
Moreover, the Jews of Algiers, as their history shows, are com- 
posed of heterogeneous elements, and conflicting influences were 
at work to make their dialect what it is to-day. It is thus deprived 
of a natural development which is the primary characteristic of 
a dialect. 

The first part of this important work deals with phonetics. 
M. Cohen is very exhaustive, and treats of all sounds very 
minutely. One is, however, inclined to doubt the accuracy of 
this difficult study. For one who is not a native will find it 
impossible to determine whether certain characteristics are indi- 



RECENT ARABIC LITERATURE — HALPER 313 

vidual or general. This difficulty is almost unsurmountable in 
the case of unaccented vowels, where even the most careful 
inquiries would fail to elicit reliable information. It will, however, 
be readily granted that M. Cohen obtained the best possible 
results under the circumstances. Moreover, he seems to have 
been supported by the independent investigations of W. Marcais, 
whom the author frequently quotes. It is interesting to note that 
many Jews of Algiers are unable to pronounce sh, a characteristic 
which is shared by Jews in certain parts of Lithuania. The fact 
that k is sometimes pronounced as hamza is to be ascribed 
perhaps to some Jews who immigrated from Egypt, where this 
is quite usual. On the whole, I think that most of these 
characteristics are to be explained in some such way. 

Of greater importance and interest is the second part dealing 
with morphology. Here the author could work with greater 
accuracy and precision. The wear and tear of language is here 
clearly manifest. It is safe to say that the verbal forms approxi- 
mate Aramaic more than Arabic. The dropping of syllables is 
quite frequent. Trisyllabic forms of classical Arabic are reduced 
to one syllable. To illustrate this point the following example 
will suffice : kteb, ' he wrote ', instead of kataba. This represents 
an advanced stage of decay, for in Egypt keteb is the ordinary 
form. A comparison of this dialect with the other Arabic 
dialects spoken in the Orient will yield fruitful results. One 
may perhaps find Hebrew influence in the usage of ra'a in the 
sense of to be (p. 252), which is like run. Thus rak = •pn, 
thou art. 

The studies in the vocabulary, which form the third part of 
this work, deal chiefly with words borrowed from other languages. 
As may well be imagined, Hebrew loan-words are very prominent. 
Most of the terms employed in religious ceremonies are Hebrew, 
in a grammatical or corrupt form. This is the case with all 
Jewish dialects, for religious terms are not easily translated. But 
the author rightly observes that owing to the fact that the Jews 
of Algiers lack talmudic knowledge, Hebrew words are less 
numerous in this dialect than in Jewish-Spanish or Jewish- 
VOL. IV, Y 



314 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

German. Most of the formulas of greeting are in Hebrew, as 
are also a number of euphemistic expressions. Some Hebrew 
phrases are used as a peculiar slang, which the author treats 
separately. These expressions are sometimes not devoid ot 
humour. Thus ITOO *itJ>5? (ten plagues) means ten francs. 

In explaining these terms our author is not always fortunate, 
and it is to be regretted that this part of the work was not revised 
by a competent Hebrew scholar. Apart from the numerous 
misprints, some of which are corrected in Additions et Corrections 
(pp. xi-xvii), there are many errors in orthography and interpreta- 
tion. NB1D instead of nsno and 3J?3 J!iWi instead of 3K3 njjen 
(p. 393) are left uncorrected. The vocalization is seldom accurate. 
In mentioning the name of a detested dead person, the Algiers 
Jews use the expression ni»X5> *pB« together with the Arabic 
suffix 3rd pers. masc. sing., and the author (p. 396) remarks that 
in Hebrew it ought to be irfeyj? ! Had he looked up a Hebrew 
paradigm, he would have known that the only possible form 
is WiDXy. It should be noted that the Midrash uses pW 
niDXJ? without a pronominal suffix. 310 '3 ^ mn is translated 
by iclat pour Dieu, puisque c'est bon ! mn being taken as a noun. 
He also fails to remark that this phrase occurs in Ps. 136. 1. 

