Arcangelo Carradori's Dictionary of 17th Century Kenzi Nubian The Oldest Dictionary of an African Language
Introduction by Jay Spaulding Based on the text and translation prepared by Jay Spaulding as an Occasional Paper of the Historisk Institutt, Universitetet i Bergen, Norway, in 1975, and respectfully dedicated to Miss Bonnie Selanders.
The present dictionary is intended as a source publication for historians and a tool for students of language. In it the writer hopes to make easily available to Anglophone enthusiasts of the Nubian language and culture Arcangelo Carradori da Pistoia's Italian-Kenzi Nubian dictionary of 1635, along with traces of the rich and appealing culture of antediluvian Nubia that one may find therein-frozen, as it were, in a state of suspended animation.
The existence of Carradori's original dictionary, now in the possession of the Biblioteca Forteguerriana in Pistoia, Italy, was brought to the attention of the academic community in 1877; the manuscript had previously been incorrectly classified as an Arabic lexicon. In his introductory notice, Gherardo Nerucci gave details concerning the physical appearance of the document and the problem of its early classification. "#1">1
Publication of the dictionary was first undertaken by the Swedish Orientalist Karl Vilhelm Zetterstéen during the early years of the twentieth century. Zetterstéen had been requested by the late Leo Reinisch of Vienna, doyen of African linguists of the day and rival to Richard Lepsius as pioneering student of Nubian, "#2">2 to edit and prepare for posthumous publication the Nubian grammar and lexicon of Zetterstéen's senior colleague at Uppsala, Herman Almkvist; this material was ultimately issued as Nubische Studien im Sudan.3 Zetterstéen's incomplete edition of Carradori (letters A through O), which appeared in several installments in Le Monde Oriental,4 was thus accompanied by rather extensive notes, based largely upon Almkvist's research but incorporating references to the works of Reinisch and Lepsius. Since the appearance of the printed version of the present study in 1975, Inge Hofmann has published a complete and scholarly edition of the Carradori dictionary in German.5 That a reader of the present version could profit from consultation of Hofmann's and Zetterstéen's annotated editions may go without saying.
One potentially fruitful dimension to Carradori's work that the earlier writers cited above could not fully have appreciated lies in its relevance to the interpretation of documents written in medieval Nubian. An increasing number of these are becoming available for study, and although most or all of them antedate Carradori, some appear not to do so by any great interval of time. Carradori's dictionary provides a useful linguistic bridge between the medieval language and the spoken forms of modern times, upon which latter the earlier interpreters of the medieval documents were obliged to depend. The dictionary testifies eloquently to the ethnic predominance of Nubians in Nubia during an age in which Orientalist scholarship would have preferred to see them supplanted by Arab invaders.6
Brother Arcangelo himself was a member of the Franciscan mission in Egypt, an institution whose members have greatly enriched understanding of Nubia and the Sudan over many centuries. A personal account of Carradori's experiences in Egypt may be found in the "Relatione delle cose che h´ posuto veder frat'Arcangelo da Pistoia Minor Oss.te Missionario nell'Egitto dal 1630 fin'al 1638."7 In the present context it suffices to note that the dangers mentioned at the close of the dictionary were far from imaginary; Carradori's scholarship appears all the more praiseworthy in the light of the strenuous circumstances in which it was undertaken. Upon his return to Italy he drew up a fair copy of his original manuscript at the convent of Giaccherino near Pistoia, and it is this second document, dated 20 July 1650, that has survived to serve as the basis for the present work.
In the Corradori database one may find all of Carradori's text, complete with his frequent repetitions and occasional errors. No attempt has been made to change this, for a word-pair repeated a second or third time, out of alphabetical order and far from the original entry, may serve as a test of the writer's ear and the informant(s)' testimony. Further, the respective meanings of the two Nubian terms given for ministerio, (for example), may only be divined from their widely-separated contexts. To enable electronic indexing, spaces left in the original columns that imply duplication of the entry above have been filled. No attempt has been made to modernize Carradori's spelling of Italian words. The English terms are translated from the Italian and not from the corresponding Nubian entry. They are intended to expedite the use of the dictionary by those who may feel more comfortable in English than in Italian, but they should never be taken as legitimate substitutes for the Italian and Nubian entries themselves.
Elizabeth, NJ 16 April 2000
1. G. Nerucci, "Frà Arcangelo Carradori, missionario da Pistoia," Bollettino Italiano degli Studii Orientali, I (1876-77), 232-4. 2. Leo Reinish, Die Nuba-Sprache. Wien, 1879; Richard Lepsius, Nubische Grammatik. Berlin, 1880. 3. K.V. Zetterstéen, Nubische Studien im Sudan, 1877-78, aus dem Nachlass Professor Herman Almkvist's. Uppsala, 1911. Almkvist gathered his material in Egypt and the Sudan during the years 1877-78; he was beaten to press, however by his contemporary and rival Nubiologue Richard Lepsius, whose work appeared in 1880. 4. K.V. Zetterstéen, "The Oldest Dictionary of the Nubian Language," Le Monde Oriental, I (1907), 227-40, and "Arcangelo Carradori's Ditionario della lingua Italiana e Nubiana," V (1911), 42-79 and 137-167; VIII (1914), 203-36; IX (1915), 17-55; XIII (1919), 185-204. 5. Inge Hofmann, Das nubische Wörterverzeichnis des Arcangelo Carradori (O.F.M.) aus dem frühen 17. Jahrhundert. Wien, 1983. 6. Jay Spaulding, "The Demographic Effect of the Arabs on Lower Nubia before 1635: Linguistic Evidence," Northeast African Studies, X, 2-3 (1988), 127-130. 7. Giacomo Lumbroso, "Ritocchi ed aggiunte ai 'Descrittori italiani dell'Egitto e di Alessandria,'" Memorie della Accademia Reale dei Lincei, Classe di Scienze Morali, Filologiche e Storici, Vol. X, Serie 4, Parte 1a (1892), 212-29.