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Berber is a large family of Afro-Asiatic languages spoken across much of Northern Africa (Ethnologue), mainly in Morocco and Algeria, with small communities in populations in Libya and Egypt.

This survey concentrates on the three major Berber languages or dialect groups of Morocco: Tarifit, Central Atlas Tamazight, and Tachelhit. The name Amazigh, a Berber name for the people themselves, has recently been also used for these three languages collectively (Ameur et al.). The family is also called Tamazight by some, but that risks confusion with individual languages. -- Some resources are also listed for other Berber languages, especially Kabyle.


Amazigh is multi-dialectal with no de facto standard form, although the Moroccan Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe has proposed one that has gained some acceptance. The dialects are basically mutually intelligible, except for the extremes. Morphologically there are few differences, the principal differences being lexical and phonological; the latter are not generally reflected in writing.

The three main Moroccan dialects of Berber/Amazigh are collectively called "shilha" (شلحة) in Arabic:


Sometimes known as "soussi" (سوسي) or "cleuh" (شلوح). Spoken in south-west Morocco, in an area between Ifni in the south, Agadir in the north and Marrakech and the Draa/Sous valleys in the east.

Information from Ethnologue, 2009-04-27

  • ISO 639-3 code: shi
  • Spoken in: Morocco; Southern Algeria near the Moroccan border around Tabelbala.
  • Population: 3,000,000 in Morocco (1998).
  • Alternate names: Tashilheet, Tashelheyt, Tachilhit, Tashelhit, Tasoussit, Shilha, Susiua, Southern Shilha
  • Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Berber, Northern, Atlas


Information from Ethnologue, 2009-04-27

  • ISO 639-3 code: tzm
  • Spoken in: Morocco: Middle Atlas, High Atlas, eastern High Atlas Mountains. 1,200,000 in rural areas between Taza, Khemisset, Azilal, Errachidia; 100,000 outside the language area. Also spoken in Western Algeria mountain area of Atlas and adjacent valleys to Taza, in the vicinity of Rabat, south near the Moroccan border. Diaspora in France.
  • Population: 3,000,000 in Morocco (1998). Population total all countries: 3,150,000.
  • Alternate names: Central Shilha, Middle Atlas Berber, Shilha
  • Dialects: Central Atlas, South Oran. Much variety in dialects. May be more than one language.
  • Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Berber, Northern, Atlas


Spoken in the Rif area of northern Morocco.

Information from Ethnologue, 2009-04-27

  • ISO 639-3 code: rif
  • Spoken in: Northern Morocco. Also along the Algerian coast, eastern Alteria to Arzeu.
  • Population: 1,500,000 in Morocco (1991). Population total all countries: 1,700,000.
  • Alternate names: Rifi, Rifia (the Arabic name), Tirifie, Fifia, Northern Shilha, Shilha
  • Dialects: Morocco: Urrighel, Beni Iznassen (Beni Snassen)*. There may be other dialects. Algeria: Arzeu, Igzennaian, Iznacen (Beni Iznassen)*.
    * Beni Iznassen may be a separate language.
  • Classification:

Kabyle (Algeria)

Information from Ethnologue, 2009-05-06

  • ISO 639-3 code: kab
  • Population: 2,537,000 in Algeria (1995). Estimates by some sources are up to 6,000,000 in Algeria (1998). 49,000 in Belgium. Population total all countries: 3,123,000.
  • Spoken in: Grande Kabylie Mt. range, western Kabylia. Also spoken in Belgium, France.
  • Alternate names: Tamazight
  • Dialects: Greater Kabyle, Lesser Kabyle.
  • Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Berber, Northern, Kabyle

Linguistic notes

Amazigh syntax is basically VSO. The phonology has contrasts of voicing, pharyngealization, and tenseness in both stops and fricatives, and a simple three-vowel system plus epenthetic schwa. The verbal morphology involves infixation and alternation of vowels and of tenseness, as well as prefixes, suffixes, and circumfixes, and distinguishes gender in the second and third persons.


