The Info List - Berber Languages

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The Berber languages, also known as Berber or the Amazigh languages[2] (Berber name: Tamaziɣt, Tamazight; Neo-Tifinagh: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ, Tuareg
Tifinagh: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵗⵜ, ⵝⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵗⵝ, pronounced [tæmæˈzɪɣt], [θæmæˈzɪɣθ]), are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They comprise a group of closely related dialects spoken by the Berbers, who are indigenous to North Africa.[3] The languages were traditionally written with the ancient Libyco-Berber script, which now exists in the form of Tifinagh.[4] Berber is spoken by large populations of Morocco, Algeria
and Libya, by smaller populations of Tunisia, northern Mali, western and northern Niger, northern Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
and Mauritania
and in the Siwa Oasis
Siwa Oasis
of Egypt. Large Berber-speaking migrant communities, today numbering about 4 million, have been living in Western Europe, spanning over three generations, since the 1950s. The number of Berber people is much higher than the number of Berber speakers. The bulk of the populations of the Maghreb
countries are considered to have Berber ancestors.[5] Around 90% of the Berber-speaking population speak one of seven major varieties of Berber, each with at least 2 million speakers. They are, in order of number of speakers: Shilha (Tacelḥit/Tasussit), Kabyle (Taqbaylit), Central Atlas Tamazight
Central Atlas Tamazight
(Tamaziɣt), Riffian (Tmaziɣt), Shawiya (Tacawit) and Tuareg
(Tamaceq/Tamajaq/Tamahaq). The extinct Guanche language spoken on the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
by the Guanches
as well as the languages of the ancient C-Group culture
C-Group culture
in present-day southern Egypt
and northern Sudan
are believed to have belonged to the Berber branch of the Afroasiatic family. The Berber languages
Berber languages
and dialects have had a written tradition, on and off, for about 2,500 years, although the tradition has been frequently disrupted by cultural shifts and invasions. They were first written in the Libyco-Berber abjad, which is still used today by the Tuareg
in the form of Tifinagh. The oldest dated inscription is from 3rd century BCE. Later, between about 1000 CE and 1500 CE, they were written in the Arabic
script, and since the 20th century they have been written in the Berber Latin
alphabet, especially among the Kabyle and Riffian communities of Morocco
and Algeria. The Berber Latin alphabet
Berber Latin alphabet
was also used by most European and Berber linguists during the 19th and 20th centuries.[6] A modernised form of the Tifinagh
alphabet, called Neo-Tifinagh, was adopted in Morocco
in 2003 for writing Berber, but many Moroccan Berber publications still use the Berber Latin
alphabet. Algerians mostly use the Berber Latin alphabet
Berber Latin alphabet
in Berber-language education at public schools, while Tifinagh
is mostly used for artistic symbolism. Mali
and Niger
recognise a Tuareg
Berber Latin alphabet
Berber Latin alphabet
customised to the Tuareg
phonological system. However, traditional Tifinagh
is still used in those countries. There is a cultural and political movement among speakers of the closely related varieties of Northern Berber to promote and unify them under a written standard language called Tamaziɣt (or Tamazight). The name Tamaziɣt is the current native name of the Berber language in the Moroccan Middle Atlas
Middle Atlas
and Rif
regions and the Libyan Zuwarah region. In other Berber-speaking areas, this name was lost. There is historical evidence from medieval Berber manuscripts that all indigenous North Africans from Libya
to Morocco
have at some point called their language Tamaziɣt.[7][8][9] The name Tamaziɣt is currently being used increasingly by educated Berbers
to refer to the written Berber language, and even to Berber as a whole, including Tuareg. In 2001, Berber became a constitutional national language of Algeria, and in 2011 Berber became a constitutionally official language of Morocco. In 2016, Berber became a constitutionally official language of Algeria,[10] after years of persecution.[11][12][13][14][15]


1 Terminology 2 Origin 3 Orthography 4 Phonology

4.1 Vowels 4.2 Consonants

5 Status 6 Population 7 Grammar

7.1 Nouns 7.2 Pronouns

8 Subclassification

8.1 Kossmann (1999) 8.2 Ethnologue 8.3 Blench (2006)

9 Influence on other languages 10 Extinct languages 11 Examples of basic Berber words

11.1 Numbers 11.2 Days of the week

12 See also 13 Notes 14 References 15 External links


Speech sample in Shilha (Chelha).

