A Grammar of the Somali Language by J.W.C Kirk

I have a copy of "A Grammar of the Somali Language" by a British officer named J.W.C(John William Carnegie) Kirk, it was written around 1905 And it's very very interesting in the way he describes and talks about the Somali people, but it also has a number of mistakes, like assuming Somalis are mixed with Arab.

I'll leave a few quotes from different parts ot the book below.

(This is from the preface)
"While serving with Somali troops during the campaign of 1902-1904 against the Mullah, Mohammed Abdallah, I had the most favorable oppurtunities for a practical and whole sale study of the colloquial dialect of this people; and it seemed only right that the results obtained from so intimate an acquaintance should not be left unrecorded, inspite of many imperfections, which must still exist in the record"
----------


"Somali is a language spoken by the inhabitants of the square tract of country, known as the Horn of Africa (Regio Aromatifera of the ancient), which lies between the French port of Djibouti, Cape Guardafui, and the river Juba. This country was formerly inhabited by Mohammadan propagandists who call themselves Somali. The neighbors of the Somali are the Dankil on the north, the Abysinnians, speaking Amharic on the north-west, and the retreating Gala on the west and south-west. The languages of the Somali and the Gala are quite distinct and mutually unintelligible but posseses so many fundamental characteristics in common that there is ample evidence of their close relationship, even if it cannot be proved that modern Somali is actually derived from Gala. There has always been considerable trade between inhabitants of Aden and Southern Arabia and those of the Somali coast and the Semitic element in Somali is sufficient proof of the local tradition that the present Somali had its origin in a Mohammedan colonisation from Southern Arabia."
----------



"There are certain slight variations in the speech of different tribes, which almost constitute different dialect. The most notable are the Ishak, Dolhohanta, Mijjertein, and the Esa and Gadabursi

For instance
Ishak Dolhohanta
camel aur rati
road dau jid
go tag ad
the saddles koryashi koryalki"

----------



"Correct pronunciation is most important, and as there are no definite rules for the acentuation of syllables I have had to use accents freely all through the book. The Somali is not a polite person, and though extremely good-natured he is quite outspoken and has no hesitation in ridiculing one's false quantities or concords, that is to say, if one's efforts are at all recognisable to him."
----------

He also writes many Somali stories and sheekooyiin in Somali. He provides a translation as well.

What's really interesting is the writing, and how about 67 years before the official Latin script he wrote Somali down in another Latin orthography. Examples:

"Suldàn bá jirei. ínan bu lahá"

which he translates as

"A Sultan there was, a son he had"

In the introduction he specifically mentions that the dialect that he is writing is the daily speech of the Isaaq, or the "Ishak" as he wrote it, and compared it to the somali of the Dhulbahante, or as he wrote it the "Dolbohanta".


But in my opinion on the most interesting parts of the book is the final one, where he describes the dialects of the Yibir and Midgan, outcasted clans, and includes examples of the language/dialect.

"Yibirs and Midgans are both very jealous of their languages and keep them a secret from other Somalis, although all speak the common language of the country, namely Somali. there are, I believe no Somalis who know anything of either dialect, and while I was having my interviews with these people, they were very particular not to allow any Somali withing hearing, our conversatoins, having to be carried on in the latter's language

Here let me repeat that I was put on my word by both people not to divulge anything to a Somali, but was allowed to write it down for the use of British officers, their vanity being evidently touched by the idea of a white man wanting to study their language

There I must ask any who may read this and who may sojourn in the country, not to repeat what I give here to any Somali, not of Yibir or Midgan birth"


Kirk must be rolling in his grave, since I, Dhulbahante now know of their dialect.

Overall it's an interesting read.
 
Last edited:
I have a copy of "A Grammar of the Somali Language" by a British officer named J.W.C(John William Carnegie) Kirk, it was written around 1905 And it's very very interesting in the way he describes and talks about the Somali people, but it also has a number of mistakes, like assuming Somalis are mixed with Arab.

I'll leave a few quotes from different parts ot the book below.

