Qári Drabble: the dead barbarian

Dábu ikótye x’ayeqa já. Só páqeyi ipa yejitxe ma daksa, gehixu qe yepu. Só yá kadu ajá éqi: 

“Yata já, tafá é pé gálir uqa xe yeqxit já?”

Já’m ut áqu ayeqar só, kipa já lutleyó nakni iqaya. Já kangqit qitná éqi: 

“Té Dábu, gálir uqa ut rón xe yeqxit. At txumat xe yeqxit rá ut iqé tle gálir, só hó yéyé ritsá xe qár. Pin xe sityar só hó riná tyama. Txumat-indu iqé tlirá, Té Dábu.”

Gyámo dábu sendita netqi. Já tlehali luseti nédir éqi: 

“Nédir! makura Té Dábu fé ésiyatxe xeli! Só inápér he gálir!”


My father sat down opposite me. He raised a cup of beer to his lips, nodded and drained it. 

“My son, why is there a dead barbarian in my bed?” he asked me, carefully. 

I could not look him in the eyes, instead I toyed with the edge of my mat. 

“Honoured father,” I began hesitantly. “There is no dead barbarian in your bed. The man in your bed is not a barbarian, he was born here in the city. He died in his sleep last night. He is you, honoured father.”

The ghost of my father smiled at me and disappeared. I called to my slave: 

“Slave! Wrap my father in a different shroud! He looks like a barbarian!” 


With interlinear glosses and some commentary:

Dábu ikót-ye x’ayeqa já. Só páqeyi ipa yejitxe ma daksa, gehixu qe yepu.
father sit-asp loc=eye 1sg || 3sg raise cup beer all mouth | nod and swallow
My father sat down opposite me. He raised a cup of beer to his lips, nodded and drained it.

The verb ‘to sit’ is ikópér, derived from ikó ‘session’ and –pér, a suffix deriving stative verbs. This suffix is itself derived from a now-obsolete verb pér ‘to exist’, which had a highly irregular animate aspectual form tye. The suffix is productive enough that this has not been lost to analogy.

Só yá kadu ajá éqi: “Yata já, tafá é pé gálir uqa xe yeqxit já?”
3sg put ask all.1sg quot || son 1sg | why sr exist barbarian dead loc bed 1sg
“My son, why is there a dead barbarian in my bed?” he asked me carefully.

Two things of note here: direct speech is introduced with the invariant quotative particle éqi. It derives, unsurprisingly, from the Old Qári *ɨkʷtṇ ‘it is said’.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, the interrogative tafá ‘why’ is always followed by a subordinate clause, introduced with the subordinator é.

Já’m ut áqu ayeqa-r só, kipa já lutle-yó nakni iqaya.
1sg=appl neg see eye-pl 3sg | but 1sg fondle-asp edge cushion
I could not look him in the eyes, instead I began to fiddle with the edge of my mat.

A cultural note: the Qáritu believe that it is incredibly unlucky to look into a dead person’s eyes. This is the first hint that all is not as it seems.

Já kangqit qitná éqi: “Té Dábu, gálir uqa ut rón xe yeqxit. At txumat xe yeqxit rá ut iqé tle gálir, só hó yéyé ritsá xe qár. Pin xe sityar só hó riná tyama. Txumat=indu iqé tlirá, Té Dábu.”
1sg hesitate say quot || hon father | barbarian dead neg lie_down loc bed || def man loc bed 2sg neg be eqt barbarian | 3sg pass pst~pst bear loc city ||yesterday loc night 3sg pass sleep die || man=that be eqt.2sg | hon father
“Honoured father,” I began hesitantly. “There is no dead barbarian in your bed. The man in your bed is not a barbarian, he was born here in the city. He died in his sleep last night. He is you, honoured father.”

Note that Qári is not overly generous with possessives. We’ve established that the bed belongs to the narrator’s father, there’s no need to keep on referring to yeqxit rá ‘your bed’.

Again, culturally, it would be unusual for most Qáritu to refer to one’s own father with the honorific prefix unless you were offering him ancestral prayers. Among upper-class Qáritu, however, this would be entirely normal speech.

Gyámo dábu sendita netqi. Já tlehali luseti nédir éqi:
soul father smile disappear || 1sg summon order slave quot
The ghost of my father smiled and disappeared. I called to my slave and ordered him:

“Nédir! makura Té Dábu fé ésiyatxe xeli! Só inápér he gálir!”
slave || dress hon father inst kilt new || 3sg resemble perl barbarian
“Slave! Wrap my father in a different shroud! He looks like a barbarian!”

The verb inápér ‘to resemble’ has an unusual case frame, with the thing resembled taking the perlative preposition he where the equative tle would be logically expected. I offer no explanation for this beyond it being weird.

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