Historical-comparative analysis of the Swahili and Wolof metrical systems


Emiliano Minerba

Research Area:


My project profiles a comparative study of the Swahili and Wolof metrical traditions and of their historical development. The metrical canons of these languages in fact share several common elements: both have been influenced in their development by the Arabic poetical traditions (including the classical Arabic metrical system as well as the popular poetic works). Furthermore, it can be assumed for both of them, as my research aims to demonstrate, that they did not originate from a passive reception of the Arabic prosodic and stanzaic elements, but from a reelaboration carried out knowingly and in full awareness by the Swahili educated class of the time. Due to the absence, in both the contexts and for different reasons, of historical sources documenting how such reelaborations took place, a reconstruction of their historical developments needs a fortiori to rely on the comparative approach as a fundamental tool to tell for each metrical system the autochthonous elements from those inherited from the Arabic tradition. Comparison, therefore, is not a tool for a mere structural analysis, but a device for a historical survey.