Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tickling Ge'ez, no no I don't mean tackling...

Notes based on "Ethiopic : An African Writing System / Its History and Principle" by Ayele Bekerie, The Red Sea Press, 1997.

In his chapter 'The History and Principles of the Ethiopic Writing System', Professor Bekerie introduces parts of the exegesis for Ge'ez. I wish I could get my hands on Asras Yanesaw's Yakam Matasabia, preferably translated in English (I'll settle for French also mind you). Anyways, briefly, this is what I wanted to share:

Ge'ez is a writing system that organises itself around 7 orders (what Indo-European terminology would categorise as vowels within a syllabary) and 26 graphs. I keep here the term graph used by Professor Bekerie and I really hope that his new term 'syllograph' for Ge'ez will be widely accepted and adopted from now on by Ethiopianists. Indeed, Ge'ez is NOT an alphabet! On a personal note, I do think that there would be much to be gained from observing Ge'ez's graphs as logograms or at the very least inquire as to the morphographemic dimension of its syllabary (maybe it has already been done, any suggestions anyone?).

So 7 Orders times 26 Graphs equals 182. This number represents half a year, that is, one equinox. There are two equinoxes in a year, and so 182 times two is 364. This corresponds to the total number of days in a year... Well, not really, of course a year is 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 9.55 seconds. That is why there is a thirteen month in the Ethiopian calendar, to make up for the 'discrepancy' - a calendar which is therefore equinoctial and based on a solar year.

I am not going to dive into numerology, I find it quite difficult to count actually, no jokes. I am just wondering though, why divide the 364 total by 12, I mean where does this 12 come from, why a basis of twelve months? Or is it that number 30 (30 days, that is the number of days in each Ethiopian month) dictates 12 months? 30 has no relation to a prime number in a system organised around 7 or 26.... hmmm, curioser and curioser... well for someone as numeral-illiterate as I. Perhaps a reader has the answer or perhaps the answer is to be found in a comparison elsewhere. '12' reminds me of the Sumerian and Akkadian sexagesimal system (organised around 6 or 60) – which would account for 12 and 30. The Sumerian calendar is based on synodic months, a lunar year of 12 months plus another added (or an intercalendary one added) in order to fall in sync with the solar year. It also revolves around two seasons, as would suggest the Ge'ez calendar's two equinox base. There is also a 'still-being-uncovered' study of the mnemonic aspects of graphs and astronomy for Sumerian and Akkadian, and the Ge'ez preserved system would be a fantastic source of information.

I don't think I am seeing double, to me this is another lead into the similarities of two most ancient civilisations: Ethiopia and Ancient Mesopotamia. Don't get me wrong, when I say comparison, I mean comparison. The study of languages has become (or perphas always was) hijacked by politics and religion. I am no hijacker. Whenever I compare (languages, culture, whatever) I compare, strictly. It does not mean that I am equating.

I believe that Ge'ez is indigenous to Abyssinia. I don't buy that it was imported. I also believe that Ge'ez is far more ancient than the dates it has so far been allocated (due to the dearth of archeological data available until now and certainly also due to the dead end street that is endlessly seeking a source to Ge'ez in Yemen).

What a wonderful world Abyssinia is, ain't it!

There is a fascinating world of hermeneutics in Ge'ez, that is using numbers to decipher scriptures, again dear Asras comes up with taunting explanations of many terms like Abraham, Selam, Hewan. I only have exerpts of what he wrote: hello, hello, if any one out there in cyberspace has a copy, please could you share one with me? That would be grand!... well, one can hope can't one...

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Notes taken with fingers jigging to K'naan 'TIA', 'ABC', and 'Soobax'.

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