The Berber Languages
The Berbers have occupied North Africa, specifically the Maghreb, since the beginning of recorded history and until the Islamic conquests of the 8th century CE constituted the dominant ethnic group in the Saharan region. The Berbers take their more common name from the Latin "barbarous" (barbarian),. However, They had many names throughout the history as Berbers or Nomads. Nowadays, they call themselves The Amazigh which means "free humans" or "free men."
The Berber languages are a group of 26 closely related dialects that constitute a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. They are spoken by 14 to 25 million people in Northern Africa throughout the Mediterranean coast, the Sahara desert and Sahel, an area which used to be dominated by Berbers before the arrival of the Arabs. Today, there are significant groups of Berber-speaking people in Morocco and Algeria, Mali, Niger and Libya, and smaller groups in Tunis, Mauritania, Burkina-Faso, and Egypt. the speakers of the various Berber languages makeup around 50% of the population in Morocco and about 25% in Algeria.The Tuareg of the desert also belongs to the Berber group. In this Article, we will go through the most known languages of Berbers by their location.
In Morocco, there are 3 Berber languages spoken by Amazigh. The first is Rifian which its speakers are living in the North of Morocco. The Rifian speech was affected by the invasion of Spain which results that many words of Spanish are in the Rifian vocabulary. The second language is Tachelhit. Their speakers are more the 4 million mostly in the south of Morocco, From Marrakesh downward. The last dialect is Tamazight. The former is widespread in the Atlas mountains. Its speakers are about 3 million 65% live in rural areas, 10% live outside the traditional sector.
In Algeria, Berbers live in the North and east of the country with some others living in the oasis of the desert in the heart of Algeria. They speak Kbayli and Tachawit. The first is the dominated language in Algeria with 6 Million speakers. It is almost understandable by the Rifian speakers in the north of Morocco. There is a famous song in Kbayli which is famous too in the Rif called Vava Inouva. The second is Tachawit with 2 million speakers.
In Niger, there are 2 Berber languages spoken Tamajaq and Tamajeq. The speakers of these dialects are about more than 2 million.
The Berbers in Mali are called Touareg. Their language is Tamasheq. Touareg tribes are known as travelers and artist. You can check this Touareg song of Tinariwen that talks about the importance of the tee in their community.
The Berbers in Libya speaks Nafusi. In Libya, Most Berbers have faced massive discrimination by their former president, But after the rebellion Revolutionaries) has shown an openness towards the Berber language. Now, The independent Revolutionaries "Libya TV," has included the Berber language and its Tifinagh ( The alphabet of the standard Amazigh language) alphabet in some of its programming.
You can see the diversity of the Amazigh languages which proves of its Antique presence. However, Berbers throughout the history have faced segregation in all the countries of Africa mainly by Arabs. That what makes sense for our mission to rebirth the presence of our culture as Amazigh.
- Abdelghani Hammoud