Latin in Muslim North Africa and the Middle East

Some of this linguistic knowledge acquired in al-Andalus also reached North Africa and the Muslim Middle East. As mentioned above, the Middle Eastern scholar Ibn Abi Usaybi'a (d. 668/1270) cited the Andalusian scholar Ibn Juljul on the Latin skills of people in al-Andalus.^ In a biographical article on the Andalusian scholar Ibn Firm al-Shad bi (d. 590/1194 in Cairo), the Middle Eastern scholar Ibn Khallikan (d. 681/1282) claims that the word ‘Firru (cf. Span. hierro) signifies ‘iron’ ‘in the Latin language of the non-Muslim inhabitants of al-Andalus’.m Al-'Udhri’s and al-Bakri’s statement about the ‘Gothic language’ was copied by al-HimyarI (13th-14th cent.) in North Africa and, probably via al-H^imyari, by al-Qalqashandi (d. 821/1418) in Egypt.m

However, neither North African nor Middle Eastern Arabic-Islamic scholarship produced any substantial comments on Latin, Romance, or other languages. This is surprising with regards to North Africa, even if one supposes that Latin and Romance idioms had ceased to be of relevance after the Muslim conquest of the region.!28 The intensive diplomatic and commercial relations between Muslim North Africa and the Christian maritime powers, laid down in scores of bilingual Latin/Romance-Arabic treaties, must have acquainted high and late medieval Arabic-Islamic scholars from North Africa with some knowledge about Latin and various Romance languages.^9 This also applies to their Middle Eastern colleagues, considering the relations between the crusaders and surrounding Muslim powers or between Mamluk Egypt and the Crown of Aragon.^ We possess an Arabic-French [1]

word list in Coptic script from the twelfth or the thirteenth century[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] and an Arabic-Castilian glossary in a cursive Hebrew Oriental rabbinic script from the fifteenth century,132 but no informed comment on Latin and Romance languages from an Arabic-Islamic scholar in this region.

The well-known Usama b. Munqidh (d. 584/1188) claims not to have understood the murmuring of a Frankish woman and only transliterates a few ‘Frankish’ words such as the terms ‘vicomte’ (al-biskund) and ‘bourgeois’ (burjast)}33 Transliterations, e.g. of the term ‘chancellor’ (al-khamalir), is all Ibn al-Athir (d. 630/1233) has to offer.Copying the Andalusian geographer Ibn Sa'id (d. 685/1286), Abu l-Fida’ (d. 732/1331) only refers to the Western European languages in connection with the title ‘emperor’. Both distinguish between two different pronunciations, i.e. ‘al-ambaratur’ or ‘al-anbaramr’ (cf. imperator) versus ‘al-anbarur’ (cf. empereur), declaring the latter to be of colloquial origin.135 However, both authors refrain from mentioning the languages spoken in the emperor’s dominions, i.e. ‘the lands of Germany’ (bilad Almaniyya/al-Lamaniyya), Abu l-Fida’ adding that ‘the names of these places are foreign, and only rarely mentioned among us’.136

Even Ibn Khaldun, who certainly knew a lot about the history of the Latin WestTh7 visited Castile as a diplomatic envoy, 13® and repeatedly commented on linguistic phenomena, 139 did not possess systematic knowledge about the linguistic landscape of Western Europe. In the prefatory book (al-muqaddima) to his universal history, Ibn Khaldun reduces Western European languages of his period to a single ‘Frankish language’. When he addresses the problem of reproducing foreign non-Arabic words correctly, explaining that various alphabets contain letters without equivalent in Arabic, he refers to the ‘language of the Franks’ (lughat al-Ifranj).14o In another context, he claims that the term ‘admiral’ (al-miland) derived from the Frankish language (min lughat al-Ifranja).141 Since he clearly defines the ‘Latin writing’ (al-khatt al-latini) as ‘the writing of the Latin Romans’ (khatt al-Rum al-latiniyyin), distinguishing it from other non-European scripts,^ he must have understood that ‘Frankish’ represented a contemporary language, ‘Latin’ an ancient one. His incorrect translation of the title ‘emperor’ as ‘the crowned one’ (al-mutawwaj) proves, however, that he lacked real knowledge of both Latin and its Romance derivates.[14] [15] [16]

Ibn Khaldun has more to say about Latin in the chapters on ancient history that form part of his universal history. He is the only Arabic-Islamic scholar to deal with the origins of the Latin alphabet (huruf al-lisan al-latini), allegedly invented by a certain ‘Karamunus b. Marsiya b. Shayban b. Mazka’ around 4050 years after the Creation. 144 He is also aware that Latin was important to the Romans (al-Rum) who, when they adopted Christianity, allegedly translated the Torah and the Hebrew prophets into Latin (al-Latini) to derive legal precepts from these texts, consequently putting much effort into the cultivation of this language.145 Several passages prove, however, that his linguistic terminology is inconsistent. Julius Caesar and the Hasmonean ruler Hyrcanus II allegedly concluded a bilingual treaty in two languages called ‘lisan al-Rum’ and ‘lisan al-Yunan’. Here, a ‘language of the Romans’ is opposed to that of the ‘Ionians’, suggesting that ‘lisan al-Rum’ stands for Latin.i4fi In other passages the language linked to the ethnonym ‘al-Rum’ is clearly opposed to Latin and thus stands for a form of Greek. According to Ibn Khaldun, the Septuagint was translated from Hebrew (al-lisan al-ibrani) to Latin (al-lisan al-latini) and to another ‘Roman’ language, i.e. ‘al-lisan al-rumi’, which must correspond to Greek in this context. 147 The emperor Titus (Titush) allegedly knew Latin (al-Latini) and Greek, the latter called ‘al-GharIql’.14® Ibn Khaldun was obviously unable to distinguish clearly between Greek and Latin or between different forms of Greek. Since his terminology changes according to context, he may have only reproduced the terminology of his sources. However, his difficulties of discerning ancient Romans from the Byzantines may have played a role as well.149

