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Studies on Arabic Dialectology and Sociolinguistics

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Catherine Miller
, 
Alexandrine Barontini
, 
Marie-Aimée Germanos
, 
et al.

Issues in Sociolinguistics: Contact and Change, Discourse Analysis, Cultural Practises, Mixed Styles and Written Sources

Exploring the Conventionalized Directional Greetings with 'Where?' in the Southeastern Gilit Dialects Area

Qasim Hassan

Résumé

Many studies have shown that in some cultures questions like 'Where are you going?' and 'Where are you coming?', or even 'Where are you?' do not necessary demonstrate that the initiator is really interested to know where the other party is actually going to, coming from, or where he is, but they are simply types of conventionalized directional greetings amongst people in some language communities (Firth 1972, Keenan 1976, Gregor 1977, Bach & Harnish 1979, Hoem 1993, Duranti 1997, Enfield & Comrie 2015; to name but a few). In the southeastern gilit dialects area of Iraq, however, 'Where are you?' and related greetings ('Where?' greetings, henceforth) are deeply rooted and remained strong throughout the years, although with some signs of softness due to the partly urbanization of these dialect communities, among other reasons. The aim of this study is to identify for the first time some of the key features and uses of the greeting questions in the southeastern gilit dialects area of Iraq. The data on which this study is based come from the author's daily observations of his own speech community as well as from recorded conversations with inhabitants in the remote southeastern rural areas.

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1In the past, the rural areas in southeastern Iraq were typified by high population density with adherence to crop production and animal husbandry. The situation is different now: Changes in social, political, and environmental frameworks have extremely altered the characters of this area. Following serious changes related to water scarcity and droughts, the acceleration of the process of increased urbanization, and the corruption-induced failure of the implementation of development projects made the southeastern rural area look completely different to how it looked in the past.

2For these reasons and due to the transition from the countryside to the city, some villages and hamlets in the southeastern gilit dialects area have been virtually depopulated. As a result, rural areas are nowadays characterized by an open space dominated by endless horizons of dry and hot steppes with almost treeless farmland where most villages are only sparsely populated.

3However, the scattered population in the remote southeastern rural areas is still heavily guided by tradition. The inhabitants there live in small communities with just blood relatives, close friends, and maybe some acquaintances whom they know well. Such community life is particularly important because it reinforces the feeling of intimacy and prevails the spirit of cooperation among the southeastern rural inhabitants when times are hard. In addition, people there should even, as a general rule, never hide anything from each other, a fact which can be confirmed by the further discussion of the widely-used conventionalized directional 'Where?' greetings in this gilit dialects area.

2. Data Corpus

4Due to a general lack of enough linguistic sources on the southeastern gilit dialects of Iraq, I had serious problems in establishing a significant theoretical data corpus during the course of this study. However, the corpus I am analyzing in the present paper has been collected from various sources. I was first of all concerned with the most recent frameworks on the issue of greeting behaviors, particularly with Duranti (1997: 21-23) and Enfield & Comrie (2015: 267-269), among others. Duranti (1997: 21), for instance, claims that 'Where?' greetings can be used asan attempt to sanction the reciprocal recognition of one another's presence with some specific requests of information that may or may not receive a satisfactory response.”

5The data I gathered on the southeastern gilit dialects confirm Duranti's conclusions, and they offer at the same time an evidence against Searl's (1976: 12) and Norrick's (1978: 279) expressive account of greetings. Information on the usage of 'Where?' greeting and its variants in the southeastern dialects area has been mainly collected by spending plenty of time in talking to selected rural inhabitants as well as in observing and paper-pencil-interviewing people in public gatherings.

3. 'Where?' greetings: Features and uses

  • 1 The transliteration system of Hans Wehr's Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (1961) will be employ (...)

6Based on self-gathered examples, I would like to discuss in what follows some specific features and uses of the 'Where?' greetings in the southeastern gilit dialects area. It has been observed during the course of this study that directionality is the most important feature of these social greetings. That is, it is an essential condition for choosing a certain variant of 'Where?' greetings to recognize the direction of the moving party. When the greeted person is going outside the rural area, a 'Where are you going?' is then used for greeting. The following is an example.1

71)

wēn

rāyiḥ

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

‘Where are you going?’

