The Info List - Zenati Languages

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The Zenati languages are a branch of the Northern Berber language family of North Africa. They were named after the medieval Zenata Berber tribal confederation. They were first proposed in the works of French linguist Edmond Destaing (1915)[2] (1920–23).[3] Zenata dialects are distributed across the central Maghreb, from northeastern Morocco
to just west of Algiers, and the northern Sahara, from southwestern Algeria
around Bechar
to Zuwara
in Libya. In much of this range, they are limited to discontinuous pockets in a predominantly Arabic-speaking landscape. The most widely spoken Zenati languages are Riffian in northeastern Morocco
and Shawiya in eastern Algeria, each of which have over 2 million speakers.


1 Languages

1.1 Kossmann (2013) 1.2 Blench & Dendo (2006)

2 Features 3 References

Languages[edit] Kossmann (2013)[edit] According to Kossmann (2013: 21–24),[4] Zenati is a rather arbitrary grouping, in which he includes the following varieties:

Rif-Berber (local name: Tmaziɣt, northeastern Morocco); Includes Arzew
dialect, in Arzew
in western Algeria Beni Iznasen Eastern Middle Atlas: Ait Seghrouchen and a group of dialects including Ait Warain (Ayt Warayn) (north-central Morocco) Western Algerian, west of Algiers
(a diffuse group):

Beni Snous (Tlemcen) dialect, in western Algeria
near the border Jebel Bissa (intelligible with Shenwa) Shenwa (Chenoua), between Tipasa
and Ténès
in north-central Algeria west of Algiers Beni Messaoud (Shenwa?) Beni Menacer Metmata (of Algeria; distinguish Matmata Berber
Matmata Berber
of Tunisia) etc. (see article)

Shawiya (Chaouia), around Batna and Khenchela, south of Constantine in northeastern Algeria Mzab–Wargla (Northern Saharan oases):

South Oran and Figuig, in the ksours along the Algerian–Moroccan border and in Figuig
in southeastern Morocco Gourara
Berber (Taznatit) (Gourara, southwestern Algeria, around Timimoun) Tidikelt and Tuat (Touat, Algeria) Mozabite aka Mzab, Tumzabt (northern Algerian Sahara, near Ghardaia) Wargla (Ouargli aka Tagergrent, Teggargarent), northern Algerian Sahara, near Ouargla Oued Righ Berber (incl. Touggourt; Ethnologue
name "Temacine Tamazight") in Oued Righ, around Touggourt
and Temacine, Algeria

Southeastern Tunisian–Libyan: Djerbi (island of Djerba), Matmata Berber (Matmata), Sened and Zuwara
Berber ( Zuwara
in northwestern Libya)

Blench & Dendo (2006)[edit] Blench & Dendo (ms, 2006) considers Zenati to consist of just three distinct languages, with the rest (in parentheses) dialects:[5]

Riff cluster (Shawiya, Tidikelt, Tuat, Tariifit/Riff, Ghmara, Tlemcen, Sheliff Basin) Mzab–Wargla (Gurara, Mzab, Wargla, Ghardaia, Tugurt, Seghrušen, Figuig, Senhaja, Iznacen) East Zenati
East Zenati
(Tmagurt, Sened, Jerba, Tamezret, Taujjut, Nefusi, Zrawa)

Shenwa and Zuwara
are not addressed. Features[edit] According to Kossmann (1999:31-32, 86, 172),[6] common innovations defining the Zenati languages include:

The vowel a- in nominal prefixes is dropped in a number of words when it precedes CV, where C is a single consonant and V is a full (non-schwa) vowel. For example, afus "hand" is replaced with fus. (A similar development is found in some Eastern Berber languages, but not Nafusi.) Verbs whose original aorist forms end in -u while their perfect forms end in -a end up with -a in the aorist as well, leaving the aorist / perfect distinction unmarked for these verbs. For example, *ktu "forget", Siwi ttu, becomes Ouargli tta. (This also affects Nafusi.) Verbs consisting (in the aorist) of two consonants with no vowel other than schwa fall into two classes elsewhere in Berber:[7][8] one where a variable final vowel appears in the perfect form, and one which continues to lack a final vowel in the perfect. In Zenati, the latter class has been entirely merged into the former in the perfect, with the single exception of the negative perfect of *əɣ s "want". For example, Kabyle (non-Zenati) gər "throw", pf. -gər (int. -ggar), corresponds to Ouargli (Zenati) gər, pf. -gru. (This change too also affects Nafusi; Basset (1929:9) gives examples where it appears not to occur in Chenoua.) Proto-Berber *-əβ has become -i in Zenati.[9] For example, *arəβ "write" becomes ari. (This change also occurs in varieties including the Central Atlas Tamazight
Central Atlas Tamazight
dialect of the Izayan, Nafusi, and Siwi.) Proto-Berber palatalised k´ and g´, corresponding to k and g in non-Zenati varieties, become š and ž in Zenati (although a fair number of irregular correspondences for this are found.) For example, k´ăm "you (f. sg.)" becomes šəm. (This change also occurs in Nafusi and Siwi.)

In addition to the correspondence of k and g to š and ž, Chaker (1972),[10] while expressing uncertainty about the linguistic coherence of Zenati, notes as shared Zenati traits:

A proximal demonstrative suffix "this" -u, rather than -a A final -u in the perfect of two-consonant verbs, rather than -a (e.g. yə-nsu "he slept" rather than yə-nsa elsewhere)

These characteristics identify a more restricted subset of Berber than those previously mentioned, mainly northern Saharan varieties; they exclude, for example, Chaoui[11] and all but the easternmost Riff dialects.[12] References[edit]

^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Zenatic". Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ Edmond Destaing, "Essai de classification des dialectes berbères du Maroc Archived September 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.", Etudes et Documents Berbères 19-20, 2001-2002 (1915) ^ Edmond Destaing, "Note sur la conjugaison des verbes de forme C1eC2", Mémoires de la Société Linguistique de Paris, 22 (1920/3), pp. 139-148 ^ Maarten Kossmann (2013) The Arabic
Influence on Northern Berber ^ AA list, Blench & Dendo, ms, 2006 ^ Maarten Kossmann, Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère, Rüdiger Köppe:Köln ^ Maarten Kossmann, "Note sur la conjugaison des verbes CC à voyelle alternante en berbère", Etudes et Documents Berbères 12, 1994, pp. 17-33 ^ André Basset, La langue berbère. Morphologie. Le verbe.-Étude de thèmes. Paris 1929, pp. 9, 58 ^ See also Maarten Kossmann, "Les verbes à i finale en zénète Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.", Etudes et Documents Berbères 13, 1995, pp. 99-104. ^ Salem Chaker, 1972, "La langue berbère au Sahara", Revue de l'Occident musulman et de la Méditerranée 11:11, pp. 163-167 ^ # Penchoen, Th.G., 1973, Etude syntaxique d'un parler berbère (Ait Frah de l'Aurès), Napoli, Istituto Universitario Orientale (= Studi magrebini V). p. 14 ^ Lafkioui, Mena. 2007. Atlas linguistique des variétés berbères du Rif. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe. pp. 207, 178.

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