A Gypsy Language in Medieval Islamdom

Thursday, December 3

Time: 7-8pm 

Location: Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive, New York, NY 10027

Kristina Richardson
Assistant Professor of History
Queens College, CUNY

In 10th-century Arabic sources produced in Buyid Iraq and Iran, non-speakers named this language lughat al-mukaddīn (the language of the beggars). However, speakers of this language called it lughat Bani Sasan (the language of the Sasan clan) or lughat Shaykh Sasan (the language of Shaykh Sasan). The language, in name and application, was not identified with a territory or an ethnicity, but rather with a peripatetic tribal group, the Banu Sasan, whose members worked as beggars and entertainers. 

These details about the language of the Sasan clan are well established. However, it is largely unknown that as early as the 13th century, speakers of this language (such as al-Jawbarī) referred to it as al-sīn and outsiders (such as Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Ḥillī) termed it lughat/lisān al-ghurabā'. The seminar will discuss the significance of the medieval ethnonym ghurabā' and to collectively examine snippets of sīn prose and poetry that survive in medieval Arabic texts. Today, sīn, as it is still known, is a living language, whose speakers are chiefly peripatetics and commercial nomads along the Nile River.

If you would like to join us for dinner at 6pm, please RSVP to the seminar's rapporteur Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah (su2156@columbia.edu) no later than Thursday, November 26, 2015. Please note that the cost of dinner is $25, payable by check made out to "Columbia University".

A listing of upcoming Seminars in Arabic Studies this Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 is available here.

This event is sponsored by the University Seminar in Arabic Studies