Berber languages

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Berber languages
Amazigh languages
Tamazight
EthnicityBerbers/Imazighen (Imaziɣen)
Geographic
distribution
North Africa, mainly Morocco, Algeria, Libya, northern Mali and northern Niger; smaller Berber-speaking populations in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Mauritania, Tunisia and the Spanish city of Melilla.

Berber-speaking Moroccan and Algerian immigrants of about 2 million in: France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy, Canada and the United States
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic
  • Berber languages
Proto-languageProto-Berber
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5ber
Glottologberb1260
Map of Berber Languages 2018.png
Berber-speaking populations are dominant in the coloured areas of modern-day North Africa. The other areas of North Africa contain minority Berber-speaking populations.

The Berber languages, also known as the Amazigh languages or Tamazight,[nb 1] are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family.[1][2] They comprise a group of closely related languages spoken by Berber communities, who are indigenous to North Africa.[3] The languages were traditionally written with the ancient Libyco-Berber script, which now exists in the form of Tifinagh.[4] Today, they may also be written in the Berber Latin alphabet or the Arabic script, with Latin being the most pervasive.[5][6][7]

Berber languages are spoken by large populations of Morocco, Algeria and Libya, by smaller populations of Tunisia, northern Mali, western and northern Niger, northern Burkina Faso and Mauritania and in the Siwa Oasis of Egypt. Large Berber-speaking migrant communities, today numbering about 4 million, have been living in Western Europe, spanning over three generations, since the 1950s. The number of Berber people is higher than the number of Berber speakers.

Around 95% of the Berber-speaking population speak one of seven major Berber languages, each with at least 2 million speakers. They are, in decreasing order of number of speakers: Tashlhiyt (Taclḥit), Kabyle (Taqbaylit), Central Atlas Tamazight (Tamaziɣt), Riffian (Tmaziɣt), Shawiya (Tacawit) and Tuareg (Tamaceq/Tamajeq/Tamaheq). The now extinct Guanche language spoken on the Canary Islands by the Guanches, as well as possibly the languages of the ancient C-Group culture in today's southern Egypt and northern Sudan, are believed to have belonged to the Berber branch of the Afroasiatic family.

There is a cultural and political movement among speakers of the closely related varieties of Northern Berber to promote and unify them under a written standard language called Tamaziɣt (or Berber). The name Tamaziɣt is the current native name of the Berber language in the Moroccan Middle Atlas and Rif regions and the Libyan Zuwarah region. In other Berber-speaking areas, this name was lost. There is historical evidence from medieval Berber manuscripts that all indigenous North Africans from Libya to Morocco have at some point called their language Tamaziɣt.[8][9][10] The name Tamaziɣt is currently being used increasingly by educated Berbers to refer to the written Berber language, and even to Berber as a whole, including Tuareg.

Terminology[edit]

A video of Tashlhiyt language, one of the Berber languages, spoken by a man from Ait Melloul.
An interview in Central Atlas Tamazight language as spoken by a professor from France.

"Tamazight" and "Berber languages" are often used interchangeably.[11][12][13] However, "Tamazight" is sometimes used to refer to a specific subset of Berber languages, such as Central Tashlhiyt.[14] "Tamazight" can also be used to refer to Standard Moroccan Tamazight or Standard Algerian Tamazight, as in the Moroccan and Algerian constitutions respectively.[15][16] In Morocco, besides referring to all Berber languages or to Standard Moroccan Tamazight, "Tamazight" is often used in contrast to Tashelhit and Tarifit to refer to Central Atlas Tamazight.[17][18][19][20]

Traditionally, the term Tamazight (in various forms: Thamazighth, Tamasheq, Tamajaq, Tamahaq) was used by many Amazigh people to refer to the languages they spoke, including the Middle Atlas, the Riffians, the Sened in Tunisia and the Tuareg. However, other terms were used by other groups; for instance, some Amazigh populations of Algeria called their language Taznatit (Zenati) or Shelha, while the Kabyles called theirs Taqbaylit, and the inhabitants of the Siwa Oasis called their language Siwi. In Tunisia, the local Amazigh language is usually referred to as Shelha, a term which has been observed in Morocco as well.[21]

The use of Berber has been the subject of debate due to its historical background as an exonym and present equivalence with the Arabic word for "barbarian."[22][23][24][25] One group, the Linguasphere Observatory, has attempted to introduce the neologism "Tamazic languages" to refer to the Berber languages.[26] Amazigh people typically use "Tamazight" when speaking English.[27]

Origin[edit]

