Template talk:Berber languages

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WikiProject Berbers (Rated Template-class)
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WikiProject Languages (Rated Template-class)
WikiProject iconThis template is within the scope of WikiProject Languages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of standardized, informative and easy-to-use resources about languages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
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A classification from 1953 - predating The Languages of Africa, the discovery of Tetserret, or most published Berber dictionaries - by a person whose name is barely known in Berber studies; or a classification from 1999, by a person most of whose scholarly output is devoted to Berber and historical linguistics? The choice should be quite obvious. - Lameen Souag (talk) 11:37, 7 October 2011 (UTC)

Ok, then let's take Kossman's classification (2002) instead of reverting, arbitrary, everything! --Omar-Toons (talk) 02:43, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
The version I reverted to already reflects Kossmann's classification (not sure which 2002 article you're referring to, but his views haven't changed significantly since 1999.) He certainly does not subscribe to the idea that Masmouda and "Senhaja" belong together, or to the completely incorrect idea that Kabyle groups linguistically with Zenaga (medieval writers thought they were descended from the same ancestor, but that has nothing to do with their linguistic history.) As it happens, I agree that the position of Zuwara he gives in his 1999 classification is probably a mistake; but can you give a source for its placement in Eastern Berber? - Lameen Souag (talk) 10:30, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
The version you restored also erroneously lists Matmata Berber as extinct. For details of some aspects of Kossmann's classification, see Zenati languages and Eastern Berber languages. Kossmann's classification does differ in one important respect from the one I restored: as discussed in the relevant article, he divides "Eastern Berber" into two completely distinct groups, and in fact he treats the one consisting of Siwi, Sokna, and Nafusi as part of Northern Berber (although for him "Northern Berber" is a grouping of convenience, not a proven concept.) In that respect, the template reflects Aikhenvald and Militarev. - Lameen Souag (talk) 11:01, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

For the record, the Cline article that Omar-Toons cited for his preferred classification (http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.soas.ac.uk/stable/3628698):

  • is by an anthropologist, not a linguist (much less a historical linguist);
  • does not indicate the sources for its classification;
  • dates back to 1953, making it decades out of date;
  • doesn't even mention Zenaga in its classification, under Sanhaja or otherwise (wisely, since, despite the name, Zenaga is no more closely related to Kabyle or Tuareg than to Zenati or Shilha)
  • suggests a subgroup, "Masmouda-Senhaja", which no living historical linguist supports.

I do have sympathy with the idea that we should follow Kossmann more closely and split the misleading "Eastern Berber" heading currently used. Sending this template back to 1953 is not the way forward. - Lameen Souag (talk) 08:39, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Lengthy further clarification, especially for those unfamiliar with historical linguistics: Kossmann (1999), Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère, is a book entirely devoted to establishing sound correspondences in Berber and reconstructing proto-Berber phonology through the comparative method. All natural spoken languages derive from earlier languages through change. When one original language breaks up into several languages (or dialects) all descended from it, we say that they are members of the same subgroup. Of course, each of these languages can break up in turn, in which case you get subgroups within subgroups. The way you find out which members of a given set of languages share the most recent common ancestor - which ones are brothers vs which ones are cousins, so to speak - is to look for changes from the original that only some of them share: shared innovations. Ie, when two dialects have both changed the same original sound to the same new sound, this is reason to believe that they are more closely related than either is to a third dialect which has not done so. If a whole bunch of shared innovations identify the same set of languages, then you can identify them as a subgroup. Importantly, shared retentions (things that have not changed in either language) do not give you evidence for subgrouping.