8In contrast, when this person is seen while coming inside the rural area, a 'Where are you coming?' is then expected as a greeting.

92)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

10‘Where are you coming?’

11Often enough, 'Where?' greeting questions are used in conjunction with the hortative in a cautionary sense (3a & b), with an adverbial (4a & b), or with both (5a & b):

123a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

INTR

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

‘Where are you going?’

133b)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

‘Where are you coming?’

144a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘Where are you going today?’

154b)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘Where are you coming today?’

165a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

INTR

where

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you going today?’

175b)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you coming today?’

18It is, however, unpredictable which party will initiate the greeting when two parties pass each other on a road, so that failure in exchanging a 'Where?' greeting is highly probable. The following is an example:

19A:

wēn

rā…?

INTR

WHQ

….

‘INTR Where …?’

20B:

wēn

rā…?

INTR

WHQ

….

‘INTR Where …?’

21However, such a failure might be corrected by interrupting the greeting by, say, party (A) and repairing it by party (B) as shown in the following examples.

22A:

wēn

rā…?

INTR

WHQ

….

‘INTR Where …?’

23B:

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

INTR

where

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you going today?’

24For reasons of simplicity, such conventionalized directional greetings can sometimes be reduced to just 'Where?' in conjunction with a haptic gesture such as hand raising or pointing in a particular direction, mostly the direction of the moving party. In addition, 'Where?' greetings are most commonly used at distance, hence they are restricted to outdoor contexts only, and they must therefore be performed loudly to bridge the spatial gap between both interlocutors. Saying these greetings loudly in public is a sign of having an open and frank life style, so that everyone in the neighborhood can clearly hear where the greeted person is going to or coming from.

4. Responses to 'Where?' greetings

25It should first of all be noted that there are no definite, generally applicable, permanent responses to 'Where?' greetings in the southeastern dialects area. Based on this, responses to 'Where?' greetings vary according to mood and situation of the party greeted. For the most part, the initiator usually expects one of the following two responses. First, the person greeted may stop for a while to tell the other party the goal he is going to (6a & b), the place he is just coming from (7a & b), or the task he has to do/done (8a & b).

Greeting Question (Where are you going?)

266a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you going today?’

Possible Response

276b)

rāyiḥ

li-l-sūg

go:PRS.2SG.M.

PREP-DET-market

I am going to the market.

Greeting Question (Where are you coming?)

287a)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you coming today?’

Possible Response

297 b)

ǧāy

min

il-sūg

come:PRS.2SG.M.

PREP

DET-market

‘I am coming from the market?’

'Where?' greeting (Telling the task)

308a)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you coming today?’

Possible Response

318b)

činit

asǧī

il-gāʻ

be: PST.1SG.

irrigate:PRS.2SG.M.

DET-earth

I was irrigating to the field.

32In contrast to the aforementioned possible responses, the second response option to these directional greetings can be uninformative and noncommittal. During the study period, recordings of people talks and face-to-face interviewing have shown that some responses to 'Where?' greetings can be insignificant and unclear. That is, when the asked party does not wish to disclose any aspects of his private life, he might be satisfied with a pointing in the direction he is going to or coming from, without saying a single word. In the following examples, the person greeted satisfies in answering the 'Where?' greeting in (10a & 11a) with the demonstrative particle hīč in (10b & 11b).

3310a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you going today?’

3410b)

hīč.

DEMO

That way.’

3511a)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you coming today?’

3611b)

hīč.

DEMO

‘That way.’

37In addition, depending on the mental state and mood of the party greeted, responses to 'Where?' greetings might be offending, a case which may invite countermeasures. Accordingly, one might hear uninformative, aggressive responses such as the following:

3812a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you going today?’

3912b)

rāyiḥ

li-l- ḫara

go:PRS.2SG.M.

