Séminaire doctoral – Pratiques langagières – terrains, méthodes, théories

14 octobre 2022 --14h00 - 17h00

Animé par Isabelle Léglise et Valelia Muni Toke (INALCO, 2 rue de Lille, salle L0.01)

Quentin Williams (Univ of the Western Cape) An Accidental Missionary Linguist? How Abu Bakr Effendi influenced the future of   Kaaps

Kaaps is a latter-day language influenced by Khoe and San languages, creole Portuguese, Bazaar Malay, Kaaps-Dutch, Arabic and English. Its creole origins begin in the 1700s at the Cape Colony where travellers would hear the language of the enslaved informally used in the kitchen, on the streets, on farms and religious gatherings, and would often describe them as uttering ‘peculiar noises’ (Shell, 1994). For much of their existence in the colony, enslaved Kaaps speakers were perceived to utter peculiar noises from vulnerable bodies. Agentless and voiceless, it readily fell to other well-to-do travelers to the Cape to provide linguistic descriptions of the noisy sounds of the enslaved. And one such traveler, an accidental missionary linguist, was Abu Bakr Effendi (aka Khashnawi) (1814-1880) (see importantly, Brandel-Syrier, 1960; van Selms, 1979).

In this talk, I argue that the creole biography of Kaaps involved the transformation of peculiar noises into a coherent description of its linguistic system, and that formed part of an effort to describe and en-voice authentic linguistic practices that accurately characterises the language use of the slaves. In the first part of this talk, I discuss the Kaaps linguistic contributions of Abu Bakr Effendi. A well-respected Islamic scholar and polymath trained in Istanbul and Baghdad, Effendi arrived at the Cape in the 1800s after negotiating a deal with the Sultan of Turkey, Abd ulMajid, to support his subjugated clan. As part of the deal, the Sultan outsourced Effendi to Queen Victoria who previously begged the Sultan to “send a well-trained scholar to Africa” to quell disputes “about some points of religion” among “her Muslim subjects”. The timing of Effendi’s arrival to the Cape was propitious because he later established not only an Islamic school and Mosque, but became the first scholar to write down Kaaps-Dutch with Arabic characters (see Davids, 2011).

In the second part of my talk, I analyze the transliteration of Effendi’s Bayan ud-din (1877) from Arabic to Kaaps-Dutch. I demonstrate how Effendi’s translations on religious duties of Islam became a key text that pre-empted the development of Kaaps as a language. As Van Selms remarked: Effendi’s use of Kaaps-Dutch in phonetic Arabic was a version of “Dutch, though of a peculiar kind” that could be further characterised as “a transition form” that is not quite Dutch nor Afrikaans (van Selms, 1960: vi). I go on to demonstrate how Effendi’s translation of the Bayan ud-din serves today an important etymological source in the codification of Kaaps. By comparing his text with some textual evidence from the 2.3 million structured corpus of the Trilingual Dictionary of Kaaps, I demonstrate how Effendi’s translation constituted then a form of decolonial communication (Veronelli, 2016) that favoured not only dialogue and a system of relationality amongst the slaves but recodified the terms of en-voicing. I conclude this talk by charting important trajectories for the study of Kaaps and its linguistic future, with a focus on what the Kaaps speaker does with language, how they challenge linguistic fixities and hierarchies of language, and then internalize new epistemologies of language.