The term Berber has been used in Europe since at least the 17th century and is still used today. It was borrowed from Latin
Barbari. The Latin
word is also found in the Arabic
designation for these populations, البربر (al-Barbar); see Names of the Berber people. Etymologically, the Berber root M-Z-Ɣ (Mazigh) (singular noun: Amazigh, feminine: Tamazight) means "free man", "noble man", or "defender". The feminine Tamazight traditionally referred specifically to the Riffian and Central Atlas Tamazight
Central Atlas Tamazight
languages. Many Berber linguists prefer to consider the term Tamazight as a pure Berber word to be used only in Berber text while using the European word "Berber/Berbero/Berbère" in European texts to follow the traditions of European writings about the Berbers. European languages distinguish between the words "Berber" and "barbarian", while Arabic
has the same word al-Barbari for both meanings. Some other Berber writers, especially in Morocco, prefer to refer to Berber with Amazigh when writing about it in French or English. Traditionally, the term Tamazight (in various forms: Thamazighth, Tamasheq, Tamajaq, Tamahaq) was used by many Berber groups to refer to the language they spoke, including the Middle Atlas, the Riffians, the Sened in Tunisia
and the Tuareg. However, other terms were used by other groups; for instance, some Berber populations of Algeria
called their language Taznatit (Zenati) or Shelha, while the Kabyles called theirs Taqbaylit, and the inhabitants of the Siwa Oasis
Siwa Oasis
called their language Siwi. In Tunisia, the local Amazigh language is usually referred to as Shelha, a term which has been observed in Morocco
as well.[16] One group, the Linguasphere Observatory, has attempted to introduce the neologism "Tamazic languages" to refer to the Berber languages.[17] Origin[edit] Main article: Proto-Berber language Berber is a branch of the Afroasiatic language family.[18] Since modern Berber languages
Berber languages
are relatively homogeneous, the date of the Proto-Berber language from which the modern group is derived was probably comparatively recent, comparable to the age of the Germanic or Romance subfamilies. In contrast, the split of the group from the other Afroasiatic sub-phyla is much earlier, and is therefore sometimes associated with the local Mesolithic Capsian culture.[19] A number of extinct populations are believed to have spoken Afroasiatic languages of the Berber branch. According to Peter Behrens (1981) and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst (2000), linguistic evidence suggests that the peoples of the C-Group culture
C-Group culture
in present-day southern Egypt
and northern Sudan
spoke Berber languages.[20][21] The Nilo-Saharan Nobiin language today contains a number of key pastoralism related loanwords that are of Berber origin, including the terms for sheep and water/Nile. This in turn suggests that the C-Group population — which, along with the Kerma culture, inhabited the Nile
valley immediately before the arrival of the first Nubian speakers — spoke Afro-Asiatic languages.[20] Orthography[edit] Main article: Berber orthography

Ancient Libyco-Berber inscriptions in Zagora, Morocco

Various orthographies have been used to transcribe the Berber languages. In antiquity, the Libyco-Berber script
Libyco-Berber script
(Tifinagh) was utilised to write Berber. Early uses of the script have been found on rock art and in various sepulchres. Among these are the 1,500 year old monumental tomb of the Tuareg
matriarch Tin Hinan, where vestiges of a Tifinagh
inscription have been found on one of its walls.[22] Following the spread of Islam, some Berber scholars also utilised the Arabic
script.[23] There are now three writing systems in use for Berber languages: Tifinagh, the Arabic
script, and the Berber Latin alphabet.[24] Phonology[edit] Vowels[edit]

Front Central Back

Close i




Open æ


Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal

plain labial plain emph. plain velar. emph. plain labial.