(This is from the preface)
"While serving with Somali troops during the campaign of 1902-1904 against the Mullah, Mohammed Abdallah, I had the most favorable oppurtunities for a practical and whole sale study of the colloquial dialect of this people; and it seemed only right that the results obtained from so intimate an acquaintance should not be left unrecorded, inspite of many imperfections, which must still exist in the record"
----------


"Somali is a language spoken by the inhabitants of the square tract of country, known as the Horn of Africa (Regio Aromatifera of the ancient), which lies between the French port of Djibouti, Cape Guardafui, and the river Juba. This country was formerly inhabited by Mohammadan propagandists who call themselves Somali. The neighbors of the Somali are the Dankil on the north, the Abysinnians, speaking Amharic on the north-west, and the retreating Gala on the west and south-west. The languages of the Somali and the Gala are quite distinct and mutually unintelligible but posseses so many fundamental characteristics in common that there is ample evidence of their close relationship, even if it cannot be proved that modern Somali is actually derived from Gala. There has always been considerable trade between inhabitants of Aden and Southern Arabia and those of the Somali coast and the Semitic element in Somali is sufficient proof of the local tradition that the present Somali had its origin in a Mohammedan colonisation from Southern Arabia."
----------



"There are certain slight variations in the speech of different tribes, which almost constitute different dialect. The most notable are the Ishak, Dolhohanta, Mijjertein, and the Esa and Gadabursi

For instance
Ishak Dolhohanta
camel aur rati
road dau jid
go tag ad
the saddles koryashi koryalki"

----------



"Correct pronunciation is most important, and as there are no definite rules for the acentuation of syllables I have had to use accents freely all through the book. The Somali is not a polite person, and though extremely good-natured he is quite outspoken and has no hesitation in ridiculing one's false quantities or concords, that is to say, if one's efforts are at all recognisable to him."
----------

He also writes many Somali stories and sheekooyiin in Somali. He provides a translation as well.

What's really interesting is the writing, and how about 67 years before the official Latin script he wrote Somali down in another Latin orthography. Examples:

"Suldàn bá jirei. ínan bu lahá"

which he translates as

"A Sultan there was, a son he had"

In the introduction he specifically mentions that the dialect that he is writing is the daily speech of the Isaaq, or the "Ishak" as he wrote it, and compared it to the somali of the Dhulbahante, or as he wrote it the "Dolbohanta".


But in my opinion on the most interesting parts of the book is the final one, where he describes the dialects of the Yibir and Midgan, outcasted clans, and includes examples of the language/dialect.

"Yibirs and Midgans are both very jealous of their languages and keep them a secret from other Somalis, although all speak the common language of the country, namely Somali. there are, I believe no Somalis who know anything of either dialect, and while I was having my interviews with these people, they were very particular not to allow any Somali withing hearing, our conversatoins, having to be carried on in the latter's language

Here let me repeat that I was put on my word by both people not to divulge anything to a Somali, but was allowed to write it down for the use of British officers, their vanity being evidently touched by the idea of a white man wanting to study their language

There I must ask any who may read this and who may sojourn in the country, not to repeat what I give here to any Somali, not of Yibir or Midgan birth"


Kirk must be rolling in his grave, since I, Dhulbahante now know of their dialect.

Overall it's an interesting read.
Gabooye accent

 

Boqorada

This Being Human Is A Guest House
I never used to focus on people's dialects. It never even occurred to me to, Somali was just somali. I used to be impressed and confused with how my mum or dad could immediately tell where someone was from from just the way they spoke. Now I'm more conscious and can pick up on different dialects better.



I'm curious about this secret language the Madhibaan and yibir have. Did he mention more on them?
 
I never used to focus on people's dialects. It never even occurred to me to, Somali was just somali. I used to be impressed and confused with how my mum or dad could immediately tell where someone was from from just the way they spoke. Now I'm more conscious and can pick up on different dialects better.



I'm curious about this secret language the Madhibaan and yibir have. Did he mention more on them?
Yes he included tons of sentances and examples
 
Top