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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. The ISO 639 identifier for the Berber languages is ber; Ethnologue has no single identifier for the group.

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.


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Amazigh is multi-dialectal with no de facto standard form, although the Moroccan Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe (IRCAM) 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 in Arabic 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: Afro-Asiatic, Berber, Northern, Zenati, Riff

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: 3,126,000.
  • Spoken in: Grande Kabylie Mt. range, western Kabylia. Lesser Kabyle in Aokas town area. Also spoken in Belgium, France.
  • Alternate names: Amazigh, Tamazight
  • Dialects: Greater Kabyle, Lesser Kabyle (Tasahlit). Lesser Kabyle (Tasahlit) may be a separate language.
  • 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. See also Encodings and Fonts.


Tifinagh, the Berber alphabet, is also 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.


The Unicode pages for Arabic script are

  • IRCAM has developed a Latin-alphabet standard, with some diacritics (caron and underdot) and additional letters (capital and small Latin letters open e and gamma): (Č č Ḍ ḍ Ǧ ǧ Ḥ ḥ Ɛ ɛ Ṛ ṛ Ɣ ɣ Ṣ ṣ Ṭ ṭ Ẓ ẓ). See Wikipedia: Berber Latin Alphabet (CC-BY-SA),(GFDL). It is used in a number of publications beyond IRCAM's own.
  • 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. An example from The Amazigh Voice / Taγect Tamaziγt (Vol.8 No.1, p.13); the lowercase gamma (γ) appears in the original as "p", U+0070:
    Γas akka, Ṛum tuzen γer Tmazγa kra n Iḥerriyen imeqranen, wid yuγ lḥal zik d iqerra n kra n temsal.
  • There are also other Latin orthographies. These are here called Latin script, or ASCII if without diacritics and non-Latin letters.

Linguistic resources


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  • Abdel-Massih, Ernest T. 1968. Tamazight verb structure; a generative approach. Bloomington, Indiana University. ISBN 0877501602 [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. ISBN 0-932098-05-3. 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.
  • 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] PDF
  • 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 € from Bibliomonde. London: Oxford Univ. Press for Int'l African Institute.
  • Hamimi, Gaya. 1997. Grammaire et conjugaison amaziγ. Paris : Harmattan. ISBN 9782738454065. 29.00 €. [Mostly Kabyle; small French-Kabyle-Tachelhit vocabulary]
  • Kossmann, Maarten G. 2000. Esquisse grammaticale du rifain oriental. Paris : Peeters. ISBN: 978-90-429-0892-5 37 €. [eastern Tarifit]
  • Naït-Zerrad, Kamal. 2001. Grammaire moderne du kabyle, tajerrumt tatrart n teqbaylit. Paris: Editions Karthala. 2001. 225 pages. ISBN 9782845861725. Amazon.
  • 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. (CC-BY-SA),(GFDL)


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  • 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 [Communication from 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.
  • Agnaou, Fatima (ed.) 2011. Lexique scolaire. Amazigh-French-Arabic dictionary: Three PDFs (one for lookup in each language), plus a separate trilingual preface.
  • 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 Ait Mangellat, Algérie. Peeters. ISBN 2852971437, ISBN 9782852971431. 1052 pages. 43 €.
  • Destaing, E. 1920. Étude sur la tachelḥît du Soûs. / I, Vocabulaire français-berbère. Tachelhit-French. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale (E. Leroux). 300 pages + 5 page introduction. Print only. OCLC 12872052 (Information from Worldcat. Also listed as 1938; most listings, including 1920, are titled just Vocabulaire franc̜ais-berbère.)
  • Dray, Maurice. 1999. Dictionnaire Français-Berbère: Dialecte des Ntifa. French-Tamazight. Paris: L'Harmattan. 510 pages. ISBN 2-7384-7234-6. Print and PDF
  • Dray, Maurice. 2001. Dictionnaire Berbère-Français: Dialecte des Ntifa. Tamazight-French. Paris: L'Harmattan. 500 pages. ISBN 2-7475-0993-1. Print and PDF
  • Dictionnaire Berbère. See below under Linguistic portals and bibliographies.
  • 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 $139.95, UK £94.95. [Site accessed 2012-02-08]
  • Saad-Buzefran, Samiya. 1996. LEXIQUE D'INFORMATIQUE FRANÇAIS-ANGLAIS-BERBÈRE. French - English - Tamazight. Paris : L'Harmattan. 120 pages. 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. ISBN 2738446507, ISBN 978-2738446503.
  • 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. 1991. Dictionnaire tamazight-français (Parlers du Maroc central). Tamazight - French. Latin script. Paris : L'Harmattan-Awal. Print only. 879 pages ( ISBN 2-906659-000, ISBN 978-2906659001. OCLC number: 27976420. (Version publiée de la thèse soutenue en 1988 à l’Université de Paris-III
  • Tamazight/French Dictionary. Tarifit, dialect of Taza, Morocco. Latin script.