Nasal m


Stop voiceless


tˤ t͡ʃ k q qʷ

voiced b bʷ


d͡ʒ ɡ

Fricative voiceless f



sˤ ʃ


ħ h

voiced β

ð ðˤ z

zˤ ʒ ɣ



l ɫ

j w



Status[edit] After independence, all the Maghreb
countries to varying degrees pursued a policy of Arabisation, aimed partly at displacing French from its colonial position as the dominant language of education and literacy. Under this policy the use of the Amazigh/Berber languages was suppressed or even banned. This state of affairs has been contested by Berbers
in Morocco
and Algeria—especially Kabylie—and was addressed in both countries by affording the language official status and introducing it in some schools. The 2011 constitution of Morocco
makes "Amazigh" an official language alongside Arabic. Morocco
is a country with several competing linguistically different languages, including French, Modern Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic
and Amazigh. As the higher status of Modern Standard Arabic
grew, so did the relation between the male population and the language, as well as the female population and the lower status language Amazigh. Women became the main carriers of the Amazigh language as the lower-status language in the country.[25] On 17 June 2011 King Mohammed VI announced in a speech of new constitutional reform that "Tamazight" became an official language of Morocco alongside Arabic
and will be used in all the administrations in the future.[26] On 30 April 2012 Fatima Chahou, alias Tabaamrant, member of the Moroccan House of Representatives and former singer became the first person to ask questions and discuss the minister's answer in Tamazight inside the Parliament of Morocco.[citation needed] Algeria
recognized Berber as a "national language" in 2002,[27] though not as an official one. However, on 7 February 2016 the Algerian parliament recognised Berber languages
Berber languages
as having official status along with Arabic.[28][29] Although regional councils in Libya's Nafusa Mountains
Nafusa Mountains
affiliated with the National Transitional Council
National Transitional Council
reportedly use the Berber language of Nafusi and have called for it to be granted co-official status with Arabic
in a prospective new constitution,[30][31] it does not have official status in Libya
as in Morocco
and Algeria. As areas of Libya south and west of Tripoli
such as the Nafusa Mountains
Nafusa Mountains
were taken from the control of Gaddafi government forces in early summer 2011, Berber workshops and exhibitions sprang up to share and spread the Tamazight culture and language.[32] In Mali
and Niger, there are a few schools that teach partially in Tuareg
languages. Population[edit] The exact population of Berber speakers is hard to ascertain, since most North African countries do not record language data in their censuses. Ethnologue
provides a useful academic starting point; however, its bibliographic references are very inadequate, and it rates its own accuracy at only B-C for the area. Early colonial censuses may provide better documented figures for some countries; however, these are also very much out of date.

Few census figures are available; all countries ( Algeria
and Morocco included) do not count Berber languages. The 1972 Niger
census reported Tuareg, with other languages, at 127,000 speakers. Population shifts in location and number, effects of urbanization and education in other languages, etc., make estimates difficult. In 1952, André Basset (LLB.4) estimated the number of Berberophones at 5,500,000. Between 1968 and 1978 estimates ranged from eight to thirteen million (as reported by Galand, LELB 56, pp. 107, 123–25); Voegelin and Voegelin (1977, p. 297) call eight million a conservative estimate. In 2006, Salem Chaker estimated that the Berberophone populations of Kabylie
and the three Moroccan groups numbered more than one million each; and that in Algeria, 9,650,000, or one out of five Algerians, speak a Berber language (Chaker 1984, pp. 8–9).[33]

Percentage of Berber speakers in Morocco
at the 2004 census[34]

Map of Berber-speaking areas in Morocco

Morocco: In 1952, André Basset ("La langue berbère", Handbook of African Languages, Part I, Oxford) estimated that a "small majority" of Morocco's population spoke Berber. The 1960 census claimed that 34 percent of Moroccans spoke Berber, including bi-, tri- and quadrilingual people.[citation needed] In 2000, Karl Prasse cited "more than a third" in an interview conducted by Brahim Karada at Tawalt.com.[citation needed] A 2007 estimate put the number of Amazigh speakers in Morocco
at 7.5 million.[35] According to Ethnologue
(by deduction from its Moroccan Arabic
figures), the Berber-speaking population should be estimated at 35 percent or around 10.5 million speakers.[36] However, the figures it gives for individual languages only add up to 7.5 million, divided into three languages:

Riffian: 3 million[37] Shilha: 8 million[38] Central Atlas Tamazight: 4–5 million[39]

