Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Floating a big idea: Scientists demo ancient use of rafts to transport goods

This is an ongoing topic of debate and research. So even though Professor Heyerdahl has gone on that raft expedition in the sky, I thought I'd put the continuing saga here.

Oceangoing sailing rafts plied the waters of the equatorial Pacific long before Europeans arrived in the Americas, and carried tradegoods for thousands of miles all the way from modern-day Chile to western Mexico, according to new findings by MIT researchers in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Details of how the ancient trading system worked more than 1,000 years ago were reconstructed largely through the efforts of former MIT undergraduate student Leslie Dewan, working with Professor of Archeology and Ancient Technology Dorothy Hosler, of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE). The findings are being reported in the Spring 2008 issue of the Journal of Anthropological Research.

The new work supports earlier evidence documented by Hosler that the two great centers of pre-European civilization in the Americas-the Andes region and Mesoamerica-had been in contact with each other and had longstanding trading relationships. That conclusion was based on an analysis of very similar metalworking technology used in the two regions for items such as silver and copper tiaras, bands, bells and tweezers, as well as evidence of trade in highly prized spondylus-shell beads.

Early Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch accounts of the Andean civilization include descriptions and even drawings of the large oceangoing rafts, but provided little information about their routes or the nature of the goods they carried.

In order to gain a better understanding of the rafts and their possible uses, Dewan and other students in Hosler's class built a small-scale replica of one of the rafts to study its seaworthiness and handling, and they tested it in the Charles River in 2004. Later, Dewan did a detailed computer analysis of the size, weight and cargo capacity of the rafts to arrive at a better understanding of their use for trade along the Pacific coast.

“It's a nontrivial engineering problem to get one of these to work properly,” explained Dewan, who graduated last year with a double major in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. Although the early sketches give a general sense of the construction, it took careful study with a computerized engineering design program to work out details of dimensions, materials, sail size and configuration, and the arrangement of centerboards. These boards were used in place of a keel to prevent the craft from being blown to the side, and also provided a steering mechanism by selectively raising and lowering different boards from among two rows of them arranged on each side of the craft.

Although much of the raft design may have seemed familiar to the Europeans, some details were unique, such as masts made from flexible wood so that they could be curved downward to adjust the sails to the strength of the wind, the centerboards used as a steering mechanism, and the use of balsa wood, which is indigenous to Ecuador.

Dewan also analyzed the materials used for the construction, including the lightweight balsa wood used for the hull. Besides having to study the aerodynamics and hydrodynamics of the craft and the properties of the wood, cloth and rope used for the rafts and their rigging, she also ended up delving into some biology. It turns out that one crucial question in determining the longevity of such rafts had to do with shipworms-how quickly and under what conditions would they devour the rafts? And were shipworms always present along that Pacific coast, or were they introduced by the European explorers?

Shipworms are molluscs that can be the width of a quarter and a yard long. “Because balsa wood is so soft, and doesn't have silicates in it like most wood, they are able to just devour it very quickly,” Dewan said. “It turns into something like cottage cheese in a short time.”
That may be why earlier attempts to replicate the ancient rafts had failed, Dewan said. After construction, those replicas were allowed to sit near shore for weeks before the test voyages. “That's where the shipworms live,” Dewan said. “One way to avoid that is to minimize the amount of time spent in harbor.”

Dewan and Hosler did a simulation of the amount of time it would take for shipworms to eat one of the rafts and concluded that with proper precautions, it would be possible to make two round-trip voyages from Peru to western Mexico before the raft would need replacing.
The voyages likely took six to eight weeks, and the trade winds only permit the voyages during certain seasons of the year, so the travelers probably stayed at their destination for six months to a year each trip, Dewan and Hosler concluded. That would have been enough time to transfer the detailed knowledge of specific metalworking techniques that Hosler had found in her earlier research.

While Hosler's earlier work had shown a strong likelihood that there had been contact between the Andean and Mexican civilizations, it took the details of this new engineering analysis to establish that maritime trade between the two regions could indeed have taken place using the balsa rafts. “We showed from an engineering standpoint that this trip was feasible,” Dewan said. Her analysis showed that the ancient rafts likely had a cargo capacity of 10 to 30 tons-about the same capacity as the barges on the Erie canal that were once a mainstay of trade in the northeastern United States.

Hosler said the analysis is “the first paper of its kind” to use modern engineering analysis to determine design parameters and constraints of an ancient watercraft and thus prove the feasibility of a particular kind of ancient trade in the New World. And for Dewan, it was an exciting departure from her primary academic work. “I just loved working on this project,” she said, “being able to apply the mechanical engineering principles I've learned to a project like this, that seems pretty far outside the scope” of her work in nuclear engineering.

Ancient trading raft sails anew

( -- For the first time in nearly 500 years, a full-size balsa-wood raft just like those used in pre-Columbian Pacific trade took to the water on Sunday, May 10. Only this time, instead of the Pacific coast between Mexico and Chile where such rafts carried goods between the great civilizations of the Andes and Mesoamerica as long as a millennium ago, the replica raft was floated in the Charles River basin.

The faithful reproduction of the ancient sailing craft, built from eight balsa logs brought from Ecuador for the project, was created in less than six weeks by 30 students in the Ancient Materials class taught by Professor of Archeology and Ancient Technology Dorothy Hosler of the department of Materials Science and Engineering. The replica was based on an analysis carried out by Hosler and her former student Leslie Dewan '06, which was published last year in the Journal of Anthropological Research.

Based on drawings and descriptions recorded by Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch explorers, Dewan and Hosler figured out the dimensions and construction methods that most likely were used for the ancient craft, and reproduced these as accurately as possible. While some other attempts have been made to reproduce the ancient craft, including a one-third scale version built by Dewan and other students five years ago, none had previously copied the ancient designs and materials so precisely. No modern materials were used in the construction.

The full-size replica was built to confirm the computer analysis of the craft's size, capacity and construction, and to prove that such a vessel really is seaworthy and could have made the voyages of thousands of miles indicated by Hosler's research on similarities in the metalwork design and manufacture between the Andean and Mesoamerican cultures. The reproduction was financed through a donation from Alcan-Beltec Corp.

The raft will undergo a series of tests over the summer, but so far performed very well, Hosler says. Although there were high winds that caused problems for many sailboats on the Charles on Sunday, the raft with nine students aboard remained very stable, she said. Source.


Anonymous. 2009. "Ancient trading raft sails anew". Posted: May 13th, 2009. Available online:

Chandler, David. 2008. "Floating a big idea: Scientists demo ancient use of rafts to transport goods". Posted: March 19th, 2008. Available online:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Archaeologists find suspected vampire in Italy

An archaeological excavation of mass graves of plague victims on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo near Venice, Italy found the first example ever discovered of a suspected vampire.

An archaeological excavation of mass graves of plague victims on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo near Venice, Italy found the first example ever discovered of a suspected vampire.

The skull, buried in 1576, was found along with part of the body in March 2009 and was unusual as the jaw was forced permanently open by a brick, known to be a medieval exorcism technique to prevent ‘vampires’ returning from the dead.

Matteo Borrini, a forensic archaeologist at the university of Florence, has been leading a team digging on the island since 2006 and describes the find among the mass graves there as unexpected and lucky.

Vampire legends in Europe date back to at least the 9th century and were probably brought by merchants from the Far East along the trade roots to Eastern Europe. The myths were made more popular from the 15th century by the most famous suspected vampire of them all, Vlad Tepes Dracula. Dracula earned the name Tepes, which means impaler, because of the methods of torture and execution he used and rumours of him drinking the blood of his victims led many to believe him to be a vampire.

A living vampire would be relatively easy to spot, so it was believed. They had an aversion to silver, garlic and holy water and could not enter a house unless invited. They had enlarged incisors, hairy palms, cast no shadow and had no reflection in the mirror.

It was believed that if you were bitten by a vampire, you were doomed to become one along with heretics, criminals and people who commit suicide. The bat became associated with the vampire from the 15th century when Spanish sailors returning from Latin America brought with them stories of blood sucking bats, leading some to believe the vampire had the super natural ability to shape-shift.

It was also believed they could be spotted some time after burial too due to the decomposition process of a human corpse. As the stomach decays, it releases a bloodlike ‘purge fluid’ which sometimes can exit through the nose and mouth. On seeing this, some mistook it as evidence of the presence of the un-dead and thought the blood had come from a bite victim. To further add to the suspicion, the fluid often moistened the burial shroud near the mouth causing it to sag into the jaw and become torn by the teeth.

According to Borrini, these things would normally not be seen very often but as tombs were being reopened much more as a result of the unusually high death rates caused by the plague, gravediggers where seeing bodies with what they saw as evidence for vampire activity more and more.

Gravediggers are thought to have acted on their suspicions when seeing a suspected Vampire by wedging a brick into the mouth of the corpse. If left unchecked, it was believed vampires would grow strong enough to rise to the surface by feeding on other bodies buried with them, then they would go on to attack the living, spreading the plague and creating new vampires in the process.


