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Berber languages

Family of languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Berber languages, also known as the Amazigh languages or Tamazight,[lower-alpha 1] are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family.[1][2] They comprise a group of closely related but mostly mutually unintelligible languages[3] spoken by Berber communities, who are indigenous to North Africa.[4][5] The languages are primarily spoken and not typically written.[6] Historically, they have been written with the ancient Libyco-Berber script, which now exists in the form of Tifinagh.[7][8] Today, they may also be written in the Berber Latin alphabet or the Arabic script, with Latin being the most pervasive.[9][10][11]

Quick facts: Berber, Ethnicity, Geographic distribution, L...
تَمَزِيغت, Tamaziɣt
Scattered communities across parts of North Africa and Berber diaspora
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic
  • Berber
ISO 639-2 / 5ber
Berber-speaking populations are dominant in the coloured areas of Africa. Other areas, especially in North Africa, contain minority Berber-speaking populations.

The Berber languages have a similar level of variety to the Romance languages, although they are sometimes referred to as a single collective language, often as "Berber", "Tamazight", or "Amazigh".[12][13][14][15] The languages, with a few exceptions, form a dialect continuum.[12] There is a debate as to how to best sub-categorize languages within the Berber branch.[12][16] Berber languages typically follow verb–subject–object word order.[17][18] Their phonological inventories are diverse.[16]

Millions of people in Morocco and Algeria natively speak a Berber language, as do smaller populations of Libya, Tunisia, northern Mali, western and northern Niger, northern Burkina Faso and Mauritania and the Siwa Oasis of Egypt.[19] There are also likely a few million speakers of Berber languages in Western Europe.[20] Tashlhiyt, Kabyle, Central Atlas Tamazight, Tarifit, and Shawiya are some of the most commonly spoken Berber languages.[19] Exact numbers are impossible to ascertain as there are few modern North African censuses that include questions on language use, and what censuses do exist have known flaws.[21]

Following independence in the 20th century, the Berber languages have been suppressed and suffered from low prestige in North Africa.[21] Recognition of the Berber languages has been growing in the 21st century, with Morocco and Algeria adding Tamazight as an official language to their constitutions in 2011 and 2016 respectively.[21][22][23]

Most Berber languages have a high percentage of borrowing and influence from the Arabic language, as well as from other languages.[24] For example, Arabic loanwords represent 35%[25] to 46%[26] of the total vocabulary of the Kabyle language and represent 51.7% of the total vocabulary of Tarifit.[27] Almost all Berber languages took from Arabic the pharyngeal fricatives /ʕ/ and /ħ/, the (nongeminated) uvular stop /q/, and the voiceless pharyngealized consonant /ṣ/.[28]

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