The texts which the author appends are instructive in various 
ways. They are judiciously and carefully chosen, and are calcu- 
lated to give the reader some idea of the customs and manners 
of the Jews of Algiers. Text I is written in Hebrew characters, 
and is supplied with a transcription and French translation. It 
is a humorous anecdote about a Rabbi GhzTiel (little gazelle), 
which reminds one of the anecdotes related of LukmSn. The 
remaining texts are transcribed in European characters, and 
translated into French. Text II is a description of Sabbath 
dishes given by an old woman. It ends with a humorous 

couplet : 

ellebbat bla tflna 

kif essultan bla mdina 

1 Sabbath without ifina (food prepared on Friday and kept warm 
for the Sabbath) is like a king without a city.' 



RECENT ARABIC LITERATURE — HALPER 315 

Text III deals with burial rites, and Text IV describes 
marriage ceremonies. They are very quaint customs, and in 
some way poetic. They remind one of the idyllic state of ancient 
times. The latter text ends with a wedding hymn. Text V is 
a commercial letter. 

The index of the words occurring in this book is well com- 
piled, and serves a useful purpose in enabling one to find out 
what words are peculiar to this dialect. 

Register zum Qprankommentar des Tabari (Kairo, 1321). Von 
Hermann Haussleiter. Strassburg : Karl J. TrDbner, 
1912. pp. 47. 
Among Muhammadan writers of the ninth century Tabari 
stands out pre-eminently as historian and theologian. His 
Annals, which were published under the direction of de Goeje, 
are extensively used. But his magnum opus, his commentary to 
the Kur'an, was hitherto neglected. O. Loth gave a description 
of this monumental work in ZDMG., XXXV (1881), 588-628. 
About ten years ago this work was published at Cairo in thirty 
volumes. The index volume is in Oriental fashion, and is not 
suitable to the needs of European scholars. As a scientific 
European edition of this work can hardly be expected in the 
near future, Haussleiter has compiled a useful index which will 
enable the reader to find his way in this commentary. It was 
undertaken at the instance of Prof. Lidzbarski. The verses are 
marked in accordance with FlugePs edition of the Kur'an. 

Monuments of Arabic Philology. By Dr. Paul BrOnnle. Vol. I. 
Commentary on Ibn Hisham's Biography of Muhammad 
according to Abti Dzarr's MSS. in Berlin, Constantinople, 
and the Escorial (Wuestenfeld's edition, pp. 1-540). Edited 
by Dr. Paul Bronnle. Cairo : F. Diemer, Finck, & Bay- 
laender succ, 1911. pp. 16+208. Vol. II (continuation 
and end), pp. 2 + 258. 

To bridge over the gulf that separates the East from the West 
has often been attempted by making the literature of the one 
accessible to the other. As is usually the fate of Utopian ideas, 

y a 



316 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

no visible success was hitherto achieved, and the East remains 
unknown to the West. Nevertheless, there still exists a small 
band of scholars who, despite all discouragement, persist in 
doing their best to bring about this desired end. Animated 
by this idea, Dr. Paul Bronnle devoted himself to researches in 
Arabic literature, and, as a result of his fruitful labour, is publishing 
Monuments of Arabic Philology in six volumes. 

In order to make the texts accessible to readers of both the 
East and the West, Dr. Brbnnle is issuing two editions: an 
Oriental (Arabic-English) and a European (Arabic-German). The 
former is to contain five volumes of texts, and a volume of critical 
notes and indices of all texts. The editor has skilfully chosen 
texts of varied interest, excluding all grammatical works of which 
abundant specimens had been printed. One needs only to 
glance at the table of contents to be convinced of the sound 
judgement of the editor. These volumes are to comprise works 
by Abu Dzarr, Al-Rabai, Ibn Khalawaih, Qutrub (complete 
works), and 'Ali ibn Hamza. The European edition will be 
published on a slightly different plan ; each volume will be com- 
plete in itself, consisting of texts, critical notes, literary introduction, 
and indices. 

