Tamasheq language

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Tamashek
Tamasheq, Tamachen, Tamashekin, Tomacheck
Tafaghist
Native toMali, Burkina Faso
RegionSahara
EthnicityTuareg
Native speakers
500,000 (2014)[1]
Afro-Asiatic
Language codes
ISO 639-3taq
Glottologtama1365[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tamashek or Tamasheq is a Malian variety of Tuareg, a Berber macro-language widely spoken by nomadic tribes across North Africa in Algeria, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Tamashek is one of the three main varieties of Tuareg, the others being Tamajak and Tamahak.[3]:2

Tamashek is spoken mostly in Mali, especially in its central region including Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao. It is also spoken by a smaller population in Burkina Faso. As of 2014, approximately 500,000 people speak Tamashek, 378,000 of whom are Malian.[4] The livelihood of the Tuareg people has been under threat in the last century, due to climate change and a series of political conflicts, notably the Arab-Tuareg rebellion of 1990-95 in Mali which resulted in ethnic cleansing of the Tuareg in the form of reprisal killings and exile.[3]:5-6 Tamashek is currently classified as a developing language (5), partly due to the Malian government's active promotion of the language; it is currently taught in public education, from primary schools to adult literacy classes.[4]

Tamashek is often understood in Mali as a term that denotes all Tuareg varieties.[3]:3 Other alternative names for Tamashek include Tamachen, Tamashekin, and Tomacheck.[4]

Dialect Divisions of Malian Tamashek[edit]

There are divergent views regarding Tamashek's dialect divisions. Some report two main dialects, named Timbuktu and Tadhaq.[4]

Others take there to be roughly three main divisions of Malian Tamashek:[3]:6

  1. Kal Ansar dialects around Timbuktu (denoted 'T-Ka')
  2. "mainstream" Tamashek dialects spoken in Kidal, Tessalit, the Gao area, and the non-Kal Ansar groups around Timbuktu
  3. dialects spoken by certain groups in the Gourma of Gao and Ansongo

Phonology[edit]

Vowels[edit]

The Tamashek language has seven vowels in total: three frontal vowels /i/, /æ/; three central vowels /ə/, /æ/, /a/; and two back vowels /u/ /o/. There are two short vowels, /ə/ and /æ/, and the rest are full vowels.There are no diphthongs.[3]:34

Short Vowels
Back Central Front
High ə
Low æ
Full (Long) Vowels
Back Central Front
High u i
Mid-height o e
Low a

While all vowels occur word-initially and word-medially, only full vowels occur word-finally.[3]:34

Consonants[edit]

Tamashek has 33 consonants, featuring six manners of articulation and eight places of articulation. There are no non-pulmonic consonants. The consonants are detailed in the table below. [3]:23

Labial Alveolar Pharyngealized alveolar Palato-alveolar Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Laryngeal
Plosive Voiceless (p) t ((t̩)) (č) [tʃ] k ((q)) (ʔ)
Voiced b d j [gʲ] g
Fricative Voiceless f s (s̩) š [ʃ] x (ħ) h
Voiced z ž [ʒ] ɣ (ʕ)
Nasal m n (ñ) [ɲ] ŋ
Lateral Approximant l (l̩)
Trill r
Approximant w y [j]

The table places the two laryngeal consonants, and /h/ and /ʔ/, according to the IPA chart (the source did not specify their manners of articulation).

Consonants in a single parenthesis are of marginal use, "confined largely to loanwords."[3]:23 Consonants of Arabic origins -- /s/, /l/, /ħ/, /ʕ/, and /ʔ/ -- occur in Arabic loanwords. The glottal stop /ʔ/ is already largely absent in local Arabic dialects, is thus only found in unassimilated Islamic vocabulary.[3]:24

Consonants in a double parenthesis occur mostly as geminated versions of other consonants. An uvular stop /q/ principally occurs in the geminated form /qq/, which can be interpreted as the "phonetic realization of geminated /ɣɣ/.[3]:24

Accent[edit]

Accent "is an important feature of Tamashek." The role of accent is "very different" for verbs and nouns. For nouns and other non-verb stems, accent is lexically determined. This is not the case for verbs. According to the rule called "default accentuation," the accent falls on the antepenult or on the leftmost syllable of verbs. The exception to the rule is resultative and long imperfect positive stems.[3]:20