A survey included in the official Moroccan census of 2004 and published by several Moroccan newspapers gave the following figures: 34 percent of people in rural regions spoke a Berber language and 21 percent in urban zones did; the national average would be 28.4 percent or 8.52 million.[40] It is possible, however, that the survey asked for the language "used in daily life",[41] which would result in figures lower than those of native speakers, as the language is not recognised for official purposes and many Berbers
who live in an Arabic-speaking environment cannot use it in daily life; also, the use of Berber in public was frowned upon until the 1990s, which may have affected the result of the survey.[citation needed] Adding up the population (according to the official census of 2004) of the Berber-speaking regions as shown on a 1973 map from the CIA results in at least 10 million speakers, not counting the numerous Berber population which lives outside these regions in the bigger cities.[citation needed] Moroccan linguist Mohamed Chafik claims that 80 percent of Moroccans are Berbers. It is not clear, however, whether he means "speakers of Berber languages" or "people of Berber descent". The division of Moroccan Berber languages
Berber languages
into three groups, as used by Ethnologue, is common in linguistic publications, but is significantly complicated by the presence of local differences: Shilha is subdivided into Shilha of the Draa River
Draa River
valley, Tasusit (the language of the Souss) and several other mountain languages. Moreover, linguistic boundaries are blurred, such that certain languages cannot accurately be described as either Central Morocco
Tamazight (spoken in the central and eastern Atlas area) or Shilha.

Algeria: In 1906, the total population speaking Berber languages
Berber languages
in Algeria
(excluding the thinly populated Sahara region) was estimated at 1,305,730 out of 4,447,149, i.e. 29 percent.

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

(Doutté & Gautier, Enquête sur la dispersion de la langue berbère en Algérie, faite par l'ordre de M. le Gouverneur Général, Alger 1913.) The 1911 census, however, found 1,084,702 speakers out of 4,740,526, i.e. 23 percent; Doutté & Gautier suggest that this was the result of a serious undercounting of Shawiya in areas of widespread bilingualism. A trend was noted for Berber groups surrounded by Arabic
(as in the city of Blida) to adopt Arabic, while Arabic
speakers surrounded by Berber (as in Sikh ou Meddour near the city of Tizi Ouzou) tended to adopt Berber. In 1952, André Basset estimated that about a third of Algeria's population spoke Berber. According to historian Charles-Robert Ageron in 1886, Algeria
had around 1.2 million Berber speakers and 1.1 million Arab speakers. The Algerian census of 1966 found 2,297,997 out of 12,096,347 Algerians, or 19 percent, to speak "Berber". In 1980, Salem Chaker estimated that "in Algeria, 3,650,000, or one out of five Algerians, speak a Berber language" (Chaker 1984, pp. 8–9). According to Ethnologue,[42] more recent estimates include 14 percent (corresponding to the total figures it gives for each Berber language added together, 4 million) and (by deduction from its Algerian Arabic
figures) 29 percent (Hunter 1996). Most of these are accounted for by three languages (percentages based on historical population data from appropriate dates):[43]

Shenwa language
Shenwa language
in the central-western part of Algeria

Kabyle: 2,540,000 or 9 percent (Ethnologue, 1995); 6,000,000 or 20 percent (Ethnologue, 1998). Mainly in Algiers, Béjaïa, Tizi Ouzou, Bouïra, Sétif
and Boumerdès. Shawiya: ~2 million or 8.5 percent of the population as of 2005.[44] Mainly in Batna, Khenchela, Sétif, Souk Ahras, Oum El Bouaghi
Oum El Bouaghi
and Tébessa. Shenwa: 56,300 speakers according to an estimate, in the Dahra Range region, more precisely Mount Chenoua, just west of Algiers
in the provinces of Tipaza, Chlef and Aïn Defla. Two main languages: Beni Menacer, west and south of the Mount Chenoua
Mount Chenoua
area and in the Mount Chenoua area, with 55,250 speakers.[citation needed]

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

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

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

Tunisia: Basset (1952) estimated about 1 percent, as did Penchoen (1968). According to Ethnologue, there are only 26,000 speakers (1998) of a Berber language it calls "Djerbi", but which Tunisians call "Shelha", in Tunisia, all in the south around Djerba
and Matmata. The more northerly enclave of Sened no longer speaks Berber. This would make 0.3 percent of the population.[citation needed] Chenini is also one of the rare remaining berber-speaking villages in Tunisia.[45] Libya: According to Ethnologue
(by deduction from its combined Libyan Arabic
and Egyptian Arabic
figures) the non-Arabic-speaking population, most of which would be Berber, is estimated at 4 percent (1991, 1996). However, the individual language figures it gives add up to 162,000, i.e. about 3 percent. This is mostly accounted for by the languages:

Nafusi in the Nafusa Mountains
Nafusa Mountains
and Zuwara Berber
Zuwara Berber
in the city of Zuwarah
in the Tripolitania
region: 184,000.[46] Tahaggart (Tamahaq) language of the Tuareg
branch of the town of Ghat: 17,000 (Johnstone 1993).