Berber languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family.[28] Since modern Berber languages are relatively homogeneous, the date of the Proto-Berber language from which the modern group is derived was probably comparatively recent, comparable to the age of the Germanic or Romance subfamilies of the Indo-European family. In contrast, the split of the group from the other Afroasiatic sub-phyla is much earlier, and is therefore sometimes associated with the local Mesolithic Capsian culture.[29] A number of extinct populations are believed to have spoken Afroasiatic languages of the Berber branch. According to Peter Behrens and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst, linguistic evidence suggests that the peoples of the C-Group culture in present-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan spoke Berber languages.[30][31] The Nilo-Saharan Nobiin language today contains a number of key loanwords related to pastoralism that are of Berber origin, including the terms for sheep and water/Nile. This in turn suggests that the C-Group population—which, along with the Kerma culture, inhabited the Nile valley immediately before the arrival of the first Nubian speakers—spoke Afroasiatic languages.[30]

Roger Blench has suggested that Proto-Berber speakers spread from the Nile River valley to North Africa 4,000–5,000 years ago due to the spread of pastoralism, and experienced intense language leveling about 2,000 years ago.[32] Hence, although Berber languages had split off from Afroasiatic several thousand years ago, Proto-Berber itself can only be reconstructed to a period as late as 200 A.D. Blench noted that Berber languages are considerably different from other Afroasiatic branches, but modern-day Berber languages display low internal diversity. The presence of Punic borrowings in Proto-Berber points to the diversification of modern Berber language varieties subsequent to the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C.; only Zenaga lacks Punic loanwords.[32] Additionally, Latin loanwords in Proto-Berber point to the breakup of Proto-Berber between 1 and 200 A.D. During this time period, Roman innovations including the ox-plough, camel, and orchard management were adopted by Berber communities along the limes, or borders of the Roman Empire, as evidenced by the frequency of Latin loanwords from this period in these semantic domains.[32] This resulted in a new trading culture involving the use of a lingua franca which became Proto-Berber.[32]

Orthography[edit]

The Berber languages and dialects have had a written tradition, on and off, for about 2,500 years, although the tradition has been frequently disrupted by cultural shifts and invasions. They were first written in the Libyco-Berber abjad, which is still used today by the Tuareg in the form of Tifinagh.[citation needed] The oldest dated inscription is from the 2nd century BCE.[33] Early uses of the script have been found on rock art and in various sepulchres. Among these are the 1,500-year-old monumental tomb of the Tuareg matriarch Tin Hinan, where vestiges of a Tifinagh inscription have been found on one of the walls.[34]

Ancient Libyco-Berber inscriptions in Zagora, Morocco

Later, between about 1000 CE and 1500 CE, they were written in the Arabic script, and since the 20th century they have been written in the Berber Latin alphabet, especially among the Kabyle and Riffian communities of Morocco and Algeria. The Berber Latin alphabet was also used by most European and Berber linguists during the 19th and 20th centuries.[35]

A modernised form of the Tifinagh alphabet, called Neo-Tifinagh, was adopted in Morocco in 2003 for writing Berber, but many Moroccan Berber publications still use the Berber Latin alphabet.[6] Algerians mostly use the Berber Latin alphabet in Berber-language education at public schools, while Tifinagh is mostly used for artistic symbolism. Mali and Niger recognise a Tuareg Berber Latin alphabet customised to the Tuareg phonological system. However, traditional Tifinagh is still used in those countries.[citation needed]

There are now three writing systems in use for Berber languages: Tifinagh, the Arabic script, and the Berber Latin alphabet, with the Latin alphabet being the most widely used today.[6][7]

Status[edit]

After independence, all the Maghreb countries to varying degrees pursued a policy of Arabisation, aimed partly at displacing French from its colonial position as the dominant language of education and literacy. Under this policy the use of the Berber languages was suppressed or even banned. This state of affairs has been contested by Berbers in Morocco and Algeria—especially Kabylie—and was addressed in both countries by affording the language official status and introducing it in some schools.

Morocco[edit]

After gaining independence from France in 1956, Morocco began a period of Arabisation through 1981, with primary and secondary school education gradually being changed to Arabic instruction, and with the aim of having administration done in Arabic, rather than French. During this time, there were riots amongst the Amazigh population, which called for the inclusion of Tamazight as an official language.[36]

The 2000 Charter for Education Reform marked a change in policy, with its statement of "openness to Tamazight."[37]

Planning for a public Tamazight-language TV network began in 2006; in 2010, the Moroccan government launched Tamazight TV.[38]

On July 29, 2011, Tamazight was added as an official language to the Moroccan constitution.[39]

Algeria[edit]

After gaining independence from France in 1962, Algeria committed to a policy of Arabisation, which, after 1979, encompassed public education, broadcasting, and the judiciary system. While directed towards the removal of French as an official language, these policies led to dissatisfaction and unrest amongst speakers of Berber languages, who made up about one quarter of the population.[40]