For example, a-bæ̀mbæra, which means Bambara, has its primary accent on the antepenult syllable. A bisyllabic word hæ̀ræt, which is glossed as 'thing,' has its accent on the initial syllable.[3]:83-84

Morphology[edit]

Tamashek's two main morphological processes are ablaut and affixation, with the former permeat[ing] the language. Many processes also undergo a combination of the two.[3]:21

Derivational morphology[edit]

Most of Tamashek nouns are underived, although some are derived by "some combination of ablaut and prefixation." For example, the noun t-æ-s-ȁnan-t, which means 'oxpecker,' is prefixally derived from the causative verb æ̀ss-onæn 'tame, break in animal' with its -s- prefix.[3]:13

In Tamashek, nearly all "modifying adjectives" are participles of inflected intransitive verbs.[3]:243 For example, the verb 'to ripe' is əŋŋá, and it is inflected into participles such as i-ŋŋá-n (MaSg) or t-əŋŋá-t (FeSg). These resultative participles are used with "adjectival" sense, adjectivalized into the word 'ripened'.:502,503

Nominal morphology[edit]

Gender and number[edit]

Gender and number are mainly marked using affixation, though in many cases they use ablaut or a combination of both.

Most nouns, regardless of gender, have vocalic prefixes, varying between -æ-/-ə, -a-, or -e- for the singular, and invariable i- in the plural. Some nouns entirely lack a vocalic prefix, e.g. deké ('basket').[3]:162,164

Feminine nouns are additionally marked by the Fe[minine] prefix t-. For feminine singular nouns, suffix -t is required to denote singularity, thus we see a circumfix t-...-t. In cases where the stem ends in a vowel, however, an additional inner Fe suffix -t- is added before the outer suffix, thus the affix frame becomes t-...-t-t.[3]:166

In addition to the plural vocalic prefix -i-, pluralization of nouns requires gender-based suffixation: for feminine plural nouns, suffix -en or -ten is added, while for masculine nouns Ma[sculine] suffix -æn or -tæn is added. In some cases, a noun pluralizes by stem ablaut without suffixation; one example of unsuffixed plural ablaut is æ̀-ɣata ('crocodile'), which is pluralized to ì-ɣata.[3]:162,211

The table below illustrates the idealized morphological rules of gender and number marking explained so far:

Number Gender Typical Rules Example(s) Translation
Singular

(Sg)

Masculine (Ma) Sg prefix (-æ-/-ə, -a-, or -e-) æxxú 'monster'[3]:165
Feminine (Fe) Sg prefix (-æ-/-ə, -a-, or -e-)

+ Fe circumfix (t-...-(t)t)

t-æ-s-ȁnan-t 'oxpecker'[3]:13
Plural

(Pl)

Masculine (Ma) Pl prefix (-i-) +

MaPl suffix (-æn or -tæn)

i-xxú-tæn 'monsters'[3]:165
Feminine (Fe) Pl prefix (-i-)

FePl suffix (-en or -ten)

t-i-s-ànan-t 'oxpeckers'[3]:14

Compounding[edit]

Tamashek makes use of compounding to form nouns. Most noun-noun compounds necessitate a possessor preposition ə̀n in between the two morphemes, which can be analytically structured as [X [ə̀n Y]] 'X of Y.' Depending on the nouns, ə̀n may become unaccented, as shown in the first example below.[3]:263

Compounding Examples
Compounding Type Example
Noun + Noun

t-e-fæ̏tel-t

F-SG-lamp-F.SG

ən

POSS

bə́t̩ron

gasoline

t-e-fæ̏tel-t ən bə́t̩ron

F-SG-lamp-F.SG POSS gasoline

'gas lamp'[3]:263
Verb + Noun

kæ̀wkæw

peck

í-ɣbab

PL-tree.hole

kæ̀wkæw í-ɣbab

peck PL-tree.hole

'woodpecker'[3]:269
Adjective + Noun

èrk

bad

hæræt

thing.SG

èrk hæræt

bad thing.SG

'a bad thing'[3]:267

Verbal morphology[edit]

