Tamasheq language

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Native toMali, Burkina Faso
Native speakers
500,000 (2014)[1]
  • Timbuktu (Tombouctou, Tanaslamt)
  • Tadghaq (Kidal)
Language codes
ISO 639-3taq

Tamasheq is a variety of the Tuareg languages. It is spoken by the Tuareg people, principally in the Timbuktu area. There are two divergent dialects: Timbuktu (Tombouctou, Tanaslamt) and Tadghaq (Kidal), in Mali.

Tamasheq as spoken in northeastern Burkina Faso is similar.[3]

The name Tamasheq is sometimes applied to the Tuareg languages in general.


All charts are from Heath (2011).[4]

Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open a

In addition, Tamasheq has two other vowels that can only occur word-initially: /ə/ and /æ/.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
plain pharyngealized plain palatalized
Stop voiceless (p) t (t͡ʃ) k
voiced b d g
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x (ħ) h
voiced z ʒ ɣ (ʕ)
Nasal m n (ɲ) ŋ
Approximant l (lˤ) j
Trill r

Consonants in parentheses are marginal consonants, largely confined to loanwords. In fact, the pharyngealized consonants /sˁ, lˤ/ and both pharyngeal consonants /ħ, ʕ/ are borrowed from Arabic.

A glottal stop (ʔ) occurs only in unassimilated Islamic vocabulary, already being absent from local Arabic dialects.

An uvular stop (q) occurs chiefly as the geminated version of the voiced velar fricative (ɣ).


Tamasheq has three types of verbal subsystems: perfective positive, short imperfective, and long imperfective.


  1. ^ Tamasheq at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tamasheq". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ David Sudlow, 2001, The Tamasheq of Nord-East Burkina Faso: Notes on grammar and syntax including a key vocabulary, Köln, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag
  4. ^ Heath, Jeffrey (2011-05-03). A Grammar of Tamashek (Tuareg of Mali). Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110909586.