Auron. 2009. "Archaeologists find suspected vampire in Italy". Bukisa. Posted: Apr 21, 2009. Available online:

Picture Credit: (Reuters) An undated photo from the University of Florence shows the remains of a female 'vampire' from 16th-century Venice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Handwriting of Liars

The following articles are more of interest to law enforcement people, however, Linguistic Anthropologists may also benefit from them. For me, I just found them interesting. Period.

Handwriting-based tool offers alternate lie detection method

For ages experts and laymen have been analyzing and trying to crack the code of handwriting characteristics, in order to detect an individual's personality traits, or in most cases, gauge their innocence in the case of a crime. Although this science has often gone the way of pseudoscience, researchers are now discovering that with the aid of a computerized tool, handwriting characteristics can be measured more effectively.

The research, headed by Gil Luria and Sara Rosenblum at the University of Haifa, is published in an upcoming issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.

The researchers utilized a computerized tablet that measured the physical properties of the subject's handwriting, which are difficult to consciously control (for example: the duration of time that the pen is on paper versus in the air, the length height and width of each writing stroke, the pressure implemented on the writing surface). They have found that these handwriting characteristics differ when an individual is in the process of writing deceptive sentences as opposed to truthful sentences.

The handwriting tool has the potential to replace, or work in tandem, with popular, verbal-based lie detection technology such as the polygraph to ensure greater accuracy and objectivity in law enforcement deception detection. Additionally, polygraphs are often intrusive to the subject and sometimes inconclusive. The handwriting tool therefore provides ease and increased accuracy over common, verbal-based methods. Source

The follow-up article.

Handwriting of Liars

( -- Forget about unreliable polygraph lie detectors for identifying liars. A new study claims the best way to find out if someone is a liar is to look at their handwriting, rather than analyzing their word choice, eye movements and body language.

The study by Gil Luria and Sara Rosenblum from the University of Haifa in Israel, tested 34 volunteers, who were each asked to write two stories using a system called ComPET (Computerized Penmanship Evaluation Tool), which comprises a piece of paper positioned on a computer tablet and a wireless electronic pen with a pressure-sensitive tip. Using the system, the subjects wrote one paragraph about a true memory, and one that was made up.

The researchers analyzed the writing and discovered that in the untrue paragraphs the subjects on average pressed down harder on the paper and made significantly longer strokes and taller letters than in the true paragraphs. The differences were not visible to the eye, but were detectable by computer analysis. There were no differences in writing speed.

The scientists suggest that handwriting changes because the brain is forced to work harder since it is inventing information, and this interferes with normal writing.

People hesitate when they lie, Dr Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire told the Daily Mail, and some companies use this knowledge to check how long people take to tick boxes in online surveys. The new research is promising, he said, but needs larger scale testing.

The study was published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal. Research is in its early stages but ComPET could one day find practical application in testing the truthfulness of handwritten insurance claims or loan applications, or in handwriting tests during job interviews. Handwriting analyses could also be combined with lie detectors to identify whether or not people were lying. Source


Anonymous. 2009. "Handwriting-based tool offers alternate lie detection method". August 28th, 2009. Available online:

Edwards, Lin. 2009. "The Handwriting of Liars". 21st, 2009. Available online:

Both articles were derived from: Gil Luria and Sara Rosenblum."Comparing the handwriting behaviours of true and false writing with computerized handwriting measures" Applied Cognitive Psychology, DOI: 10.1002/acp.1621 Available online (for cost): Published Online: 28 Aug 2009.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back from Extinction: The Taino People of the Caribbean

The Taino people were the gentle Native folk who encountered Christopher Columbus upon his arrival over 500 years ago. They shared the Caribbean islands with the more aggressive, warlike Caribs. Lynne Guitar in her article for the Kacike Journal argues the transcultural miscommunication and understanding that was created between accounts by the Europeans and the reality of their situation in the Caribbean.

If you were to read Columbus' journals about the first encounter with the Tainos, you would read about their nakedness and lack of shame. Guitar writes;
Think about the term “naked.” It’s a Eurocentric term that means not to be “dressed,” not to be covered with cloth. After describing the Taínos’ nakedness, the Spanish chroniclers went on to describe the Taínos’ elaborate arm and leg bands, tattoos and painted adornments, headdresses, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, the caciques’ (chiefs’) elaborate belts, masks, and feathered capes, and the naguas--finely woven cotton “skirts”--that some of the
Taíno women wore. That’s a lot of clothing and accoutrements for a supposedly naked people! (The women’s naguas, by the way, were more loincloths than skirts, for they did not hide the
women’s buttocks and were not meant to hide their pubic areas, either. Like today’s
Western women wear wedding bands, the naguas indicated that the women who wore them were married, and the nobler a woman was, the longer was the nagua that she wore.) (p.3).
The miscommunication is applied by Guitar to all aspects of reporting, including reports of their extinction.
Today we know that most of the Taínos were not killed by abuses endured under the
because they had no immunities to them, and after 1519, of smallpox. In tropical areas like Hispaniola, between 80 and 90% of the Native Indians died of plagues that often preceded the actual arrival of the Spaniards, for the germs and viruses were carried by messengers bearing
news from plague-ridden areas. An 80-90% loss is a significant and horrifying loss. It is so horrifying that it obscures the fact that 10 to 20% of the Taínos survived.

A re-examination of the documents of the era reveals the origins of the myth of Taíno extinction:
  • When the chroniclers wrote that all of the Indians of Hispaniola were gone, they were, in fact, following the lead of Las Casas, who exaggerated the Taíno population decline in order to convince the emperor to abolish the encomienda system (see note 1) and, instead,
    establish missionary villages for the Indians’ conversion.
  • The chroniclers also wrote about the Taínos in comparison to the denser populations of Native Indians later discovered on the Mainland; this is especially true about Oviedo, who
    spent his early years in today’s Panama.
  • The chroniclers were also repeating what was written in letter after letter to the Royal Court by encomenderos on Hispaniola who exaggerated their losses in order to gain sympathy and
    royal permission to import more African slaves, who were believed to be “stronger” than the Taínos because they did not fall prey to the diseases that decimated the Indians.

  • The legacy of the miscommunication was that the Taínos became extinct. However, Dr. Guitar does show that they were not extinct, but rather surviving in severely reduced numbers elsewhere on the islands.

    This article provided a very interesting read into the interpretation of ethnological reports. Be sure to read the whole article here.
    Note 1: Encomienda (ānkōmyān`dä) [Span. encomendar=to entrust], system of tributory labor established in Spanish America. Developed as a means of securing an adequate and cheap labor supply, the encomienda was first used over the conquered Moors of Spain. Transplanted to the New World, it gave the conquistador control over the native populations by requiring them to pay tribute from their lands, which were "granted" to deserving subjects of the Spanish crown. The natives often rendered personal services as well. In return the grantee was theoretically obligated to protect his wards, to instruct them in the Christian faith, and to defend their right to use the land for their own subsistence. When first applied in the West Indies, this labor system wrought such hardship that the population was soon decimated. This resulted in efforts by the Spanish king and the Dominican order to suppress encomiendas, but the need of the conquerors to reward their supporters led to de facto recognition of the practice. The crown prevented the encomienda from becoming hereditary, and with the New Laws (1542) promulgated by Las Casas, the system gradually died out, to be replaced by the repartimiento and finally debt peonage. Similar systems of land and labor apportionment were adopted by other colonial powers, notably the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the French. Source


    Anonymous. 2007. "Ecomienda System definition of the Ecomienda system in the Free Online Encyclopedia". The Free Dictionary.Columbia University Press. Available online Taken from: L. B. Simpson, 1966.The Encomienda in New Spain (rev. ed. 1966); J. F. Bannon, Indian Labor in the Spanish Indies.

    Guitar, Lynne. 2002."Documenting the Myth of Taíno Extinction".Kacike:Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology. Available online:

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    No Such Thing As Ethnic Groups, Genetically Speaking, Researchers Say

    The following is from Science Daily. It's a synopsis of an actual article published in BMC Genetics.

    ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2009) — Central Asian ethnic groups are more defined by societal rules than ancestry. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genetics found that overall there are more genetic differences within ethnic groups than between them, indicating that separate 'ethnic groups' exist in the mind more than the blood.

    Geographic map of the sampled area. Source.
    Evelyne Heyer, from the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, France, led an international team of researchers who studied mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome data from several populations of two major language ethnic groups of Central Asia, the Turkic and Indo-Iranian groups.

    She said: "Our results indicate that, for at least two of the Turkic groups in Central Asia, ethnicity is a constructed social system maintaining genetic boundaries with other groups, rather than being the outcome of common genetic ancestry."

    The boundaries used by individuals to distinguish themselves from members of other ethnic groups are generally cultural, linguistic, economic, religious and political. Heyer and her colleagues confirm the absence of common ancestry in a specific ethnic group; there were on average more differences between members of the same ethnic group than there were between groups.

    Speaking about these findings, Heyer said: "Analysis of genetic data, such as in this study, is an important tool for investigating ethnological issues."


    Evelyne Heyer, Patricia Balaresque, Mark A Jobling, Lluis Quintana-Murci, Raphaelle Chaix, Laure Segurel, Almaz Aldashev and Tanya Hegay. Genetic diversity and the emergence of ethnic groups in Central Asia. BMC Genetics, 2009; available online

    Adapted from materials provided by BioMed Central, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
    BioMed Central (2009, September 1). No Such Thing As Ethnic Groups, Genetically Speaking, Researchers Say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 25, 2009, from /releases/2009/08/090831212951.htm

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Scots: Language or Dialect?