Ablaut distinguishes the three basic inflectable verb stems in Tamashek:[3]:15-16

  1. perfective
  2. short imperfective
  3. long imperfective

Ablaut can change a perfect present stem to a resultative stem. For example, the perfect present stem of the verb 'to run' is òšæl, and its resultative stem is òšál.:306 Note the vowel change from /æ/ to /á/. Ablaut also creates perfective negative stems; for example, the perfect negative stem of əhlæk, the perfect present stem of 'destroy,' is ə̀hlek.[3]:310

Affixation is also a morphological tool for Tamashek verbs. One category of verbal affixation is pronominal subject affixes. For example, pronominal subject marking in positive imperatives uses suffixation. The table demonstrates second person subject affixes in imperatives with the example of the verb ə̀jjəš ('enter').[3]:438

Number Gender Suffix Example
Singular (Sg) N/A zero (bare stem) ə̀jjəš
Plural (Pl) Masculine (Ma) -æt ə̀jjə̏š-æt
Feminine (Fe) -mæt ə̀jjə̏š-mæt


Suffixation is responsible for hortative stems. The hortative suffix -et can be added to short imperfective stems. For example:

n-əkrəbbə̏-t-et

1PL.SBJ-taste-AUG-HORT

n-əkrəbbə̏-t-et

1PL.SBJ-taste-AUG-HORT

'Let's taste!'[3]:321

Particles[edit]

Particles exist in Tamashek. One type of particle is preposition-like, and these particles precede noun phrases or independent pronouns.[3]:291 For example:

úlli,

goats,

súnd

like

a-wén-dæɣ

M-DISTANCE-ANAPH

úlli, súnd a-wén-dæɣ

goats, like M-DISTANCE-ANAPH

'Goats, (they are) like that.'[3]:292

Many categories of discourse-functional particles exist as well. For example, ɣás is an "extremely common" phrase-final particle that means 'only':

i-t̩t̩ás,

3M.SG.SBJ-sleep.RES,

ɣás

only

i-t̩t̩ás, ɣás

3M.SG.SBJ-sleep.RES, only

'He just sleeps.'[3]:617-618

Another example, though less common, is a clause-final particle , which emphasizes on the truth of a statement:

ə̀jle-ɣ

go.PFV.POS-1SG.SBJ

yɑ́

EMPHATIC

ə̀jle-ɣ yɑ́

go.PFV.POS-1SG.SBJ EMPHATIC

'(Yes) I did go!'[3]:616


Clitics[edit]

In terms of structure, clitics are "normally realized at the end of the first word" in the clause. There are many types of clitics, including directionals, object and dative pronominals, pronominal prepositional phrases, etc. Below, clitics are indicated by the symbol "-\".[3]:595

Directional clitics[edit]

There are two directional clitics -- "centripetal" clitics and "centrifugal" clitics -- and they cannot co-occur. The directional clitics are attached to the pronominal clitics hosted by the same word, and are usually accented.[3]:595

The centripetal clitic's rudimentary form is -\ə̀dd. Its allomorphic variation depends on postvocalic versus postconsonantal position (e.g. -\ə̀d if , -\dd after a, and -\hə̀dd after high V). This clitic can be best understood as 'here,' as it specifies a direction toward "the deictic center." If the verb is non-motion, then the clitic suggests that the action was directed toward 'here' or was carried out in 'this direction'.[3]:596,598

osæ-n-\ə́dd

arrive.PFV.POS-3M.PL-\CENTRIPETAL

osæ-n-\ə́dd

arrive.PFV.POS-3M.PL-\CENTRIPETAL

'They came (here).'[3]:597

i-su-\hə́dd

3M.SG.SBJ-cough.PFV.POS-\CENTRIPETAL

i-su-\hə́dd

3M.SG.SBJ-cough.PFV.POS-\CENTRIPETAL

'He coughed (while coming this way).'[3]:597


On the other hand, the centrifugal clitic (-\ín) indicates direction away from the deictic center, and is best translated to 'away' or 'there' in English.[3]:601

wær-\hín

NEG-\CENTRIFUGAL

mȉl-æɣ

be.on.way.LO.IPFV-1SG.SBJ

wær-\hín mȉl-æɣ

NEG-\CENTRIFUGAL be.on.way.LO.IPFV-1SG.SBJ

'I am not coming (there).'[3]:600

Pronominal clitics[edit]

