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Akhi patia kalamu: Writing Swahili Poetry in Arabic Script

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Chapter Summary

This chapter is twofold: firstly, it gives a brief historical overview of Swahili in Arabic script. Secondly, the chapter explores an aspect of Swahili in Arabic script that has hardly ever been considered, namely the question of how poetic language shapes its presentation in script and how script shapes poetic language. It shows that Swahili notions of poetry and its representation in Arabic script are often strongly intertwined. The chapter concentrates on a set of Swahili conventions regarding the visual representation of sound in Arabic script: the arrangement of poetic language. How are features like rhythm and rhyme translated into visual landmarks? It shows that in the Swahili case poetic features of language are strongly linked to their visual representation. The chapter shows that layout and script are far less arbitrary representations of the utendi's prosodic structure than hitherto suggested.

Keywords: Arabic script; poetic language; Swahili poetry; visual representation of sound; visualized rhythm



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