Dr Al-Bader lectures on role of foreign travelers
‘Kuwaiti Dialect in Foreign Books’ in focus
KUWAIT CITY, Oct 13: Many Arab researchers did not pay attention to the importance of the contents of foreign (non-Arabic) and travel books on the Kuwaiti dialect as part of the cultural development of the Kuwaiti society.
Majority of foreigners who visited Kuwait, including diplomats and doctors in the American missionary hospital, found that the Arabic language spoken in Kuwait is different from its peers in surrounding towns with the preservation of its Arabic originality.
Assistant Professor in Linguistics at the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET) Dr Yousef B. Al-Bader delivered a lecture on the role of foreign travelers, orientalists and those living in Kuwait in documenting the Kuwaiti dialect through their works and publications. He said some of them played a major role in recording this dialect and explaining its words and meanings.
In his lecture entitled, “The Kuwaiti Dialect in Foreign Books,” Al-Bader explained the role of orientalists in the 19th century in recording and studying modern Arabic dialects in various parts of the Arab world.
The lecture was held recently at Yarmouk Cultural Center as part of activities lined up for the 24th Dar AlAthaar Cultural Season.
Al-Bader pointed out that studies on the Kuwaiti dialect come in different forms such as dictionaries, descriptive studies on the language spoken in a certain part of the Arab world which includes both the nomads (Bedouin) and urbanites, in addition to books which teach Arabic dialects to nonArab speakers and the textbooks.
The reference for this kind of information came through the orientalists who recorded the nature of a certain Arab population and their observations by presenting their impression about them and recording what they heard – local words and technical expressions among others.
In his introduction, Al-Bader presented what is considered the first linguistic atlas on the Arab world’s dialects authored by Gotthelf Bergsträsser in 1915. The author tackled the modern dialect atlas of Syria and Palestine in the book, “Sprachatlas von Syrien und Palästina.”
Al-Bader disclosed that Finnish explorer Georg August Wallin, who is known as ‘Al-Hajj Abdul-Wali’, was the first orientalist who studied the Arabian Peninsula dialects. In 1848, he presented a bunch of texts which were later published in the German orientalists magazine.
According to Al-Bader, these texts are considered the first research on the alteration in the pronunciation of the Arabic letters ‘Qaf’ to either ‘Ga’ or ‘Ja’ and ‘K’ to ‘Cha’ in Najd (currently part of Saudi Arabia) and Iraq among the southern nomads from the Enezi tribe. Wallin attempted to study the change in pronunciation of Arabic letters geographically.
Another orientalist was the German counselor to Syria who studied in detail the nomad languages in Syria and his work was published in 1868. He indicated that orientalists preferred to study the dialect of nomads because of their originality as they were not influenced that much by other languages.
Explorers and travelers played a great role in the documentation of regional dialects, such as James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855) who was fond of sea travel since his childhood. He traveled to India and worked in the East India Company for several years.
Buckingham visited Kuwait in 1816 during the reign of Sheikh Jaber I. He described Kuwait as a great port and the Kuwaitis as the most loving people in terms of liberty and courage compared to other inhabitants of the Gulf. He described in detail the horse trade from Kuwait to India.
In his book, “Travels in Assyria, Media and Persia,” published in 1830 while he was at Bushere Port; Buckingham described Kuwait saying “… ‘Coete’ or ‘Grean’ (Kuwait) on the opposite coast, Arabic is spoken with all the softness and harmony for which it is susceptible, and in a way superior to that of any other part of Arabia where I had heard it.”
Al-Bader also highlighted the role of the seventh British colonial administrator in Kuwait from 1929 to 1936 – Harold Dixon, who is known as ‘Abu Saud’, along with his wife and daughter, in the publication of about 10 books which documented Kuwait’s history in terms of politics, economy and culture. Among these publications is the book, “Desert Arabs,” which is considered a dictionary of nomad terminologies, words and their translation.
The foreign military bases also had a role in recording the language and translating it in order to facilitate the security communication process. An example of such process was done by an American pastor, John van Ess, who authored the book, “The Spoken Arabic of Mesopotamia” published in 1917. The book was used to teach the local dialect to British soldiers.
Ess was one of the American missionaries in Basra in 1902. He served for a short period in Kuwait in 1909 and he was among those who negotiated with Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah on the establishment of a hospital in the country.
Al-Bader also talked about the role of foreign oil companies in writing dialects of eastern Arabian Peninsula for the purpose of teaching. He praised the role of Kuwait Oil Company Limited, especially its Public Relations Officer and Editor-in-Chief of Kuwaiti Magazine Sabri Shamas who released the first English guide book for teaching Kuwaiti dialect in 1951; in addition to the production of phonograph record to assist in pronunciation.
Others that played a major role in documenting the Kuwaiti dialect include the American missionary doctors and the Dutch Protestant Church which established Arabic missionary centers in various countries like Kuwait in order to provide health and educational services to its members.
Al-Bader touched on the role of English Professor Thomas Johnston who dedicated his life in studying the regional dialect. He revealed the professor was able to gather academic substance for research in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE); and presented it as his doctorate thesis which became part of the publications of Oxford University.
Al-Bader added Linguistics Professor in the Department of Linguistics, SOAS – Bruce Ingham – documented dialects of Kuwaiti tribes and published a book about the dialect of Dhufeiri tribe in Kuwait and North Arabian Peninsula.