Object clitics[edit]

Pronominal object clitics are attached at the end of a simple transitive verb, or a preverbal particle if relevant. Pronominal clitics show wide allomorphic variation mainly depending on point of view and plurality. Allomorphs differ both syntactically and phonologically. The table below shows first person object clitics found in Kal Ansar dialects (T-ka).[3]:603

person preverbal postverbal
after vowel or consonant after /u/, /i/ after consonant after /a/
1Sg -\hi -\ha-hi -\a-hi -\ø-hi
1Pl -\hə-næɤ -\ha-næɤ -\a-næɤ -\ø-næɤ

As seen in the table, the T-ka first-person singular object clitic attached to a preverbal particle is -\hi. The phrase 'he makes me weep' translates to i-s-álha-\hi, with the clitic attached at the end of the verb 'to make weep' (álha).[3]:603

The table below shows second and third person object clitics for T-ka dialects. The column designated for post-a variants also occasionally applies for post-i variants.[3]:604

Person postverbal after /a/ elsewhere
2MaSg (i)-\k -\kæy
2FeSg (i)-\m -\kæm
2MaPl (i)-\wæn -\kæwæn
2FePl (i)-\kmæt -\kæmæt
3FeSg -\et -\tæt
3MaPl -\en -\tæn
3FePl -\enæt -\tænæt
Dative clitics[edit]

Tamashek also makes use of pronominal dative clitics. The basic dative morpheme is -\ha-, and it gets reduced to -\a\ or -\ in certain contexts. 1Sg and 1Pl object and dative clitics are identical.[3]:607

i-wæt-\ȁ-hi-\tt

3M.SG.SBJ-hit.PFV.POS-\DAT-1SG-\3M.SG.OBJ

i-wæt-\ȁ-hi-\tt

3M.SG.SBJ-hit.PFV.POS-\DAT-1SG-\3M.SG.OBJ

'he hit it for me.'

This example shows the first-person dative clitic -\a-hi, which follows the verb 'hit' (wæt).[3]:609

Ordering of Clitics[edit]

The basic ordering of clitics is as follows:[3]:610

  1. host word
  2. cliticized preposition
  3. objective and/or dative
  4. directional
  5. pronominal prepositional phrase

For example:

ma-\dæɤ-\hà-m-\tæn-\dd

what?-\in-\DAT-2F.SG-\3M.PL.OBJ-\CENTRIPETAL

e

FUT

ȉ-ž-ænš

3M.SG.SBJ-CAUS-trade.SH.IPFV

?

?

ma-\dæɤ-\hà-m-\tæn-\dd e ȉ-ž-ænš ?

what?-\in-\DAT-2F.SG-\3M.PL.OBJ-\CENTRIPETAL FUT 3M.SG.SBJ-CAUS-trade.SH.IPFV ?

'With (lit.:"in") what will he buy them for you?'[3]:610

Syntax[edit]

Word Order[edit]

Tamashek's simple main clauses have the word order of VSO: [verb(-\clitics) (subject) (object)...].[3]:16

ənhæ̀y-æn

see.PFV.POS-3M.PL.SBJ

médd-æn

men-M.PL

élu

elephant

ənhæ̀y-æn médd-æn élu

see.PFV.POS-3M.PL.SBJ men-M.PL elephant

‘The men saw the elephant.’[3]:17

ənhæy-æ̀ɤ

see.PFV.POS-1SG.SBJ

hæræt

thing

ənhæy-æ̀ɤ hæræt

see.PFV.POS-1SG.SBJ thing

'I saw a thing'[3]:95

Verb Phrases[edit]

As shown in the examples above, the verb precedes the object.