In 2002, following riots in Kabylia the previous year, it was announced that Tamazight would be added as a national language, though not as an official one.[41][42] It was officially added as a national language on April 8, 2003.[40]

Tamazight has been taught for three hours a week through the first three years of Algerian middle schools since 2005.[40]

On January 5, 2016, it was announced that Tamazight had been added as an official language in a draft amendment to the Algerian constitution; it was added to the constitution as an official language on February 7, 2016.[43][44][15][45]

Libya[edit]

Although regional councils in Libya's Nafusa Mountains affiliated with the National Transitional Council reportedly use the Berber language of Nafusi and have called for it to be granted co-official status with Arabic in a prospective new constitution,[46][47] it does not have official status in Libya as in Morocco and Algeria. As areas of Libya south and west of Tripoli such as the Nafusa Mountains were taken from the control of Gaddafi government forces in early summer 2011, Berber workshops and exhibitions sprang up to share and spread the Berber culture and language.[48]

Other Countries[edit]

In Mali and Niger, some Tuareg languages have been recognized as national languages and have been part of school curriculums since the 1960s.[49]

Phonology[edit]

Notation[edit]

In linguistics, the phonology of Berber languages is written with the International Phonetic Alphabet, with the following exceptions:[50]

Notation Meaning
/š/ unvoiced anterior post-alveolar
/ž/ voiced anterior post-alveolar
/ɣ/ voiced uvular fricative
/◌͑/ voiced pharyngeal fricative
/h/ laryngeal voiced consonant
/◌͗/ glottal stop
/ř/ strident flap or /r̝/, as in Czech
! indicates the following segment is emphatic

Consonants[edit]

The influence of Arabic, the process of spirantization, and the absence of labialization have caused the consonant systems of Berber languages to differ significantly by region.[51] Berber languages found north of, and in the northern half of, the Sahara have greater influence from Arabic, including that of loaned phonemes, than those in more southern regions, like Tuareg.[51][52] Most Berber languages in northern regions have additionally undergone spirantization, in which historical short stops have changed into fricatives.[53] Northern Berber languages (which is a subset of but not identical to Berber languages in geographically northern regions) commonly have labialized velars and uvulars, unlike other Berber languages.[52][54]

Two languages that illustrate the resulting range in consonant inventory across Berber languages are Ahaggar Tuareg and Kabyle; Kabyle has two more places of articulation and three more manners of articulation than Ahaggar Tuareg.[51]

There is still, however, common consonant features observed across Berber languages. Almost all Berber languages have bilabial, dental, palatal, velar, uvular, pharyngeal, and laryngeal consonants, and almost all consonants have a long counterpart.[55][56] All Berber languages, as is common in Afroasiatic languages, have pharyngealized consonants and phonemic gemination.[51][57][58] They have also been observed to have tense and lax consonants, although the status of tense consonants has been the subject of "considerable discussion" by linguists.[56]

Vowels[edit]

The vowel systems of Berber languages also vary widely, with inventories ranging from three phonemic vowels in most Northern Berber languages, to seven in some Eastern Berber and Tuareg languages.[59] For example, Taselhiyt has vowels /i/, /a/, and /u/, while Ayer Tuareg has vowels /i/, /ə/, /u/, /e/, /ɐ/, /o/, and /a/.[59][60] Contrastive vowel length is rare in Berber languages. Tuareg languages had previously been reported to have contrasive vowel length, but this is no longer the leading analysis.[59] A complex feature of Berber vowel systems is the role of central vowels, which vary in occurrence and function across languages; there is debate as to whether schwa is a proper phoneme of Northern Berber languages.[61]

Suprasegmentals[edit]

Most Berber languages:

  • allow for any combination of CC consonant clusters.[62][63]
  • have no lexical tones.[64]
  • either have no lexical stress (Northern Berber languages) or have grammatically significant lexical stress.[64]

Phonetic Correspondences[edit]

Phonetic correspondences between Berber languages are fairly regular.[65] Some examples, of varying importance and regularity, include [g/ž/y]; [k/š]; [l/ř/r]; [l/ž, ll/ddž]; [trill/ vocalized r]; [šš/ttš]; [ss/ttš]; [w/g/b]; [q/ɣ]; [h/Ø]; and [s-š-ž/h].[50] Words in various Berber languages are shown to demonstrate these phonetic correspondences as follows:[66]

