Shilha language

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This article is about the Berber language of Southwestern Morocco exclusively. For other languages or dialects referred to as “Shilha”, see Shilha (disambiguation).
Tashelhiyt, Tasusiyt
ⵜⴰⵛⵍⵃⵉⵢⵜ (Tašlḥiyt)
Native to Morocco
Region High Atlas, Anti-Atlas, Sous, Draa
Ethnicity Išlḥiyn
Native speakers
3,890,000 in Morocco  (2004 census)[1]
Arabic, Latin, Tifinagh
Language codes
ISO 639-3 shi
Glottolog tach1250[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Ašlḥiy (male speaker)
Tašlḥiyt (female speaker)


Išlḥiyn (male speakers)
Tišlḥiyin (female speakers)

Language Tašlḥiyt

Shilha /ˈʃɪlhə/,[3] is a Berber language spoken by around 4 million people in southwestern Morocco. The self-name is Tašlḥiyt /taʃlʜijt/, and in English publications the language is most often referred to as Tashelhiyt or Tashelhit. In Moroccan Arabic the language is called Šəlḥa, from which the alternative English name Shilha is derived. In French sources the language is called tachelhit, chelha or chleuh.

Shilha is spoken in an area covering ca. 100,000 square kilometres,[4] comprising the eastern part of the High Atlas mountains and the regions to the south up to the Draa river, including the Anti-Atlas and the alluvial basin of Oued Sous. The largest urban centres in the area are the coastal city of Agadir (population over 600,000) and the towns of Guelmim, Taroudant, Oulad Teima, Tiznit and Ouarzazate.

In the north and to the south, Shilha borders on Arabic-speaking areas. In the northeast, roughly along the line Marrakesh-Zagora, there is a dialect continuum with Central Moroccan Tamazight. Within the Shilha area, there are several Arabic-speaking enclaves, notably around the town of Taroudant. Substantial Shilha-speaking migrant communities are found in most of the larger towns and cities of northern Morocco, and outside Morocco in Belgium, France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and Israel.

Shilha possesses a distinct and substantial literary tradition that can be traced back several centuries before the colonial era. Many texts, written in Arabic script and dating from the late 16th century to the present, are preserved in manuscripts. A modern printed literature in Shilha has developed since the 1970s.

Language name and etymology[edit]

Shilha speakers usually refer to their language as Tašlḥiyt.[5] This name is morphologically a feminine noun, derived from masculine Ašlḥiy “male speaker of Shilha”. Shilha names of other languages are formed in the same way, e.g. Aɛṛab “an Arab”, Taɛṛabt “the Arabic language”.[6]

The noun Ašlḥiy, though now freely used as an endonym among Shilha speakers, is exonymic in origin, as the nominal stem šlḥ goes back to the Arabic noun šilḥ “bandit” (pl. šulūḥ),.[7] The initial A- in Ašlḥiy is the nominal prefix (see below, Nouns). The ending -iy is borrowed from the Arabic suffix -iyy which forms denominal nouns and adjectives. There are also variant forms Ašlḥay and Tašlḥayt, with -ay instead of -iy under the influence of the preceding consonant .[8] The plural of Ašlḥiy is Išlḥiyn; a single female speaker is a Tašlḥiyt (noun homonymous with the name of the language), plural Tišlḥiyin.

In Moroccan colloquial Arabic, a male speaker is called a Šəlḥ (pl. Šluḥ) and the language is Šəlḥa,[9] a feminine derivation calqued on Tašlḥiyt. The Moroccan Arabic names have been borrowed into French as un Chleuh (pl. les Chleuhs), and chelha or, more commomly, le chleuh.

The exonymic, uncomplimentary origin of the names Tašlḥiyt and Ašlḥiy now seems lost from memory in Morocco among both Berbers and Arabs,[10] but Stumme (1899:3) noted that a speaker of Shilha will call himself an Ašlḥiy while being fully aware that it is a term of abuse, taking his revenge by calling an Arab izikr “rope” (referring to the well-known Bedouin headgear).

The now usual names Tašlḥiyt and Išlḥiyn seem to have gained the upper hand relatively recently, as they are attested only in those manuscript texts which date from the 19th and 20th centuries. In older texts, the language is still referred to as Tamaziɣt or Tamazixt “Tamazight”. For example, the author Muḥammad Awzal (early 18th c. CE) speaks of nnaḍm n Tmazixt ann ifulkin “a poem in that beautiful Tamazight”.[11]

Speakers distinguish an Asusiy “speaker from Sous” (i.e. the western part of the language area) from a Adrawiy “speaker from Draa” (i.e. the eastern part). Their respective language varieties are known as Tasusiyt and Tadrawiyt. Because Sous is the most heavily populated part of the language area, the name Tasusiyt is often used as a pars pro toto for the entire language.[12]

Number of speakers[edit]

Percent of Tashlhit speakers in Morocco by census 2004 Based on data found Here

The number of around 4 million speakers mentioned in Ethnologue is based on the data of the official census of 2004. There is no obvious reason to assume that the number of speakers is substantially higher, or lower.[13] Taking 4 million as a reliable number, this makes Shilha the Berber language with the second highest number of speakers (after Kabyle).

Some authors mention a much higher number of Shilha speakers. For example, Stroomer (2001a) estimated that there are “some 6 to 8 million” speakers, and he subsequently (2008) raised the number to “some 8 to 9 million”.[14] However, in both instances Stroomer did not reveal on what data or sources his estimates are based and, in view of the data of the 2004 census, they are probably too high.

Although many speakers of Shilha are bilingual in Moroccan Arabic, there are as yet no indications that the survival of Shilha as a living language will be seriously threatened in the immediate future. Indeed, because of the rapid growth of the Moroccan population over the past decades (from 12 million in 1961 to over 33 million in 2014), it is safe to say that Shilha is now spoken by more people than ever before in history.


Dialect differentiation within Shilha, such as it is, has not been the subject of any targeted research, but several scholars have noted that all varieties of Shilha are mutually intelligible. The first was Stumme, who observed that all the Išlḥiyn can understand each other, “because the individual dialects of their language are not very different.”[15] This was later confirmed by Ahmed Boukous, a Moroccan linguist and himself a native speaker of Shilha, who stated: “Tashelhit is equipped with a profound unity which permits the Išlḥiyn to communicate without problem, from the Iḥaḥan in the northwest to the Ayt Baɛmran in the southwest, from the Aštukn in the west to the Iẓnagn in the east, en from Aqqa in the desert to Tassaout in the plain of Marrakesh.”[16]

There exists no sharply defined boundary between Shilha dialects and the dialects of Central Moroccan Tamazight (CMT). The dividing line is generally put somewhere along the line Marrakesh-Zagora, with the speech of the Iɣʷždamn, Igliwa and Ayt Wawzgit ethnic groups belonging to Shilha, and that of the neighboring In Ultan, In Fḍwak and Imɣṛan ethnic groups counted as CMT.

Writing systems[edit]

Shilha has been written with several different alphabets. Historically, the Arabic script has been dominant. Usage of the Latin script emerged in the late 19th century. More recently, Shilha has begun to be written in Tifinagh.


Main article: Tifinagh

Tifinagh (or rather, Neo-Tifinagh) was introduced in the late 1990s and its use is now supported by the Moroccan authorities, in a standardised form promulgated by the Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe (IRCAM, Rabat). Publications entirely printed in Tifinagh however still remain rare, and only a tiny proportion of Shilha speakers, if any, are able to handle the new script with confidence. Its main role is that of a cultural icon, and Tifiniagh has now definitely entered the public space. For example, many town signs now show the name in Tifinagh as well as in Arabic and Latin script.

Latin script[edit]

Many Shilha texts from the oral tradition have been published since the 19th century, transcribed in Latin script. Early publications display a wide variety of transcription systems. For example, Stumme (1899) and Destaing (1936) use an elaborate phonetic transcription, while Justinard (1914) and Laoust (1936) employ a transcription based on French orthographical conventions. A new standard was set by Aspinion (1953), who uses a simple but accurate, largely phonemic transcription with hyphenation.

Most publications of recent decades use a fairly uniform transcription-orthography in Latin script (also used in the present article).[17] The most unusual feature of this orthography is the employment of the symbol ɛ (Greek epsilon) to represent /ʢ/ (voiced epiglottal fricative), e.g. taɛmamt /taʢmamt/ “turban”. Except with (= IPA /ʜ/), the subscript dot indicates pharyngealisation, e.g. aḍrḍur /adˤrdˤur/ “deaf person”. Geminated consonants are transcribed with doubled symbols, e.g. tassmi “needle”, aggʷrn “flour”. Word divisions are generally disjunctive, with clitics written as separate words (not hyphenated).

Shilha: transcription of consonants compared
c (š)
j (ž)
w, u
w, ou
w, u
y, i
y, i, ï
j, i

Arabic script[edit]

Modern orthography in Arabic script

Since the 1970s, a fair number of books in Shilha have been published inside Morocco. These books, authored by modern Western-oriented literati, are written in a newly devised orthography in Arabic script. The main features of this orthography are the representation of vowels a, i, u by the letters alif, yāʼ, wāw, the non-use of vowel signs other than shaddah (to indicate gemination of consonants) and ḍammah (to indicate labialization). The consonant g is written with Persian گ gāf, while is either not distinguished from z, or written with Persian ژ zhe. Word separations are mostly disjunctive.

Premodern orthography[18]

The way in which Shilha has been written in the Arabic script during the past centuries is very consistent, to the extent that it is possible to talk about "a conventionalized orthography". This premodern orthography has remained virtually unchanged since at least the end of the 16th century, and is still used today in circles of traditional Islamic scholars (ṭṭlba).