Kossmann uses the comparative method, and takes advantage of the vast amount of material published on Berber since 1953. Cline gives us no reason to believe he (or his source) does the former, and certainly can't have done the latter. - Lameen Souag (talk) 08:55, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

I found this Kossman's classification here. They say it's a morphological classification which seems to imply that other classifications are possible.
'He certainly does not subscribe to the idea that Masmouda and "Senhaja" belong together', you should note that even your version's classification puts Masmouda and Senhaja together: Central Atlas Tamazight and Senhaja de Srair are both historically Senhaja as far as I know. Senhaja being only a variant spelling of Zenaga to refer to the same historical group whose stronghold was Sijilmasa. (Ibn Khaldun explained how Zenaga became Senhaja when written in Arabic)
'the completely incorrect idea that Kabyle groups linguistically with Zenaga' you meant to say Zenata? Historically Kabyles are Kutama which according to some historical chronicles are Senhaja so this is plausible after all. One thing that I find odd is the fact that Tarifit, Kabyle and Shawiya are in different groups whilst they are more or less mutually intelligible, which often isn't the case between members of different groups. (even some in the same group are not)
Another observation is that inhabitants of Figuig identify as Zenaga, but on both versions they are classified as Zenata. --Tachfin (talk) 07:11, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
This classification is (meant to be) of Berber languages, not Berber groups. "Senhaja" is a tribal/genealogical category with no linguistic meaning. Putting Zenaga (no, I did not mean Zenata) and Kabyle in the same category because they're both genealogically Senhaja (if the medieval genealogies are correct in the first place, which is doubtful) is like putting French in Germanic languages on the grounds that it's named after the Franks, who were a Germanic tribe.
Tarifit and Shawiya (both linguistically Zenati) are in the same group under Kossmann's classification as well as Cline's; I'm not convinced that Kabyle and Tarifit are mutually intelligible, but Blazek does suggest that Kabyle is more closely related to Zenati than Tashelhiyt+Tamazight are (which on Cline's proposed tree, you may note, would be impossible.) Incidentally, not all of Figuig identifies as Zenaga - that applies specifically to one ksar - and even if they did it would be completely irrelevant, because their language is about as different from Zenaga as it's possible to get while still speaking Berber.
Kossmann (1999) is a considerably more detailed classification than Kossmann (2002) - giving a much longer list as well as explaining the reasoning behind it - but proposes the same basic groups. "Other classifications are possible" is not an argument for pulling a completely unsupported one out of an article by an anthropologist from 1953. At best, it's an argument for examining the relative merits of ones that actually have argumentation and recent data behind them, like Blazek's or Aikhenvald and Militarev's. - Lameen Souag (talk) 15:32, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
You classification, based mainly on Ethnologue.com, classifies Sanhaja de Srayr as an Atlas dialect, while it not spoken int eh Atlas but in the Rif region and, as it name indicates it, is a Sanhaja dialect, as is the Zenaga ; the same way Tekna tribes (Sanhadja) speak Shilha (that you classified as "Atlas"), and Kabyle is classified as an isolate, which only ethnologue.com (not scientific) confirms it. Come on, that classification is simply not-scientific and full of incoherences. --Omar-Toons (talk) 21:50, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Otherwise, the fact that Kossman doesn't include Kabyle in a specific group doesn't mean that Cline's classification is false. --Omar-Toons (talk) 21:56, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
You can't just label something as "unscientific" without providing evidence (evidence beyond your own personal experience or views). Lameen Souag has provided evidence that there are reliable sources (primarily Maarten Kossmann's work) that support his claims. I agree that Ethnologue should not be used as evidence for classifying languages if it can be avoided, but I see no sign at all in this discussion that Lameen has used Ethnologue for anything. Again, the sources he cites are several works by Kossmann and others (respectable linguists, writing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, books published by university presses, etc.). You need to back up your claims with reliable sources of your own; Lameen Souag has already provided some for his own claims. --Miskwito (talk) 21:58, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
What about classifying Zenaga as distinct from Senhaja, while the Teknas and the Zenagas are believed to having been a same branch of Senhajas that was splitten following Hilalian invasions and the Arabisation of the Reguibats (Sanhajas as well)? What about classifying Kabyle as an isolate while it was proven that it was a Sanhaja dialect (and that Kabyle people are of Sanhaja descent)? --Omar-Toons (talk) 22:05, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, firstly, I should point out that I know very little about Berber languages or people in particular, though I do know a reasonable amount about historical linguistics in general. So my perspective here is not concerned with who's "right" based on my prior knowledge of the subject; it's based on me as an outsider noting that one editor has provided reliable sources for their claim, and the other has not. Or at least, the former has provided sources of a far superior quality than those provided by the latter.
So (ignoring the matter of confusing linguistic classifications with ethnic/cultural/genealogical/whatever classifications) my question for you is, who "believe[s]" or has "proven" these claims you're making? What (reasonably recent) reliable sources can you show that back up your position? --Miskwito (talk) 22:14, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
By the way, many specialists recognise that no classification is consensual... my hope is that, since he's a specialist, M. Souag doesn't want to use WP as a trampoline to impose his considered classification (and I assume GF).
I see no reason to not split off the Sanhaja-Masmouda group, but the case of Sanhaja tribes that speak Masmouda-linked language is still not clear and the Zenaga-Tekna historical link without being linguistically is still unclear for many specialists, note that some refuse that these classifications should only be based on linguistic studies without considering historical/ethnic ones (Ameur 1990). --Omar-Toons (talk) 22:25, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Hm...well, as I said above, I really don't know anything about Berber languages. My intent here was mostly to try to help by virtue of being an uninvolved party. Unfortunately, my French isn't good enough for me to understand any of that book without resorting to a dictionary for every other word (I did eventually figure it out!).
One other possibility I've thought about is, is there a particular reason the template is currently organized hierarchically, rather than just listing the languages in alphabetical order? It's certainly more aesthetically pleasing, but if there's a significant amount of controversy over classification, perhaps it would be better to just leave all discussion on classification for the actual Berber languages article? --Miskwito (talk) 19:48, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

