Siculo-Arabic

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Siculo-Arabic
Native to Emirate of Sicily
Era 900–1100
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sqr

Siculo-Arabic (or Sicilian Arabic) was a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily and Malta between the end of the ninth century and the end of the twelfth century. It is extinct in Sicily, but it has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta.

Arab conquest of Sicily[edit]

During the seventh and eight centuries Sicily had been raided from Tunis. The eventual Arab-Muslim conquest of Byzantine Sicily was piecemeal and slow. The region was a frontier zone even after the fall of Taormina in 902 which completed the invasion. By that time, Arabic had become the main language of the island.[citation needed] Its mixed population of Muslims and Greek-speaking (Orthodox) Christians[clarification needed] continued to use Arabic even after the Norman conquest of the island (1061–90).[citation needed]

In the post-conquest period, both Arabic and Greek were sometimes used by the new rulers. However, Arabic was dropped as a language of government between 1117 and 1132.[clarification needed] Thereafter, it was revived as and used in the king's fiscal administration which managed royal lands and men in Sicily and Calabria.[citation needed] This chancery office operated in Arabic,[citation needed] Greek and Latin. The many documents that it issued are one of the main and most important sources for Arabic in Sicily.

Although the Norman rulers employed Arabic and some were attested as Arabic speakers themselves, the dynasty died out after only a century and their successors expelled the remaining Muslims in the 13th century.

Arabic influence is present in a small number of Sicilian words, compared to the extensive influence on, for example, Spanish. Most of these terms relate to agriculture and related activities.

Maltese language[edit]

Although Siculo-Arabic died out in Sicily, it survived on Malta, with additional influences from Sicilian, Italian, French, and more recently English.[1] Some items of Siculo-Arabic vocabulary are comparable with later items found in Maltese language. The Sicilian language absorbed many Siculo-Arabic words, with those shown in the table a small sample.

These include:

Maltese Siculo-Arabic
(in Sicilian)
English Arabic
Bebbuxu Babbaluciu Snail بابوش (Baabuush)
Ġiebja Gebbia Cistern جب (Jabb)
Ġunġlien Giuggiulena Sesame seed جنجلان (Junjulaan)
Saqqajja Saia Canal ساقية (Saaqiyyah)
Kenur Tanura Oven تنور (Tannour)
Żaffran Zaffarana Saffron زعفران (Za'faraan)
Zahar Zagara Blossom زهرة (Zahrah)
Żbib Zibbibbu Raisins زبيب (Zabiib)
Zokk Zuccu Tree trunk ساق (Saaq)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Brincat, Joseph M. (February 2005). "Maltese – an unusual formula". MED Magazine. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 

References[edit]

  • Agius, D. A. (1996). Siculo Arabic. London: Kegan Paul International. ISBN 0-7103-0497-8. 
  • Metcalfe, Alex (2003). Muslims and Christian in Norman Sicily. Arabic-speakers and the end of Islam. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1685-8. 
  • Johns, Jeremy (2002). Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily. The Royal Diwan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81692-0. 

External links[edit]