The Maghrebi script[19] style is always used. Distinctive features of Maghrebi script are: the different pointing of fāʼ and qāf; shaddah may be represented with a V-shaped symbol; waṣl is indicated by writing the final vowel of the preceding word a second time with the alif (with u represented by a bar through the middle of the alif), e.g. kullu n-nāsi ‹kullu (u)l-nnāsi› ‘all the people’.

In premodern Shlha orthography, two extra letters were added to the alphabet to represent consonants not represented by the Standard Arabic alphabet: a kāf with three dots ݣ for g, and ṣād with three dots ڞ for (dots may also be added underneath the letter). Consonants and , which bear a minimal functional load, are not distinguished in the spelling from r and l.

Texts are always fully vocalized, with a, i and u written with the vowel signs fatḥah, kasrah, and ḍammah. Consonants without a following phonemic vowel are always written with a sukūn. Genmination is indicated as usual with shaddah, but in Shilha spelling it may be combined with sukūn to represent a geminated consonant without following vowel (which never occurs in Standard Arabic). Labialization is generally not represented, e.g. iẓɣʷran ‹iẓɣran› ‘roots’. The Arabic waṣl spellings are often “mirrored” and used to write word-initial vowels, e.g. ayyur ula tafukt ‹ayyur(u) ulatafukt› ‘the moon as well as the sun’.

Vowel length is not distinctive in Shilha, but orthographically long vowels may be used to indicate emphasized syllables in metric texts, e.g. lxálayiq ‹lxālayiq› ‘creatures’ vs. standard Arabic orthography ‹l-xalāʼiq›.

The Arabic letters ﺙ, ﺫ, ﻅ, representing the Arabic interdentals /θ, ð, ð̣/ may be used in etymological spellings of loanwords, but they are often replaced by ﺕ, ﺩ, ﺽ, in accordance with Shilha pronunciation, e.g. lḥadit ʽtradition’ can be written as ‹lḥadiθ› (etymological) or as ‹lḥadit› (phonemic). Final /-a/ in both native Berber words and loan words is sometimes written with alif maqṣūrah, even if the Standard Arabic spelling does not use it, e.g. zzka ‘alms tax’ written as ‹zzká› vs. standard ‹z-zkāt›. Final -t in words of Arabic origin is sometimes written with tāʼ marbūṭah, whether or not the original Arabic word was spelled with it, e.g. zzit ‘olive oil’ written as ‹zzit›. Nunation diacritics are sometimes used to write final -Vn in Shilha words, e.g. tumẓin ‘barley’ ‹tumẓin› or ‹tumẓin›. Native words starting with a vowel and a geminated consonant may sometimes be written as if they contain the Arabic definite article, e.g. azzar ‘hair’ written as ‹al-zzar›. Final -u or -w in Shilha words may be written with a following alif al-wiqāyah.

With respect to word divisions, the premodern orthography may be characterized as conjunctive (in contrast to most European orthographies, which are disjunctive). Thus, elements such as prepositions, preverbials, pronominal affixes, demonstrative and directional particles are written connected to a noun or verb form, e.g. ‹urānɣiḍhir manīɣurikfis iblisī› = ur anɣ iḍhir mani ɣ ur ikfis iblis-i ‘it is not apparent to us where Iblis has not sown [his depravity]’.

Medieval orthography[20]

A different orthography was used in the few Berber texts in existence from the eleventh to the fourteenth century CE. These were written in an older Berber language likely to be most closely related to Shilha. The consonant g was written with jīm or kāf, with ṣād or sometimes zāy, and with ṭāʼ. Vowels a, i, u were written as orthographically long vowels ‹ā›, ‹ī›, ‹ū›. Word-final wāw was usually accompanied by alif al-wiqāyah. The vowels signs fatḥah or kasrah represent a phonemic shwa /ə/ which was lost in the post-medieval language, e.g. tuwərmin ‹tūwarmīn› ‘joints, articulation’. Labialization may be represented by ḍammah, e.g. tagʷərsa ‹tāgursā› ‘ploughshare’. Prepositions, possessive complements and the like are mostly written as separate words. The medieval texts display many archaisms in phonology, morphology and lexicon.



Shilha, like other varieties of Berber, has an extensive body of oral literature in a wide variety of genres. Fables and animal stories often revolve around the character of the jackal (uššn); other genres include legends, imam/taleb stories, riddles, and tongue-twisters. A large number of oral texts, as well as ethnographic texts on the customs and traditions of the Išlḥiyn have been recorded and published since the end of the 19th century, mainly by European linguists.


The first page of an 18th-century Shilha manuscript written in Arabic script, of Muḥammad Awzal's al-Ḥawḍ, part I (Leiden Cod.Or. 23.354; adapted from N. van den Boogert 1997, plate I)

Seen in the context of the indigenous languages of Africa, Shilha is practically unique in possessing a distinct literary tradition which can be traced back to the pre-colonial era. Numerous texts, written in Arabic script, are preserved in manuscripts, dating from the past four centuries. The earliest datable text is a sizeable compendium of lectures on the “religious sciences” (lɛulum n ddin) composed in metrical verses by Ibrāhīm al-Ṣanhājī, a.k.a. Brahim Aẓnag (d. 1597 CE). The most well-known writer of this tradition is Muḥammad al-Hawzālī, a.k.a. Mḥmmd Awzal (ca. 1680-1749 CE). The longest extant text in Shilha is a commentary (sharḥ) on al-Ḥawḍ, Awzal’s manual of Mālikī law; the commentary, entitled al-Manjaʽ “the Pasture” is from the hand of al-Ḥasan ibn Mubārak al-Tamuddiztī, a.k.a. Lḥsn u Mbark u Tmuddizt (d. 1899 CE). Important collections of Shilha manuscripts are preserved in Aix-en-Provence (the fonds Arsène Roux) and Leiden. Virtually all manuscripts are religious in content, and their main purpose was to provide instruction to the illiterate common people (of course, with literate scholars serving as teachers). Many of the texts are in versified form in order to facilitate memorisation and recitation. Apart from purely religious texts (almost all of them in versified form), there are also narratives in verse (e.g. Lqist n Yusf “ the story of Joseph”, Lɣazawat n Susata “the Conquest of Sousse”), odes on the pleasures of drinking tea, collections of medicinal recipes (in prose), bilingual glossaries, etc.

The premodern written language differs in some aspects from normal spoken Shilha. For example, it is common for the manuscript texts to contain a mix of dialectal features not found in any single modern dialect. The language of the manuscripts also contains a higher number of Arabic words than the modern spoken form, a phenomenon that has been called arabisme poétique.[21] Other characteristics of manuscript verse text, which are probably adopted from oral conventions, are the use of plural verb forms instead of singular forms, uncommon plural nouns formed with the prefix ida, use of stopgaps such as daɣ “again”, hann and hatinn “lo!”, etc. These conventions can be linked to the need to make the text conform to fixed metrical formulae.

Another feature of the premodern text is that they contain lexical items which have become obsolete in modern Shilha. Examples include tamtti “nation”, aẓrf “silver”, timiḍi “a hundred”, tidi “sweat (n.)”, taziḍrt “patience”, ggu “bear witness”, siladd "except", miššan "but", etc.



Shilha vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Close i u
Open a
Vowel phonemes

Shilha has three phonemic vowels, with length not a distinctive feature.[22] The vowels show a fairly wide range of allophones.[23] The vowel /a/ is most often realized as [a] or [æ], while /u/ is pronounced without any noticeable rounding except when adjacent to /w/. The presence of a pharyngealized consonant invites a more centralized realization of the vowel, as in kraḍ [krɐdˁ] “three”, kkuẓ [kkɤzˁ] “four”, sḍis [sdˁɪs] “six” vs. yan [yæn] “one”, sin [sin] “two”, smmus [smmʊs] “five”.

Transitional vowels a.k.a. “shwa”

In addition to the three phonemic vowels, there are non-phonemic transitional vowels, often collectively referred to as “shwa”. Typically, a transitional vowel is audible following the onset of a vowelless syllable /CC/ or /CCC/, if either of the flanking consonants, or both, are voiced,[24] e.g. tigmmi [tigĭmmi] “house”, amḥḍar [amăʜdˁɐr] “schoolboy”. In the phonetic transcriptions of Stumme (1899) and Destaing (1938), many such transitional vowels are indicated.

Later authors such as Aspinion (1953), use the symbol ‹e› to mark the place where a transitional vowel may be heard, irrespective of its quality, and they also write ‹e› where in reality no vowel, however short, is heard, e.g. ‹akessab› [akssæb] “owner of livestock”, ‹kešmat› [kʃmæt] “enter!” In fact the symbol ‹e› “shwa”, as used by Aspinion and others, is a purely graphic device employed to indicate that the preceding consonant is a syllable onset: [a.k‹e›s.sab.], [k‹e›š.mat.].[25] As Galand has observed, the notation of “shwa” in fact results from “habits which are alien to Shilha”.[26] And, as conclusively shown by Ridouane (2008), transitional vowels or “intrusive vocoids” cannot even be accorded the status of epenthetic vowels. It is therefore preferable not to write transitional vowels or “shwa”, and to transcribe the vowels in a strictly phonemic manner, as in Galand (1988) and all recent text editions (including those in the modern orthography in Arabic script).


Speech sample in Shilha (Chelha).

Shilha has thirty-three phonemic consonants. Like other Berber languages and Arabic, it has both pharyngealized ("emphatic") and plain dental consonants. There is also a distinction between labialized and plain dorsal obstruents. Gemination is contrastive.

The chart below represents the consonants in the standard Latin transcription. IPA equivalents are given in the list of descriptions.