Major Berber phonetic correspondences
Tahaggart
(Touareg)
Tashlhiyt
(Morocco)
Kabyle
(Algeria)
Figuig
(Morocco)
Central Atlas Tamazight
(Morocco)
Tarifit
(Morocco)
Gloss
!oska !uskay !uššay (Arabic loan) !usça !uššay "greyhound"
t-a-!gzəl-t t-i-!gzzl-t t-i-!gzzəl-t t-i-!yžəl-t t-i-!ḡzəl-t θ-i-!yzzətš "kidney"
a-gelhim a-glzim a-gəlzim a-yəlzim a-ḡzzim a-řizim "axe"
éhéder i-gidr i-gider (Arabic loan) yidər žiða: "eagle"
t-adhan-t t-adgal-t t-addžal-t t-ahžžal-t t-adžal-t θ-ažžat "window"
élem ilm a-gwlim ilem iləm iřem "skin"
a-!hiyod a-!žddid a-!žəddžid -- a-!ḡddžid a-!žžið "scabies"
a-gûhil i-gigil a-gužil a-yužil a-wižil a-yužiř "orphan"
t-immé i-gzni t-a-gwənza t-a-nyər-t t-i-nir-t θ-a-nya:-θ "forehead"
t-ahor-t t-aggur-t t-abbur-t (Arabic loan) t-aggur-t θ-!awwa:-θ "door"
t-a-flu-t t-i-flu-t t-i-flu-t -- t-iflu-t --
a-fus a-fus a-fus a-fus (a-)fus fus "hand"

Morphology and Syntax[edit]

Berber languages characteristically make frequent use of apophony in the form of ablaut.[67] Berber apophony has been historically analyzed as functioning similarly to the Semitic root, but this analysis has fallen out of favor due to the lexical significance of vowels in Berber languages, as opposed to their primarily grammatical significance in Semitic languages.[67]

The lexical categories of all Berber languages are nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, and prepositions. With the exception of a handful of Arabic loanwords in some languages, Berber languages do not have proper adjectives. In Northern and Eastern Berber languages, adjectives are a subcatergory of nouns; in Tuareg, relative clauses and stative verb forms are used to modify nouns instead.[68]

The gender, number, and case of nouns, as well as the gender, number, and person of verbs, are typically distinguished through affixes.[69][70] Arguments are described with word order and clitics.[71][72] When sentences have a verb, they essentially follow verb–subject–object word order, although some linguists believe alternate descriptors would better categorize certain languages, such as Taqbaylit.[72][73]

Nominal morphology[edit]

Nouns are distinguished by gender, number, and case in most Berber languages, with gender being feminine or masculine, number being singular or plural, and case being in the construct or free state.[67][74][69]

Gender can be feminine or masculine, and can be lexically determined, or can be used to distinguish qualities of the noun.[67] For humans and "higher" animals (such as mammals and large birds), gender distinguishes sex, whereas for objects and "lesser" animals (such as insects and lizards), it distinguishes size. For some nouns, often fruits and vegetables, gender can also distinguish the specificity of the noun.[67][75] The ways in which gender is used to distinguish nouns is shown in as follows, with examples from Figuig:[67][75]

Noun Type Feminine Masculine
Feature Figuig Example Example Gloss Feature Figuig Example Example Gloss
humans; higher animals female ta-sli-t "bride" male a-sli "groom"
objects; lesser animals small ta-ɣənžay-t "spoon" large a-ɣənža "large spoon"
varies, but typically fruits and vegetables unit noun ta-mlul-t "(one) melon" collective noun a-mlul "melons (in general)"
ti-mlal (plural) "(specific) melons"

An example of nouns with lexically determined gender are the feminine t-lussi ("butter") and masculine a-ɣi ("buttermilk") in Figuig.[67] Mass nouns have lexically determined gender across Berber languages.[75]

Most Berber languages have two cases, which distinguish the construct state from the free state.[74][76] The construct state is also called the "construct case, "relative case," "annexed state" (état d'annexion), or the "nominative case"; the free state (état libre) is also called the "direct case" or "accusative case."[74] When present, case is always expressed through nominal prefixes and initial-vowel reduction.[74][76] The use of the marked nominative system and constructions similar to Split-S alignment varies by language.[73][74] Eastern Berber languages do not have case.[74][76]

Number can be singular or plural, which is marked with prefixation, suffixation, and sometimes apophony. Nouns usually are made plural by one of either suffixation or apophony, with prefixation applied independently. Specifics vary by language, but prefixation typically changes singular a- and ta- to plural i- and ti- respectively.[69] The number of mass nouns are lexically determined. For example, in multiple Berber languages, such as Figuig, a-ɣi ("buttermilk") is singular while am-an ("water") is plural.[75]

Pronominal morphology[edit]

Berber languages have both independent and dependent pronouns, both of which distinguish between person and number. Gender is also typically distinguished in the second and third person, and sometimes in first person plural.[71]

