The Cognate Curse in Negev Arabic: From Playful Punning to Coexistence Conflicts

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Abstract

The punning cognate curse, continuing the ancient Semitic tradition of paronomasia, patterns in adjacency pairs (AB) where an utterance or an action by A triggers a punning curse by B. For example, in Negev Arabic, if A addresses B as a maternal uncle (xå•), in order to obtain a favor, B may respond yxull bå† ak!‘May He sew up your armpit!’—not as a real curse, but as a playful show of wittiness, that eases the tensions of everyday interaction. As a ‘weapon of the weak’the curse is characteristic of women within the domestic circle. As long as the participants share pragmatic and cultural codes, nobody is offended.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-206
Number of pages38
JournalIsrael Studies in Language and Society
Volume2
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009

Keywords

  • Arabic language (Modern)
  • stylistics
  • Negev
  • pun
  • curses
  • bilinguals

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