Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


The language of the glosses in the Bornu quranic manuscripts 1

a1 School of Oriental and African Studies

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The Bornu quranic manuscripts with interlinear ajami glosses in a Kanuri dialect were discovered by A. D. H. Bivar in the late 1950s. The unique corpus of written evidence for the Kanuri language as spoken over 300 years ago has never been analysed in any depth. The first part of the paper contains a general description of the collection and a discussion of codicological and palaeographical characteristics of the manuscripts. The second part comprises a brief note on the Kanuri language and a description of the Bornu writing system used for quranic commentary in this language. The third part explores the phonological and morphological properties of selected examples of glosses. Finally, a preliminary view on the dialect affiliation of the language of the glosses is suggested.

(Published Online April 20 2006)


1 I am much indebted to Professors A. D. H. Bivar and Philip. J. Jaggar for critical remarks and valuable comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I should also like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr P. Agoch for his most generous help with the English text of the paper. My special thanks to the anonymous referees for their most valuable remarks. Errors are mine.