A new perspective on the Basque kopla zaharrak from the Moroccan ayyus
An empirically supported cognitive analysis of traditional oral genres
In this article I continue reading oral traditional poetry from a cognitive perspective. This time I use findings obtained empirically from my previous research on the living short improvisational poetic genre ayyu from Morocco (Gintsburg 2017, 2019a) and turn my attention to kopla zaharrak, another short oral improvisational poetic genre, which once existed in the Basque Country but is now extinct and almost forgotten. In order to better understand how this genre once functioned, I first apply to it the notions of frames, or topics or themes, and scripts, or possible scenarios manifested at least partly in form of formulaic language, which are triggered by them. The analysis reveals that on the cognitive level kopla zaharrak offer a structure similar to the ayyu, where the first two lines work as a frame and the last two lines as a script. In the second part of my research, I compare examples of kopla zaharrak and ayyus and conclude that, despite obvious cultural and linguistic differences, the way both traditions make use of images of the natural world and connect them to human situations has demonstrable similarities.
Keywords: oral poetry, cognitive science, poetic formulas, Arabic language, Basque language, frames
Published online: 06 October 2021
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