  • [1] ° Ibid., § 1531, p. 913: ‘wa-lahum kalam ghayr kalam al-Ifranj’. 121 Ibid., § 1533, p. 915: ‘lahum lugha tamujjuha al-asma’. 122 Ibid., § 552, pp. 334-5. 123 Ibid., § 549, p. 334. 124 Ibid., pp. 22-3 (Introduction); Jacob, Berichte (1927), pp. 2-18. 125 Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'uyun al-anba, ed. Muller, vol. 2, p. 47. 126 Ibn Khallikan, wafayat al-ayan, ed. Abbas, vol. 4, § 537, p. 72: ‘bi-l-lughat al-latini [sic] minA'ajim al-Andalus’; Ibn Khallikan, Biographical Dictionary, trans. de Slane, vol. 2, p. 501. 127 al-'Udhri, tarsi al-akhbar, ed. al-Ahwani, p. 121; al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen andFerre, § 1508, p. 900; al-Himyari, al-rawdal-mi tar, ed. Abbas, p. 458; al-Qalqashandi, subh al-asha,ed. Ibrahim, vol. 5, p. 226. 128 Cf. Lewicki, ‘Langue’ (1958), pp. 415-80; Lancel, ‘Fin’ (1981), pp. 269-97. 129 See Chapter 2.2.5. on these relations. Mansouri, ‘Milieux’ (2004), p. 283, argues that the extantArabic-Islamic sources from high and late medieval North Africa ‘camouflage’ the participation ofscholarly elites in commercial transactions with Christian merchants. 13° See Chapter 2.2.2. and 2.2.5.
  • [2] Aslanov, Frangais (2006), pp. 43—76.
  • [3] 132 Sheynin, ‘Genizah’ (1981), pp. 151—66.
  • [4] Usama b. Munqidh, al-itibar, ed. Hitti, pp. 139—41, cf. Aslanov, Frangais (2006), pp. 42—3.
  • [5] Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 12, AH 593, p. 84 (Leiden), p. 126 (Beirut).
  • [6] Ibn Sa'ld, al-jughrafiya, ed. al-Arabi, p. 193; Abu l-Fida’, taqwim, ed. Reinaud and de Slane,p. 202: ‘wa-l-'amma taqul’.
  • [7] 136 Ibid., p. 202: ‘mu'jamat al-asma’ khamilat al-dhikr indana’.
  • [8] See passages that deal with Ibn Khaldun in Chapters 4-8.
  • [9] 13® Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 7, p. 551.
  • [10] Cooke, ‘Ibn Khaldun’ (1983), pp. 179—88; John, ‘Views’ (1989), pp. 153—64; Chio, ‘Study’(2005), pp. 127—52; Deymi-Gheriani, ‘Conception’ (2008) pp. 155—64.
  • [11] 14° Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, p. 44.
  • [12] Ibid., vol. 1, p. 312, gives the term ‘admiral’ as ‘al-balamanda’. Other editions feature the term‘al-miland’, cf. Ibn Khaldun, al-muqaddima, ed. al-Shaddadi, vol. 2, cap. III,32, p. 27. This is alsovalid for the Bulaq-edition, which forms the basis of the translations by de Slane and Rosenthal, cf.Ibn-Khaldoun, Prolegomenes, trans. de Slane, vol. 2, cap. III,32, p. 37; Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah,trans. Rosenthal, vol. 2, cap. III,32, p. 37.
  • [13] Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, p. 730.
  • [14] Ibid., vol. 1, p. 292.
  • [15] Ibid., vol. 2, p. 232. According to Ibn Khaldun, this statement is allegedly based on the kitabHurushiyush. However, neither the kitab Hurushiyush nor the Latin version of Orosius’ Historae adver-sus paganos contains a similar statement. ‘Karamunus’ may represent a distortion of ‘Carmenta’, cf.Isidorus Hispalensis, Etymologiae, ed. Lindsay, lib. I, cap. 1,3—4: ‘Latina litteras Carmentis nymphaprima Italis tradidit.’
  • [16] Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, pp. 730—1. 146 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 149. 147 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 224. 148 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 241. 149 In ibid., vol. 2, pp. 218—37, he tries to understand the origins of the Roman Empire and itsinterdependence with the Hellenic sphere, using the terms ‘al-Kaytam’, ‘al-Rum’, and ‘al-Latlniyyun’.The following chapter heading (p. 232) clearly reveals his terminological problems: ‘News on theLatins who are the Kaytam known as al-Rum’ (al-khabar ‘an al-Latiniyyin wa-hum al-Kaytamal-ma rufun bi-l-Rum).
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