The Berber languages are written in three scripts:

  • Tifinagh, the Berber alphabet; sometimes called Neo-Tifinagh to distinguish it from historical forms. Unicode range 2D30-2D7F. See Omniglot, Wikipedia. IRCAM, Morocco's Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, has a standard for Moroccan Amazigh.
  • Latin:
    • IRCAM has also developed a Latin-alphabet standard, with some diacritics and additional letters (ČčḌḍǦǧḤḥƐɛṚṛƔɣṢṣṬṭẒẓ). See Wikipedia: Berber Latin Alphabet. It is used in a number of publications beyond IRCAM's own. IRCAM originally developed and used it with an 8-bit mapping, but it is included in the Unicode Tifinagh range.
    • Some publications still use IRCAM Latin orthography in idiosyncratic 8-bit encodings rather than Unicode. These may include variant glyphs, such as Σ and Γ for capital Ɛ and Ɣ. See for example The Amazigh Voice / Taγect Tamaziγt.
    • There are also other Latin orthographies; see for example Sahki 1999. These are here called Latin script, or ASCII if without diacritics and non-Latin letters.
  • Arabic

See also Fonts and Encoding.

Linguistic resources


  • Abdel-Massih, Ernest T. 1968. Tamazight verb structure; a generative approach. Bloomington, Indiana University. [Based on the Central Atlas Tamazight dialect of Ait Ayache. Phonological theory based on Jakobson & Halle 1956, morphological on Chomsky 1965.]
  • Abdel-Massih, Ernest T. 1970. A Reference Grammar of Tamazight: A Comparative Study of the Berber Dialects of Ayt Ayache and Ayt Seghrouchen. The seven sections deal with phonology, the numerical system, pronominal systems, the noun, particles, the verb and sentences. Designed to be used with A Course in Spoken Tamazight (Ernest T. Abdel-Massih). $35.00. No tapes available. 332 pages. ISBN 0-932098-05-3.
  • Ameur, M. et al. 2004. Initiation à la langue amazighe. Centre l’Aménagement Linguistique. Publications de l’IRCAM. Série : Manuels. N° 1. 86pp. [Tarifit, Central Atlas Tamazight, and Tachelhit]
  • Basset, André. 1952. La langue Berbère. Reissue 2004, Harmattan (L'), 324 p. [ISBN 2747572781]. Review in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 22, No. 3. (Jul., 1952), pp. 285-288. 30 euros from Bibliomonde. London: Oxford Univ. Press for Int'l African Institute.
  • Hamimi, Gaya. 1997. Grammaire et conjugaison amaziγ. Paris : Harmattan. [Mostly Kabyle; small French-Kabyle-Tachelhit vocabulary]
  • Kossmann, Maarten G. 2000. Esquisse grammaticale du rifain oriental. Paris : Peeters. [eastern Tarifit]
  • Naït-Zerrad, Kamal. 2001. Grammaire moderne du kabyle, tajerrumt tatrart n teqbaylit. Paris: Editions Karthala. 2001. 225 pages. ISBN 9782845861725. € 20.
  • Sadiqi, Fatima. Grammaire du Berbère. [Based on Central Atlas Tamazight (dialect of Aït Hassan), but the author asserts (p.19) that all Berber languages share a common underlying morphosyntax, at least in general, differing primarily in phonology and lexicon.] In the 1997 PDF, at least, some diacritics are missing. We have not seen the 2004 edition.
  • Wikipedia: Tashelhiyt language Well structured sketch of phonology, inflection, and syntax and a short text (folktale, about 100 words), using IPA.