    I'm just putting this article from Wikiedia here to open the discussion. I haven't made up my mind yet. 
    Scots or Lowland Scots refers to the Germanic varieties spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster. It is not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language of Scotland.
    Since there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots.[1] Although a number of paradigms for distinguishing between languages and dialects do exist, these often render contradictory results. Focused broad Scots is at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with Scottish Standard English at the other[2], consequently, Scots is often regarded as one of the ancient varieties of English, but with its own distinct dialects[3] or Scots is sometimes treated as a distinct Germanic language, in the way Norwegian is closely linked to yet distinct from Danish.[4]
    Native speakers sometimes refer to their vernacular as braid Scots (or "broad Scots" in English) or use a dialect name such as "the Doric", "the Teri" or "the Buchan Claik". The old-fashioned Scotch occurs occasionally, especially in Ireland. The term Lallans is used, too (though this is more often taken to mean the specific Lallans literary form).
    The word Scot was borrowed from Latin to refer to Scotland and dates from at least the first half of the 10th century. Up to the 15th century Scottis (modern form: Scots) referred to Gaelic (a Celtic language and tongue of the ancient Scots, introduced from Ireland perhaps from the 4th century onwards). Since the late 15th century,[5] Germanic speakers in Scotland also started occasionally referring to their vernacular as Scottis and increasingly called Gaelic Erse (from Erisch, or "Irish"), now often considered pejorative.
    Northumbrian Old English had been established in southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth by the 7th century. It remained largely confined to this area until the 13th century, continuing in common use while Gaelic was the court language. Early northern Middle English, also known as Early Scots, then spread further into Scotland via the burghs, proto-urban institutions which were first established by King David I. The growth in prestige of Early Scots in the 14th century, and the complementary decline of French in Scotland, made Scots the prestige language of most of eastern Scotland. By the 16th century Middle Scots had established orthographic and literary norms largely independent of those developing in England.
    Modern Scots thus grew out of the early northern form of Middle English spoken by the people of southeastern Scotland and northern England. Northern Middle English, or Early Scots as it is also known, made its first literary appearance in Scotland in the mid-14th century, when its form differed little from northern English dialects, and so Scots shared many Northumbrian borrowings from Old Norse and Anglo-Norman French. Later influences include Dutch and Middle Low German through trade with and immigration from the low countries, as well as Romance via ecclesiastical and legal Latin and French owing to the Auld Alliance. Scots has loan words resulting from contact with Gaelic. Early medieval legal documents show a language peppered with Gaelic legal and administrative loans. Today Gaelic loans are mainly for geographical and cultural features, such as ceilidh, loch and clan.
    Language shift
    On one hand, well-off Scots took to learning English through such activities as those of the Thomas Sheridan who in 1761 gave a series of lectures on English elocution. Charging a guinea at a time (about £65 in today's money), they were attended by over 300 men, and he was made a freeman of the City of Edinburgh. Following this, some of the city's intellectuals formed the Select Society for Promoting the Reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland. Other people who scorned Scotticisms included intellectuals from the Scottish Enlightenment like David Hume and Adam Smith who went to great lengths to get rid of every Scotticism from their writings.[6] This was not universally welcomed, as was illustrated by the summary by F. Pottle, James Boswell's 20th century biographer, concerning James' view of speech habits of his father Alexander Boswell, a judge of the supreme courts of Scotland :
    He scorned modern literature, spoke broad Scots from the bench, and even in writing took no pains to avoid the Scotticisms which most of his colleagues were coming to regard as vulgar.
    On the other hand, the education system also became increasingly geared to teaching English, though this was initially impaired by the teachers' and students' lack of knowledge of English pronunciation through lack of contact with English speakers. Aspects of English grammar and lexis could be accessed through printed texts. By the 1840s the Scottish Education Department's language policy was that Scots had no value " is not the language of 'educated' people anywhere, and could not be described as a suitable medium of education or culture". Students, of course, reverted to Scots outside the classroom, but the reversion was not complete. What occurred, and has been occurring ever since, is a process of language attrition, whereby successive generations have adopted more and more features from English. This process has accelerated rapidly since widespread access to mass media in English, and increased population mobility, became available after the Second World War. It has recently taken on the nature of wholesale language shift, sometimes also termed language change, convergence or merger. Residual features of Scots are often regarded as slang.
    Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self (Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself) an example of Early Scots on John Knox House, Edinburgh
    Before the Treaty of Union 1707, when Scotland and England joined to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, there is ample evidence that Scots was widely held to be an independent language[7] as part of a pluricentric diasystem.
    The linguist Heinz Kloss considered Modern Scots a Halbsprache (half language) in terms of a Ausbausprache - Abstandsprache - Dachsprache framework[8] although today, in Scotland, most people's speech is somewhere on a continuum ranging from traditional broad Scots to Scottish Standard English. Many speakers are either diglossic and/or able to code-switch along the continuum depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Where on this continuum English-influenced Scots becomes Scots-influenced English is difficult to determine. Since standard English now generally has the role of a Dachsprache, disputes often arise as to whether or not the varieties of Scots are dialects of Scottish English or constitute a separate language in their own right.
    The UK government now accepts Scots as a regional language and has recognised it as such under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
    “ Notwithstanding the UK government’s and the Scottish Executive’s obligations under part II of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Scottish Executive recognises and respects Scots (in all its forms) as a distinct language, and does not consider the use of Scots to be an indication of poor competence in English.[9] ”
    Evidence for its existence as a separate language lies in the extensive body of Scots literature, its independent — if somewhat fluid — orthographic conventions and in its former use as the language of the original Parliament of Scotland.[10] Since Scotland retained distinct political, legal and religious systems after the Union, many Scots terms passed into Scottish English. For instance, libel and slander, separate in English law, are bundled together as defamation in Scots law.
    After the Union and the shift of political power to England, the use of Scots was discouraged by many in authority and education, as was the notion of Scottishness itself.[11] Many leading Scots of the period, such as David Hume, considered themselves Northern British rather than Scottish.[12] They attempted to rid themselves of their Scots in a bid to establish standard English as the official language of the newly formed Union. Enthusiasm for this new Britishness waned over time, and the use of Scots as a literary language was revived by several prominent Scotsmen such as Robert Burns. Such 18th and 19th century writers were well aware of cross-dialect standard literary norms, but during the first half of the 20th century, knowledge of such norms waned and currently there is no institutionalised standard literary form.[13] During the second half of the 20th century, enthusiasts developed regularised cross-dialect forms following historical orthographic conventions, but these have had a limited impact. In much contemporary written Scots language, local loyalties usually prevail, and the written form usually adopts standard English sound-to-letter correspondences to represent the local pronunciation.
    No education takes place through the medium of Scots, though English lessons may cover it superficially, which usually entails reading some Scots literature and observing local dialect. Much of the material used is often Standard English disguised as Scots, which has upset both proponents of Standard English and proponents of Scots alike.[14] One example of the educational establishment's approach to Scots is "Write a poem in Scots. (It is important not to be worried about spelling in this – write as you hear the sounds in your head.)",[15] whereas guidelines for English require teaching pupils to be "writing fluently and legibly with accurate spelling and punctuation."[16] Scots can also be studied at university level.
    The use of Scots in the media is scant and is usually reserved for niches where local dialect is deemed acceptable, e.g., comedy, Burns Night, or representations of traditions and times gone by. Serious use for news, encyclopaedias, documentaries, etc. rarely occurs in Scots, although the Scottish Parliament website offers some information on it.
    It is often held that, had Scotland remained independent, Scots would have remained and been regarded as a separate language from English.[citation needed] On the other hand, a situation similar to that of Swiss German and standard German might have occurred. Equally, the present situation might have occurred, where the social elites and the upwardly mobile adopted Standard English, causing institutional language shift. A model of language revival to which many enthusiasts aspire is that of the Catalan language in areas spanning parts of Spain, France, Andorra and Italy, particularly as regards the situation of Catalan in Catalonia.
    Number of speakers
    Areas where the Scots language was spoken in the 20th century.[17][18]
    It has been difficult to determine the number of speakers of Scots via census, because many respondents might interpret the question "Do you speak Scots?" in different ways. Campaigners for Scots pressed for this question to be included in the 2001 U.K. National Census. The results from a 1996 trial before the Census, by the General Register Office for Scotland[citation needed], suggested that there were around 1.5 million speakers of Scots, with 30% of Scots responding "Yes" to the question "Can you speak the Scots language?", but only 17% responding "Aye." to the question "Can you speak Scots?". (It was also found that older, working-class people were more likely to answer in the affirmative.) The University of Aberdeen Scots Leid Quorum performed its own research in 1995, suggesting that there were 2.7 million speakers.[citation needed] The GRO questions, as freely acknowledged by those who set them, were not as detailed and as systematic as the Aberdeen University ones, and only included reared speakers, not those who had learned the language. Part of the difference resulted from the central question posed by surveys: "Do you speak Scots?". In the Aberdeen University study, the question was augmented with the further clause "… or a dialect of Scots such as Border &c.?", which resulted in greater recognition from respondents. The GRO concluded that there simply wasn't enough linguistic self-awareness amongst the Scottish populace, with people still thinking of themselves as speaking badly pronounced, grammatically inferior English rather than Scots, for an accurate census to be taken. The GRO research concluded that "[a] more precise estimate of genuine Scots language ability would require a more in-depth interview survey and may involve asking various questions about the language used in different situations. Such an approach would be inappropriate for a Census." Thus, although it was acknowledged that the "inclusion of such a Census question would undoubtedly raise the profile of Scots", no question about Scots was, in the end, included in the 2001 Census.[19][20][21]
    An apparent practical snag[citation needed] with the attempts to institutionalise a single variety of Scots for official use is, as in Standard English, the incorporation of vocabulary from literary registers often absent in colloquial registers (e.g. the use of "ken", meaning "know", which still occurs in many Eastern dialects but is entirely absent in others such as Glaswegian). An example is the Scots-language home page of the Scottish Parliament.[22]
    There are at least five Scots dialects:
    Insular Scots – spoken in Orkney and Shetland.
    Northern Scots – spoken in Caithness, Easter Ross, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus. Often split into North Northern / Mid Northern (also called North East[23] and popularly known as the Doric) / South Northern.
    Central Scots – spoken in the Central Lowlands and South west Scotland. Often split into North East Central / South East Central / West Central / South West Central.
    Southern Scots – spoken in the Scottish Borders and Dumfriesshire. Also known as the "border tongue" or "border Scots".
    Ulster Scots – spoken primarily by the descendants of Scottish settlers in Ulster, particularly counties Antrim, Down and Donegal. Also known as "Ullans".
    The southern extent of Scots may be identified by the range of a number of pronunciation features which set Scots apart from neighbouring English dialects. The Scots pronunciation of come [kʌm] becomes [kʊm] in Northern English. The Scots realisation [kʌm] reaches as far south as the mouth of the north Esk in north Cumbria, crossing Cumbria and skirting the foot of the Cheviots before reaching the east coast at Bamburgh some 12 miles north of Alnwick. The Scots[x]-English[∅]/[f] cognate group (micht-might, eneuch-enough, etc) can be found in a small portion of north Cumbria with the southern limit stretching from Bewcastle to Longtown and Gretna. The Scots pronunciation of wh as /ʍ/ becomes English /w/ south of Carlisle but remains in Northumberland, but Northumberland realises “r” as /ʁ/, often called the burr, which is not a Scots realisation. Thus the greater part of the valley of the Esk and the whole of Liddesdale can be considered to be northern English dialects rather than Scots ones. From the 19th century onwards influence from the South through education and increased mobility have caused Scots features to retreat northwards so that for all practical purposes the political and linguistic boundaries may be considered to coincide.[24]
    Northeast English, spoken throughout the traditional counties of Northumberland and County Durham, shares other features with Scots which have not been described above.
    As well as the main dialects, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow (see Glasgow patter) have local variations on an Anglicised form of Central Scots. In Aberdeen, Mid Northern Scots is spoken by a minority. Due to them being roughly near the border between the two dialects, places like Dundee and Perth can contain elements and influences of both Northern and Central Scots.
    Among the earliest Scots literature is John Barbour's Brus (fourteenth century), Wyntoun's Cronykil and Blind Harry's Wallace (fifteenth century). From the fifteenth century, much literature based around the Royal Court in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews was produced by writers such as Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, Gavin Douglas and David Lyndsay. The Complaynt of Scotland was an early printed work in Scots.
    After the seventeenth century, anglicisation increased. At the time, many of the oral ballads from the borders and the North East were written down. Writers of the period were Robert Sempill, Robert Sempill the younger, Francis Sempill, Lady Wardlaw and Lady Grizel Baillie.
    In the eighteenth century, writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Burns, Robert Fergusson and Walter Scott continued to use Scots. Scott introduced vernacular dialogue to his novels. Other well-known authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, William Alexander, George MacDonald, J. M. Barrie and other members of the Kailyard school like Ian Maclaren also wrote in Scots or used it in dialogue.
    In the Victorian era popular Scottish newspapers regularly included articles and commentary in the vernacular, often of unprecedented proportions.[25]
    In the early twentieth century, a renaissance in the use of Scots occurred, its most vocal figure being Hugh MacDiarmid whose benchmark poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926) did much to demonstrate the power of Scots as a modern idiom. Other contemporaries were Douglas Young, John Buchan, Sidney Goodsir Smith, Robert Garioch and Robert McLellan. However, the revival was largely limited to verse and other literature.
    In 1983 William Laughton Lorimer's translation of the New Testament from the original Greek was published.
    Highly anglicised Scots is sometimes used in contemporary fiction, for example, the Edinburgh dialect of Scots in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (later made into a motion picture of the same name).
    But'n'Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt is a cyberpunk novel written entirely in what Wir Ain Leid (Our Own Language) calls "General Scots". Like all cyberpunk work, it contains imaginative neologisms.
    The strip cartoons Oor Wullie and The Broons in the Sunday Post use some Scots.
    By the middle of the 17th century contemporary southern English had replaced Middle Scots for normal transactional writing. The 18th century revival of written Scots was based largely on contemporary colloquial Scots generally using highly anglicised spellings although some conventions inherited from previous centuries remained in use. The orthographic conventions of this literary or ‘pan-dialectal’ Scots were diaphonemic rather than phonetic in nature, subsuming varying dialect realisations, although dialect spellings became more frequent later in the period. This tradition embodied by writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Murray, David Herbison, James Orr, James Hogg and William Laidlaw among others, is well described in Grant and Dixon’s 1921 Manual of Modern Scots.
    During the 20th century a number of proposals for spelling reform were presented. Commenting on this, John Corbett (2003: 260) writes that "devising a normative orthography for Scots has been one of the greatest linguistic hobbies of the past century." Most proposals entailed regularising the use of established 18th and 19th century conventions, in particular the avoidance of apostrophes where they supposedly represent "missing" English letters. Such letters were never actually missing in Scots. For example, in the 14th century, Barbour spelt the Scots cognate of 'taken' as tane. Since there has been no k in the word for over 700 years, representing its omission with an apostrophe seems pointless. The current spelling is usually taen.
    Through the 20th century, with the decline of spoken Scots and knowledge of the literary tradition, phonetic (often humorous) representations became more common.
    Thats the discussion portion of the article. The rest is the nitty gritty of grammar. In all fairness to Wikipedia, I should send you there to check the grammatical portion.