PREP-DET-shit

I am going to the shit.

4013a)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you coming today?’

4113b)

ǧāy

min

il- ara

come:PRS.2SG.M.

PREP.

DET-shit

I am coming from the shit.

42Such instances of uninformative, noncommittal responses are typically restricted to ordinary people of the same social class, so that it is strictly prohibited to use them when speaking to influential people such as tribal leaders, righteous or even elderly people. Doing so will be deemed abusive or insulting, and it can far too quickly turn into antipathy, which does not infrequently lead to a discontinuation of the contact between the families of the parties involved, or it might result in a fine.

5. Possible Leave-takings for 'Where?' greetings

43After a 'Where?' greeting, the interlocutors take leave using a variety of context-dependent expressions and physical gestures such as kisses, hugs, hand raising, hand shaking and the like. With the exception of some situations like those in examples (12a & b) and (13a & b), one might use, among other things, the standard leave-taking formulae in examples (14a, b, c & d) and (15a, b, c & d).

Greeting Question (Where are you going?)

4414a)

wēn

rāyiḥ

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

go:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you going today?’

Possible Response

4514b)

rāyiḥ

asǧī

il-gāʻ

go:PRS.1SG.M

irrigate:PRS.1SG.M.

DET-earth

I am going to irrigate the field.

Possible Leave-taking expression

4614c)

Greeting Question (Where are you coming?)

4715a)

ʼmnēn

ǧāy

il-yūm

INTR

WHQ

come:PRS.2SG.M.

ADV.

‘INTR Where are you coming today?’

Possible Response

4815b)

činit

asǧī

il-gāʻ

be: PST.1SG.

irrigate:PRS.2SG.M.

DET-earth

I was irrigating to the field.

Possible Leave-taking expression

4915c)

ānī

atwakal

hassa

1SG.

go:PRS.1SG.M.

ADV.

I go now.

ōš

INTR

good

INTR good.

50Specifically mentionable is that leave-taking formulae are frequently accompanied by other pleasantries such as magḍiya (all the best), biltawfīq (I wish you success), among others. Note too that 'Where?' greetings can occur in groups of more than two peoples and they are also permissible with the opposite sex, excluding body contacts such as kisses, hugs, hand-shakes and the like.

6. Conclusion

51This paper dealt with the interesting sociopragmatic topic of 'Where?' greetings in the southeastern gilit dialects area which has so far not been discussed in cross-dialectal studies. It has been shown that 'Where?' greetings present an indispensable mean of social communication for the southern rural population to interact and to share common issues usually at distance. The paper has, moreover, discussed some most common features of 'Where?' greetings such as directionality, noncommittality, uninformativity, as well as the possible responses and Leave-takings for these greetings.

Bibliographie

Bach, Kent & Robert M. Harnish. 1979. Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Duranti, Alessandro. 1997. ''Universal and Culture-Specific properties of Greetings'', Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 7 (1): 63-97.

Enfield, Nick James & Comrie, Bernard. 2015. Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia. Walter de Gruyter: Berlin/Boston.

Firth, Raymond. 1972. ''Verbal and Bodily Rituals of Greeting and Parting'', La Fontaine, J. S. (ed.), The Interpretation of Ritual: Essay in Honor of A.I. Richards. London: Tavistock. 1-38.

Gregor, Thomas. 1977. The Mehinaku: The Drama of Everyday Life in an Brazilian Village. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hoem, Ingjerd. 1993. ''Space and Morality in Tokelua'', Pragmatics 3:137-153.

Norrick, Neal R. 1978. Expressive illocutionary acts. Journal of Pragmatics 2 (3): 277–291.

Searle, John. 1976. A classification of illocutionary acts. Language in Society 5: 1–23.

Wehr, Hans. 1961. Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Wiesbaden : O. Harrassowitz.

Notes

1 The transliteration system of Hans Wehr's Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (1961) will be employed throughout this paper.

Auteur

University of Basra

© Institut de recherches et d’études sur les mondes arabes et musulmans, 2019

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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