Shilha consonant phonemes: chart






Shilha consonant phonemes: description
value (IPA)
voiced bilabial nasal
voiced dental nasal
voiceless dental stop
voiceless pharyngealized dental stop
voiceless prevelar stop
voiceless labialized prevelar stop
voiceless uvular stop
voiceless labialized uvular stop
voiced bilabial stop
voiced dental stop
voiced pharyngealized dental stop
voiced prevelar stop
voiced labialized prevelar stop
voiceless labiodental fricative
voiceless dental fricative
voiceless pharyngealized dental fricative
voiceless postalveolar fricative
voiceless uvular fricative
voiceless labialized uvular fricative
voiceless epiglottal fricative
voiced dental fricative
voiced pharyngealized dental fricative
voiced postalveolar fricative
voiced uvular fricative
voiced labialized uvular fricative
voiced epiglottal fricative or approximant
voiced glottal fricative or approximant
voiced dental lateral approximant
voiced pharyngealized dental lateral approximant
voiced palatal approximant
voiced labial-velar approximant
voiced dental trill
voiced pharyngealized dental trill

The semivowels w and y have vocalic allophones [u] and [i] between consonants and between consonant and pause. Similarly, the high vowels u and i can have consonantal allophones [w] and [y] when following a consonant (although this happens rarely, because of the operation of the hiatus rules). In most dialects,[27] the semivowels are thus in complementary distribution with the high vowels, with the semivowels occurring as onset or coda, and the high vowels as peak. This surface distribution of the semivowels w and y, and high vowels i and u has tended to obscure their status as four distinct phonemes, with some linguists denying phonemic status to w and y (Applegate 1958; Dell & Elmedlaoui 1985, 2002; Ridouane 2008).

However, the assumption of four distinct phonems is necessitated by the facts that semivowels and high vowels can occur in sequence, in lexically determined order, e.g. tazdwit “bee”, tahruyt “ewe” (not *tazduyt, *tahrwit), and that semivowels w and y, like all other consonants, occur geminated, as in afawwu “wrap”, tayyu “camel’s hump”.[28] The assumption of four phonems also results in a more efficient description of morphology.[29]

In the examples below, w and y are transcribed phonemically in some citation forms, but always phonetically in context, e.g. ysti- “the sisters of”, dars snat istis “he has two sisters”.

Syllable structure[edit]

Due to the presence of vowelless words, sometimes entirely voiceless (e.g. t-fk-t=stt 'you gave it') Shilha poses a difficulty regarding syllabification. Some regard all consonants as possible nuclei, while another opinion is that shwa serves as the phonetic realization of the syllable nucleus.



On the basis of their morphology, three types of Shilha nouns can be distinguished, two indigenous types and one type of external origin: (1) prefixed nouns, (2) unprefixed nouns (including the subtype of bound nouns), and (3) unincorporated loans. The relevant morpho-syntactic categories are gender, number and state.[30]

Prefixed nouns

Prefixed nouns (that is, nouns with an obligatory nominal prefix) are by far the most numerous type. These nouns can be easily recognised from their outward form: they begin with a nominal prefix, which has the shape (t)V-, for example aggu “smoke”, igigil “orphan”, uṣkay “hound”, tadggʷat “evening”, tibinṣrt “marsh mallow (plant)”, tuḍfit “ant”.

Prefixed nouns distinguish two genders, masculine and feminine; two numbers, singular and plural; and two states, conventionally referred to by their French names as état libre (free state) and état d’annexion (annexed state)[31] and glossed as EL and EA. Gender, number and state are all explicitly marked.

The nominal prefix has no semantic content.[32] It may be made up of one or both of two elements, a gender prefix and a vocalic prefix. Singular feminine nouns may also have a gender suffix. For example, the noun tazdwit “bee” has the feminine prefix t-, the vocalic prefix a- and the feminine singular suffix -t added to the nominal stem zdwi. While feminine prefixed nouns always have the feminine prefix, masculine nouns do not have a gender prefix in the free state (EL); for example abaɣuɣ “fox” has no gender prefix, but only a vocalic prefix a- added to the nominal stem baɣuɣ.

Gender is thus marked unambiguously, albeit asymmetrically. In just a handful of nouns, the morphological gender does not conform to the grammatical gender (and number): ulli “sheep and goats” is morphologically, but takes agreement; alln “eyes” is morphologically, but takes agreement; tarwa “(someone’s) children, offspring” is morphologically, but takes agreement.

The annexed state (EA) is regularly formed by reducing the vocalic prefix to zero and, with masculine nouns, adding the gender prefix w-,[33] for example EL t-a-zdwit, EA t-zdwi-t; EL a-baɣuɣ, EA w-baɣuɣ.

With some nouns, the original vocalic prefix has fused with a stem-initial vowel, to produce an inseparable (and irreducible) vowel. For example, t-afuk-t “sun” has EA t-afuk-t (not *t-fuk-t), and ayyur “moon, month” has EA w-ayyur (not *w-yyur). With feminine nouns that have an inseparable vocalic prefix, the difference between EL and EA is thus neutralized.

While most prefixed nouns have a vocalic prefix a-, some have i- (in some cases inseparable), and a few have u- (always inseparable). When a masculine noun has the vocalic prefix i- (separable or inseparable), the gender prefix w- changes to y-. An overview (all examples are singular; plurals also distinguish EL and EA):

Shilha nouns: state
Masculine EL Masculine EA Feminine EL Feminine EA
“ass” -a-ɣyul w- -ɣyul “egg” t-a-glay-t t- -glay-t
“wadi” -asif w-asif “thigh” t-aɣma t-aɣma
“cave” -i-fri y- -fri “meat” t-i-fiyi t- -fiyi
“ash” -iɣd y-iɣd “salt” t-isn-t t-isn-t
“mouflon” -udad w-udad “light” t-ufaw-t t-ufaw-t

The EA is not predictable from the shape of the noun, for example afus, EA wfus “hand” vs. afud, EA wafud “knee”.

The phonological rules on the realization of /w/ and /y/ apply to the EA as well. For example, the EA of a-mɣar “chief” is /w-mɣar/, realized as wmɣar after a vowel, umɣar after a consonant: ifka t i wmɣar “he gave it to the chief” vs. imun d umɣar “he accompanied the chief”.

The EA is used in a number of clearly defined syntactical contexts:[34] (1) when the noun occurs as subject in postverbal position, for example iɣli d wayyur “the EA-moon rose” vs. ayyur iɣli d “[as for] the EL-moon, it rose”; (2) after most prepositions and the linker n “of”, for example tiskrt d uẓalim “garlic and EA-onions”, tangult n uɣrum “a loaf of EA-bread”; (3) after unit numerals and the indefinite numeral, for example kraṭṭ tmkilin “three EA-dishes”, mnnaw wussan “many EA-days”; (4) after bound nouns which can occur only with a following NP, for example bu tɣanimt “he of the EA-reed: flute player” (taɣanimt “reed”), ayt ugadir “the people of EA-Agadir”; (5) in a few rare cases of prefixed nouns which form a plural with the pluralizer id, for example alf “a thousand”, pl. id w-alf (also alfiw-n). Outside these contexts, the EL is used.

Prefixed nouns show a great variety of plural formations, applying one or more of the following processes: (1) suffixation (masc. -n, fem. -in), (2) vowel change (insertion or elision, or ablaut), (3) consonant gemination or degemination, and (4) stem extension (-aw, -iw, -t). Independent from these processes, the separable vocalic prefix a- is always replaced with i-. An inseparable vocalic prefix either remains unchanged, or changes as part of process 2 (but if the vocalic prefix is inseparable in the singular, it may be separable in the plural, as with aduz “dune”, and vice versa, as with aydi “dog”). There are also irregular and suppletive plurals. Below is a sample of nouns, illustrating various plural formations.

Shilha nouns: plural formations
Singular Plural Process(es)
“mountain” a-drar i-drar-n suffixation
“dune” aduz i-dazz-n suffixation, vowel change, gemination
“head” a-gayyu i-guyya vowel change
“ear” a-mẓẓuɣ i-mzga-n suffixation, vowel change, degemination (irregular)
“waterhole” anu una vowel change
“document” arra arrat-n suffixation, stem extension
“day” ass ussa-n suffixation, vowel change
“dog” a-ydi iḍa-n suffixation, vowel change (irregular)
“forehead” i-gnzi i-gnzit-n suffixation, stem extension
“forearm” i-ɣil i-ɣall-n suffixation, vowel change, gemination
“scorpion” i-ɣirdm i-ɣardmiw-n suffixation, vowel change, stem extension
“witness” i-nigi i-naga-n suffixation, vowel change
“slave” i-smg i-smga-n suffixation, vowel change
“face” udm udmaw-n suffixation, stem extension
“song” urar urar-n suffixation
“jackal” uššn uššan-n suffixation, vowel change
“egg” t-a-glay-t t-i-glay irregular
“thing” t-a-ɣawsa t-i-ɣawsiw-in suffixation, stem extension
“mouse” t-a-ɣrday-t t-i-ɣrday-in suffixation
“churn” t-a-gššul-t t-i-gʷšl-in suffixation, vowel change, degemination
“fireplace” t-aka-t t-akat-in suffixation, stem extension
“woman” t-a-mɣar-t t-u-mɣar-in[35] suffixation
“porcupine” t-aruš-t t-uraš vowel change
“key” t-a-saru-t t-i-sura vowel change
“house” t-i-gmmi t-i-gʷmma vowel change
“ewe” t-ili t-att-n suppletive
“meal” t-irm-t t-iram vowel change
“eye” t-iṭṭ all-n suppletive
“mountain pass” t-izi t-izza vowel change, gemination
“lioness” t-izm-t t-izmaw-in suffixation, stem extension
“light” t-ufaw-t t-ufaw-in suffixation

The plural is generally not predictable from the shape of the singular, for example a-duku “shoe”, pl. i-duka-n vs. a-ruku “utensil”, pl. i-rukut-n. In view of this great variety, it is not surprising that many nouns have more than one plural, for example a-žnwiy “knife”, pl. i-žnway (vowel change) or i-žnwiy-n (suffixation).