    Interested in learning more?
    Scots Language Society
    Scots Language Center
    Scots Language and Dialects
    Socts: The Auld an Nobill Tung

    1 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
    2 Stuart-Smith J. Scottish English: Phonology in Varieties of English: The British Isles, Kortman & Upton (Eds), Mouton de Gruyter, New York 2008. p.47
    3 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
    4 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
    5 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992.
    6 "Scuilwab" (PDF).
    7 Nostra Vulgari Lingua: Scots as a European Language 1500 - 1700 By Dr. Dauvit Horsbroch
    8 Kloss, Heinz, ²1968, Die Entwicklung neuer germanischer Kultursprachen seit 1800, Düsseldorf: Bagel. pp.70, 79]
    9 Second Report submitted by the United Kingdom pursuant to article 25, paragraph 1 of the framework convention for the protection of national minorities Available here [1]
    10 See for example Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1560, written in Scots and still part of British Law
    11 Jones, Charles (1995) A Language Suppressed: The Pronunciation of the Scots Language in the 18th Century, Edinburgh, John Donald, p.vii
    12 Jones, Charles (1995) A Language Suppressed: The Pronunciation of the Scots Language in the 18th Century, Edinburgh, John Donald, p.2
    13 Eagle, Andy (2006) Aw Ae Wey - Written Scots in Scotland and Ulster. Available at
    14 "Exposed to ridicule". The Scotsman. 7 February 2004. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
    15 "''Scots - Teaching approaches'' Learning and Teaching Scotland Online Service". 2005-11-03. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
    16 "''National Guidelines 5-14: ENGLISH LANGUAGE'' Learning and Teaching Scotland Online Service". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
    17 Grant, William (1931) Scottish National Dictionary
    18 Gregg R.J. (1972) The Scotch-Irish Dialect Boundaries in Ulster in Wakelin M.F., Patterns in the Folk Speech of The British Isles, London
    19 (PDF) The Scots Language in education in Scotland. Mercator-Education. 2002. ISSN 1570-1239.
    20 T. G. K. Bryce and Walter M. Humes (2003). Scottish Education. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 263–264. ISBN 074861625X.
    21 Jane Stuart-Smith (2004). "Scottish English: phonology". in Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 48–49. ISBN 3110175320.
    22 "The Scottish Parliament: - Languages - Scots". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
    23 Mairi Robinson (editor-in-chief), The Concise Scots Dictionary, Aberdeen University Press, 1985
    24 "SND Introduction - Phonetic Description of Scottish Language and Dialects". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
    25 William Donaldson, The Language of the People: Scots Prose from the Victorian Revival, Aberdeen University Press 1989.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Is Arabic the Language of Adam? or of Paradise?