Egypt: The oasis of Siwa near the Libyan border speaks a Berber language; according to Ethnologue, there are 5,000 speakers there (1995). Its population in 1907 was 3,884 (according to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica). Mauritania: According to Ethnologue, only 200 to 300 speakers of Zenaga remain (1998). It also mentions Tamasheq, but does not provide a population figure for it. Most non- Arabic
speakers in Mauritania speak Niger–Congo languages. Mali: Ethnologue
counts 440,000 Tuareg
(1991) speaking:

Tamasheq: 250,000 Tamajaq: 190,000

Niger: Ethnologue
counts 720,000 Tuareg
(1998) speaking:

Tawallamat Tamajaq: 450,000 Tayart Tamajeq: 250,000 Tamahaq: 20,000

Burkina Faso: Ethnologue
counts 20,000 to 30,000 Tuareg
(SIL International 1991), speaking Kel Tamasheq. However Ethnologue
is very inaccurate here, appearing to miss the largest group of Tamasheq in Burkina in the province of Oudalan. The Tamasheq-speaking population of Burkina is nearer to 100,000 (2005), with around 70,000 Tamasheq speakers in the province of Oudalan, the rest mainly in Seno, Soum, Yagha, Yatenga and Kadiogo provinces. About 10 percent of Burkina Tamasheq speak a version of the Tawallamat language.[citation needed] Nigeria: Ethnologue
notes the presence of a "few" Tuareg, speaking Tawallamat Tamajaq. France: Ethnologue
lists 860,000 speakers for Riffian and 537,000 speakers for Kabyle and 400,000 for Shilha[47] and 150,000 for Central Morocco
Tamazight . For the rest of Europe, it has no figures. Spain: Tamazight is spoken amongst Melilla's 80,000 inhabitants, but there has been no census as to the percentage of its speakers. A minority of Ceuta's inhabitants speak Berber.[48] Israel: Around two thousand mostly elderly Moroccan-born Israelis of Berber Jewish descent use Judeo-Berber languages (as opposed to Moroccan Jews
Moroccan Jews
who trace descent from Spanish-speaking Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain, or Arabic-speaking Moroccan Jews).

Thus, the total number of speakers of Berber languages
Berber languages
in the Maghreb proper appears to lie anywhere between 16 and 25 million, depending on which estimate is accepted; if we take Basset's estimate, it could be as high as 30 million. The vast majority are concentrated in Morocco and Algeria. The Tuareg
of the Sahel
adds another million or so to the total. Grammar[edit]

manuscript from the 18th century


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Nouns in the Berber languages
Berber languages
vary in gender (masculine versus feminine), number (singular versus plural) and state (free state versus construct state). In the case of the masculine, nouns generally begin with one of the three vowels of Berber, a, u or i (in standardised orthography, e represents a schwa [ə] inserted for reasons of pronunciation):

afus "hand" argaz "man" udem "face" ul "heart" ixef "head" iles "tongue"

While the masculine is unmarked, the feminine (also used to form diminutives and singulatives, like an ear of wheat) is marked with the circumfix t...t. Feminine plural takes a prefix t...:

afus → tafust udem → tudemt ixef → tixeft ifassen → tifassin

Berber languages
Berber languages
have two types of number: singular and plural, of which only the latter is marked. Plural has three forms according to the type of nouns. The first, "regular" type is known as the "external plural"; it consists in changing the initial vowel of the noun, and adding a suffix -n:

afus → ifassen "hands" argaz → irgazen "men" ixef → ixfawen "heads" ul → ulawen "hearts"

The second form of the plural is known as the "broken plural". It involves only a change in the vowels of the word:

adrar → idurar "mountain" agadir → igudar "wall / castle" abaghus → ibughas "monkey"

The third type of plural is a mixed form: it combines a change of vowels with the suffix -n:

izi → izan "(the) fly" azur → izuran "roof" iziker → izakaren "rope"

Berber languages
Berber languages
also have two types of states or cases of the noun, organized ergatively: one is unmarked, while the other serves for the subject of a transitive verb and the object of a preposition, among other contexts. The former is often called free state, the latter construct state. The construct state of the noun derives from the free state through one of the following rules: The first involves a vowel alternation, whereby the vowel a becomes u:

argaz → urgaz amghar → umghar adrar → udrar

The second involves the loss of the initial vowel, in the case of some feminine nouns:

tamghart → temghart "woman / mature woman" tamdint → temdint "town" tarbat → terbat "girl"