Many Shilha place names are morphologically prefixed nouns, for example A-gʷlmim “Guelmim”, A-manuz “Amanouz”, T-a-rudan-t “Taroudant”, T-a-zagur-t “Zagora”. The same is the case with ethnic names, for example Ammln “the Ammeln” (sg. Imml), Aštuk-n “the Achtouken” (sg. Aštuk), Ilall-n “the Ilallen” (sg. Ilillu), I-mntag-n “the Imentagen” (sg. A-mntag).[36]

Among the prefixed nouns are found many incorporated loans. Examples include t-a-kira “wax” (from Latin), a-ɣanim “reeds” (from Punic), urti “garden” (from early Romance) and numerous Arabic loans such as a-muslm “Muslim”, t-a-bra-t “letter, missive” (plurals: i-ɣanim-n, urta-n, i-muslm-n, t-i-brat-in).

Unprefixed nouns

This is the least common type, which also includes some loans. Examples are dikkuk “cuckoo”, fad “thirst”, frṭ’ṭṭu “bat, butterfly”, gmz “thumb”, kḍran “tar”, lagar “station”, laẓ “hunger”, maṭiša “tomatoes”, mllɣ “index finger”, sksu “couscous”, wazdwit “light afternoon meal”, wiẓugn “cricket”, xizzu “carrots”. Unprefixed nouns distinguish two numbers, but many are collectives or non-count nouns which do not have a separate plural form.

It is probable that originally all prefixed nouns were masculine. The few that now take feminine agreement contain elements that have been reanalyzed as marking feminine gender, for example ttždmnni “type of spider” (initial t seen as feminine prefix), hlima “bat” (not an Arabic loan but final a analyzed as the Arabic feminine ending). The unprefixed noun mddn ~ middn “people, humans” takes agreement even though it is morphologically

The plural of unprefixed nouns is made by prefixing the pluralizer id, for example id lagar “stations”.

Foreign names of people and places can also be seen as a subtype of unprefixed nouns, for example Musa (man’s name), Muna (woman’s name), Fas “Fes”, Brdqqiz “Portugal”. Gender is not transparently marked on foreign proper names, but those referring to humans take gender agreement according to the natural sex of the referent (male/masculine, female/feminine).

Bound nouns

A subtype of unprefixed nouns are the bound nouns, that is, nouns which are necessarily possessed. Plurals are either suppletive or made with id. As with proper names, gender is not marked on bound nouns, which also take gender agreement according to the natural sex of the referent. Most bound nouns are kinship terms which require a possessive suffix:

Shilha bound nouns: kinship terms + pronominal suffix
Singular Plural Remarks
“the mother(s) of” ma- id ma-
“the father(s) of” baba- id baba-
“the daughter(s) of” ylli- ysti-
“the son(s) of” yiw-, yu-, ywi- (t-arwa) pl. is prefixed noun “sons, offspring”
“the sister(s) of” wlt-ma- yst-ma- compound, lit. “the daughter(s) of the mother of”
“the brother(s) of” gʷ-ma- ayt-ma- compound, lit. “the son(s) of the mother of”
“the kinswoman of” wlt-dar- yst-dar- compound
“the kinsman of” w-dar- ayt-dar- compound
“grandmother: the mother of the mother of” ždda- Arabic loan
“grandfather: the father of the mother of” ti-ma- compound
“grandmother: the mother of the father of” tabt-ti- compound
“grandfather: the father of the father of” žddi- Arabic loan
“aunt: the sister(s) of the mother of” xalti- id xalti- Arabic loan
“uncle: the brother(s) of the mother of” xali- id xali- Arabic loan
“aunt: the sister(s) of the father of” ɛmti- id ɛmti- Arabic loan
“uncle: the brother(s) of the father of” ɛmmi- id ɛmmi- Arabic loan
“the elder female relative of” taba-
“the elder male relative of” dadda-
“the mistress of” lalla- Arabic loan
“the master of” sidi- Arabic loan

These kinship terms cannot occur without pronominal suffix. Hence, if they are part of a possessive construction “the X of Y”, possession is indicated twice, for example baba-s n tslit (father-her of EA-bride) “the father of the bride”, yiwi-s n gʷma-ø (son-his of brother-my) “my brother’s son: my nephew”.

Not all kinship terms are bound nouns: some are prefixed nouns which take possessive complements, for example tarwa nu “my children”, aḍggʷal nnk “your ( father-in-law”, laždud nnɣ “our forefathers”.

The remaining bound nouns require a following NP, forming a possessive phrase:

Shilha bound nouns + NP
Singular Plural Remarks
“the daughter(s) of, native(s) of” wlt yst following prefixed noun must be in the EA
“the son(s) of, native(s) of” w ayt following prefixed noun must be in the EA
“she with, those with” mm id mm Arabic loan; following prefixed noun must be in the EA
“he with, those with” bu id bu Arabic loan; following prefixed noun must be in the EA
“she without, those without” tar id tar [ittar]
“he without, those without” war id war

The bound nouns w, ayt, wlt, yst occur as first element in compound kinship terms (see above; w then becomes ). They also serve to indicate descent, origin and ethnicity, for example ḥmad u musa “Ahmed son of Moussa” (name of a famous saint), u bṛṛa “native of outside: foreigner”, ayt ugrsif “the natives of EA-Aguercif”, ayt trudant “the natives of EA-Taroudant”, ult uglu “native woman of EA-Aglou”, ist tfrawt “the women of EA-Tafraout”. When w is followed by another (phonemic) w the result is ggʷ, for example /w wižžan/ ggʷižžan “native of Ouijjane” (also surname: Gouijjane), /a-rgaz w w-rgaz/ argaz ggʷrgaz “a man, son of a EA-man: a man of virtue”. Ayt occurs in many Shilha ethnonyms, for example ayt bubkr “the Sons of Boubker” (Aït Boubker), sg. u bubkr; ayt wafqqa “the Sons of Ouafka” (Aït Ouafka), sg. ggʷafqqa /w wafqqa/.

The proprietive bound nouns bu and mm are used as formative elements to make nicknames, for example bu tbratin “he of the EA-letters: postman”, bu tḥanut “he of the EA-shop: shopkeeper”, bu tagant “he of the EA-forest: wild boar”, bu ššišit “he of the bonnet: lark”, bu sa yiwaliwn “he of seven EA-words: a liar”. In many cases, bu fuses with a following nominal prefix, for example bu wmargbumarg “he of the EA-poetry: poet”, bu ygʷrabigʷra “he of the EA-frogs” (place name: Biougra). The feminine mm is encountered less frequently; examples are mm igrtal “she of the EA-mats: prayer room in a mosque”, mm lɣrur “she of deception: the world”, mm uɣu “she of the EA-milk: euphorbia (plant containing latex)”.

Examples of the use of the privative bound nouns war and tar (which do not require a following prefixed noun to be in the EA) are: war ašrik “he without partner: God”, id war tawwuri “those without job: the unemployed”, tar azal “she without daylight: wide-brimmed hat”, tar laman “she without security: the world”.

Unincorporated loans

These are nouns of Arabic origin (including loans from French and Spanish through Arabic) which have largely retained their Arabic morphology. They distinguish two genders (not always explicitly marked) and two numbers (explicitly marked). A notable feature of these nouns is that they are borrowed with the Arabic definite article, which is semantically neutralized in Shilha, for example Moroccan Arabic l-fraš “the bed” becomes lfraš “the bed, a bed”, Moroccan Arabic š-šariž “the basin” becomes ššariž “the basin, a basin”.

The Arabic feminine ending -a is often replaced with the Shilha suffix -t, for example Moroccan Arabic l-faky-a becomes lfaki-t “fruit”, Moroccan Arabic ṛ-ṛuḍ-a becomes ṛṛuṭṭ “tomb of saint”. Arabic loans usually retain their gender in Shilha. The exception are Arabic masculine nouns which end in t; these change their gender to feminine in Shilha, with the final t reanalyzed as the suffix -t, for example Moroccan Arabic l-ḥadit “the prophetic tradition” (m.) becomes Shilha lḥadi-t (f.).

Arabic plurals are usually borrowed with the singulars. The borrowed plural has the same gender as the borrowed singular if this is feminine, even if the gender is not explicitly marked on the plural, for example lbhaym “domestic animals” is feminine (although not marked as such) because the singular lbhim-t is feminine (and marked as such), but lbzaym “buckles” is masculine, because the singular lbzim is masculine. Loans whose singular is masculine however may have a plural which is feminine, and marked as such (according to Arabic morphology), for example lɛlam “flag” (masc.), pl. lɛlum-at (fem.).

The plurals of unincorporated nouns of low frequency are sometimes made with the pluralizer ida (a variant of id used with unprefixed nouns), for example lmizab “drain”, pl. lmyazb or ida lmizab. This pluralizer also occurs in verse texts, for example ida ssur “ramparts” (normal pl. laswar); it can also sometimes be added metri causa to a plural, for example ida žžnanat “gardens” (lit. “gardenses”, normal pl. žžnanat, sg. žžnan).


There are three basic sets of pronouns: independent, direct object, and suffixed. In addition, there are two derived sets which contain the suffixed pronouns (except 1sg.): indirect object and possessive complement.[37] Gender is consistently marked on 2sg., 2pl. and 3pl. pronouns. Gender is not consistently marked on 3sg. and 1pl. (there is a separate 1pl.f. independent pronoun nkkʷnti, not shown in the table). Gender is never marked on 1sg.