    This article was mentioned on one of the blogs that I follow. I thought it was so interesting I put the article here too. Enjoy!

    by Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi


    [This article is a full translation of the fifth chapter of Ibn Hazm's Ihkâm fî Usûl al-Ahkâm. It's original title is: "The Origins of Language: Divine Providence or Human Codification". It is presented here for the interesting points it makes about matters of general interest, and should not be taken as the final word on linguistic matters.]

    Regarding how languages came about – was it by divine instruction or by human codification – is a question that people have debated considerably. The correct view is that the origin of spoken language is instruction from Allah. The evidence for this comes from revelation and what reason demonstrates to be necessary.

    As for revelation, Allah says: "And He taught Adam the names of all things then he presented them to the angels…" [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 31]

    The rational necessity for this is as follows: Had speech been established by direct human codification, it would have been necessary for the people who set down its code to have had complete mental faculties, rational discipline, comprehensive knowledge, and direct experience with all thing found in the world along with knowledge of the limits, similarities, differences, and natures of those thing. However, we know by necessity that the interval of time between the first appearance of a person and the time when that person attains such a level is a considerable number of years, requiring education, protection, and the care of others. A person becomes independent only many years after being born. There is no way for a parents, responsible people, and nursemaids to cooperate in life without having a language by which they understand each other's essential needs. These include their tilling, herding, and planting activities, also the means by which they protect themselves from the heat, cold, and wild animals, as well as their ways of treating illness. Every individual has to have gone through the experience of childhood, which we have already mentioned is a state of inability and dependency on others.

    Moreover, the idea of codification necessitates that there was a time beforehand when language was not in existence, since it came about as the result of the activity of those who codified it. Yet, every activity requires speech in order to carry it out, sow how were the codifiers of language supposed to go about the business of codifying it without having a language already at their disposal? This is an impossible situation.

    This rational proof follows necessarily from the evidence that the human species came about after having not existed, and from the evidence that there is a single Creator, and from the evidence proving the existence of prophethood and messengership. This is because no human being can remain in existence without speech, and speech is composed of letters, and composition is an activity that requires an actor to carry it out, and every activity that (the actor) carries out has a starting point in time. This follows from the fact that an activity is movement requiring aptitude. So it is affirmed that the composition (of letters) had a starting point and that the human being cannot exist without speech. Whenever the existence of one thing depends upon the existence of something else that has a starting point, then it necessarily has a starting point as well.

    So it is affirmed that one thing must have come about after the other in succession, and it is confirmed that what is known of (language) is first known from the Creator, since (language) is something which, in its very nature, can only be known by way of being taught, and therefore requires that its first (human) teacher was taught directly by Allah. Then he in turn taught the members of his own kind what his Lord had taught him.

    Also, the codification needed to establish a language necessarily needs to be conducted by way of an earlier language that the codifiers had in common or by a system of gestures that they all understood. They could only have come to a mutual agreement on understanding those gestures if they used a language to do so. Knowledge of the definitions and natures of things which is communicated through language utterances cannot be obtained except by way of language and explanation. There is no other way. From this we know that speech could not have come about as a result of human codification.

    The only objection that can still be raised is that language is an instinctive act.

    Rational necessity dictates that this idea is false. Instinct only brings about a single behavior, not a number of different ones. The composition of speech is a voluntary act that is carried out under many different circumstances. Some of the proponents (of this idea that language is instinctive) have resorted to a confused argument, saying that geographical differences necessitated by nature the different languages that the inhabitants of different regions speak.

    This is also something impossible, for if differences in language are necessitated by the natural demands of different geographical environments, it would not be possible for more than one language to exist in the same locality. We can see with our eyes that this is not the case, since in most localities we find that various languages coexist, due to the movements of populations who speak different languages and those populations living alongside one other. This is enough to demonstrate the falsehood of that idea. Also, there is nothing in the nature of a geographical environment that would necessitate calling water by the name "water" instead of by another name composed of the same alphabet set. Whoever insists obstinately that there is (such a natural imperative) is one of two things: he is either being deliberately false or he is out of his mind. Therefore, the correct stance is that (language) came by way of by divine instruction by Allah's command and His teaching it.

    At the same time, we do not deny that people brought about a variety of languages after there had been a single language that they used to have in common by way of divine instruction, and by which they had been able to know the natures, modalities, and definitions of things. We have no way of knowing what the original language was that Adam (peace be upon him) spoke. All that we can say for certain is that it must have been the most comprehensive of all languages, the clearest in expression, the least ambiguous, the most concise, and the most extensive in vocabulary to comprehend the names of all things, whether substances or accidents. For Allah says: "And He taught Adam the names of all things…" [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 31] And this is the confirmation that dispels all problems and disputations on the matter.

    Some people have suggested that the first language was Syriac. Others have said it was Hebrew. And Allah knows best.

    What we do know for certain is that Syriac, Hebrew, and Arabic – the last being the language of the tribes of Mudar and Rabi`ah, not the (Old South Arabian) language of Himyar – are all a single language, and that language underwent change when its speakers settled in different geographic localities, so that it was fragmented. This is just like what happens when an Andalusian encounters the Qairawani dialect or vise versa, or when a Khorasani encounters either of the above. When we listen to the speech of people from Fahs al-Ballut, it is almost a different language than that spoken in Cordova, though it is only one night's journey away. The same situation can be found for many other parts of the world, because when the people of a region live in close proximity to another people, their language changes in a way that is obvious to anyone who gives thought to the matter.

    We find that the masses have changed the vocabulary of Arabic so significantly that their words have become as distant from the original as to be another language. different we find them saying "`eenab" for "`inab" (grape), "astoot" for "sawt" (whip), and "thalathdaa" for "thalaathah danaaneer" (three dinars). When a Berber becomes Arabized and wants to say "shajarah" (tree) he says "sajarah", and when a Galician becomes Arabized, he replaces both the letters `ayn and the aspirate h with the throaty h, so he says Muhammad with a throaty h instead of an aspirate h. Such things are commonplace.

    Therefore, whoever investigates Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac will ascertain that the differences between them are of the nature we have just described. Those differences came about as changes in people's pronunciation over long periods of time, from geographical dispersion, and from proximity to other nations, and that they are a single language in origin.

    Having established that, we say that Syriac is the ancestor of both Arabic and Hebrew. It is generally known that the first to speak this Arabic was Ishmael (peace be upon him) and it became the language of his progeny. Hebrew is the language of Isaac and his progeny. Syriac is without doubt the language of Abraham (peace be upon him and upon our prophet), as it is narrated by the general historic consensus to such degree that we can be secure in our knowledge of it. Therefore, Syriac is the ancestor of both Hebrew and Arabic.

    Some people have claimed that Greek is the simplest of languages. However, it is possible that this is only true for Greek in the present time, since much of it is lost. It has been marginalized by the fall of its speakers' nation and the foreign occupation of their lands, or by their migrating from their lands and intermixing with others. A nation's language, learning, and history are only maintained by the strength of its polity and by the vibrancy and leisure of its people.

    As for those whose state has collapsed and whose enemies have vanquished them, who are preoccupied with fear, need, disgrace, and serving their enemies, their creativity dies. This may be why the Greeks have lost their language, forgotten their genealogy and history, and had their sciences perish into nothingness. This can be confirmed both through observation and through reason. The Assyrian Empire passed into obscurity so many thousands of years ago that now its language is completely forgotten. So how much easier can it be for most of a language be lost? And Allah knows best.

    We cannot say that for certain that it is the language that Allah first bequeathed. It might be suggested that the original language has been lost without leaving a trace, or that it endures until today but we have no way of knowing which language it is. This is something we must admit. We know that there must have been some original language. Yet, maybe Allah taught Adam all of the languages that people speak today. Maybe it was one language back then with many synonyms signifying one signified, that then became many languages distributed later on among his progeny. This seems to me the most likely scenario. However, we can never know for certain. All we can say for sure is that there was one original language bequeathed by Allah.

    What makes me feel that whatever Allah originally bequeathed must have comprised all of the languages spoken today, is that I see no reason why people who already have a common language they speak and understand would bother to develop a new one. That would be a tremendous and meaningless effort, the type of excess that no sensible person would think of undertaking. If such a person did exist, he would have to be excessively frivolous and poor in judgment, busying himself with what has no benefit while neglecting what concerns him – things far more relevant to him like the affairs of his afterlife, his worldly interests, his pleasures, and all the beneficial sciences,

    Furthermore, how would such a person get the people of his county to abandon their own language and adopt the new one that had been concocted for them? I am not saying it is an impossibility, just that it is an extremely remote possibility.

    If someone argues suggested that the king of a multilingual kingdom might try to unite everyone upon a common language, we could argue back that this is the very opposite of the codification of many languages; it is the reduction of many languages down to one. Moreover, why would the king go to the immense trouble of doing so when it would be much easier for him to unite them upon one of the languages they already speak or better yet his own language? This would be easier and more plausible than concocting a whole new language. And Allah knows best.

    There are those who assume their language is better than others. This means nothing, since superiority comes about in certain well-known ways: either by deeds or by special distinction. A language has no deeds and there is no scriptural text conferring the distinction of superiority to one language over another.

