Lameen Souag of the always interesting Jabal al-Lughat has turned up the blog Awal_nu_Shawi about the language Tashawit (or Tachawit [or Shawiya]):

Tashawit is a variety of the Berber language (a branch of the Afro-Asiatic family). It is spoken by Ishawiyen, the Berbers of Eastern Algeria. Our aim is to provide a free platform for the discussion and dissemination of ideas related to Tashawit. We seek to expose the beauty of shawi words and explore their creative dimensions in poetry, prose and music. We believe that AWAL, the word is the gate of cultural heritage, and that writing is the key to its permanence.

It mainly posts song lyrics, occasionally with English translations, as in this lullaby:

sussem sussem a 3alla memmi
ennig a3law i babak
babak iroH iba3dek
yewwi TarumiT ijja yemmek
sussem sussem a 3alla memmi
ennig a3law du qachabi
babak iroH ijja lwali.

Hush hush 3alla, my son
Let us weave a burnous for your daddy
Your daddy who took off and left you
He left your mother for a French woman
Hush hush 3alla, my son
I am weaving a burnous and a qachabi
Your father abandoned his family.

But there’s also a longish discussion of case markers in Shawi Berber. I wonder if there are other Berber blogs out there?


  1. Don’t you think in translation burnous should also be given Berber name and italisized, like quachabi? For consistency?

  2. Actually, at Awal_nu_Shawi it is italicized. I left the itals out because it’s a perfectly good English word (it’s in the dictionary between burnish and burnout), unlike qachabi, which is unequivocally a foreign word.

  3. I went in the other direction. What’s a qachabi (besides something woven)? If that’s Berber, does it have an Arabic name we might sometimes encounter? Burnous / burnoose / бурнус is naturalized. Orientalist rakes, including I think Napolean, wore them.

  4. Posts crossed in mid-stream, sorry.
    Did you notice that the dictionary says that the Arabic is from Latin via Greek?

  5. Do you know if there’s somewhere online where I could find more information about this form of transliteration? (where numbers and upper case letters stand for phonemes not accounted for in roman script, such as in ‘3alla’) I’ve encountered it before, mainly used by Arabic speakers, but I’ve never found any English references.

  6. Slightly off tangent, but worth the detour … one of my favourite songs, a lullaby in Tamazight, “A vava inouva” by Idir (extract on Amazon).

  7. That’s cool to read, especially since some of the words are the same as the dialect here – “TarumiT,” for example, is the female form of “arumi”…which means “Roman.” The man has taken off with a damned foreigner, but not necessarily a Frenchwoman.

  8. Neat — thanks for explaining that!

  9. Does anybody knows where the name Shawi comes from?

  10. Wikipedia: “According to de Slane, translator of the books of Ibn Khaldun, the term Chaoui/Shawi means ‘shepherd’ and designates the Zenata Berbers.” For what that’s worth. Maybe Lameen will drop by…

    (In the Shawiya language article, it says Tacawit is pronounced [θæʃæwiθ], which surprises me.)

  11. That is indeed the generally accepted etymology, from Arabic شاة shaah “goat, sheep”. In Berber Latin orthography, c is ʃ, and spirants are left unmarked – actually, in Shawi initial t- often goes all the way to h, a sound changed suppressed for the sake of inter-Berber legibility…

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