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SACHAU 204: A KURDISH GARSHUNI POEM

Nivsevan / Yazan: M. Dehqan  
Demjmr / Tarih: 22.07.2016  04:35:31

M. Dehqan: Independent researcher, Karadj



SACHAU 204: A KURDISH GARSHUNI POEM





Abstract. Contacts between Kurdish culture and that of the Syriac whatever we take Syriac to mean in this context have a long and tricky history which for many fields is still far from sufficiently studied. All researchers, however, do agree that these contacts caused a more important Kurdo-Syriac field in which a considerable number of manuscripts dating from about the 18th century onwards are written in Syriac characters adopted to suit the Kurdish language. This Kurdish language written in Syriac characters is called Kurdish Garshuni and the following brief note presents a hitherto overlooked manuscript of such a Garshuni material.

Key words: Kurdish, Garshuni, Syriac, poetry, Kurdistan




The MS Sachau 204 is of considerable interest, first because
the matter which it contains is Kurdish, and this
language is rarely found written on this material; secondly
because the script is Syriac, which is more usually
found applied to the Arabic language. The existence of
such Garshuni texts has been known since the 19th century,
when the well-known Sachau mentioned Kurdish
occurrence in some Garshuni manuscripts in the Berlin
Library [1]. In 1970 K. Fuad published a catalogue of
Kurdish manuscripts kept at Berlin Library, including
the Garshuni ones, which is the standard catalogue up to
now. In his catalogue, the author essentially presented
the normal Kurdish manuscripts written in Arabic script
as his basic concern. Much less attention has, however,
been paid to the Kurdish Garshuni manuscripts. It is
even possible to say that the Kurdish Garshuni section of
the catalogue is based on the Sachau's catalogue [2].
The unique MS Sachau 204 consists of 6 folios and
is written on yellowish paper in a somewhat cursive Estrangela
script with the usual diacritical points. There are
14 to 15 lines per folio; with the dimensions
15.010.0 cm and the text area 12.07.5 cm. While the
text is written in black ink, some diacritical points and
punctuations are in red ink.
Not only the completeness of the manuscript is unidentified
but the date and place of producing of the
manuscript are also unknown. It is possible that the depository
of the manuscript was connected to northern
Iraqi areas as most of the Kurdish Garshuni manuscripts
were brought from there and presented to Berlin Library.
The emergence of the manuscript from Iraqi areas may
also be explained by the fact that E. Sachau, in his pursuit
of Syriac manuscripts, essentially depended on the
help of Jeremias Shāmīr, a deserter and dealer in manu-
scripts himself from the Monastery of Alqōsh, 40 km
north of Mosul in Iraq.
It is, however, possible to assume that Iraqi depositories
of the Kurdish Garshuni manuscripts kept at Berlin
Library are not always accurate, and new places should
be established for some of them. The very brief information
contained in Fuad's catalogue correctly clears that
Sachau 204 is a manuscript from ╥ur Abdin in the eastern
part of Mārdīn province in Turkey [3]. Another evidence
making obvious the more western depository of
the manuscript is the script.

The MS Sachau 204 is written in Serto (West Syriac)
with the vowels which are less often seen with the Estrangela
script. The script employed by the author of MS
Sachau 204 may provide a clue to the obscure origin of
the present manuscript and its emergence as a distinct
Kurdish Garshuni script. The script is unique among the
scripts of Kurdish Garshuni fragments, especially those
from Iraqi regions [4], and it is precisely this uniqueness
that makes it so difficult to contextualize.
In this script n (and z) and can be confused; k and b
can also be confused. It is usually unclear where vowels
are placed: ah or ha, eh or he. According to Syriac script,
for the letters b, g, d, k, p and t no distinction is made
between the hard and soft pronunciation (quāyā, rukkākā).
Here, d, g and t are marked with a red dot above
which can be considered as a quāyā, marking occlusive,
non-aspirated pronunciation. Sometimes p is given
with three dots below which is very rare in Syriac script.
It can be pronounced as p, p, f, v or w. The letter p with
a single dot above can be considered as f. The letter b is
strangely given with both two or three dots below which
may indicate b, v, w, or even p. When k is marked with
quāyā (a dot above) it is used for k, k, or perhaps x,
while k marked with rukkākā (a dot below) indicates
velar fricative pronunciation x, k, or k.
Finally, mention should be made of the language of
manuscript. It is written in the Kurmanci dialect of Kurdish
and very possibly with a dialect which was common
in and around Mārdīn. Everything is in Kurdish. Unlike
some of the Kurdish Garshuni manuscripts, which contain
some Neo-Aramaic or Turōyō beginning / colophon,
this manuscript remains in Kurdish. It is hard to recognize
a rhyme pattern for the poetry or divide the text in
verse lines. Although the quality of the rhyme gave rise
to some criticism, the language of the text enjoys at least
a somewhat lyrical shape. The signs and the punctuations
of the manuscript (crosses, semicolons and dots) do
not help to explain the verse meters of the text. In view
of the strong Kurdish oral tradition, however, the style
can be sometimes considered as a kind of rhythmic prose
(saj). My reading of the first and the last lines follows:

Incipit (fol. 1r, lines 12, fig. 1):
dnazik ta ser ma bestin bakbankeh dih ina lō mirino te nehit em tr sefe bikin live (dinya betale) delicate. You have tied our head to the pile of mourning [5] you death, you have not allowed us to enjoy enough in this perishable world Excipit (fol. 6r, lines 1415, fig. 2): (nya) bihare rhan gul-ieke we-live baybn susine (the reenery) of spring, and sweet basil, and rose and flowers and to chamomile and blue fragrant flower.




N o t e s

1. Cf. Sachau, 1899: 43437, 442444.
2. On Sachau 204 he is almost completely quiet. For details,
see Fuad, 1970: 121126.
3. Ibid.: 124.
4. Cf. Dehqan & Mengozzi, 2014: 6267.
5. The translation of the first line is somewhat problematic.

The transliteration of the line is as follows: dnāzek tā sareh mā basten bakbankehdehinā. The first word nazik delicate, which is a common word in the region, sounds better
thank nzk near to, but an adverb delicately should be termed bnāziki as far as I know. I suspect dnāzik belongs to a preceding line, that is, dnāzik ends a sentence. If we had the lines before dnāzik we could investigate them carefully. The following words tā sareh mā basten bakbankehdehinā could be an independent sentence. The whole thing is of course complicated by the obscure bakbankeh. My translation pile of mourning, based on n mourning sounds good. Then I have the problematic -ā after īn unless it is the copula for is.

R e f e r e n c e s

Dehqan, M. & Mengozzi, A. (2014), A Kurdish Garshuni poem by David of Barazne (19th century), Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, vol. 17/1, pp. 5379.

Fuad, K. (1970), Kurdische Handschriften. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland 30, Wiesbaden: F. Steiner.

Sachau, E. (1899), Handschriften-Verzeichnisse der kniglichen Bibliothek zu Berlin. Verzeichniss der syrischen Handschriften,
Berlin: A. Asher & Co.

A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s

* I would like to express my gratitude to Alessandro Mengozzi for his suggestions especially in connection with the transliteration of the text.

I l l u s t r a t i o n s

Fig. 1. Kurdish Garshuni poem. Paper, 15.010.0 cm, 6 folios. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preuβischer Kulturbesitz, call No. Sachau 204, fol. 1r. Courtesy of the Library.
Fig. 2. The same MS, fol. 6r.











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