    Allah says: "And We did not send any messenger but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly." [Sûrah Ibrâhîm: 4]

    He also says: ", We have made this (Qur'an) easy, in your tongue, in order that they may give heed." [Sûrah al-Dukhân: 58]

    So Allah tells us that He only revealed the Qur'an in Arabic so that the Prophet's people could understand it. That is the only reason.

    Galen was very much mistaken when he said: "Greek is the superior language, because all other languages sound like either the barking of dogs or the croaking of frogs."

    This is blatant ignorance, since when anyone hears a language other than his own, a language he does not understand, it invariably sounds to him the way that Galen describes it.

    People have said that Arabic is the best of languages, because Allah's words are conveyed by it.

    This does not mean a thing, because Allah has told us he always sent a Messenger speaking his native tongue, and Allah says: "There never was a people without a warner having lived among them." [Sûrah Fâtir: 24]

    He also says: "" [Sûrah al-Shu'arâ': 196]

    This means that Allah's words and revelations were sent down in every language. He sent the Torah, the Gospel, and the Psalms. He spoke to Moses in Hebrew. He sent the Scrolls to Abraham in Syriac. Therefore, languages are equal in this regard.

    Regarding the language of the denizens of Paradise and that of the denizens of Hell, we do not have any knowledge about these except by way of scripture or consensus, neither of which exists on the matter. They certainly must speak some language, so there are three – and only three – possibilities: they will speak some language presently in existence, they will speak a language unlike any that presently exists, or they will speak a plurality of languages. In any event, the depiction Allah gives of their conversing with each other shows with certainty that they will all able to communicate intelligibly with one another, either in Arabic as it is given in the Qur'an, or in some other language, and Allah alone knows what it will be

    Someone asserted to me that that their language will be Arabic, citing Allah's words: "And their final supplication will be: 'Al-Hamdu Lillaahi, Rabbi-l-`Aalameen'." [Sûrah Yûnus: 10]

    I countered this by saying to him: In the same way, it will have to be the language of Hell, since Allah informs us they said: "Sawaa'un `alaynaa a jazi`naa am sabarna, maa lanaa min mahees." [Sûrah Ibrâhîm: 21]

    And that they said: "An afeedu `alaynaa min al-maa'i aw mimmaa razaqakum Allah" [Sûrah al-A`râf: 50]

    And likewise that they said: "Law kunnâ nasma`u aw na`qilu maa kunnaa fee ashaab al-sa`eer." [Sûrah al-Mulk: 10]

    He then said: "Yes. This is the case."

    I then said to him: Then you must furthermore assert that Arabic was the language of Moses and all of the prophets (peace be upon them), since all of their words are quoted to us in the Qur'an in Arabic.

    However, your Lord shows your assertion to be a lie when He says: "And We did not send any messenger but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly." [Sûrah Ibrâhîm: 4]

    This means that Allah only quotes to us the meaning of what they said in their various languages in a language we can understand, to make it clear to us. That is all.

    The letter-sounds of languages are all the same, none take precedence over any others, and there is no inherent ugliness or beauty in some to the exclusion of others. They are the same for all languages. Therefore such a flimsy and spurious claim is false. And success rests with Allah.

    It was such misguided and common notions that led some Jews to permit telling lies and swearing false oaths in other than Hebrew. They claimed that the angels who convey human deeds to heaven do not understand anything but Hebrew, so they do not record against them anything else. This is patent foolishness. The Knower of the unseen and of what is in the hearts surely knows all the languages and their meanings – there is no God but He. He is sufficient for us and the best of protectors.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Culture of Afghanistan

    I found this website that describes most of the world's different cultures. I think its an excellent introductory site for this purpose. The references are plentiful. I thought I'd put one culture on this blog, to introduce you to the site. BUT I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU VISIT THE SITE AND BOOKMARK IT! Especially to see the photos. I may also take some information from time to time from it to share with you here. Anyway, here is culture/country number one: Afghanistan. 

    Afghanistani, Afghan

    Identification. The word "Afghan" historically has been used to designate the members of an ethnic group also called the Pashtuns, but Afghanistan is multicultural and multiethnic. The state was formed by the political expansion of Pashtun tribes in the middle of the eighteenth century but was not unified until the end of the nineteenth century. Persian-speaking (Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aymaqs) and Turkic-speaking (Uzbeks and Turkmens) populations have been incorporated in the state. Since the Communist coup of 1978 and the ensuing civil war, those groups have sought for greater political recognition, but the existence of the state has not been seriously questioned. The experience of exile shared by millions of refugees may have given rise to a new national feeling.

    Location and Geography. Afghanistan is a land-locked Asian country of 251,825 square miles (652,225 square kilometers) bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. The topography is a mix of central highlands and peripheral foothills and plains. The country has an arid continental climate. Summers are dry and hot, while winters are cold with heavy snowfall in the highlands. Precipitation is low, although some areas in the east are affected by the monsoon. Most of the country is covered by steppes, with desert areas and some patches of cultivated land. Pastoral nomadism, subsistence mountain agriculture, and irrigation are practiced. At the end of the eighteenth century, Kabul became the capital. It is located in a wide basin on the road linking India with Central Asia.

    Demography. There are no reliable census figures, but in 1997, the population was estimated to be 23,738,000. The great majority of people are rural (80 percent). The population of Kabul peaked at more than one million in the 1980s but dropped after the fall of the Communist regime in 1992. Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, and Kandahar (Qandahar) are the major cities, with populations of about 200,000 each. Important towns include Jalalabad, Kunduz, Baghlan, and Ghazni.

    The demographic importance of the Pashtuns has decreased since 1978, because they have formed the majority of the refugee population in Pakistan. It is estimated that Pashtuns represent 38 percent of the population, principally in the southeast, south, and west, with some pockets in the north; they are divided between the Durrani and Ghilzay confederacies and among many tribes along the Pakistani border. The Tajiks (25 percent) live primarily in the northeast, the northwest, and the urban centers. The Hazaras (19 percent) are found in the center, Kabul, and Mazar-e Sharif. The Uzbeks (6 percent) occupy the north. The remaining 12 percent of the population is made up of Aymaks (Sunni Persian-speaking groups in the northwest), Turkmens (along the border with Turkmenistan), Baluchis (in the southwest), and Nuristanis and Pashays (northeast of Kabul).

    Except for a few Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish minorities that have left the country, all the inhabitants are Muslims, divided between Sunnis (estimated at 84 percent), and Shiites (15 percent, most of whom are Hazaras); there are Ismaeli pockets in the east of Hazarajat and in Badakhshan. There has been a huge refugee population outside the country since 1978, numbering over six million in 1990—it constituted the largest refugee population in the world. Although many returned after the fall of the Communist regime in April 1992, several million Afghan refugees are still in Pakistan, Iran, and the Arabian peninsula. Some middle-class persons and intellectuals have settled in the West.

    Linguistic Affiliation. Many inhabitants are bilingual or trilingual, and all the major languages are spoken in the neighboring countries. The official languages are Persian (officially called Dari) and Pashto; both belong to the Iranian group of the Indo-European linguistic family. The Persian spoken by the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aymaks is not very different from the Persian of Iran. Pashto, which is divided into two major dialects, is also spoken in large areas of Pakistan. Despite government initiatives to promote Pashto, Persian is the preferred means of expression among educated and urban people. The Iranian group is also represented by Baluchi and some residual languages. The Nuristani languages are intermediate between Iranian and Indian groups, while Pashay is a conservative Indian language. Turkic languages, represented by Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kirghiz, are spoken widely in the north. Moghol and Arabic enclaves are disappearing.
    Symbolism. Afghanistan has never had a strongly unified national culture, and war has led to further fragmentation. The old flag of green, white, and black horizontal strips has been abandoned, and there is no national anthem. The national currency (the Afghani) is printed in two separate locations, with a locally varying exchange rate.

    Emergence of the Nation. The territory of modern Afghanistan was the center of several empires, including Greco-Buddhist kingdoms and the Kushans (third century B.C.E. to the second century C.E.) and the Muslim Ghaznavid and Ghurid dynasties (tenth to the twelfth centuries). It was a base of action for many rulers of India, notably the Mughals.
    The modern nation emerged during the eighteenth century by Pashtun tribes in reaction to the decline of the Persian and Indian empires. During the nineteenth century, Afghanistan struggled successfully against the colonial powers and served as a buffer state between Russia and British India. The three Anglo-Afghan wars (1839–1842; 1878–1880; 1919) could have forged a national feeling, but the country's history has been dominated by internal conflicts. The first half of the nineteenth century was marked by a feud between two branches of the Durrani Pashtuns, with the Mohammadzay eventually succeeding and ruling until 1978. Abdur Rahman (Abdorrahman Khan, r. 1880–1901) extended his authority over the whole country by overcoming resistance from his fellow tribesmen and defeating the Ghilzay Pashtuns, the Hazaras, and the Kafirs (Nuristanis). Although political unity was forged during his reign, his harsh tactics created enmities between Sunnis and Shiites, between Pashtuns and other ethnic groups, and among Pashtuns, as well as between rural and urban people.