Shilha pronouns
Independent Direct object Suffixed Indirect object Possessive complement
1sg. nkk(i(n) iyi V-ø / C-i iyi V nw / C inw, V/C niw
2sg.m. kyy(i(n) k -k a-k nn-k
2s.f. kmm(i(n) km -m a-m nn-m
3sg.m. ntta(n) t -s a-s nn-s
3sg.f. nttat tt / stt -s a-s nn-s
1pl. nkkʷni a(n)ɣ -(n)ɣ, -t-nɣ a-(n)ɣ nn-ɣ
2pl.m. kʷnni kʷn -wn, -t-un a-wn nn-un
2pl.f. kʷnnimti kʷnt -wnt, -t-unt a-wnt nn-unt
3pl.m. nttni, nitni tn -sn, -t-sn a-sn nn-sn
3pl.f. nttnti, nitnti tnt -snt, -t-snt a-snt nn-snt
ø = zero morpheme.

The independent (“overt”) pronouns are used to stress the subject or object, as well as with certain pseudo-prepositions such as zund “like”, bla “without”, e.g. ɛlah, nkki, giɣ aɣyul zund kyyi? “why, me, am I an ass like you?”[38]

The direct object pronouns are used with transitive verbs, e.g. yuzn tn s tmzgida “he sent them to the Koranic school”. The 3sg.f. variant stt is used after a dental stop, e.g. awyat stt id “bring ( her here!” vs. awi tt id “bring ( her here!” Determining the phonemic shape of the 1sg. (in)direct object pronoun is problematic; in context it appears as [iyi, iyyi, yyi, iyy, yy, i].

Direct object pronouns are also used to indicate the subject with pseudo-verbs,[39] e.g. waḥdu yyi (alone me) “I alone”, kullu tn (all them) “they all”, laḥ t (absent him) “he’s not there, he’s disappeared”, manza tt (where her) “where is she?”, and also with the presentative particle ha “here is, voici“, e.g. ha yyi “here I am”.

The suffixed pronouns are used with prepositions to indicate the object, and with a closed set of necessarily possessed kinship terms to indicate possession. The plural forms with added -t- are always used with the kinship terms, e.g. baba-t-nɣ “our father” (never *baba-nɣ); they are also used with some prepositions, sometimes as a free or dialectal variant of the form without the -t-, e.g. ingra-t-sn “among them” (never *ingra-sn), flla-sn or flla-t-sn “on them”, but dar-sn “with them” (never *dar-t-sn).

The possessive complements follow the noun, e.g. uxsan inu (teeth “my teeth”, tažllabit nnk (djellaba of-you) “your djellaba”, etc.


Most prepositions have a short and a long form: the long form is used with pronominal suffixes, and the short form is used in all other contexts, e.g. ɣ lmdint “in the city” (ɣ “in”, short form), gi-s “in her” (gi- “in”, long form).

Shilha prepositions
short form long form translation equivalent
d id-, did- “with, in the company of; and”
dar dar- “at, by, chez
ddu ddaw-, ddawa- “beneath, under”
f flla- “on; because of”
gr gra- “between”
(i)ngr (i)ngra- “among”
ɣ gi(g)- “in, at”
i (see Pronouns) “for, to”
nnig nniga- “on top of”
s is- “with, by means of”
zgi(g)- “from”
s sr- “to, toward”
ar “until, as far as”

Below, by way of example, is the preposition ɣ “in” with pronominal suffixes, with all its free and dialectal variants.[40] The other prepositions display less variety.

Shilha preposition ɣ “in” with pronominal suffixes
gig- gi- with -t- irregular formations
1sg. gig-i gi-ø
2sg.m. gik-k gi-k
2sg.f. gi-m
3sg. gi-s giz, gid, git
1pl. gig-nɣ gi-nɣ gi-t-nɣ
2pl.m. gig-un gi-wn gi-t-un
2pl.f. gig-unt gi-wnt gi-t-unt
3pl.m. gi-sn gi-t-sn gizn, gidsn
3pl.f. gi-snt gi-t-snt giznt, gidsnt

Most prepositions require the following noun to be in the EA. Exceptions are ar “until”, s “toward” (in some dialects and in premodern texts) and prepositions of Arabic origin such as bɛd “after” and qbl “before”. Examples: gr wasif d wayyaḍ “between (one) EA-valley and another”, ɣ wayyur n šutambir “in the EA-month of September”, ifškan n tgmmi “the things of the EA-house”, s uḍar “by means of the EA-foot: on foot”, vs. ar tadggʷat “until the EL-evening”, s aflla “to the EL-top” (also s uflla “to the EA-top” ), bɛd amddakul nns “after his EL-friend”.

Two prepositions can be combined, e.g. illa ɣ ddu wakal “it is found underground” (ɣ ddu, lit. “in under”), ifta s dar lqaḍi “he went to the cadi” (s dar, lit. “to at”).

Spacial relations are also expressed with prepositional phrases of the type “on top of”, e.g. ɣ iggi n umdduz “on top of the dung heap”, ɣ tama n uɣaras “at the side of the road”, ɣ tuẓẓumt n wasif “in the midst of the river”.


Modern Shilha, as most Northern Berber languages, often uses Arabic numerals. The inherited cardinal numeral system consisted of ten unit numerals (with gender distinction) and three numeral nouns. There is also an indefinite numeral which morphologically and syntactically patterns with the unit numerals, meaning “several, many” or “how many?”[41]


The unit numerals are listed below.[42] The formation of feminine “one” and “two” is irregular. Feminine kraṭ-ṭ “three” is phonemically /kraḍ-t/. The variant ttẓa “nine” probably developed under the influence of ttam “eight” (cf. Tamashek täẓẓa).

Shilha unit numerals
Masculine Feminine
“one” ya-n ya-t
“two” sin sna-t
“three” kraḍ kraṭ-ṭ
“four” kkuẓ kkuẓ-t
“five” smmus smmus-t
“six” sḍis sḍis-t
“seven” sa sa-t
“eight” ttam, tam tam-t, ttam-t
“nine” tẓẓa, ttẓa tẓẓa-t, ttẓa-t
“ten” mraw mraw-t
(indefinite) mnnaw mnnaw-t

The units are constructed with nouns in the EA, the gender of the unit agreeing with that of the noun, e.g. yan wagʷmar “one EA-horse”, yat tfunast “one EA-cow”, sin wagʷmarn “two EA-horses”, snat tfunasin “two EA-cows”. The same obtains with the indefinite numeral, e.g. mnnaw wagʷmarn “several/many EA-horses”, “how many horses?”, mnnawt tfunasin “several/many EA-cows”, “how many cows?”

Numerals yan, yat “one” also serve as indefinite article, e.g. yan urumiy “one Westerner, a Westerner”, and they are used independently with the meaning “anyone” (yan), “anything” (yat), e.g. ur ssinɣ yat “I don’t know anything”.


The teens are made by connecting the units “one” through “nine” to mraw(t) “ten” with the preposition d “with”, e.g. masc. sin d mraw, fem. snat d mrawt (two with ten) “twelve”. In the premodern language, the teens, like the units, were constructed with a noun in the EA, e.g. sin d mraw wagʷmarn (two with ten EA-horses) “twelve horses”, snat d mrawt tfunasin (two with ten EA-cows) “twelve cows”. In the modern language, the teens are connected with the linker n “of” to a singular noun,[43] e.g. sin d mraw n wagʷmar (two with ten of EA-horse) “twelve horses”, snat d mrawt n tfunast (two with ten of EA-cow) “twelve cows”. The teens tend to develop fused forms in which the unit is always masculine,[44] e.g. sindmraw n wagʷmar “twelve horses”, sindmrawt n tfunast “twelve cows”.

Numeral nouns

In addition to the unit numerals, there are three numeral nouns. These are now obsolete, but well attested in the premodern manuscripts.[45] Morphologically, they are ordinary prefixed nouns.

Shilha numeral nouns
singular EL singular EA plural EL plural EA
“a tensome” t-a-mraw-t t-mraw-t t-i-mraw-in t-mraw-in
“a hundred” t-i-miḍi t-miḍi t-i-maḍ t-maḍ
“a thousand” ifḍ y-ifḍ afḍa-n w-afḍa-n
Tens, hundreds, thousands

These were formed by combining the unit numerals with the numeral nouns, e.g. snat tmrawin (two EA-tensomes) “twenty”, snat tmaḍ (two EA-hundreds) “two hundred”, sin wafḍan (two EA-thousands) “two thousand”. The numeral nouns are connected with the linker n “of” to a noun, most often in the singular, e.g. timiḍi n wagʷmar (EL-hundred of EA-horse) “a hundred horses”, snat tmaḍ n wagʷmar (two EA-hundreds of EA-horse) “two hundred horses”, ifḍ n tfunast (EL-thousand of EA-cow) “a thousand cows”, sin wafḍan n tfunast (two EA-thousands of EA-cow) “two thousand cows”.

In the modern language the Arabic tens are used, but they have developed a separate feminine form, e.g. masc. ɛšrin n wagʷmar (twenty of EA-horse) “twenty horses”, fem. ɛšrint n tfunast (twenty of EA-cow) “twenty cows”. The numerals between the tens are taken over in their entirety from Arabic, e.g. xmsa w-ɛšrin n wagʷmar (five and twenty of EA-horse) “twenty-five horses”.

The Arabic hundreds and thousands are used in the modern language as well, taking the places of the original numeral nouns while the original syntax is maintained, e.g. miya n wagʷmar (hundred of EA-horse) “a hundred horses”, snat id miya n wagʷmar (two PL hundred of EA-horse) “two hundred horses”; alf n tfunast (thousand of EA-cow) “a thousand cows”, sin walfiwn n tfunast (two EA-thousands of EA-cow) “two thousand cows”.

There is also a vigesimal system built on the Arabic numeral ɛšrin “twenty, score”,[46] e.g. sin id ɛšrin n tfunast (two PL score of EA-cow) “forty cows”.