The third involves the addition of a semi-vowel (w or y) word-initially:

asif → wasif "river" aḍu → waḍu "wind" iles → yiles "tongue" uccen → wuccen "wolf"

Finally, some nouns do not change for free state:

taddart → taddart "house / village" tuccent → tuccent "female wolf"

The following table gives the forms for the noun amghar "old man / leader":

masculine feminine

default agent default agent

singular amghar umghar tamghart temghart

plural imgharen yimgharen timgharin temgharin

Pronouns[edit] Berber pronouns show gender distinction in the second- and third-persons, but in verbal agreement markers, the distinction is lost in the second-person.[49] Subclassification[edit]

Modern Berber branches:

Western Berber:   Zenaga language Northern Berber:   Atlas languages   Zenati languages   Kabyle language

Tuareg:    Tuareg
languages Eastern Berber:   Siwa language

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

Eastern Berber (scope debated) Northern Berber

Zenati (incl. Riffian and Shawiya) Kabyle Atlas (incl. Shilha and Central Atlas Tamazight)

Tuareg Western Berber (Zenaga)

The various classifications differ primarily in what they consider to be Eastern Berber, and in how many varieties they recognise as distinct languages. There is so little data available on Guanche that any classification is necessarily uncertain; however, it is almost universally acknowledged as Afro-Asiatic on the basis of the surviving glosses, and widely suspected to be Berber. Much the same can be said of the language, sometimes called "Numidian", used in the Libyan or Libyco-Berber inscriptions around the turn of the Common Era, whose alphabet is the ancestor of Tifinagh. Kossmann (1999)[edit] Maarten Kossmann (1999) describes Berber as two dialect continua,

Northern Berber and Tuareg

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

Zenaga and the Libyan and Egyptian varieties.

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

Nafusi–Siwi (including Sokna) Ghadamès–Awjila Northern Berber

Zenati Kabyle and Atlas

Tuareg Zenaga

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

Guanche Eastern Berber

Siwa Eastern Berber ("Awjila–Sokna")

Northern Berber (including Nafusi and Ghadames within Zenati) Tuareg Zenaga

Blench (2006)[edit] Blench (ms, 2006) has the following classification:[50]

Guanche† East Numidian (Old Libyan)† Berber

and within Berber,

Eastern Berber languages

Siwa Awjila Sokna Ghadames

Northern Berber (including Nafusi within Zenati) Tuareg Zenaga

Influence on other languages[edit] The Berber languages
Berber languages
have influenced Maghrebi Arabic
Maghrebi Arabic
languages, such as Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian Arabic. Their influence is also seen in some languages in West Africa. F. W. H. Migeod pointed to strong resemblances between Berber and Hausa in such words and phrases as these: Berber: obanis; Hausa obansa (his father); Berber: a bat; Hausa ya bata (he was lost); Berber: eghare; Hausa ya kirra (he called). In addition he notes that the genitive in both languages is formed with n = "of".[51] Extinct languages[edit] A number of extinct populations are believed to have spoken Afro-Asiatic languages of the Berber branch. According to Peter Behrens (1981) and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst (2000), linguistic evidence suggests that the peoples of the C-Group culture
C-Group culture
in present-day southern Egypt
and northern Sudan
spoke Berber languages.[20][21] The Nilo-Saharan Nobiin language
Nobiin language
today contains a number of key pastoralism related loanwords that are of Berber origin, including the terms for sheep and water/Nile. This in turn suggests that the C-Group population — which, along with the Kerma culture, inhabited the Nile valley immediately before the arrival of the first Nubian speakers — spoke Afro-Asiatic languages.[20] Additionally, historical linguistics indicate that the Guanche language, which was spoken on the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
by the ancient Guanches, likely belonged to the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.[52] Examples of basic Berber words[edit]

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The Berber letter "c" is pronounced [ʃ] (like the English "sh"). The Berber letter "x" is pronounced [χ] (like the Spanish "j" or the German "ch" (Ach-Laut)). The Berber letter "ɣ" is pronounced [ʁ] (like the French or German "r"). Numbers[edit]

English Berber

One ijjen / yan / yun / yiwen (fem: ict, yat, yut, yiwet)