Linguist Maarten Kossmann divides pronouns in Berber languages into three morphological groups:[71]

  1. Independent pronouns
  2. Direct object clitics
  3. Indirect object clitics; prepositional suffixes; adnominal suffixes

When clitics precede or follow a verb, they are almost always ordered with the indirect object first, direct object second, and andative-venitive deictic clitic last. An example in Riffian is shown as follows:[71]

y-əwš=as=θ=ið

3SG:M-give:PAST=3SG:IO=3SG:M:DO=VEN

y-əwš=as=θ=ið

3SG:M-give:PAST=3SG:IO=3SG:M:DO=VEN

"He gave it to him (in this direction)." (Riffian)

The allowed positioning of different kinds of clitics varies by language.[71]

Verbal morphology[edit]

Verb bases are formed by stems that are optionally extended by prefixes, with mood, aspect, and negation applied with a vocalic scheme. This form can then be conjugated with affixes to agree with person, number, and gender, which produces a word.[70][77]

Different linguists analyze and label aspects in the Berber languages very differently. Kossman roughly summarizes the basic stems which denote aspect as follows:[78]

  • Aorist, also called aoriste, without a preceding particle:
    • imperative
    • unmarked (taking aspect from preceding verb)
  • Aorist, with the preceding article ad:
  • Preterite, or accompli:
    • past tense, in dynamic use
    • states (such as "to want, to know"), in stative use
  • Intensive Aorist, also called habitative or inaccompli:
    • dynamic present
    • habitative and iterative
    • habitative imperative
    • negation of any imperative

Different languages may have more stems and aspects, or may distinguish within the above categories. Stem formation can be very complex, with Tuareg by some measures having over two hundred identified conjugation subtypes.[78]

The aspectual stems of some classes of verbs in various Berber languages are shown as follows:[79]

Figuig Ghadames Ayer Tuareg Mali Tuareg
Aorist əlmədatəf ălmədatəf əlmədatəf əlmədaləm
Imperfective ləmmədttatəf lămmădttatăf -- lămmădtiləm
Secondary Imperfective -- -- lámmădtátăf lámmădtiləm
Negative Imperfective ləmmədttitəf ləmmədttitəf ləmmədtitəf ləmmədtiləm
Perfective əlmədutəf əlmădutăf əlmădotăf əlmădolăm
Secondary Perfective -- -- əlmádotáf əlmádolám
Negative Perfective əlmidutif əlmedutef əlmedotef əlmedolem
Future -- əlmădutăf -- --

Numerals[edit]

Many Berber languages have lost use of their original numerals from three onwards due to the influence of Arabic; Riffian has lost all except one. Languages that retain all their original numerals include Tashelhiyt, Tuareg, Ghadames, Ouargla, and Zenaga.[80][81]

Original Berber numerals agree in gender with the noun they describe, whereas the borrowed Arabic forms do not.[80][81]

The numerals 1-10 in Tashelhiyt and Mali Tuareg are as follows:[82][83][81]

Language Gender 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Tashelhiyt Masculine yan sin kraḍ kkuẓ smmus sḍis sa tam tẓa mraw
Feminine yat snat kraṭṭ kkuẓt smmust sḍist sat tamt tẓat mrawt
Mali Tuareg Masculine iyăn əssin kăraḍ akkoẓ sămmos səḍis ăssa ăttam tăẓẓa măraw
Feminine iyăt sănatăt kăraḍăt ăkkoẓăt sămmosăt səḍisăt ăssayăt ăttamăt tăẓẓayăt mărawăt

Noun and Verb Phrases[edit]

Noun phrases across Berber languages can be built by nouns or pronouns that are optionally extended with genitival pronominal affixes, demonstrative clitics, or pre-nominal elements, and then further modified by numerals, adjectives, possessive phrases, or relative clauses.[84] Note that adjectives are typically a subtype of nouns in Berber languages, with some languages lacking them entirely, and that possessive phrases in noun phrases must have a genitive proposition.[68][84]

There are a limited number of pre-nominal elements, which function similarly to pronoun syntactic heads of the noun phrase, and which can be categorized into three types as follows:[84]

  • The pluralizer id-
  • The four pre-nominal elements roughly meaning "son(s) of" and "daughter(s) of", which commonly denote group identity and origin
  • Pre-nominal elements which expand on the meaning of the noun

Verb phrases are built with verb morphology, pronominal and deictic clitics, pre-verbal particles, and auxiliary elements. The pre-verbal particles are ad, wər, and their variants, which correspond to the meanings of "non-realized" and "negative" respectively.[85]

Sentence Structure[edit]

Sentences in Berber languages can be divided into verbal and non-verbal sentences. The topic, which has a unique intonation in the sentence, precedes all other arguments in both types.[72]