@Lameen: I have a no preference for neither of the versions (both are imperfect), I was pointing out some observations. I did not suggest that historical tribal categories should be the basis of classification but they are relevant at least to what you said; "He certainly does not subscribe to the idea that Masmouda and "Senhaja" belong together" whilst some historical Senhaja are grouped with Masmouda in both versions (Central Atlas Tamazight and Senhaja de Srair). Plus historically Senhaja were divided into other groups who lived in different geographical locations and they likely evolved separately so that doesn't contradict modern-day classifications anyway.
Yes only a part of Figuig is Zenaga (Senhaja) but this part happens to be 80% of the population, overall the inhabitants are a mix of Zenata and Senhaja. Kabyle and Tarifit are to a certain degree mutually intelligible, (this is not only my informed opinion but supported by Saddiqi (1998) pp125) so it is legitimate to question their belonging to different categories. That being said, I think only sourced classifications should be used on wiki however imperfect they might be. So Kossman's is good for me. Tachfin (talk) 08:19, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

We are trying to find an answer while specialists failed[edit]

Seriously, as specialists didn't find a consensual classification see p.8 for example (in French), I don't think that we (Wikipedians) will find it. I give up since we will obtain no result (that is sure) and that we can't find a classification that matches ethnic/historical facts by this way (otherwise it will be a PoV by taking a specified classification without taking another one in consideration or an OR).

Can't we, to make it neutral, list all Northern Berber languages in the same list?


Omar-Toons (talk) 22:37, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't think Zenaga language belongs in there, it's quite distant from all the other "Northern" Berber languages. Tachfin (talk) 08:26, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Geographically distant, but it is a Sanhadja dialect in its roots --Omar-Toons (talk) 13:21, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it doesn't belong to the Norther Amazigh, it's even more distant from the Northern than Tuareg is from the Northern. This has no relation with the fact that it is Sanhadja dialect. Amara-Amaziɣ (talk) 23:24, 4 June 2016 (UTC)