Two sin / sen (fem: snat / sent)

Three kṛaḍ / cṛaḍ / caṛeḍ (fem: kṛaḍt / cṛaḍt / caṛeḍt)

Four kkuẓ / kkoẓ / okkoẓ (fem: kkuẓt / kkoẓt / okkoẓt)

Five semmus / fus (fem: semmust / fust)

Six sḍis (fem: sḍist)

Seven sa (fem: sat)

Eight tam (fem: tamt)

Nine tẓa (fem: tẓat)

Ten mraw (fem: mrawt)

English Berber

Eleven mraw d ijjen / mraw d yan

Twelve mraw d sin

Thirteen mraw d krad

Fourteen mraw d kkuz

Fifteen mraw d semmus

Sixteen mraw d sdis

Seventeen mraw d sa

Eighteen mraw d tam

Nineteen mraw d tza

Twenty sin d'mraw

English Berber

Twenty-one simraw d ijjen / simraw d yan

Twenty-two simraw d sin

Twenty-three simraw d krad

Twenty-four simraw d kkuz

Twenty-five simraw d semmus

Twenty-six simraw d sdis

Twenty-seven simraw d sa

Twenty-eight simraw d tam

Twenty-nine simraw d tza

Thirty kra d'mraw

English Berber

one hundred timiḍi

one thousand agim / ifeḍ

two thousand sin igiman / sin ifḍen

two thousand thirteen 2013 sin igiman d mraw d kraḍ

Days of the week[edit]

English Berber

Monday Aynas / ⴰⵢⵏⴰⵙ

Tuesday Asinas / ⴰⵙⵉⵏⴰⵙ

Wednesday Akṛas / ⴰⴾⵕⴰⵙ

Thursday Akwas / ⴰⴾⵡⴰⵙ

Friday Asimwas / ⴰⵙⵉⵎⵡⴰⵙ

Saturday Asiḍyas / ⴰⵙⵉⴹⵢⴰⵙ

Sunday Asamas / ⴰⵙⴰⵎⴰⵙ

See also[edit]

Amazigh Cultural Association in America


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(The Peoples of Africa). ISBN 0-631-16852-4. ISBN 0-631-20767-8 (Pbk). Abdel-Masish, Ernest T. 1971. A Reference Grammar of Tamazight (Middle Atlas Berber). Ann Arbor: Center for Near Eastern and North African Studies, The University of Michigan Basset, André. 1952. La langue berbère. Handbook of African Languages 1, ser. ed. Daryll Forde. London: Oxford University Press Chaker, Salem. 1995. Linguistique berbère: Études de syntaxe et de diachronie. M. S.—Ussun amaziɣ 8, ser. ed. Salem Chaker. Paris and Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters Dallet, Jean-Marie. 1982. Dictionnaire kabyle–français, parler des At Mangellet, Algérie. Études etholinguistiques Maghreb–Sahara 1, ser. eds. Salem Chaker, and Marceau Gast. Paris: Société d’études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France de Foucauld, Charles Eugène. 1951. Dictionnaire touareg–français, dialecte de l’Ahaggar. 4 vols. [Paris]: Imprimerie nationale de France Delheure, Jean. 1984. Aǧraw n yiwalen: tumẓabt t-tfransist, Dictionnaire mozabite–français, langue berbère parlée du Mzab, Sahara septentrional, Algérie. Études etholinguistiques Maghreb–Sahara 2, ser. eds. Salem Chaker, and Marceau Gast. Paris: Société d’études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France ———. 1987. Agerraw n iwalen: teggargrent–taṛumit, Dictionnaire ouargli–français, langue parlée à Oaurgla et Ngoussa, oasis du Sahara septentrinal, Algérie. Études etholinguistiques Maghreb–Sahara 5, ser. eds. Salem Chaker, and Marceau Gast. Paris: Société d’études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France Kossmann, Maarten G. 1999. Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère. Grammatische Analysen afrikanischer Sprachen 12, ser. eds. Wilhelm J. G. Möhlig, and Bernd Heine. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag Kossmann, Maarten G., and Hendrikus Joseph Stroomer. 1997. "Berber Phonology". In Phonologies of Asia and Africa (Including the Caucasus), edited by Alan S. Kaye. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns. 461–475 Naït-Zerrad, Kamal. 1998. Dictionarrie des racines berbères (formes attestées). Paris and Leuven: Centre de Recherche Berbère and Uitgeverij Peeters Karl-Gottfried Prasse, Ghubăyd ăgg-Ălăwžəli, and Ghăbdəwan əg-Muxămmăd. 1998. Asăggălalaf: Tămaẓəq–Tăfrăsist – Lexique touareg–français. 2nd ed. Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications 24, ser. eds. Paul John Frandsen, Daniel T. Potts, and Aage Westenholz. København: Museum Tusculanum Press Quitout, Michel. 1997. Grammaire berbère (rifain, tamazight, chleuh, kabyle). Paris and Montréal: Éditions l’Harmattan Rössler, Otto. 1958. "Die Sprache Numidiens". In Sybaris: Festschrift Hans Krahe zum 60. Geburtstag am 7. February 1958, dargebracht von Freunden, Schülern und Kollegen. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Sadiqi, Fatima. 1997. Grammaire du berbère. Paris and Montréal: Éditions l’Harmattan. ISBN 2-7384-5919-6