Auxiliaries precede the verb phrase. Future particle has a form àd in clause-initial position.[3]:589 For example:

àd

Fut

i-jə́l

3M.SG.SBJ-go.SH.IPFV

àd i-jə́l

Fut 3M.SG.SBJ-go.SH.IPFV

'will go away'[3]:590

The clause-internal negative particle is wæ̀r, though it is heard as [wər] if it is directly before {ə u i}.[3]:587 For example:

wər

NEG

ə̀ssen-æɤ

know.PFV.NEG-1SG.SBJ

wər ə̀ssen-æɤ

NEG know.PFV.NEG-1SG.SBJ

'I don't know.'[3]:587

Noun Phrases[edit]

In Tamashek, a NP starts with the head noun, followed by an adnominal complement such as a demonstrative, a possessor, or a relative clause. Tamashek does not have definiteness marking.[3]:14

A few chief examples of NP are given below:

Demonstrative NP[edit]

æ-háles

SG-man

w-á

M-DEM.SG

æ-háles w-á

SG-man M-DEM.SG

'this man'[3]:15

Relative Clause NP[edit]

æ-háles

SG-man

mæqqór-æn

be.big-PTCP.M.SG

æ-háles mæqqór-æn

SG-man be.big-PTCP.M.SG

'a big man'[3]:15

Possessor NP[edit]

é-dægg

SG-place

[n

[of

æ-háləs]

SG-man]

é-dægg [n æ-háləs]

SG-place [of SG-man]

'the place of the man'[3]:15

Numeral NP[edit]

Unlike the above three types where the NP starts with the head noun, numerals normally precede the head noun. One exception is when the numeral 'one' functions as an indefinite determiner, rather than as an actual number.[3]:14

əssín

two.M

méddən

man.PL

əssín méddən

two.M man.PL

'two men'[3]:15

Adpositional Phrases[edit]

Tamashek has prepositions.

dæ̀ɤ

in

æ-ho

smoke

dæ̀ɤ æ-ho

in smoke

'‘in (the) smoke’[3]:96

jèr-əs

between-3SG

dætén

and

burkína

Burkina

jèr-əs dætén burkína

between-3SG and Burkina

'between it (a town) and Burkina (neighboring country)'[3]:289

Interrogatives[edit]

In Tamashek, question particles precede the clause.[3]:649-662

ajə́mm'

yes/no?

ə́ttižal

due.date

ə́n

POSS

ʕali

Ali

wæ̀r

NEG

ø-æwwed̩

3M.SG.SBJ-arrive.PFV.NEG

ajə́mm' ə́ttižal ə́n ʕali wæ̀r ø-æwwed̩

yes/no? due.date POSS Ali NEG 3M.SG.SBJ-arrive.PFV.NEG

'Has Ali's due date not arrived?’[3]:649

who?

i-táttæ-n

3M.SG.SBJ-eat.LO.IPFV.POS-PTCP.M.SG

mí i-táttæ-n

who? 3M.SG.SBJ-eat.LO.IPFV.POS-PTCP.M.SG

'Who is eating?’[3]:650

Topicalization[edit]

Topicalization is present in Tamashek, and a topicalized constituent may appear "before the clause proper."[3]:615 For example:

næ̀kk

1SG

ə̀nta

3SG

əqqìm-æɤ-\ə́dd

sit.PFV.POS-2SG.SBJ-\CENTRIPETAL

næ̀kk ə̀nta əqqìm-æɤ-\ə́dd

1SG 3SG sit.PFV.POS-2SG.SBJ-\CENTRIPETAL

'As for me, I stayed.’[3]:615

Focalization[edit]

Focalization is present in Tamashek. The focalized constituted is "fronted to sentence-initial position." The morpheme à, best understood as a minimal demonstrative form, usually follows the focus.[3]:643 For example:

t-a-də̏ɤnu-t-t

F-Sg-cream-F-F.SG

[FOC

kánn-æɤ]

make.LO.IPFV-1SG.SBJ]

t-a-də̏ɤnu-t-t [à kánn-æɤ]

F-Sg-cream-F-F.SG [FOC make.LO.IPFV-1SG.SBJ]

'It is millet cream[focus] that I am making.’[3]:645


References[edit]

  1. ^ Tamashek 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. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br Heath, Jeffrey. (2005). A grammar of Tamashek (Tuareg of Mali). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3110184842. OCLC 60839346.
  4. ^ a b c d "Tamasheq". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-04-11.