Lameen of Jabal al-Lughat has a couple of posts reviewing الأمازيغية – آراء وأمثال (تيبازة نموذجا) [Tamazight: Views and Proverbs (the Example of Tipasa)], by Mohamed Arezki Ferad; as he says, it “is unlikely to come to most English-speakers’ attention,” so he’s rendering a public service in giving us an idea of its contents. The first post is a general review, the second focuses on “a collection of more than 150 Tamazight proverbs from the Tipasa area (specifically the village of Bou-Smail).” Tamazight is the language of the Amazigh, the Berbers of Algeria (if I have that right), and the author “argues that Algeria’s Amazigh identity is undeniable, is relevant to the whole country and not just the minority that speak Tamazight, and complements rather than contradicts Algeria’s Arab identity.” Lameen translates a section that provides a moving reminiscence of how things used to be a couple of decades ago:

I remembered being excluded from the university and forbidden to teach in the history faculty in the early 1980s simply because I presented a thesis for my certificate of advanced studies on Amazigh history in Andalus in the period of the petty kings (reyes de taifa), and my viva was not scheduled until after great efforts, only to yield a blow that hit me harder than a thunderbolt: being excluded from the university and not hired by it! For the decision-makers back then thought that the thesis’s topic reeked of anti-Arabism and encroachment upon the sanctity of this language which could never accept a rival! How great was my disappointment – I, a Kabyle born in a conservative environment built on Islam as its religion, Arabic for its writing, and Tamazight for its speech! I remembered – from as far back as I can recall – how we would study Arabic in Kabyle – yes, we studied Arabic in Kabyle, by the method of alif u yenqeḍ ara, ba yiwet s wadda, ta snat ufella… (ا alif has no dot, ب ba one underneath, ت ta two on top…) I remembered how we used to venerate the Arabic language and hurry to gather papers with Arabic writing on them when we found them scattered on the ground, for fear that some passer-by might tread on them with his feet… I remember how the name of “Mohamed Larbi” (lit. Muhammad the Arab) was on every tongue, with scarcely a family not using it, and the name of “Fatima” as a blessing for the Prophet (PBUH). For all these personal reasons, I couldn’t understand the viciousness of the assault on the Amazigh dimension of the Algerian personality…


  1. His Berber figure “Coming between the fingernail and the flesh” is found in the Spanish Cantar de mio Cid as a metaphor for two things so close that they’re painful to separate.

  2. Tamazight is also spoken in Morocco, and it’s different from the Algerian version. I discovered this, much to my chagrin, when I ordered a “Learn Now!-Tamazight” CD…yep, Algerian.
    In Morocco, it used to be against the law to even give your child an Amazigh name.

  3. Terry Collmann says

    Can I recommend to hatters the new CD Aman Iman (“Water is Life”) by Tinariwen the Tuareg group, of songs sung in Tamasheq, a fellow Berber language to Tamazight: the extra linguistic interest is that the lyrics are printed in the CD sleeve in English, phonetic Tamasheq and also in tifinagh, the 2,000-year-old “Phoenician” alphabet still used by the Tuareg, in a digital font designed by the font designer Pierre de Sciullo.
    And the music is very fine as well …

  4. marie-lucie says

    A couple of years ago I attended a conference at which I met some educators from Morocco. They were there to talk about Tamazight and its new place in the Moroccan educational system. It seems that the language is now being vigorously supported, with the strong support of the king. Tamazight-speaking children are being taught in Tamazight (at least in some areas) and other children are also receiving instruction in the language. School programs and textbooks are being developed with the goal of presenting Tamazight as a living, modern language, not just a relic of the past restricted to remote rural areas or uneducated people. It will be interesting to see whether these efforts bear fruit.

  5. I should have mentioned that Amazigh is just the more politically correct term for Berber, deriving as it does from a traditional Berber ethnonym meaning “noble” or “free” rather than from a Greek word meaning “barbarian”… Tamazight instruction is expanding in Algeria as well – some 119,000 children are currently studying it in schools – and in Algeria too it used to be illegal to give Tamazight names (any names that weren’t on the approved list, in fact).
    John: that’s rather interesting (makes sense of course given the strong North African influences.) Don’t suppose you have a page number or something handy?

  6. It is funny that your Google Ads-bar shows suddenly many advertisements related to Algeria.
    A Moroccan organisation here in Holland just published a (Dutch) translation of a book by David Montgomery Hart about Riffian Amazigh culture. Their objective is that young Dutch-Moroccans can find their identity in Riffian culture instead of Islamitic fundamentalism; see this Dutch article.

  7. marie-lucie says

    Could this be one of the reasons for the Moroccan schooling initiatives within Morocco, as well?

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