External links[edit]

Look up Berber in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Berber languages
Berber languages
test of Central Atlas Tamazight
Central Atlas Tamazight
at Wikimedia Incubator

Berber languages
Berber languages
test of Shilha language
Shilha language
at Wikimedia Incubator

Berber languages
Berber languages
test of Riffian language
Riffian language
at Wikimedia Incubator

Berber languages
Berber languages
test of at Wikimedia Incubator

Kabyle language
Kabyle language
edition of, the free encyclopedia

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Berber language.

"What does Berber sound like?" (Thamazight poems as text & MP3) Map of Tamazight language from the LL-Map Project The Tamazight Language Profile Etymology of "Berber" Etymology of "Amazigh" Early Christian history of Berbers Tifinagh Ancient Scripts Imyura Kabyle site about literature Amawal: The online open source Berber dictionary

v t e

Berber languages







Awjila Fezzan

Foqaha Sokna Tmessa

Ghadamès Jaghbub† Kufra Nafusi

Jadu Nalut Wazzin Yefren




Eastern Middle AtlasTA

Seghrouchen Warayn

Northern Saharan

Gurara Mozabite South Oranie and Figuig Tidikelt Tuwat Wad Righ Wargla


Central Riffian Eastern Moroccan Iznasen Snouss Western Riffian

Shawiya Tunisian-ZuwaraTE

Jerba Matmata Sened† Tataouine Zuwara

Western Algerian

Gouraya Shelif Shenwa


Atlas languages

Central Atlas Gharb† Ghomara Judeo-Berber Sanhaja de Srayr Shilha


Central-Eastern Central-Western Eastern Western


Moroccan Berber


Tamahaq Tamashek Tawellemmet Tayart


Tetserret Zenaga


Tifinagh Berber Arabic
alphabet Judeo-Berber alphabet Berber Latin



AAAL (Algeria) HCA (Algeria) IRCAM (Morocco) DNAFLA (Mali) CRB (France)


Berber Academy World Amazigh Congress

TE Transitional to Eastern · TA Transitional to Atlas · † Extinct · R Reconstructed

v t e

Languages of the Maghreb




Classical Modern Standard Maltese



North-Eastern Tunisian

Eastern Village

Sahel Sfaxian Lesser Kabylia

Western Village

Traras-Msirda Mountain


Moroccan Tripolitanian Tunisian



Libyan koiné

Eastern Hilal

Tunisian koiné

Central Hilal

Algerian koiné Central and Saharan Eastern Algerian Western Algerian


Western Moroccan Eastern Moroccan Moroccan koiné Hassānīya



Awjila Fezzan Ghadamès Kufra Nafusi Siwa



Atlas Kabyle


Eastern Middle Atlas Northern Saharan Riffian Shawiya Tunisian-Zuwara Western Algerian


Tamahaq Tamashek Tawellemmet Tayart


Tetserret Zenaga


Korandje Teda


Wolof Soninké Pulaar Bambara


French Italian Spanish



Proto-Berber Phoenician



African Romance Sabir

Ottoman Turkish

v t e

Major Afroasiatic languages


Kabyle Riffian Shawiya Shilha Tuareg




Afar Beja Oromo Somali


Ancient Egyptian Coptic




Akkadian Amharic Arabic
(Varieties of Arabic) Aramaic (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic) Ge'ez Hebrew Phoenician Tigrinya

Italics indicate extinct languages

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