  • Abdel-Massih, Ernest T. 1971. A Computerized Lexicon of Tamazight: Middle Atlas Berber. Tamazight-English. Center for Near Eastern and North African Studies, Ann Arbor, MI. 393 pages plus a 60 page introduction on the grammar of the language. ISBN 0-932098-06-1. Over 10,000 entries. Four parts: Tamazight-English; English-Tamazight; by cultural categories; linguistic lexicon containing listings according to word origin and grammatical categories. $35.00. No tapes available. Print only, despite the title [University of Michigan, Middle Eastern & North African Studies]
  • Adnor, Abdellah. Nov. 2004. An Electronic Tashlhit-English Dictionary (Prototype). 312 pages, no indication of number of entries. Doctorat D'Etat Thesis. Jointly supervised by Pr. Abderrafi Benhallam (Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco) and Pr. Elisabeth O. Selkirk (University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA). May be available from the author.
  • Amazigh World Lookup tool: type word in English and click Translate for a list of all English entries containing the input string, with Amazigh glosses (Tashlhit?) (Latin script). E.g., "be" produces 19 results, from "Alphabet : Agwemmay (igwemmayen)" to "Well (being) : Abughlu (ibughluten)".
  • Centre de l'Aménagement Linguistique. 2005. Rabat: IRCAM. Vocabulaire 1 - Français-Amazighe. French-Amazigh vocabulary, 3 dialects of Morocco. IRCAM Tifinagh. 119 pages, 850 entries. Electronic version available.
  • Dallet, Jean-Marie. 1982. Dictionnaire kabyle-français: parler des At Mangellat, Algérie. Peeters. ISBN 2852971437, ISBN 9782852971431. 1052 pages. €43.
  • Destaing, E. 1920. Vocabulaire Francais-Berberere. Tachelhit-French. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. 300 pages + 5 page introduction. Print only.
  • Online lookup, Kabyle <-> French.
  • Dray, Maurice. 1999. Dictionnaire Français-Berbère: Dialecte des Ntifa. French-Tamazight. Paris: L'Harmattan. 510 pages. Print only.
  • McClelland, Clive W. III. 2004. A Tarifit Berber-English Dictionary: Documenting an Endangered Language. 5000+ entries. IPA and Tifinagh. Includes intro to phonology, and grammatical sketch with extensive comments on discourse structure. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press. 380pp. ISBN 0-7734-6345-3, ISBN 978-0-7734-6345-5. USA $119.95, UK £74.95. [Site accessed 2009-05-12]
  • Mouvement pour l'autonomie de la Kabylie. Dictionnaire. Online word list, French -> Kabyle. ASCII.
  • Saad-Buzefran, Samiya. AMAWAL N TSENSELKIMT (Lexique d'informatique). French - English - Tamazight. A list of French I.T. terms with English and Berber (Latin script) equivalents, with notes. Not in Unicode: e.g., lowercase T with dot underneath 'ṭ' appears as lowercase I with circumflex 'î' when pasted from the PDF.
  • Serhoual, Mohamed. 2002. Dictionnaire tarifit-français. Tarifit - French. Tétouan : Université Malek Essaidi. Print only (part II of a thesis).
  • Shafiq, Muhammad. 1993-2000. Al Mu'jam al 'Arabi-al Amazighi (المعجم العربي الأمازيغي). Arabic-Berber. No topolectal indications: representative of all Amazigh dialects. Print only, 3 vols: 734, 427, 512pp. IRCAM.
  • Taïfi, Miloud. 1992 [1991?] . Dictionnaire tamazight-français (Parlers du Maroc central). Tamazight - French. Latin script. Paris : L'Harmattan-Awal. Print only. 879 pages ( says 136!). ISBN 2-906659-000. OCLC number: 27976420. 60,85 € / 399 FF. (Version publiée de la thèse soutenue en 1988 à l’Université de Paris-III [Chaker 2003, biblio] )
  • Tamazight/French Dictionary. Tarifit, dialect of Taza, Morocco.
  • Tifawin. Vocabulary. Lookup claiming 3621 entries. Tifinagh; Shockwave image, not copyable text. (On Tifawin children's portal.)

Topical word lists



  • El Moujahid, E. 1981. La classe du nom dans un parler de la langue tamazight: le tachelhiyt d'Ighrem (Souss-Maroc). Thèse pour le Doctorat de Troisième Cycle. Université René Descartes, Paris V, Sorbonne. Cited by Sadiqi 1997 (p112).
  • Kossmann, Maarten G. 1999. Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère. Grammatische Analysen afrikaniscker Sprachen 12, ser. eds. Wilhelm J. G. Möhlig, and Bernd Heine. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
  • Kossmann, M.G., & Stroomer, H.J. 1997. Berber Phonology. In Phonologies of Asia and Africa, Alan S. Kaye (ed.), pp. 461-475. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns. PDF. [The PDF, while generally legible, misses parts of many letters and often completely loses diacritics.]
  • Ouhalla, Jamal. The link between word structure and clause structure: Grammaticalisation in Berber (abstract only). Queen Mary-London University. "This paper includes an attempt to reduce grammaticalisation, morphological reduction and restructuring at the phrase level to restructuring at the word level."
  • Stroomer, Harry. 1994. Morphological Segmentation in Tachelhiyt Berber (Morocco). (GIF of article.) Études et Documents Berbère 11. Pp. 91-96.

