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[LISTSERe: The Chant on the Dog's Grave

Date:Saturday, February 17, 2001, 17:24
Well I'll put my money on the cultural diffusion theory. The Slaves
no doubt got it from the Greeks, who would have got it (like much
else) from the Phoenicians, and they got *everywhere*.

Indeed, as the first proto-ibero-semitic pre-phoenicians rowed
through the Pillars of Hercules to reach the Atlantic they were heard
singing the following song ;-)


acute = main stress, high tone
circumflex = extra stress, rising tone?
grave = secondary stress, low or falling tone
<x> = [S]; <q> = [G] voiced uvular stop;
<y> = [j]; <?> = [q] voiceless ditto;
<#> = hooked h, voiced [h]

  ?ábratu-wekálbim              The Doggie's Grave

Kálbum, wegânnaba bàxram       A dog, he stole meat
Kay ráqbam xehîya-lewìm        Because he was hungry
?ádmum xer?âya wehùtyam        Someone who saw the sinner
Wedrába yerà?xa-wewím          Hit him right on the head

Webkíya wekûllu-kalbìyim       The dogs all wept
Me#wári-ze?àbrati-wím          From digging his grave
Wexhíya-bez?ûbni dabràtam      And there was on the stone an inscription

Katúbam keznâwi tammìm :       Written like mine here :

Kalbum, wegannaba baxram ...

Written as formal prose this would be :

Yegánnaba báxram kálbum, kày xehíya-leyìm ráqbam. Wedrába ?ádmum xer?àya

yehùtyam rá?xa-yìm. Yebkíya-me#wàri-?ábrati-yìm wekùllu-kálbiyim.
Wexhìya-bez?úbni dabràta.katúbam keznáwi tàmmim.

Here the dogs get the ye- (non-human) animate definitive whereas in
verse they are promoted to the human we- class.
Analysis :

kálb-um : a dog (nom.)
   kalb- "dog"; -um nominative suffix
we-gánnab-a : (he) stole
   we- determinative (human) indicating subj. "he"/"she"/"they";
   -gannab- "steal" intensive verb from the root GNB;
   -a perfect, marks completed action
báxr-am : (some) meat (acc.)
   baxr- "meat"; -am accusative suffix
kay : because
ráqb-am : hunger (acc.)
xe-híy-a : (which) was, there was
   xe- det. (indefinite or relative) "which";
   -hiy- "to be (somewhere)", "to exist"; -a perfect
le-w-ím : to him/her
   le- proclitic preposition "to", "with", "for" etc.;
   w(e)- det. (human) acting as a pronoun "he"; -im dative suffix;
   xehiya lewim = "there was to him" i.e. "he had"
?ádm-um : a person (nom.) i.e. "someone"
xe-r?áy-a : who saw
   xe- det. (indef.) acting as a relative pronoun "who";
   -r?ay- "to see"; -a perfect
we-húty-am : the sinner
   we- det. (human) acting as definite article "the", "that";
   huty-am "sinner" (acc.)
we-dráb-a : he struck, hit
   we- det. (hum.) as subject pronoun "he";
   -drab- "to strike"; -a perfect
ye-rá?x-a : the head (acc.)
   ye- det. (animate) as def. art. "the";
   ra?x- "head"; -a accusitive suffix
we-w-ím : his (emphatic)
   we-w- det. (hum.) as pronoun "he", reduplicated for emphasis;
   -im genitive suffix (same as dative)
   ra?xa-wim = "his/her head (acc.)"
   yera?xa-wewim = "that very head (acc.) of his" (in the present
      this phrase implies that the blow was well aimed and deliberate)
we-bkíy-a : (they) wept
   we- det. (hum.) as subj. pron. referring to wekullum "the whole";
   -bkiy- "to weep"; -a perfect
we-kúll-u : the whole (nom.)
kalb-íyim : of (the) dogs
   -iyim genitive plural suffix
   note the stress has been shifted from kálbiyim to kalbíyim to fit
   the metre
me-#wár-i : from digging (dative)
   me- proclitic prep. "from";
   -#war- "to dig", here a verbal noun "digging"; -i dative suffix
ze-?ábrat-i : of the grave
   ze- det. (inanimate) as def. art. "the", "that";
   ?abrat- "grave"; -i genitive suffix
wím : of him, his
   me#wari-?abrati-wim = "from (the) digging of (the) grave of him",
   "from digging his grave". With ze- before ?abratum the phrase
   means approximately "from digging that very grave of his"
we-x(e)-híy-a : and there was
   we- proclitic conjunction "and";
   x(e)- det. (indef.) here acting and a dummy subject pronoun so as
         to make the verb impersonal;
   -hiy- "to exist"; -a perfect
   wexehiya* reduces to wexhiya according to a rule that deletes
   alternative /e/ vowels as additional proclitics are affixed to the
be-z(e)-?úbn-i : on the stone (dat.)
   be- proclitic preposition "in", "at", "on";
   z(e)- det. (inanimate) as def. art. "the", "that";
   ?ubn- "stone"; -i dative suffix
dabrát-am : an inscription (acc.), (from dabr- "word" + -at- formative)
katúb-am : (something) written (acc.)
   katub- corresponds to the verb stem -ktab- "to write". It functions
   either as a past participle (adjective) "written", as in the prose
   version "dabrata.katubam" = a written inscription, or as here
   where it is a noun in apposition meaning "something written"
ke-z(e)-náw-i : like mine (dative), like this one of mine
   ke- proclitic prep. "like", "as";
   z(e)- det. (inanim.) agreeing with katubum, "this (one)";
   -naw- poss. pron. nucleus 1st sing. "my one", "mine";
   -i dative suffix
tammím : here (adverb)
   The stress has been shifted from the first syllable támmim to fit
   the metre.


for the Grammar in progress see :

for the Babel Text (postscript) see :