Talk by Mark Wagner (Paris IAS fellow) within the framework of the Fifth International Symposium of the International Association for the Study of Middle and Mixed Arabic
(AIMA) : "Middle and Mixed Arabic in the History of the Arabic Language and Today"
In 2015 Mordecai Yitshari (b. 1930) published the Diwan of General Yemeni Poetry. In it he transcribed and partially translated into modern Hebrew poems written in Judeo-Yemeni Arabic in a notebook that his father, Salih al-Zahiri, transcribed in the 1920s and 1930s, songs that he heard as a young man being performed before members of Imam Yahya’s family, and poems of his own.
In transcribing the poems in Hebrew characters, Mordecai Yitzhari used the orthographic features of Hebrew (for example, vowel sounds like “e”, “o”, and the hard “a”) to render the songs as close as possible to the Arabic dialect of Sanaa. In this paper I will discuss the ways in which this Judeo-Yemeni musical-poetic anthology sheds light on broader issues related to the tradition of “Sanaani Singing”.