    King Amanullah (Amanollah Khan, r. 1919–1929) tried to implement various reforms which failed. An attempt to set up a parliamentary government after 1963 resulted in serious social troubles—leading to the seizure of power by the Communists in 1978, many of whom were young, recently urbanized, detribalized people seeking social advancement. Within a few months the country was rebelling, and in 1979 the Soviet Union intervened militarily. A bitter guerrilla war ensued over the next ten years between the Red Army and the Afghan resistance fighters (mujâhedin) , during which about 1.5 million Afghans died and millions left the country. The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the fall of the Communist regime in 1992 led to an explosion of tensions and dissatisfactions. In response to this situation, the Taliban (religious students from refugee camps in Pakistan), seized the south in the winter of 1994–1995 and restored security. Since that time they have conquered most of the country, but have been unable to incorporate other groups or obtain international recognition.

    National Identity. Until 1978, Afghanistan avoided fragmentation through a shared religion and the relative autonomy of local communities even though the government favored Pashtun culture and folklore. Most inhabitants felt they belonged primarily to a local community and secondarily to the supranational Islamic community. National identity was weak, but the state was not considered disruptive. This fragile equilibrium was destroyed after the coup of 1978. The symbols on which the legitimacy of the government was based (political independence, historical continuity, and respect of Islam) vanished.

    Ethnic Relations. Before 1978, ethnic relations were competitive and tense. The pro-Soviet government attempted to promote the rights, culture, and languages of non-Pashtun groups. Although this endeavor failed, it led to an erosion of the Pashtun political hegemony. In the 1990s, political claims evolved progressively from an Islamic to an ethnic discourse. Islam-inspired resistance to the Soviets failed to provide a common ground for building peace and uniting people. Since 1992, the civil war has been marked by ethnic claims that have led to polarization between Pashtuns (who dominate the Taliban movement) and the other ethnic groups (who form the bulk of the opposing Northern Alliance).

    There are several historical cities, such as Balkh, Ghazni, and Herat, but after twenty years of war, the preservation of historical monuments is not a priority. The Kabul Museum was looted repeatedly, nothing is left of the covered bazaar of Tashqurghan (Tash Kurghan) in the north, and the Buddha statues of Bamyan (Bamian) have been damaged. Most cities and towns are in ruins, and little reconstruction is occurring.

    In the south and the center, the most common form of housing is the multi-story fortified farm with high walls built from a mixture of mud and straw. They are scattered in the fields, sometimes forming loose hamlets. In the north and the west, smaller compounds with vaulted houses of mud brick are prevalent. In the eastern highlands, settlements are grouped; stone and timber are common building materials. In both urban and rural settings, bazaars are not residential areas.

    Domestic architecture is based on the separation between the public and private parts of the house so that women do not interact with strangers. Furnishings are generally rudimentary. Many families sleep in one room on mattresses that are unfolded for the night, and no places are assigned. In the morning, the room is tidied, with the mattresses and quilts piled in a corner. Rich families may have a separate guest house, but Afghans do not like to sleep alone and generally do not provide guests with separate rooms.

    There is a large semi-nomadic and nomadic population. Two types of tents are used: the Middle Eastern black goat's hair tent and the round Central Asian yurt. Temporary shelters range from reed and straw huts to caves.

    Food in Daily Life. Everyday food consists of flat bread cooked on an iron plate in the fire or on the inner wall of a clay oven. Bread often is dipped in a light meat stock. Yogurt and other dairy products (butter, cream, and dried buttermilk) are an important element of the diet, as are onions, peas and beans, dried fruits, and nuts. Rice is eaten in some areas and in urban settlements. Scrambled eggs prepared with tomatoes and onions is a common meal. Food is cooked with various types of oils, including the fat of a sheep's tail. Tea is drunk all day. Sugar is used in the first cup of the day, and then sweets are eaten and kept in the mouth while sipping tea. Other common beverages are water and buttermilk. Afghans use the right hand to eat from a common bowl on the floor. At home, when there are no guests, men and women share meals. Along the roads and in the bazaars, there are many small restaurants that also function as teahouses and inns.

    The common Islamic food prohibitions are respected in Afghanistan. For example, meat is only eaten from animals that are slaughtered according to Islamic law; alcohol, pork, and wild boar are not consumed, although some people secretly make wine for consumption at home. The Shiites avoid rabbit and hare.

    Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On special occasions, pilau rice is served with meat, carrots, raisin, pistachios, or peas. The preferred meat is mutton, but chicken, beef, and camel also are consumed. Kebabs, fried crepes filled with leeks, ravioli, and noodle soup also are prepared. Vegetables include spinach, zucchini, turnip, eggplant, peas and beans, cucumber, and tomatoes. Fresh fruits are eaten during the day or as a dessert. In formal gatherings, men and women are separated. Dinners start by drinking tea and nibbling on pistachios or chickpeas; food is served late in the evening on dishes that are placed on a cloth on the floor. Eating abundantly demonstrates one's enjoyment.

    Basic Economy. The traditional economy combines cultivation and animal husbandry. Irrigated agriculture dominates, but the products of pluvial agriculture are considered to be of better quality. Wheat is the principal crop, followed by rice, barley, and corn. The main cash crops are almonds and fruits. Cotton was a major export until the civil war. Today, large zones of agricultural land have been converted to poppy cultivation for the heroin trade. Stock breeding is practiced by both nomadic and sedentary peoples. Nomads spend the summer in the highlands and the winter in the lowlands. Many of them, especially in the east, also trade.
    Virtually all manufactured goods are imported; they are financed by remittances from refugees and emigrants.

    Land Tenure and Property. Most grazing land is held communally, but agricultural land is privately owned. Irrigation canals are shared, following a pre-established schedule. The bulk of the population consists of small landholders who supplement their income by sending a family member to work in the city or abroad. Poor farmers who do not own land often become tenants or hire themselves out on a daily base. Often in debt, they are economically and politically dependent on local headmen and landlords.

    Commercial Activities. Afghanistan produces few commercial goods. The Taliban have opened commercial routes between Pakistan and Turkmenistan, but no official trade can develop until the government is recognized by the international community.

    Trade. Hides, wool, dried and fresh fruits, and pistachios are exported, but narcotics account for the bulk of export receipts. The country imports tax-free goods through Pakistan, including cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, radios, and stereo equipment. These consumer products are then smuggled to neighboring countries.

    Major Industries. After more than twenty years of war, there is no industrial activity.

    Division of Labor. Most of the Afghan workers present in Iran and the Gulf countries are young, unmarried males. In Afghanistan, people work as long as they are fit.

    Classes and Castes. Some groups are egalitarian, but others have a hierarchical social organization. There are great differences in wealth and social status. Society also is stratified along religious and ethnic lines. During most of the twentieth century, members of the king's family played a major role in politics as ministers and ambassadors. Most civil servants and technocrats were Persian-speaking urban residents. Ismaelis and Shiites (especially the Hazaras) had the lowest status. In the provinces, most administrative posts were held by Pashtuns who had no connection to the population. Local communities were dominated by the richest landlords, assisted by village headmen. The Sayyeds, supposed to be the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, played an important role as mediators, relying on prestige rather than personal wealth. Family elders were consulted on local matters, and many disputes were settled by local assemblies. Although Communist land reform was rejected by the population, important changes have occurred. Traditional leaders have lost their preeminence to military commanders and young religious militants. Some smugglers have become immensely rich.
    Symbols of Social Stratification. Social stratification is expressed primarily through marriage patterns. The general tendency is for lower social groups to give their daughters in marriage to higher social groups. The lavishness of a wedding is an indicator of status and wealth. Following Taliban decree, men must wear a hat or turban and be bearded. Western dress and fashion, which once distinguished urban from rural people, have almost disappeared.

    Government. The Taliban control most of the country. Their government is recognized only by Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban rule without a constitution, relying on the Koran. There is an informal assembly around their leader in Kandahar. Ministries exist in Kabul, and lower-level civil servants have often remained in place, but there is no real administration. At the local level, the military commanders rule groups of villages, a situation the Taliban have tried to end.

    Leadership and Political Officials. Afghanistan does not have a unified government. Political parties linked to the resistance, including Sunni and Shiite, and Islamic fundamentalist, have developed during the war, but now they have imperfectly merged in the two remaining factions—the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Military commanders have the real leadership.

    Social Problems and Control. In their drive to "purify" society, the Taliban emphasize moral values. No distinction is made between religious and civil laws, and the religious police are omnipotent. Judges apply a tribal-based conception of Islam. Those who commit adultery and consume drugs and alcohol are severely punished. Beatings, amputations, and public executions (beheading, stoning, and shooting) are commonly practiced. Tens of thousands of persons are jailed without trial by the various factions.

    Military Activity. The Taliban are backed by Pakistan, while the Northern Alliance is supported by Iran and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Military activity is intense, particularly in the spring and summer.

    No political leader has attempted to develop welfare programs.

    United Nations agencies and the Red Cross are active, but fighting often interrupts their projects. Hundreds of local and foreign nongovernmental organizations have programs for land mine removal, education, health care, road building, irrigation, and agriculture. Their role is often ambiguous, and they have contributed to social stratification because their actions often are limited to major urban centers and areas near the Pakistani border. By providing nearly all welfare programs, they have made it easier for political leaders to ignore social issues.

