The Info List - Guanche Language

The Guanche language, also known as Tamazight, is an extinct Berber language that was spoken by the Guanches
of the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
until the 17th century or possibly later. It died out after the conquest of the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
as the Guanche ethnic group was assimilated into the dominant Spanish culture. The Guanche language is known today through sentences and individual words that were recorded by early geographers, as well as through several place-names and Guanche words that were retained in the Canary Islanders' Spanish.


1 Classification 2 History 3 Numerals 4 References 5 External links

Classification[edit] Guanche has been classified by modern linguists as a Berber language.[3][4][5] Recognizable Berber words and numerous Berber grammatical inflections have been identified.[1] History[edit] The name Guanche originally referred to "man from Tenerife",[6] and only later did it come to refer to all native inhabitants of the Canary Islands. Although different dialects were spoken across the archipelago. Archaeological finds on the Canaries include both Libyco-Berber and Punic inscriptions in rock carvings, although early accounts stated the Guanches
themselves did not possess a system of writing. The first reliable account of Guanche language was provided by Genovese explorer Nicoloso da Recco in 1341, with a list of the numbers 1–16, possibly from Fuerteventura. Recco's account reveals a base-10 counting system with strong similarities to Berber numbers. Silbo, originally a whistled form of Guanche speech used for communicating over long distances, was used on La Gomera, El Hierro, Tenerife, and Gran Canaria. As the Guanche language became extinct, a Spanish version of Silbo was adopted by some inhabitants of the Canary Islands. Numerals[edit] Guanche numerals are attested from several sources, not always in good agreement (Barrios 1997). Some of the discrepancies may be due to copy errors, some to gender distinctions, and other to Arabic borrowings in later elicitations.

Numeral Recco (1341) Cairasco (song, 1582) Cedeño (c. 1685) Marín de Cubas (1687, 1694) Sosa (copy of 1678) Abreu (attrib. to 1632) Reyes (1995 reconstruction) Proto-Berber

1 vait* *be ben, ven-ir- becen~been, ben-ir- ben, ben-ir- been (ben?), ben-i- *wên *yiwan

2 smetti, smatta- *smi liin, lin-ir- liin, sin-ir-~lin-ir- lini (sijn) lini, lini- *sîn *sin

3 amelotti, amierat- *amat amiet amiet~amiat, am-ir- amiat (amiet) amiat *amiat *karad

4 acodetti, acodat- *aco arba arba arba arba *akod *hakkuz

5 simusetti, simusat- *somus canza~canse canza cansa canza *sumus *sammus

6 sesetti, sesatti- ? sumus sumui~sumus sumus smmous *sed *sadis

7 satti *set sat sat sat (sá) sat *sa *sah

8 tamatti *tamo set set set set *tam *tam

9 alda-marava, nait

? acet~acot acot acot acot *aldamoraw *tizah~tuzah

10 marava *marago marago marago marago marago *maraw~maragʷ *maraw

* Also nait, an apparent copy error. Similarly with alda-morana for expected *alda-marava. Later attestations of 11–19 were formed by linking the digit and ten with -ir: benirmarago, linirmarago, etc. 20–90 were similar, but contracted: linago, amiago, etc. 100 was maraguin, apparently 10 with the Berber plural -en. Recco only recorded 1–16; the combining forms for 11–16, which did not have this -ir-, are included as the hyphenated forms in the table above. Spanish does not distinguish [b] and [v], so been is consistent with *veen. The Berber feminine ends in -t, as in Shilha 1: yan (m), yat (f); 2: sin (m), snat (f), and this may explain discrepancies such as been and vait for 'one'. Cairasco is a misparsed counting song, besmia mat acosomuset tamobenir marago. Ses '6' may have got lost in the middle of somuset ( ← *somussesset). Starting with Cedeño, new roots for '2' and '9' appear ('9' perhaps the old root for '4'), new roots for '4' and '5' (arba, kansa) appear to be Arabic borrowings, and old '5', '6', '7' offset to '6', '7', '8'. References[edit]

^ a b Maarten Kossmann, Berber subclassification (preliminary version), Leiden (2011) ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Guanche". Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ Richard Hayward, 2000, "Afroasiatic", in Heine & Nurse eds, African Languages, Cambridge University Press ^ Andrew Dalby, Dictionary of Languages, 1998, p. 88 "Guanche, indigenous language of the Canary Islands, is generally thought to have been a Berber language." ^ Bynon J., "The contribution of linguistics to history in the field of Berber studies." In: Dalby D, (editor) Language and history in Africa New York: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1970, p 64-77. ^ "Section 14". The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1910. p. 650. 

External links[edit]

José Barrios: Sistemas de numeración y calendarios de las poblaciones bereberes de Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria
y Tenerife
en los siglos XIV-XV (PhD Dissertation, 1997) Gerhard Böhm: Monumentos de la Lengua Canaria e Inscripciones Líbicas (Department of African Studies, University of Vienna - Occasional Paper No. 4 / February 2006)

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 alphabet



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

Authority control

LCCN: sh85057587 BNF: cb1256


Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in D:\Bitnami\wampstack-7.1.16-0\apache2\htdocs\php\PeriodicService.php on line 61