Topical word lists


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  • Dell, François, and Elmedlaoui, Mohamed. 2002. Syllables in Tashlhiyt Berber and in Moroccan Arabic. Kluwer. ISBN 1402010761.
    Abstract (much edited): intended to investigate the phonology of Tashlhiyt Berber and Moroccan Arabic. Generative phonology outlook. Analyzes and compares Tashlhiyt Berber and Moroccan Arabic syllable structure.
  • 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).
  • Hdouch, Youcef. 2008. Extraprosodicity and Syllable Structure in Berber: An Optimality-theoretic Analysis. Munich:Lincom Europa. LINCOM Studies in Afroasiatic Languages 20. 226pp. ISBN 9783895861383.
  • Hdouch, Youcef. 2010. The Stress System of Berber: An Optimality-theoretic Approach. Munich:Lincom Europa. LINCOM Studies in Afroasiatic Languages 29. 118pp. ISBN 9783929075656. applying the OT principles to account for stress assignment in AWTB [Ayt Wirra Tamazight Berber] prosodic words. {{si|Mamandel 100525}
  • 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. Leiden Univ. Repository -> PDF. [The PDF, while generally legible, is pale, missing parts of many letters and often completely losing diacritics.]
  • Ouhalla, Jamal. The link between word structure and clause structure: Grammaticalisation in Berber. 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). Études et Documents Berbère 11. Pp. 91-96. Abstract and ordering.

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. Site is in French, Tamazight, and Arabic.
  • 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 ... 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. (See talk page.)
  • 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. Site is almost entirely in Arabic but some pages have Berber in Latin script. A Google search of this site for pages with any of the words in Latin script listed below yielded 45-50 hits. The Google search expression is [Mamandel 120619] :
     immik OR unna OR sakku OR xf OR ammu OR yekka OR wawal OR ttinin OR ttasin OR izdin OR yufa OR yegga OR tisnt
  • UCLA Language Materials Project. Information, citations, and abstracts on authentic materials and teaching materials, the latter including grammars and dictionaries; does not provide access to the materials themselves.

Encodings and Fonts

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



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

Unicode test pages


The Afus fonts Afus deg Wfus 1 and Afus deg Wfus 2 map the Tifinagh character set into one byte. This encoding maps most characters onto Latin equivalent codepoints, so Afus-encoded text displayed in a Unicode or ASCII font can be viewed as a transliteration.

Some sites (e.g., Les Aurès' Prénoms imazighen) 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.


Unicode fonts

Lists of Unicode fonts

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

Afus fonts

[Mamandel 120530] The Afus fonts Afus deg Wfus 1 and Afus deg Wfus 2, created by Afus deg Wfus (email), map the Tifinagh character set into one byte, with an encoding that maps most characters onto Latin equivalent codepoints. See note on encoding. They are downloadable from, at least,

Data Sources

Monolingual Text


Éditions Amazigh
Adresse: 5, rue Dakar, Appt. 14, Rabat/Maroc
Courrier: B.P. n° 477, Rabat-centre/Maroc
Tél: et



  • Forum Actualités. A few posts in Tamazigh, but most are French or Arabic (or at least Arabic script).
  • Mondeberbere: Tachelhit, Latin script. Site has links to 10 or 11 short stories, proverbs, riddles.
  • Wikimazigh. Amazigh Wikipedia-style encyclopedia, but not on Wikimedia site. In French. Login required to edit. 927 articles. Articles in the category Linguistique often contain definitions of some Amazigh words, or descriptions of some research on the language group. [Mamandel 120618]
    • Was dormant for at least a couple of years. 929 articles, two more than in May 2010.

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: 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.
  • 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.


Tools and Other NLP Resources

  • Tifinagh "keyboard": Table of Tifinagh letters and Latin script equivalents. Click on a Tifinagh letter or type the Latin equivalent (with a few modifications described below the table) to enter Unicode-compliant Tifinagh in the composition pane, which can then be copied and pasted. [2012-02-09]

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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