Verbal sentences have a finite verb, and are commonly understood to follow verb–subject–object word order (VSO).[72][73] Some linguists have proposed opposing analyses of the word order patterns in Berber languages, and there has been some support for characterizing Taqbaylit as discourse-configurational.[73]

Existential, attributive, and locational sentences in most Berber languages are expressed with a non-verbal sentence, which have no finite verb. In these sentences, the predicate follows the noun, with the predicative particle d sometimes in between. Two examples, one without and one with a subject, are given from Kabyle as follows:[72]

ð

PRED

a-qšiš

EL:M-boy

ð a-qšiš

PRED EL:M-boy

"It is a boy." (Kabyle)

nətta

he

ð

PRED

a-qšiš

EL:M-boy

nətta ð a-qšiš

he PRED EL:M-boy

"He is a boy." (Kabyle)

Non-verbal sentences may use the verb meaning "to be," which exists in all Berber languages. An example from Riffian is given as follows:[72]

i-tiři

3SG:M-be:I

ða

here

i-tiři ða

3SG:M-be:I here

"He is always here." (habitual) (Riffian)

Lexicon[edit]

Above all in the area of basic lexicon, the Berber languages are very similar. However, the household-related vocabulary in sedentary tribes is especially different from the one found in nomadic ones, whereas Tahaggart has only two or three designations for species of palm tree, other languages may have as many as 200 similar words.[86] In contrast, Tahaggart has a rich vocabulary for the description of camels.[87]

Above all the northern Berber languages have replaced a great part of the inherited vocabulary with Arabic loans. On the one hand, the words and expressions connected to Islam were borrowed, e.g. Tashlhiyt bismillah "in the name of Allah" < Classical Arabic bi-smi-llāhi, Tuareg ta-mejjīda "mosque" (Arabic masjid); on the other, Berber adopted cultural concepts such as Kabyle ssuq "market" from Arabic as-sūq, tamdint "town" < Arabisch madīna. Even expressions such as the Arabic greeting as-salāmu ʿalaikum "Peace be upon you!" were adopted (Tuareg salāmu ɣlīkum).[88] The Berber languages often have original Berber designations besides the Arabic loans; for instance, both the inherited word ataram and the loan lɣərb (Arabic al-ġarb) coexist in Kabyle. In more recent times, European languages have also had some influence on Berber, so that words such as "internet" were adopted in it (Kabyle intərnət[89]).

Salem Chaker estimates that Arabic loanwords represent 40% of the Berber vocabulary in Morocco and 25% of Kabyle vocabulary in Algeria.[90] Languages such as Tuareg have less dramatic influence from Arabic.[52]

Population[edit]

Due to the historical lack of recognition of Berber languages, the exact population of their speakers is hard to ascertain.[33] Ethnologue provides a useful academic starting point; however, its bibliographic references are very inadequate, and it rates its own accuracy at only B-C for the area. Early colonial censuses may provide better documented figures for some countries; however, these are also very much out of date.

Few census figures are available; all countries (Algeria and Morocco included) do not count Berber languages. The 1972 Niger census reported Tuareg, with other languages, at 127,000 speakers. Population shifts in location and number, effects of urbanization and education in other languages, etc., make estimates difficult. In 1952, André Basset (LLB.4) estimated the number of Berberophones at 5,500,000. Between 1968 and 1978 estimates ranged from eight to thirteen million (as reported by Galand, LELB 56, pp. 107, 123–25); Voegelin and Voegelin (1977, p. 297) call eight million a conservative estimate. In 2006, Salem Chaker estimated that the Berberophone populations of Kabylie and the three Moroccan groups numbered more than one million each; and that in Algeria, 9,650,000, or one out of five Algerians, speak a Berber language (Chaker 1984, pp. 8–9).[91]

The total number of speakers of Berber languages in the Maghreb proper appears to lie anywhere between 16 and 25 million, depending on which estimate is accepted; if we take Basset's estimate, it could be as high as 30 million.

The vast majority of speakers of Berber languages are concentrated in Morocco and Algeria.[92][93] The Tuareg of the Sahel adds another million or so to the total.[citation needed]

Percentage of Berber speakers in Morocco at the 2004 census[94]
Map of Berber-speaking areas in Morocco

Morocco[edit]

Morocco is the country with the greatest number of speakers of Berber languages.[92][93][95]

In 1960, the first census after Moroccan independence was held. It claimed that 32 percent of Moroccans spoke a Berber language, including bi-, tri- and quadrilingual people.[96] The 2004 census found that 3,894,805 Moroccans over five years of age spoke Tashelhit, 2,343,937 spoke Central Atlas Tamazight, and 1,270,986 spoke Tarifit, representing 14.6%, 8.8%, and 4.8% respectively of the surveyed population, or roughly 28.2% of the surveyed population combined.[94] The 2014 census found that 14.1% of the population spoke Tashelhit, 7.9% spoke Central Atlas Tamazight, and 4% spoke Tarifit, or about 26% of the population combined.[97]

