Imar Koutchoukali 🌐 Profile picture
PhD candidate @UniTartu | Tweets about pre- & early Islamic South Arabia, linguistics, and politics | "Weird Algerian cosmopolitan"
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Mar 22, 2022 19 tweets 8 min read
As I'm nearing the end of my thesis, I wanted to share with Twitter some things I've been working on.

For those don't know: my thesis on linguistic change (in its broader social context) in Late Antique South Arabia (c. 300 – 800 AD).

It's a WIP, so things may change! Before the coming of Islam, South Arabia (think what is now Yemen, but a bit bigger) had been home to several civilizations which had their own languages and also wrote in another script. Though sharing a distant ancestor, the South Arabian and Arabic scripts are very different! ImageImage
Nov 2, 2021 17 tweets 8 min read
Was there anyone who could read South Arabian inscriptions after the coming of Islam?

A thread 🧵re-evaluating the skills of the Yemeni scholar al-Hamdānī (died c. 950), and what he knew about the inscriptions of pre-Islamic South Arabia. Al-Hamdānī was so well-known for his knowledge on anything related to South Arabia that he earned the nickname Lisān al-Yaman, i.e. "The tongue of Yemen". This is no joke: he knew things about astronomy, geography, history, topography, linguistics, folklore, metallurgy, and more.
Nov 1, 2021 10 tweets 4 min read
This inspired me to make a small🧵about this phenomenon from one of my own fields of study, the niche field of pre-Islamic South Arabian studies.

About South Arabia's identification with India (what?!) and sourcing on Wikipedia. Let's have a look. This is from the Wikipedia page "South Arabia". Overall, it's not bad. At times, it feels a bit amateuristic, but I've seen worse.
But look at the etymology part. Yes, sometimes South Arabia is identified with India in Greek and Roman (and also Jewish Aramaic) texts, but why? ImageImage
Jan 29, 2021 20 tweets 6 min read
Last week I tweeted this. One of the comments argued that the origin of Arabic qamīṣ < Latin camisia is hypothetical. It reminds me of people sometimes say "well [proven thing] is just a *theory*".

A thread on methods in historical linguistics. The further one goes back in history, the more difficult it becomes to find direct evidence for how a word was pronounced or where it came from. Many cultures, but certainly not all, invented writing systems, making our job somewhat easier, but certainly not always.
Dec 25, 2020 13 tweets 5 min read

For Christmas, let's talk a bit how Christianity spread to South Arabia. And fully in the spirit of the season, this is a story of slavery and mass murder. Image Most people who know something about South Arabian history have heard about the martyrs of Najran. In or around 523 CE, the South Arabian ruler Yūsuf ʾAšʿar Yaʾṯar (called Dhū Nuwās by later Muslim authors ) massacred the entire Christian population of Najrān. Image
Sep 29, 2020 12 tweets 5 min read
Last evening a small back and forth btw @stephenniem and myself about the famed minaret of the mosque of Samarra made me wonder: hey, where did the idea come from that the minaret was inspired by ancient Sumerian ziggurats? They don't seem at similar at all!

A small THREAD When you go to Wikipedia, you can find this citation. Hmm, not so bold.

The citation comes from the second volume of Henri Stierlin's Comprendre l'Architecture Universelle, p. 347. I don't have access to this book, but it turns out that it's cited rather often.
Sep 4, 2020 6 tweets 3 min read
The Bashkir language is spoken by the Bashkirs (no shit), a Turkic people who predominantly live in contemporary Central Russia.

Their words for "straw" and "pencil" are related, but ended up in Bashkir in very different ways. Time for another weird etymology! ImageImageImage These words are halam and kələm respectively. Look pretty similar right? Let's start with the latter.

Kələm ended up in Bashkir through an Iranic language or directly from Arabic, where it means a writing tool. The Quran says God "taught men by the pen" (qalam) Image
Aug 9, 2020 9 tweets 2 min read
This morning I received the news that my father's last surviving brother passed away due to coronavirus.

Though my uncle had a number of other issues, there are a lot of other things that contributed his and his brothers' early deaths. Some thoughts on Algeria. My father was born in 1956, when the Algerian War for Independence was seriously taking off. The extreme violence of the war – which was even privately criticized by Richard Nixon, of all people – deeply traumatized his and his parents' generation.
Aug 5, 2020 15 tweets 5 min read
So as I'm nearing 1k followers on Twitter while at the same time approaching my annual PhD progress review, I thought I'd make a thread of all my scholarly activities on Twitter the past academic year. August 2: A small thread on the background of the name Laḫīʿa and its South Arabian pre-Islamic origins.
Aug 2, 2020 10 tweets 4 min read
Alright Twitter, it's time for more South Arabian in Arabic related tweets. Let's take a look at the infamous Himyarite king Ḏū Šanātir, also known as Laḫīʿa b. Yanūf, Laḫnīʿa b. Yanūf and Laḫtīʿa b. Yanūf.