When counting units of time, value and measurement, it is common to borrow the entire phrase from Arabic, e.g. xmsṭṭaɛšr yum “fifteen days”, tlata d-ryal “three riyals”, sttin rṭl “sixty rotl (a weight)”.[47]

Ordinal numerals

These are formed by prefixing masc. wis-, fem. tis- to a cardinal numeral,[48] which is then constructed with a noun in the usual manner, e.g. wis-kraḍ wussan (ORD-three EA-days) “the third day”, tis-kraṭṭ twal (ORD-three EA-times) “the third time”. The ordinal prefixes can be used with Arabic numerals as well, e.g. wis-xmsa w-ɛšrin n dulqiɛda “the 25th [day] of [the month] Dhū’l-Qaʽda”.[49] The ordinal prefix is also used with the indefinite numeral, e.g. wis-mnnawt twal “the how-manieth time?”

The ordinals “first” and “last” are expressed with prefixed nouns derived from the verbs zwar “be first, precede” and ggru “be last”:

Shilha “first” and “last”
Masculine EL Masculine EA Feminine EL Feminine EA
“first” sg. a-mzwaru w-mzwaru t-a-mzwaru-t t-mzwaru-t
pl. i-mzwura y-mzwura t-i-mzwura t-mzwura
“last” sg. a-mggaru w-mggaru t-a-mggaru-t t-mggaru-t
pl. i-mggura y-mggura t-i-mggura t-mggura

These nouns can be used independently, or in apposition to nouns, agreeing in gender and number with the referent, e.g. ɣ wass amggaru (in EA-day EL-last) “on the last day”, tuška d tamzwarut (she-came hither EL-first) “she came first”.


A Shilha verb form is basically a combination of a person-number-gender (PNG) affix and a mood-aspect-negation (MAN) stem.

Sample verb

The workings of this sytem are illustrated here with the full conjugation of the verb fk “to give”. MAN-stems are in bold script.

Shilha sample verb: fk “to give”
Aorist Perfective Perfective
1sg. fk fki ur fki ar akka
2sg. t-fk-t t-fki-t ur t-fki-t ar t-akka-t
3sg.m. i-fk i-fka ur i-fki ar y-akka
3sg.f. t-fk t-fka ur t-fki ar t-akka
1pl. n-fk n-fka ur n-fki ar n-akka
2pl.m. t-fki-m t-fka-m ur t-fki-m ar t-akka-m
2pl.f. t-fki-mt t-fka-mt ur t-fki-mt ar t-akka-mt
3pl.m. fki-n fka-n ur fki-n ar akka-n
3pl.f. fki-nt fka-nt ur fki-nt ar akka-nt
2sg. fk akka
2pl.m. fk-at akka-y-at
2pl.f. fk-amt akka-y-amt
sg. i-fka-n ur i-fki-n y-akka-n
pl. fka-n-in ur fki-n-in akka-n-in

The verb “give” has the maximum of four different MAN-stems: Aorist fk(i) (that is, fk in 1sg., 2sg., 3sg., 1pl. and the imperatives, but fki in 2pl. and 3pl.), Perfective fki/a (that is, fki in 1sg. and 2sg., but fka with the other forms), Perfective negative fki (all forms) and Imperfective akka (an irregular formation, all forms).

PNG affixes

There are two basic sets of PNG affixes, one set marking the subject of “normal” verb forms,[50] and another set marking the subject of imperative forms. The 3sg.m. prefix y- is realized as i- between consonants and between pause and consonant.

A further set of two suffixes (sg. -n, pl. -in) is added to the 3sg.m. and 3pl.m. verb forms to make relative forms (a.k.a. participles), as in i-fka-n “who gives”, fka-n-in “who give”.

Shilha PNG markers
2sg. t-
3sg.m. y-
3sg.f. t-
1pl. n-
2pl.m. t-
2pl.f. t-
sg. y-
MAN stems

A few verbs have just one MAN-stem. The majority of verbs have two, three or four different MAN-stems. The list below offers an overview of MAN stem formations. Around 15 “conjugations” can be recognized, based on the formation of the Perfective and the Perfective negative. Further subdivisions could be made on the basis of the formations of the Imperfective. Section (15) in the list contains stative verbs that formerly had their own separate set of PNG suffixes, but which have now been (almost) completely assimilated to the non-stative verbs. The aorist stem serves as the citation form of a verb.

Shilha: MAN stem paradigms (non-derived verbs)
Aorist Perfective Perfective
1 “laugh” ḍssa ḍssa ḍssa ḍssa
“bark” ttaɣ ttaɣ ttaɣ ttaɣ
2 “accompany” mun mun mun tt-mun
“sit” skkiws skkiws skkiws skkiwis, tt-skiwis
“be crazy” nufl nufl nufl tt-nuful
3 “enter” kšm kšm kšim kššm
“graze” frd frd frid ffrd
“mention” bdr bdr bdir addr, tt-bdar
“ascend, climb” ɣly ɣly ɣliy aqqlay
“open, be open” rẓm rẓm rẓim tt-nurẓum
“fall” ḍr ḍr ḍir ṭṭar
“hit” wt wt wit kkat
4 “break, be broken” rẓ(i) rẓi/a rẓi rẓẓa
“eat” šš(i) šši/a šši štta
“give” fk(i) fki/a fki akka
“show, explain” ml(i) mli/a mli mmal
“drink” sw(i) swi/a swi ssa
“call” ɣr(i) ɣri/a ɣri aqqra
“be; put” g(i) gi/a gi tt-gga
5 “sew” gnu gni/a gni gnna, gnnu, tt-gnu
“go” ftu fti/a fti fttu, tt-ftu
“go” ddu ddi/a ddi tt-dda, tt-ddu, tt-udu
“divide” bḍu bḍi/a bḍi aṭṭa
6 “be better” af uf uf tt-afa
“fly” ayll uyll uyll tt-aylal
“give back” rar rur rur tt-rara
“inherit” kkas kkus kkus tt-kasa
7 “seize” amẓ umẓ umiẓ tt-amẓ
“steal” akʷr ukr ukir tt-akʷr
“help” aws iws iwis tt-aws
“run” azzl uzzl uzzil tt-azzal
8 “find” af(i) ufi/a ufi tt-afa
“come” ašk(i) uški/a uški tt-aška
9 “flay” azu uzi/a uzi tt-azu
“write” ara uri/a uri tt-ara
10 “stand” bdd, bidd bdd, bidd bidd tt-bddad
“hold, possess” ṭṭf, ṭṭaf ṭṭf, ṭṭaf ṭṭif tt-ṭṭf, tt-ṭṭaf
“take away” kks, kkis kks, kkis kkis tt-kks, tt-kkis
“go out” ffɣ, ffuɣ ffɣ, ffuɣ ffiɣ tt-ffɣ, tt-ffuɣ
11 “die” mmt mmut mmut tt-mttat
12 “be afraid” iksuḍ, ksuḍ ksaḍ ksaḍ tt-iksuḍ, tt-ksuḍ
“be first, precede” izwur, zwur zwar zwar tt-izwur, zggʷur
13 “possess” ili li/a li tt-ili
“want” iri ri/a ri tt-iri
14 “exist” ili lli/a lli tt-ili
“say” ini nni/a nni tt-ini
15 “be few” idrus drus drus tt-idrus
“be green/blue” izgziw zgzaw zgzaw tt-izgziw
“be many” igut ggut ggut tt-igut
“be white” imlul mllul mllul tt-imlul
“be red” izwiɣ zggʷaɣ zggʷaɣ tt-izwiɣ
Shilha: uses of MAN stems [51]
MAN stem main context in which MAN stem is used examples translation
“(and then) he took”
ad + Aorist non-realized ay y-amẓ “that he take”
ur + Aorist negated consecutive ur y-amẓ “(and then) he didn’t take”
ad + ur + Aorist negated imperative ad ur t-amẓ-t “don’t take!”
past action
state (including resultant state)
“he took”
”it was hot, it is hot”
ur + Perfective Negative
negated past action
negated state
ur y-umiẓ
ur i-rɣi
“he did not take”
“it was not hot, it is not hot”
Imperfective habitual/iterative imperative tt-amẓ “always take! better take!”
ar + Imperfective simultaneous action (progressive)
habitual, iterative, durative
ar i-tt-amẓ “he is taking, he always takes”
ur + ar + Imperfective negated simultaneous action
negated habitual, iterative, durative
ur a y-tt-amẓ, ur aɣ i-tt-amẓ “he is not taking, he never takes”
ad + ur + Imperfective negated habitual/iterative imperative ad ur tt-amẓ-t “you should never take, you better not take”


Shilha retains a large native (non-borrowed) lexicon, supplemented by borrowings from the languages with which its speakers came into contact.


The main available lexical sources are: Stumme 1899 (contains Shilha-German wordlist, pp.155-246); Laoust 1920 (thematic Shilha wordlist, with accompanying ethnographic texts and comparative lexicographical notes, but without index); Jordan 1934 (Shilha-French, extracted from Laoust 1936); Destaing 1936 (French-Shilha); Destaing 1940 (a collection of texts with copious lexicographical notes and a Shilha index); Ibáñez 1954 (Spanish-Shilha). These sources will be made accessible, with much additional data, in Stroomer’s Dictionnaire tachelhit-français (forthcoming). No reliable wordlist in Shilha and English is available in print.[52]


The earliest identifiable loan is tiyni “dates”, from Egyptian-Coptic (cf. also Tuareg tehäyne, Ghadamis aβêna; Coptic bnne, beni, benni “date palm-tree; dates”[53]).

More numerous are the loanwords from Phoenician-Punic and Latin/Romance, which date to the first millennium CE or earlier. Almost all loans from these sources are nouns which have been morphologically incorporated as prefixed nouns.