Hitherto two volumes of the Oriental edition appeared, and 
they contain Abu Dzarr's commentary to Ibn Hisham's Biography 
of Muhammad and two short prefaces by the editor. Dr. Bronnle 
had formerly published a thesis entitled f Die Commentatoren 
des Ibn Hisham und ihre Scholien ', in which he gave a detailed 
account of Abu Dzarr and his works. He is thus singularly 
qualified for the task of editing this manuscript. 

The present volumes are an important addition to the Tafsir 
literature of the Arabs. Abu Dzarr is very concise, and does not 
weary the reader with irrelevant verbosity which characterizes 
some of the Arabic commentators. He explains difficult words 
in a brief, but convincing, manner, and is not unlike the Jewish 
commentator Rashi. He avoids the pitfall of ignotumper ignotius, 
a fallacy frequently committed by Arabic commentators, who 
sometimes give the impression as if they aimed at displaying their 



RECENT ARABIC LITERATURE — HALPER 317 

knowledge of synonyms rather than elucidating the text and 
clearing up difficulties. 

It is impossible to pass judgement on the editor's work, as 
these volumes are only provided with short prefaces, which can 
naturally lay no claim to literary merit, for they do not touch upon 
any textual problem. They merely tell of the assistance obtained 
from royal personages, and about the various manuscripts utilized 
for the edition. The consonantal text is clearly and accurately 
printed, but the vowels which are supplied sporadically are fre- 
quently misplaced, and sometimes even wrong. This is perhaps 
due to the fact that Oriental printers are inexperienced in publishing 
vocalized texts. The editor would do well to rectify this error 
in the European edition. 

It is to be hoped that Dr. Bronnle will continue his work and 
earn the gratitude of Arabic scholars all the world over. 

Oriental Cairo, the City of the Arabian Nights. By Douglas 
Sladen. Illustrated with sixty-three intimate pictures of life 
in Oriental Cairo from photographs by the author, and with 
the newest map of Cairo. Philadelphia : J. B. Lippincott 
Company, 191 1. pp. xiv+391. 

Since Napoleon made Egypt his winter quarters, that country 
became the rallying-point of European and American tourists. 
Indeed, the tourist is such an important factor in Egyptian life, 
that Cairo, which is naturally the centre of attraction, assumes 
quite a different aspect during the season which begins in November 
and ends in April. As among these tourists there is a number 
of talented men who come not only to escape the severity of the 
western winter, but also to receive new impressions which they 
wish to record, there sprang up a vast literature on Egypt. 
Edward Lane, who may be regarded as the pioneer in this field, 
had many followers who attempted to narrate what they observed. 
The bulk of these books being personal impressions, they are 
usually not exhaustive, as many places are overlooked or dis- 
regarded by the writers, and are thus not sufficiently reliable for 
the traveller. On the other hand, the guide-books, such as 



318 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Baedeker and Cook, are only good for reference, but are too dull 
for reading. A book on Egypt which should at once be reliable 
and readable has hitherto been a desideratum. Mr. Sladen is, 
therefore, to be congratulated on his achievement. He succeeded 
in the present volume to combine the exhaustiveness of a guide- 
book with the fascination of a book of impressions. Possessing 
an artistic eye and a descriptive pen, he is able to discover 
beautiful things and to describe them graphically. All the 
thirty-four chapters are charmingly written, and some even have 
a fine touch of poetry about them. Mr. Sladen is very enthusiastic 
about the sights he describes, and by the magic of his vivid 
descriptions communicates his enthusiasm to the reader. Sight- 
seers in Cairo will, after perusing this book, find the hidden 
charms of the Pyramids and the Tombs of the Caliphs revealed 
unto them. For Mr. Sladen, beside depicting minutely most 
sights of interest, takes care to inform the reader at what time 
and by what route they may be approached with greater advan- 
tage. In reading this book one feels as if an enthusiastic guide 
with artistic taste and charm takes him for a pleasant excursion, 
pointing out all beautiful objects. 