    Division of Labor by Gender. Male and female roles are strongly differentiated. The public sphere is the domain of men, and the domestic one is the realm of women. Women take care of young children, cook for the household, and clean the house. They may have a small garden and a few chickens. They weave and sew and in some areas make rugs and felt. Among nomads, women make tents and have more freedom of movement. In a peasant family, men look after the sheep and goats, and plow, harvest, thresh, and winnow the crops. Among both rural and urban people, a man must not stay at home during the day. During war, women take over many male duties; men who work abroad must learn to cook, sew, and do laundry.

    The Relative Status of Women and Men. Between 1919 and 1929, King Amanullah tried to promote female empowerment. Under the Communist government, many women were able to study in universities. This trend was reversed by the Taliban. Women now must be completely covered by a long veil and accompanied by a male relative when they leave the house. Women face overwhelming obstacles if they seek to work or study or obtain access to basic health care. However, the Taliban have improved security in many rural areas, allowing women to carry out their everyday duties.

    Women have never participated publicly in decision making processes. They are admonished to be modest and obey the orders of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. Nevertheless, as guardians of family honor, women have more power. Nomadic and peasant women play an important role in the domestic economy and are not secluded in the same way as many urban women. Shiite leaders stress the right of a woman to participate in the political process, engage in independent economic activity, and freely choose a husband.

    Marriage. Marriage is considered an obligation, and divorce is rare and stigmatized. Polygamy is allowed if all the wives are treated equally. However, it is uncommon and occurs primarily when a man feels obligated to marry the widow of his dead brother. The general pattern is to marry kin, although families try to diversify their social assets through marriage. The incidence of unions between cousins is high.

    The first contacts often are made discreetly by women in order to avoid a public refusal. Then the two families negotiate the financial aspects of the union and decide on the trousseau, the brideprice, and the dowry. The next step is the official engagement, during which female relatives of the groom bring gifts to the home of the bride and sweets are consumed. The wedding is a three-day party paid for by the groom's family during which the marriage contract is signed and the couple is brought together. The bride is then brought to her new home in a lavish procession.

    Domestic Unit. Traditionally, the basic household consists of a man, his wife, his sons with their spouses and children, and his unmarried daughters. When he dies, the sons can decide to stay united or divide the family assets. Authority among brothers is based on ability, economic skill, and personal prestige more than age. Sometimes a brother asks for his share of the family wealth and leaves the domestic group while the father is still alive. Residential unity does not imply shared domestic expenses. Domestic units are larger among tribal people than among urban dwellers.
    Inheritance. In theory all brothers are equal, but to avoid splitting up family property, brothers may decide to own it jointly or to be compensated financially. Contrary to Islamic law, women do not inherit land, real estate, or livestock.

    Kin Groups. All groups trace descent through the male line. Each tribal group claims a common male ancestor and is divided into subtribes, clans, lineages, and families. Genealogy establishes inheritance, mutual obligations, and a feeling of solidarity. Disputes over women, land, and money may result in blood feuds. The tribal system is particularly developed among the Pashtuns. The main values of their tribal code are hospitality and revenge. Many inhabitants of Afghanistan do not belong to a tribe or have only a loose affiliation. Neighborhood and other social links, often reinforced by marriage, can be stronger than extended kinship.

    Infant Care. Babies are bound tightly in wooden cradles with a drain for urine or carried by the mother in a shawl. They may be breast-fed for more than two years, but weaning is very sudden. Children are cared for by a large group of female relatives. Although surrounded by affection, children learn early that no one will intervene when they cry or are hurt. Adults do not interfere with children's games, which can be tough. Physical punishment is administered, although parents tend to be indulgent with young children. Children move freely from the female part of the house to the public one and learn to live in a group setting.

    Child Rearing and Education. Respect and obedience to elderly persons are important values, but independence, individual initiative, and self-confidence also are praised. The most important rite of passage for a boy is circumcision, usually at age seven. Boys learn early the duties of hospitality and caring for guests as well as looking after the livestock or a shop, while girls begin helping their mothers as soon as they can stand. Both are taught the values of honor and shame and must learn when to show pride and when to remain modest.

    Higher Education. Literacy is extremely low, and in 1980, 88 percent of the adult population had no formal schooling. Only 5 percent of children get a primary education, with a huge discrepancy between males and females. People from Afghanistan must travel abroad to further their education. Although education is valued, there is no professional future for educated people other than working for an international agency or a nongovernmental organization.

    Young people address elders not by name but by a title. A husband will not call his wife by her name but will call her "mother of my son." Family surnames are unusual, but nicknames are very common. Kinship terms often are used to express friendship or respect. Hospitality is a strong cultural value. When food is served, the host waits until the guests have started eating. As soon as the dishes are cleared, guests ask permission to leave unless they are spending the night.

    When meeting, two men shake hands and then place the right hand on the heart. Direct physical contact is avoided between men and women. If they have not seen each other for a long time, friends and relatives hug, kiss, and speak polite phrases. When someone enters a room, people stand and greet him at length. When they sit down, more greetings are exchanged. It is considered rude to ask a factual question or inquire about anything specific early in the conversation. To express affection, it is customary to complain, sometimes bitterly, about not having received any news.

    Religious Beliefs. Despite their different affiliations, Sunnis and Shiites recognize the authority of the Koran and respect the five pillars of Islam. Nevertheless, relationships between members of different religious sects are distant and tense. Sufism is an important expression of religiosity. It represents the mystical trend of Islam and stresses emotion and personal commitment over a codified conception of faith. It is viewed with suspicion by some Islamic scholars. An extreme form of Sufism is represented by wandering beggars. Supernatural creatures such as angels, genies, ghosts, and spirits, are believed to exist. Exorcism and magic protect people from the evil eye. Although condemned by orthodox religious authorities, these practices may be reinforced by the village mullah.

    Religious Practitioners. There are two kinds of religious practitioners: scholars, whose power is based on knowledge, and saints, whose authority comes from their ability to transmit God's blessing. Among Sunnis, there is no formal clergy, while Shiites have a religious hierarchy. Village mullahs receive a religious education that allows them to teach children and lead the Friday prayers. Many saints and Sufi leaders claim descent from the Prophet. Their followers visit them to ask for advice and blessing. During the war, a new kind of religious leader emerged: the young Islamic militant who challenges the authority of traditional practitioners and proposes a more political conception of religion.

    Rituals and Holy Places. Throughout the year, people gather at noon on Fridays in the mosque. Most villages have a place to pray, which also is used to accommodate travelers. The tombs of famous religious guides often become shrines visited by local people. They play an important role in the social life of village community and the local identity. Pilgrimages allow women to get out of the home in groups to chat and socialize.

    There are two main religious festivals. The Id al-Kabir or Id-e Qorban (the Great Feast or Feast of the Victim) commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham at the end of the annual period of pilgrimage to Mecca. Most families slay a sheep and distribute some of the meat to the poor. The Id al-Fitr or Id-e Ramazan (the Small Feast or Feast of the Ramazan) marks the end of the fasting month and is a period of cheer during which relatives and friends visit each other. The fasting month of Ramadan is an important religious and social event. During Muharram (the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar), Shiites commemorate the death of the grandson of Muhammad. It is a period of mourning and sorrow. People gather to listen to an account of the martyrdom, weeping and hitting their breasts. The anniversary of the death of Husain is the climax. Processions are organized, and some young men wound themselves with chains or sharp knives. Other important social ceremonies with a religious dimension include births, weddings, funerals, circumcisions of young boys, and charity meals offered by wealthy people.
    Death and the Afterlife. The dead are buried rapidly in a shroud. In the countryside, most graves are simple heaps of stones without a name. Wealthier persons may erect a tombstone with a written prayer. For three days, the close relatives of the deceased open their house to receive condolences. Forty days after the death, relatives and close friends meet again, visit the grave, and pray. After one year, a ceremony takes place to mark the end of the mourning period. Many people believe that if a funeral is not carried out properly, the ghost of the dead will return to torment the living.

    Since modern medical facilities are limited, people rely on traditional practices that employ herbs and animal products. Every physical ailment is classified as warm or cold, and its cure depends on restoring the body's equilibrium by ingesting foods with the opposite properties. Another way to cure disease is to undertake a pilgrimage to a shrine. Sometimes, pilgrims put a pinch of sand collected from the holy place into their tea or keep a scrap from the banners on a tomb. Certain springs are considered holy, and their water is believed to have a curative effect. Talismans (Koranic verse in a cloth folder) are sewed onto clothing or hats to protect against the evil eye or treat an illness.

    The Jashn, the National Independence Holidays (celebrating complete independence from the British in 1919) used to be an occasion for the government to promote reforms. Parades and sporting events were organized. The New Year on 21 March dates back to the pre-Islamic period. In the old Persian calendar, it was a fertility festival celebrating the spring. It is still a time for celebration when relatives and friends visit each other and bring gifts for the children.

    The Taliban have banned artistic expression. High culture is kept alive in Pakistan and in the West, refugees have set up cultural circles that organize concerts, exhibitions (paintings, photographs), poetry contests, and courses in calligraphy, painting, music, and poetry. Some also have modest libraries and film archives and promote theater.

    All scholars have left the country, and no higher education or scientific research is available.

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