Phoenician-Punic, a Northwest-Semitic language, was spoken in parts of North Africa, especially in what is now Tunisia, up to the 5th century CE. Punic loans are found in several Berber languages, among them Shilha. Examples:[54] agadir “fortress” (cf. Hebrew gādēr “wall”), aẓalim “onions” (cf. Hebrew beṣālīm), aɣanim “reeds” (cf. Hebrew qānīm), tifst “flax, linen” (premodern Shilha, cf. Hebrew pišt-). The verb lmd “to learn” is probably also a Punic loan (cf. Hebrew lāmad).

The noun uday “Jew” probably came to the Berber languages from the Aramaic language spoken by early Jewish immigrants in North Africa (cf. Aramaic-Syriac yūdāy-ā vs. Hebrew yəhūdī, Arabic yahūdī).

It has been noted[55] that the unit numerals “5” through “9”, taken together, give the impression of being Semitic (non-Arabic) loans. However, the corresponding numerals in Phoenician-Punic, the historically most likely origin, do not seem to be the source. A comparison:

Shilha unit numerals “5” - “9”: Semitic loans?
Shilha Tigrinya Phoenician Arabic
“five” smmus ḥammuš- ḥmš xams-
“six” sḍis šədəš- šš sitt- (ordinal sādis)
“seven” sa šobʕat- šbʕ sabʕ-
“eight” tam, ttam šommon- šmn θamān-
“nine” tẓẓa, ttẓa təšʕat- tšʕ tisʕ-

A variety of Latin/Romance was spoken in parts of northern Morocco right up to the advent of Islam. Loans from Latin and early Romance include: afullus “cock, rooster” (Latin pullus “young animal, chick”); afurnu “oven” (cf. Latin fornus); asnus “ass’s foal” (Latin asinus “ass”); fliyyu “pennyroyal” (Latin pulēium); ikikr “chickpeas” (Latin cicer); tafala “peel, spade” (Latin pāla); tafaska “ewe for slaughter on the ʽīd al-aḍḥā“ (Latin pascha “paschal lamb”); talima “file” (Latin līma); tayuga “yoke, pair” (early Romance sg. *iuga, cf. Latin pl. iuga, sg. iugum “yoke”); urti “garden” (early Romance, cf. Latin hortus); taɣawsa “thing” (Latin causa); takira “wax” (Latin cēra); tibitas “beets” (early Romance betas, cf. Latin sg. bēta); tifiras “pears” (early Romance *piras, cf. Latin pl. pira, sg. pirum).

Later Romance loans can be distinguished by the fact that original s becomes š instead of s as in the earlier loans. Presumably, the later loans originated from Ibero-Romance, with which Berber speakers came into contact in al-Andalus (Islamic Spain). Examples include ašaqqur “axe” (cf. premodern Spanish segur, Latin securis), šmrir “wide-rimmed hat” (cf. Spanish sombrero), ašnti “rye” (cf. medieval Shilha šəntin, Spanish centeno; the form šəntin naturally developed into tišntin, from which ašnti was back-formed). Another probable loan from a Romance language is tabaɣa “tobacco”.[56]

Also borrowed from a variety of Romance are the names of the months of the solar calendar:[57]

Shilha solar month names
Catalan Spanish Portuguese
ynnayr gener enero janeiro
brayr febrer febrero fevereiro
marṣ març marzo março
ibril, ibrir abril abril abril
mayyu(h) maig mayo maio
yunyu(h) juny junio junho
yulyu(z) juliol julio julho
ɣušt agost agosto agosto
šutambir setembre setiembre septembro
ktubr octubre octubre outubro
nuwambir novembre noviembre novembro
dužambir dezembre diciembre dezembro

Spanish and French loans which date from the colonial era can be recognised by the fact that they are almost all borrowed via Arabic, as shown by the presence of the Arabic definite article in nouns such as lfišta “feast” (Spanish fiesta), sskʷila “school” (Spanish escuela), lbakit “package” (French paquet), ṭṭumubil “car” (French automobile).

The noun atay [atæj] “tea” is a unique loan, from Dutch thee [tej].[58]

By far the most numerous group of loans is from Arabic. As with most languages spoken in the Islamic cultural sphere, Shilha has adopted many hundreds of words from Arabic, which now permeat the entire lexicon (except body parts and other basic vocabulary). Loans include verbs and nouns as well as numerals, prepositions, conjunctions and adverbs. Borrowed verbs are completely absorbed into the Shilha verbal system. Many of the borrowed nouns however were not incorportated into the the nominal morphological system, thus constituting a subgroup of their own (see above, Nouns).

It is interesting to note that although some nouns denoting typicaly Islamic concepts (for example timzgida “mosque”, taẓallit “ritual prayer”, uẓum “fasting” ), which certainly belong to the very earliest Arabic loans,[59] are incorporated in Shilha morphology, but that many equally central Islamic concepts are expressed with unincorporated nouns (for example lislam “Islam”, lḥažž “pilgrimage to Mecca”, zzka “alms tax” ). It is possible that during the early stages of islamization, these concepts were actually expressed with native vocabulary or earlier (non-Arabic) loans; for example, the non-Arabic noun assarən “prophets” is attested in medieval Berber (cf. modern Shilha lanbiya, sg. nnbi, unintegrated Arabic loan).

Secret languages[edit]

Two secret languages used by Shilha women are taqžmiyt and tagnawt.[60]

Destaing[61] mentions a secret language or argot called inman or tadubirt which is spoken by "some people of Sous, in particular descendants of Sidi Ḥmad u Musa." He quotes an example: is kn tusat inman? "do you speak the secret language?"

Sample text[edit]

Free translation

(1) The story of the man who sold honey in the souk. (2) A man had filled several leather bags of honey in the souk. (3) There came another man to him, who wanted to buy honey. He said: “At how much do you sell that honey?” (4) The seller said to him: “Just taste it, and if it pleases you, you can make a bid.” (5) The man took a bag, poured out some, tasted the honey and gave it back to its owner. He said: “Hold it, until I have tried another one”. (6) [The seller] held it in his hand, while the buyer took another bag, poured out some, tasted the honey and gave it back to its owner. (7) He held it in his other hand; then the buyer took one bag of honey and ran away. The honey-seller could not do anything because of the bags he held. (8) He started calling out to people to liberate him.

Text [62]

(1) Lqiṣt n yan urgaz lli izznzan tammnt ɣ ssuq. (2) Yan urgaz iɛmmr mnnaw yilmawn n tammnt ɣ ssuq. (3) Yašk nn dars yan urgaz, ira ad dars isɣ tammnt. Inna yas: “Mnšk at tzznzt tammnt ann?” (4) Inna yas: “Mḍi tt, iɣ ak tɛžb ar gis tsawalt.” (5) Yasi urgaz ann yan yilm, ifsi t, imḍi tammnt, ifk t i bab nns, inna as: “Amẓ, ar kiɣ gussɣ wayyaḍ.” (6) Yamẓ t s ufus nns, yasi daɣ umsaɣ lli wayyaḍ, ifsi t, imḍi tammnt, ifk t daɣ i bab nns. (7) Yamẓ t s ufus nns yaḍnin, yasi umsaɣ yan yilm n tammnt, irur. Iggammi bu tammnt mad a iskar i yilmawn lli yumẓ. (8) Ar yaqqra i mddn at t fukkun.

Word-by-word translation

(1) story of a man who is.selling honey in market (2) a man he.filled several leather.bags of honey in market (3) he.came thither with.him a man he.wanted to with.him he.buys honey he.said to.him how.much you.sell honey that (4)he.said to.him taste it if it.pleased (5) he.picked.up man that one leather.bag he.poured.out it he.tasted honey he.gave it to owner he.said to.him hold until when I.tasted (6) he.held it with hand of.him he.picked.up also buyer the.aforementioned he.poured.out it he.tasted honey he.gave it also to owner (7) he.held it with hand of.him other he.picked.up buyer one leather.bag of honey he.fled he.was.incapable.of he.of honey to leather.bags which he.held (8) he.starts.calling to people that him they.liberate


