Monday, February 11, 2008

Nubian Comparison

Thanks to the kind and prolific Ideophone, I now have some new Nubian texts to compare to the mysterious inscription I have been writing about. Gerald M. Browne's "Old Nubian Grammar" is probably the most helpful work out there on Nubian, and Mark Dingemanse (the man behind the expressives) was kind enough to scan a dozen pages of it for me (before going off to catch the African Cup final, which once again was taken by a country which only considers itself African [at least socially] when it comes to sports ;), which included a couple of passages from Nubian translations of the Bible. A comparative analysis of the actual Nubian with the locally found inscription (well probably not local from Darfur, but brought from somewhere else in Sudan), reveals that the inscription could be Nubian, containing a lot of abbreviations, and possibly some letters used as numbers (accounting for the consonant strings). The strange vowel patterns which I commented on earlier were also consistent with some of the Nubian vowel groupings or diphthongs, but from what I could tell, there were not any identifiable Nubian words, nor were there any clearly Nubian letters, so I really couldn't discount the possibility of Coptic (since there are quite a few Coptic letters, and otherwise the letterforms are identical). I am leaning toward thinking the general text is not religious, since of all the Greek words only αναπαυσις is almost definitely religious in nature (signifying a certain type of prayer which requires standing up for a long time I believe), and it occurred to me that its use could be a prescription of prayer for someone who is sick perhaps the Πετρονος whom I had earlier been assuming was actually referring to the Biblical apostle Peter, but could just as well be someone simply named after him. In the next few weeks I will look for some Coptic texts online, and report on any findings of similarities there, but if you are able to pick out any common words between Browne's publication of the Nubian grammar, and the inscription, please let me know. I might even give a prize.


Anonymous said...

You know, some years ago Lameen and I have been writing the Wikipedia articles on Old Nubian and Nobiin, respectively. You might find something of interest there. The Old Nubian article includes a link to this PDF containing detailed info on the Old Nubian script.

Anonymous said...

Hello "mille langues" - I think you must have a Coptic gravestone here. In form it looks like hundreds of the tombstones you'd get from medieval Nubia. If you're right that this is from the Nile valley, from Sudan, then it's almost certainly Greek or Coptic, and not Old Nubian, statistically. I can't make out much of it, but you see the 'despotE' yourself. I see the word 'episkopos', so we've got a bishop's grave. That makes this an important text. If we could make out the rest of the inscription, we might know what city he was bishop of. I do some work on Old Nubian and medieval Nubian history generally. If you're interested in talking more, maybe we could email about this text? I can't figure out from your blog how to contact you directly. I'm at grr919 at gmail dot com.

Anonymous said...

Dear Khawaji,

The "mysterious inscription" is a Coptis stela belonging to a nubian bishop of Sai named Jesus (Iesou).
This very important inscription was published for the first time by Budge in 1907, and was included in van der Vliet, J. et al., Catalogue of the Coptic Inscriptions in the Sudan National Museum..., Peeters, 2003, pp. 89 ss. The date of the inscription is A.M. 770 (A.D.1054).
Best wishes!,


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