Although the author does not aim at giving historical accounts, 
he nevertheless embodies in every chapter well-chosen facts which 
would interest the average reader and sight-seer. He advisedly 
abstains from encumbering the reader with tedious details which 
are seldom retained in the mind for more than a few minutes. 
Those, however, who desire further information are referred to 
other books, whose aim it is to give detailed accounts. 

The sixty-three photographs represent various aspects of native 
Egyptian life. They are, however, not always in their place. 
Thus on p. 280 there is the beginning of a chapter entitled, 
'Roda Island and Moses', and there is no allusion whatsoever 
to the return of the Holy Carpet from Mecca. Yet it is a 
photograph of this imposing procession that faces p. 280. This 
picture naturally belongs to chapter XXI, which deals with this 
subject. A similar fate has befallen the only two Jewish photo- 
graphs depicting a grand Jewish funeral. They are facing pp. 14, 15 



RECENT ARABIC LITERATURE — HALPER 319 

respectively, but would certainly have been more suitable for 
pp. 223, 224, where a few lines are devoted to the description 
of 'a funeral of a rich Jew more magnificent than any funeral 
the author ever saw, except the procession of a dead monarch 
or a national hero'. 

The meagre descriptions of native life which occur sporadically 
are not to be taken seriously. This may be due to the fact that 
Mr. Sladen is not sufficiently familiar with the Arabic language. 
For, after all, the first and most important qualification for the 
understanding of a race is to be well versed in its tongue. 
Moreover, Mr. Sladen is not a keen observer. He is too much 
engrossed in his artistic pursuits to be able to observe men of 
another race objectively. It is true that he caught the humour 
of the Esbekiya, and chapter III is certainly amusing. But this 
is a superficial and cheap sort of humour, which never escapes 
even the dullest person who visits an Oriental town for the first 
time. 

It should be pointed out that Mr. Sladen's book is not free 
from political bias. The author never misses the opportunity of 
drawing attention to the overwhelming favour England is bestow- 
ing on the Egyptians by occupying their country. Mr. Sladen 
is, no doubt, entitled to his opinion about forcing improvements 
upon weaker races, but his book would not have suffered if he 
had kept his opinion to himself. But, as remarked above, 
Mr. Sladen is subjective in his mode of thinking. This also 
accounts for the fact that he cannot resist showing his contempt 
for American tourists, especially for those belonging to the fair 
sex. We are, however, ready to forgive a man his national and 
personal prejudices, provided he is artistic, and Mr. Sladen is 
artistic to a high degree. 

With the exception of the short description of a grand Jewish 
funeral, of which mention was made before, and the obtrusively 
frequent allusions to Jewish women of ill-fame, there is no 
Jewish interest in this book. This is to be regretted, as there 
is a considerable Jewish population, both native and European, 
in Cairo, and we should have liked to get a description of it from 



320 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Mr. Sladen's pen. The Jewish Quarter (Haret al-Yahud) which 
branches off the Musky has a humour of its own, and offers 
many points of interest. Its narrow alleys, through which 
a carriage can hardly pass, and mediaeval synagogues are in 
a way quite unique. 

The first three appendices which deal with ' Ways of getting 
to Egypt, &c.', ' Cairo is the real scene of The Arabian Nights ', 
'Artists' Bits in Cairo, &c.', are very useful. One cannot, how- 
ever, see the necessity or utility of reprinting as an Appendix 
Mr. Roosevelt's speech on Egypt at the Guildhall. 

The index, which was compiled by Miss Margaret Thomas, 
makes the book appear more scientific than it actually is. 

Dropsie College. B. Halper.