Something went badly wrong here. Let's find out what in this THREAD So the Islamic tradition (e.g. Wahb b. Munabbih, Ibn Hišām, al-Ṭabarī and al-ʾAṯīr) tell us about this bad dude who ruled Yemen and the Himyarites before the time of Dhū Nuwās (who was also bad, but for different reasons). The reasons for being bad: wrong background and sodomy.
Jul 31, 2020 11 tweets 3 min read
There are some interesting points raised in this thread concerning the relationship between Sabaic and Ge'ez, as well as the Ethiopian script. Let's go through them one-by-one: So first of all, the South Arabian and the Ge'ez script are very similar to eachother. It is generally believe that the latter came from the former, for both temporal reasons (which I already adressed), but for other reasons too:
Jul 12, 2020 6 tweets 3 min read
Time for some more #Estonian politics tweeting.

The day before yesterday the news broke that the Finance Ministry, headed by the national-conservative #EKRE party will no longer finance several organizations dedicated to social justice. Image The organizations are as follows:
- Estonian Women's Union (ENÜ)
- Estonian Women's Studies & Research Center (ENUT)
- Estonian Foundation for Human Rights (EIK).

In February, the current finance minister Martin Helme stated that these institutions are financed illegally. ImageImage
Jul 10, 2020 7 tweets 5 min read
We took a biking trip through South Estonia the past two days. A few highlights THREADed together: Image We started our trip in #Valga on the Estonian-Latvian border, with the border running literally through its center. The town had a large German community before WWII. Now the linguistic border is quite sharp, with Estonian being spoken on the one side and Latvian on the other. ImageImageImageImage
Jun 25, 2020 14 tweets 5 min read
Just over a year ago, @PdxInteractive released the grand strategy game "Imperator Rome". Because I have nothing better to do on a Thursday, I decided to make a THREAD dedicated to how South Arabia is represented in this game (1/n) Image As the title implies, the game focuses on the rise of Rome and starts some decades a/Alexander's death and the rise of the Diadochi kingdoms in the Mediterranean and Middle-East in 304 BCE. Like most Paradox games, there are a MASSIVE amount of factions, between Britain and India Image
Jun 9, 2020 15 tweets 5 min read
This morning I woke up to the news that there is now an edition of the long-lost sixth volume of al-Hamdānī's Iklīl! Wow!

Well, at least partially. Let's go through the most important aspects of this edition. THREAD! Image So a bit of background info . In the introduction, the editor Amir al-Ahmadi tells us about the history of the manuscript. It was lying around in the archives of the Bavarian State Library, until the Yemeni engineer Arafat al-Bahluli stumbled upon it, sharing pics on FB.
Jun 9, 2020 13 tweets 3 min read
Taking a break from linguistics tweets to talk about a serious corruption scandal in Estonia, the country I love and have called home for five years now.

How a request from the financing surveillance committee on a 50 000 EUR donation the government to propose its abolition. Currently, the government consists of a (center-)right coalition of three parties: the Center Party (Keskerakond), the Estonian Conservative Party (EKRE) and Isamaa. Of these, EKRE is infamous for its statements on immigration (among others, e.g. "when you're black go back") Image
May 29, 2020 13 tweets 3 min read
In the vein of "I'm not sure who needs to hear this", but here's a small thread dedicated to the assertion "orientalists actively try/tried to dismantle Islam". Here's why I think that's kind of disingenuous (1/12) The gist is that western scholarship on Islam is infused with bias, rendering it useless. This idea exists on something of a spectrum: whether these biases are intentional or not, whether this is harmful or not, whether it's all useless or if some use can be gained from it (2/12)
May 26, 2020 14 tweets 3 min read
Today, I had the final class of my first year of teaching at university (not counting a few outstanding short essays). I thought I'd collect and share my thoughts (in no particular order) about this experience in a short thread. Will start with general pros & cons (1/??? Pros:
- Teaching fundamentals in students' native lang. is very rewarding & teaching on Islam in Estonia is very important
- Personal growth
- Reading Arabic improves my own Arabic

- Literature is difficult
- Philological approach not always suitable
Apr 27, 2020 6 tweets 2 min read
How watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade helped me figure out the origin of the name al-Iskandarūn(a) in Arabic. Image Alexandreia on the Issus was one of the numerous cities founded by Alexander the Great after his conquest of the Persian Empire. The city waned in importance in the centuries following, and became known as Alexandria Minor in Latin, giving its name to the diocese there. Image
Apr 27, 2020 5 tweets 1 min read
Academia has ruined me: watching India Jones and the Last Crusade like "Early Latin Text, 12th century".

Excuse me I'm more offended by this than by the horribly mangled Grail lore
Apr 6, 2020 10 tweets 2 min read
Last week I gave a presentation about South Arabian toponyms. You can watch my talk by clicking here (), but I will also give a short overview of the most important points here:

Thanks and credits to @bnuyaminim for organizing this (1/10) The thing that interests me was finding out how names that are attested in the Epigraphic South Arabian corpora were transmitted to Arabic. In this particular talk I looked just at Sabaic and Arabic, but I'd like to also look at other languages of South Arabia (2/10)