Linguistic portals and bibliographies

  • Dmoz Open Directory lists some linguistic resources
  • IRCAM: Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe, Royaume du Maroc. The Moroccan Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture. Publications, book lists, educational sites, and more.
  • Jucovy, Kyra and Alderete, John]. Swarthmore College. June 2001 (updated August 2006). A Bibliography of Berber Language Materials. "This bibliography is intended as a resource for research on Berber languages. The references below are primarily devoted to linguistic research on Berber languages, but the bibliography may be of use to those interested in Berber literature, poetry, and music." 76 pp.
  • Dictionnaire Berbère. This page has links to
    • online lookup tools, French <-> Kabyle
    • scans of dictionaries (1844-1907) of a number of Berber languages with French and sometimes Arabic.
    • scans of grammars, mostly in French and old (1877-1914), but also Mouloud Mammeri's grammar of Kabyle in Kabyle (Latin script). Generally not copyable as text.
  • Sellami, Louisa. 1992. Bibliographical References on Amazigh Culture. Library holdings from many sources.
  • A project on Libyan Berber with several publications

Encoding and Fonts

Fonts for Berber is a very large list maintained by Luc Devroye at McGill University; however, it does not regularly indicate encoding. See also below, Lists of Unicode fonts.


The Unicode range for Tifinagh is 23D0-2D6F.


Lists of Unicode fonts

  • Alan Wood’s Unicode Resources: Unicode fonts for Windows computers: Tifinagh Fonts
  • Wazu Japan's Gallery of Unicode Tifinagh fonts

We have found the following fonts to support Unicode Tifinagh. This list does not claim to be exclusive.

Test pages


The Afus fonts Afus deg Wfus 1 and Afus deg Wfus 2, created by Afus deg Wfus (email) and downloadable from and, map the Tifinagh character set into one byte, with an encoding that maps most characters onto Latin equivalent codepoints.

The documents at Les Aurès' Langue & traditions chaouies intermix Amazigh and French without applying font code, so that the Tifinagh characters appear as the glyphs at the corresponding Latin-1 code point. E.g.:

Nom : tasel$a / Taselgha.

where tasel$a represents Image:Afus.gif .

Data Sources

Monolingual Text


Éditions Amazigh
Adresse: 5, rue Dakar, Appt. 14, Rabat/Maroc
Courrier: B.P. n° 477, Rabat-centre/Maroc
Tél: et
  • Tawiza. Web magazine. Berber (Tarifit, some Tamazight; in Tifinagh and Latin script), French, and Arabic



Parallel Text

  • Langue & traditions chaouies has some French parallel text, but see note on encoding (Afus fonts).
  • Azawan: Seems to be short biographies of musicians. Tamazight (Latin script), English, and French versions. Contains excerpts of lyrics in different Berber dialects in Morocco and abroad. Tachelhit dialect of Morocco used in the "Tamazight version"
  • 50 years of human development in Morocco (See warning): Offers the translation in pdf format of the Synthesis of General Report in Amazighe (49 pages), Arabic (43), English (46), French (46) and Spanish (47). The Amazigh translation is by IRCAM, the Moroccan Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture; tends to the standard Amazigh of Morocco and contains many neologisms due to the content of the text. -- WARNING: "This web site at has been reported as an attack site" (Google Safe Browsing) [Accessed 2009-05-12]
  • Yuba Music: A biography and discography of the musician Yuba, who "sings exclusively in the Amazigh language (tashlhit)". The discography section has links to his song lyrics. Tamazight (Latin script), English, French, and Dutch versions. Tachelhit dialect of Morocco used in the "Tamazight version".


  • Amazigh TV. In Utrecht; two half-hour broadcasts a week. Site is in Dutch and Berber (Latin script). Videos in Berber and in Dutch, some in both; some Dutch captioning. Archive online.

See also Portals.

IPR notes


Other NLP Resources

Common words

This is a list of high frequency, not too short, words found in Berber texts; most are Tachelhit. It may be useful in searching for Latin-script texts on the Web.

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