As of 2015, the 2004 census results are the estimate adopted by Ethnologue.[98]

These estimates, as well as the estimates from various academic sources, are summarized as follows:

Estimated Number of Speakers of Berber Languages in Morocco
Source Date Total Tashelhit Central Atlas Tamazight Tarifit Notes
Tamazight of the Ayt Ndhir[93] 1973 6 million -- -- -- Extrapolating from Basset's 1952 La langue berbère based on overall population changes.
Ethnologue[27][92] 2001 7.5 million 3 million 3 million 1.5 million
Moroccan census[94] 2004 7.5 million 3.9 million 2.3 million 1.3 million Also used by Ethnologue in 2015.[98] Only individuals over age 5 were included.
Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco[95] 2005 15 million -- -- -- Also used in Semitic and Afroasiatic: Challenges and Opportunities in 2012.[49]
Moroccan census[99] 2014 8.7 million 4.7 million 2.7 million 1.3 million Calculated via reported percentages. This may be higher than the actual number of respondants, as in the 2004 census, only individuals over age 5 were surveyed for language.

Algeria[edit]

Algeria is the country with the second greatest number of speakers of Berber languages.[92][93]

In 1906, the total population speaking Berber languages in Algeria, excluding the thinly populated Sahara region, was estimated at 1,305,730 out of 4,447,149, or 29 percent.[100] The 1911 census, however, found 1,084,702 speakers out of 4,740,526, i.e. 23 percent; Doutté & Gautier suggest that this was the result of a serious undercounting of Shawiya in areas of widespread bilingualism.[citation needed]

Kabyle and Shawiya languages in the central-eastern part of Algeria

A trend was noted for Berber groups surrounded by Arabic (as in the city of Blida) to adopt Arabic, while Arabic speakers surrounded by Berber (as in Sikh ou Meddour near the city of Tizi Ouzou) tended to adopt Berber. In 1952, André Basset estimated that about a third of Algeria's population spoke Berber. According to historian Charles-Robert Ageron in 1886, Algeria had around 1.2 million Berber speakers and 1.1 million Arab speakers. The Algerian census of 1966 found 2,297,997 out of 12,096,347 Algerians, or 19 percent, to speak "Berber". In 1980, Salem Chaker estimated that "in Algeria, 3,650,000, or one out of five Algerians, speak a Berber language" (Chaker 1984, pp. 8–9). According to Ethnologue,[101] more recent estimates include 14 percent (corresponding to the total figures it gives for each Berber language added together, 4 million) and (by deduction from its Algerian Arabic figures) 29 percent (Hunter 1996). Most of these are accounted for by three languages (percentages based on historical population data from appropriate dates):[102]

Shenwa language in the central-western part of Algeria

A fourth group, despite a very small population, accounts for most of the land area where Berber is spoken:

  • Tuareg: 25,000 in Algeria (Ethnologue, 1987), mainly in the Hoggar Mountains of the Sahara. Most Tuareg live in Mali and Niger (see below).

Other Berber languages spoken in Algeria include: the Berber of Blida, the languages of the Beni Snouss and Beni Boussaid villages in the province of Tlemcen, the Matmata Berber spoken in the Ouarsenis region, the Mozabite language spoken in the region of the province of Mzab and the language of the Ouargla oasis.

Tunisia[edit]

Basset (1952) estimated about 1 percent, as did Penchoen (1968). According to Ethnologue, there are only 26,000 speakers (1998) of a Berber language it calls "Djerbi", but which Tunisians call "Shelha", in Tunisia, all in the south around Djerba and Matmata. The more northerly enclave of Sened no longer speaks Berber. This would make 0.3 percent of the population.[citation needed] Chenini is also one of the rare remaining Berber-speaking villages in Tunisia.[105]

Libya[edit]

According to Ethnologue (by deduction from its combined Libyan Arabic and Egyptian Arabic figures) the non-Arabic-speaking population, most of which would be Berber, is estimated at 4 percent (1991, 1996). However, the individual language figures it gives add up to 162,000, i.e. about 3 percent. This is mostly accounted for by the languages:

Other Countries[edit]

