Sound archives in ethnolinguistics : Example of the study of arabization in Southern Sudan = Archives sonores en ethnolinguistique. Un exemple d’étude de l’arabisation dans le Sud Soudan

A new sound corpus in juba-arabic is now at disposal on the sound archives database. Juba-arabic is a pidgin (a communication language used between two or more communities which do not share a common language), composed of elements both from Arabic and from Sudanese dialects, it gradually evolved into a common language. The recordings (i.e. 27 hours of inquiries collected over 1981 and 1984, that is to say fifty seven surveys) which Catherine Miller used to study the phenomenon of arabization in southern Sudan are now on accessible online on Ganoub.

Couple cycling on the road between Yei and Meridi, Southern Sudan

Couple cycling on the road between Yei and Meridi, Southern Sudan

This corpus contains oral evidence, as well as music recordings and religious sermons at the Juba’s Church . But most of the investigations were recorded during trials at the customary courts of Juba and Kator in the Equatoria’s province, Southern Sudan (the presented extract deals with the case of a Dinka woman presented to the court following a dispute on the public highway while she was intoxicated). Catherine Miller deliberately chose these places of investigation for she wanted to study the evolution of the juba-arabic and the challenges of the arabization of Southern Sudan at the time (80’s) on an economical, political, social and cultural level. She therefore investigated various populations (villagers and city dwellers, men and women, young and old people, educated and uneducated people) to better understand the conflicts related to linguistic opposition between oral and written languages, juba-arabic and vernaculars, English and Arabic.

Dinka pastor on the road to Juba-Yei, Southern Sudan

Dinka pastor on the road to Juba-Yei, Southern Sudan

The corpus also contains a reading by Catherine Miller about “The Challenges of Arabization in southern Sudan”, Peuples Méditerranéens, No. 33, Paris, p. 43-53. (1985). The availability of these oral sources which are more than twenty years old, is priceless: it is very unlikely that a rare language like juba-arabic should reach us. Therefore, sound archives do not only provide a new dimension to publications already in print, but they also allow a process of memory, a written or iconographic document is unable to do. As far as ethnolinguistics is concerned, sound archives offer the unique opportunity to listen to rare languages, which are sometimes bound to disappear.

Village on the edge of Yei, Equatoria, Southern Sudan

Village on the edge of Yei, Equatoria, Southern Sudan

Since these surveys were collected, Sudan has been suffering a bloody civil war (1983-2004) which left it ravaged by poverty. Juba-arabic was able to develop during this war and nothing is nowadays more precious than being able to access Catherine Miller’s recordings. Witnesses of a past era, these surveys represent the memory of the men, women and children who participated to her interviews.

Here is one of the reasons why the preservation of oral heritage is essential. Guaranteeing the sound memory and a symbol of the intangible heritage, oral archives will keep getting talked about.

This article is a traduction of : “Archives sonores :  exemple de l’étude de l’arabisation dans le Sud Soudan” :  http://phonotheque.hypotheses.org/1065

Cet article est une traduction de : ”Archives sonores :  exemple de l’étude de l’arabisation dans le Sud Soudan” :  http://phonotheque.hypotheses.org/1065

Crédits photographiques : ©Jean-Pierre Ribiere


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