(1) lqiṣ-t = feminine noun, “story” (Arabic loan) | n = linker, “of” | ya-n = masculine numeral, “one, a” | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, “man” | lli = relative pronoun, “who” (Arabic loan) | i-zz-nza-n = singular relative verb form, “who is selling” (causative ‹ nz “be sold”) | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, “honey” | ɣ = preposition, “in” | ssuq = masculine noun, “market” (Arabic loan) (2) ya-n = masculine numeral, “one, a” | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, “man” | i-ɛmmr = 3sg.m. perfective, “he filled” (Arabic loan) | mnnaw = masculine indefinite numeral, “several, many” | y-ilmaw-n = masculine plural noun, annexed state, “skins, leather bags” | n = linker, “of” | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, annexed state, “honey” | ɣ = preposition, “in” | ssuq = masculine noun, “market” (Arabic loan) (3) y-ašk = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he came” | nn = directional particle, centripetal, “thither” | dar-s = preposition + 3sg. suffix, “with him” | ya-n = masculine numeral, “one, a” | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, “man” | i-ra = 3sg.m. perfective, “he wanted” | ad = prospective preverbal particle | dar-s = preposition + 3sg. suffix, “with him” | i-sɣ = 3sg.m. aorist, “he buys” | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, “honey” | i-nna = 3sg.m. perfective, “he said” | ya-s = 3sg. indirect object, “to him” | mnšk = question word, “how much?” | at /ad/ = “is-it-that” | t-zz-nz-t = 2sg. aorist, “you sell” (causative ‹ nz “be sold”) | t-ammn-t, feminine noun, free state, “honey” | a-nn = demonstrative particle, distal, “that” (4) i-nna = 3sg.m. perfective, “he said” | ya-s = 3sg. indirect object, “to him” | mḍi = imperative singular, “taste!” | tt = 3sg.f. direct object, “it” | iɣ = conjunction, “if” | a-k = 2sg.m. indirect object, “to you” | t-ɛžb = 3sg.f. perfective, “it pleased” (Arabic loan) | ar = imperfective preverbal | gi-s = preposition + 3sg. suffix, “in it, about it” | t-sawal-t = 2sg. imperfective, “you talk, you can talk” (5) y-asi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he picked up” | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, “man” | a-nn = demonstrative particle, distal, “that” | ya-n = masculine numeral, “one, a” | y-ilm = masculine noun, annexed state, “skin, leather bag” | i-fsi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he poured out” | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “it” | i-mḍi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he tasted” | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, “honey” | i-fk = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he gave” | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “it” | i = preposition, “to” | bab = masculine noun, “owner” | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, “of it” | i-nna = 3sg.m. perfective, “he said” | a-s = 3sg. indirect object, “to him” | amẓ = imperative singular, “hold!” | ar = preposition, “until” | kiɣ = conjunction, “when” | guss-ɣ = 1sg. perfective, “I tasted” | wayyaḍ = masculine singular, “another one” (6) y-amẓ = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he held” | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “it” | s = preposition, “with” | u-fus = masculine noun, annexed state, “hand” | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, “of him” | y-asi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he picked up” | daɣ = adverb, “also” | u-m-saɣ = masculine noun, annexed state, “buyer” (agent noun ‹ sɣ “buy”) | lli = demonstrative particle, anaphoric, “the aforementioned” | wayyaḍ = masculine singular, “another one” | i-fsi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he poured out” | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “it” | i-mḍi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he tasted” | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, “honey” | i-fk = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he gave” | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “it” | daɣ = adverb, “also” | i = preposition, “to” | bab = masculine noun, “owner” | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, “of it” (7) y-amẓ = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he held” | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “it” | s = preposition, “with” | u-fus = masculine noun, annexed state, “hand” | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, “of him” | yaḍnin = “other” | y-asi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he picked up” | u-m-saɣ = masculine agent noun, annexed state, “buyer” | ya-n = masculine numeral, “one, a” | y-ilm = masculine noun, annexed state, “skin, leather bag” | n = linker, “of” | tammnt = feminine noun, annex state, “honey” | i-rur = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he fled” | i-ggammi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), “he was incapable of” | bu = masculine bound noun, “he of” (Arabic loan) | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, annexed state, “honey” | mad /ma + ad/ = “what it-is-that” | a = imperfective preverbal particle | i-skar = 3sg.m. imperfective, “he is doing, he can do” | i = preposition, “to” | y-ilmaw-n = masculine plural noun, annexed state, “skins, leather bags” | lli = relative pronoun, “which” (Arabic loan) | y-umẓ = 3sg.m. perfective, “he held” (8) ar = imperfective preverbal | y-aqqra = 3sg.m. “he is calling, he starts calling” | i = preposition, “to” | mddn = masculine plural noun, “people” | at /ad/ = prospective preverbal particle | t = 3sg.m. direct object, “him” | fukku-n = 3pl.m. aorist, “they liberate” (Arabic loan)

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Lewis, M. Paul et al., eds. (2015). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Eighteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved 29 July 2015. .
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tachelhit". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Shilha". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.).
  4. ^ The Shilha language area is approximately the size of Iceland, or the US state of Kentucky.
  5. ^ Justinard (1914:2), Destaing (1938:166), Galand (1988, 1.14).
  6. ^ Destaing (1938:20, 166).
  7. ^ Stumme (1899:3); see also Dozy, R. (1881), Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, Leyde: Brill, p. I:781: šilḥ, pl. šulūḥ “voleur, brigand”.
  8. ^ Stumme (1899:3); Laoust (1936:v).
  9. ^ Fox and Abu-Talib (1966:155), Colin (1993:976).
  10. ^ At least, the existing lexicographical sources for Moroccan Arabic and Shilha do not record a pejorative meaning.
  11. ^ Awzal, Baḥr al-Dumūʽ, v. 5 (edition in van den Boogert 1997).
  12. ^ Justinard (1914:2), Laoust (1936:vi).
  13. ^ There are no data on the number of Shilha speakers in the migrant communites.
  14. ^ Stroomer (2001a:183n1), Stroomer (2008:289n1).
  15. ^ Stumme (1899:4)
  16. ^ Boukous (1977:126), “La tachelhit est douée d’une profonde unité qui permet aux Chleuhs de communiquer sans problème des Haha au Nord-Ouest, aux Aït Baâmran au Sud-Ouest, des Achtoukn à l’Ouest aux Zenaga á l’Est, et d’Aqqa du désert à la Tassaout dans la plaine de Marrakech.”
  17. ^ In this article, the graphs š and ž are used instead of c and j in order to make the transcribed examples more accessible to readers with no background in Berberology.
  18. ^ The following description is based on van den Boogert 1997:61-67.
  19. ^ On the peculiarities of Maghrebi script and orthography see van den Boogert (1989).
  20. ^ The following description is based on van den Boogert 2000 and van den Boogert 1997 ch. 6.
  21. ^ A term introduced by Paulette Galand-Pernet (1972:137).
  22. ^ Galand (1988, 2.4).
  23. ^ Galand (1988, 2.13).
  24. ^ Galand (1988, 2.1).
  25. ^ Cf. Dell and Elmedlaoui (2002:232), who observe the same practice in transcriptions of Moroccan Arabic. The practice is almost never applied entirely consistently. For example, the noun iqariḍn “money” is written as ‹iqariḍen›, with ‹e› indicating that is the onset of the last syllable: [ḍ‹e›n.]. But when a vowel follows, as in iqariḍn inu “my money”, ‹e› should not be written, because the syllabic structure then becomes [ḍ]. However, in such cases Aspinion and others routinely write ‹iqariḍen inu›, with superfluous ‹e›.
  26. ^ Galand (1988, 2.1), “le plus souvant les nombreuses notations de [ə] que l’on observe chez les berbèrisants résultent d’habitudes étrangères au chleuh”.
  27. ^ The speech of the Iɣššan, and possibly other Shilha variants, often retains the original semivowels (Galand 1988, 2.9), and this can also be seen in pre-modern manuscript texts (van den Boogert 1995:249).
  28. ^ The same issue is discussed in connection with other languages by Dixon (2010:284).
  29. ^ Van den Boogert (1997:247-8), with examples.
  30. ^ Galand (1988, 4.9-12).
  31. ^ Both Galand (1988. 4.11) and Kossmann (2012:67n7) stress that the annexed state in Berber is not to be confused with the construct state of the Semitic languages.
  32. ^ That is, it is not a sort of (in)definite article, although it may be demonstrative in origin.
  33. ^ Galand (1988, 4.11).
  34. ^ Galand (1988, 4.11).
  35. ^ In a few feminine nouns, the plural vocalic prefix i has become u under the influence of a following m, as in t-u-mɣar-in “women” and t-u-mẓ-in “barley” (cf. Central Moroccan Tamazight t-i-mɣar-in, t-i-mẓ-in).
  36. ^ Shilha ethnic names are often quoted in literature in a French orthography which is based on the Arabic version of the name, for example “Chtouka”, “Mentaga” (cf. Moroccan Arabic Məntaga, Štuka).
  37. ^ Galand (1988, 4.22-25).
  38. ^ Boukous (1977:172).
  39. ^ Cf. Kossmann (2012:86-7).
  40. ^ Gathered from published texts.
  41. ^ Several sources on Silha mention the indefinite numeral, though fail to identify it as such, e.g. Destaing (1938), Aspinion (1953), etc.; its kinship to the unit numerals is obvious from examples of its use given in these sources.
  42. ^ Galand (1988, 4.11).
  43. ^ Galand (1988, 4.15).
  44. ^ Examples in Destaing (1938) sub “onze, douze”, etc.
  45. ^ See van den Boogert (1997:286-7).
  46. ^ Aspinion (1953:254).
  47. ^ Examples from Boukous (1977).
  48. ^ Galand (1988, 4.18).
  49. ^ Because four of the ten unit numerals begin with s, the geminated ss that resulted from the prefixation of wis-, tis- (as in wissin, wissmmus, etc.) is often generalized to the other numerals: wissin, wisskraḍ, wisskkuẓ, etc.
  50. ^ The term “normal” is used by Kossmann (2012:45n5) who writes: “I use here the clumsy term ‘normal’ for the PNG set found with the great majority of verb forms. It constitutes a kind of default set, i.e. the set which is used if none of the other sets can be used. Any more sophisticated term (such as ‘Indicative’) would be inaccurate.”
  51. ^ Adapted from Kossmann (2012:40, table 2.12 Uses of MAN stems in Figuig Berber).
  52. ^ The wordlist in Applegate (1958:45-71) is useless because of its generally unreliable transcription.
  53. ^ Crum, W.E. (1939). A Coptic Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon, p. 40b; Coptic ‹b› represented /β/ or /v/.
  54. ^ Etymons from Hebrew, another Northwest-Semitic language which is closely related to Phoenician-Punic, but much better attested.
  55. ^ Van den Boogert (1997:221).
  56. ^ The etymon of tabaɣa seems to be tabaca rather than tabaco.
  57. ^ Original Berber (Shilha) names of the month are attested in manuscripts, see van den Boogert (2002).
  58. ^ Tea was introduced into Morocco by Dutch and English traders through the international port of Agadir at the end of the 18th century (Bellakhdar 1997:230).
  59. ^ Van den Boogert and Kossmann (1997).
  60. ^ "Morphologie gabaritique et apophonie dans un langage secret féminin (taqjmit) en berbère tachelhit", The Canadian Journal of Linguistics
  61. ^ Destaing (1938:21).
  62. ^ Text from Podeur (1995:140-141).


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Further reading[edit]

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