  • Egypt: The oasis of Siwa near the Libyan border speaks a Berber language; according to Ethnologue, there are 5,000 speakers there (1995). Its population in 1907 was 3,884 (according to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica).
  • Mauritania: According to Ethnologue, only 200 to 300 speakers of Zenaga remain (1998). It also mentions Tamasheq, but does not provide a population figure for it. Most non-Arabic speakers in Mauritania speak Niger–Congo languages.
  • Niger: Ethnologue counts 440,000 Tuareg (1991) speaking:
  • Burkina Faso: Ethnologue counts 20,000 to 30,000 Tuareg (SIL International 1991), speaking Kel Tamasheq. However Ethnologue is very inaccurate here, appearing to miss the largest group of Tamasheq in Burkina in the province of Oudalan. The Tamasheq-speaking population of Burkina is nearer to 100,000 (2005), with around 70,000 Tamasheq speakers in the province of Oudalan, the rest mainly in Seno, Soum, Yagha, Yatenga and Kadiogo provinces. About 10 percent of Burkina Tamasheq speak a version of the Tawallamat language.[citation needed]
  • Nigeria: Ethnologue notes the presence of a "few" Tuareg, speaking Tawallamat Tamajaq.
  • France: Ethnologue lists 860,000 speakers for Riffian and 537,000 speakers for Kabyle and 400,000 for Tashlhiyt[107] and 150,000 for Central Morocco Berber . For the rest of Europe, it has no figures.
  • Spain: Berber is spoken amongst Melilla's 80,000 inhabitants, but there has been no census as to the percentage of its speakers. A minority of Ceuta's inhabitants speak Berber.[108]
  • Israel: Around two thousand mostly elderly Moroccan-born Israelis of Berber Jewish descent use Judeo-Berber languages (as opposed to Moroccan Jews who trace descent from Spanish-speaking Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain, or Arabic-speaking Moroccan Jews).

Subclassification[edit]

A listing of the other Berber languages is complicated by their closeness; there is little distinction between language and dialect. The primary difficulty of subclassification, however, lies in the eastern Berber languages, where there is little agreement. Otherwise there is consensus on the outlines of the family:

The various classifications differ primarily in what they consider to be Eastern Berber, and in how many varieties they recognise as distinct languages.

There is so little data available on Guanche that any classification is necessarily uncertain; however, it is almost universally acknowledged as Afro-Asiatic on the basis of the surviving glosses, and widely suspected to be Berber. Much the same can be said of the language, sometimes called "Numidian", used in the Libyan or Libyco-Berber inscriptions around the turn of the Common Era, whose alphabet is the ancestor of Tifinagh.

Kossmann (1999)[edit]

Maarten Kossmann (1999) describes Berber as two dialect continua,

plus a few peripheral languages, spoken in isolated pockets largely surrounded by Arabic, that fall outside these continua, namely

Within Northern Berber, however, he recognises a break in the continuum between Zenati and their non-Zenati neighbours; and in the east, he recognises a division between Ghadamès and Awjila on the one hand and Sokna (Fuqaha, Libya), Siwa and Djebel Nefusa on the other. The implied tree is:

Ethnologue[edit]

Ethnologue, mostly following Aikhenvald and Militarev (1991), treats the eastern varieties differently:

Blench (2006)[edit]

Blench (ms, 2006) has the following classification:[109]

and within Berber,

Influence on other languages[edit]

The Berber languages have influenced Maghrebi Arabic languages, such as Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan and Tunisian Arabic. Their influence is also seen in some languages in West Africa. F. W. H. Migeod pointed to strong resemblances between Berber and Hausa in such words and phrases as these: Berber: obanis; Hausa obansa (his father); Berber: a bat; Hausa ya bata (he was lost); Berber: eghare; Hausa ya kirra (he called). In addition he notes that the genitive in both languages is formed with n = "of".[110]

Extinct languages[edit]

A number of extinct populations are believed to have spoken Afro-Asiatic languages of the Berber branch. According to Peter Behrens (1981) and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst (2000), linguistic evidence suggests that the peoples of the C-Group culture in present-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan spoke Berber languages.[30][31] The Nilo-Saharan Nobiin language today contains a number of key pastoralism related loanwords that are of Berber origin, including the terms for sheep and water/Nile. This in turn suggests that the C-Group population—which, along with the Kerma culture, inhabited the Nile valley immediately before the arrival of the first Nubian speakers—spoke Afro-Asiatic languages.[30]

Additionally, historical linguistics indicate that the Guanche language, which was spoken on the Canary Islands by the ancient Guanches, likely belonged to the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.[111]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ (/ˌæməˈzk/ AM-ə-ZEEK; Berber name: Tamaziɣt, Tamazight, Thamazight; Neo-Tifinagh: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ, Tuareg Tifinagh: ⵜⵎⵣⵗⵜ, pronounced [tæmæˈzɪɣt, θæmæˈzɪɣθ])

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Bibliography[edit]

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External links[edit]