Opinions on Berber languages

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This article is about the Amazigh language and its dialects as a whole. For other uses of the word "Tamazight", see Central Morocco Tamazight.

Berber or the Amazigh languages or dialects (Berber name: Tamaziɣt, Tamazight, ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [tæmæˈzɪɣt], [θæmæˈzɪɣθ]) are a family of similar and closely related languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa. They are spoken by large populations in Algeria and Morocco, and by smaller populations in Libya, Tunisia, northern Mali, western and northern Niger, northern Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and in the Siwa Oasis of Egypt. Large Berber-speaking migrant communities have been living in Western Europe since the 1950s. In 2001, Berber became a constitutional national language of Algeria, and in 2011 Berber became a constitutionally official language of Morocco, after years of persecution.

Berber constitutes a branch of the Afroasiatic language family, and has been attested since ancient times. The number of ethnic Berbers is much higher than the number of Berber speakers. The bulk of the populations of the Maghreb countries are considered to have Berber ancestors. In Algeria, for example, a majority of the population consists of Arabized Berbers.

There is a movement among speakers of the closely related varieties of Northern Berber to unite them under a standard language. The name Tamazight, originally the self-name in the Atlas and the Rif regions, is being increasingly used for this Standardized Berber, and even for Berber as a whole, including Tuareg-Berber.

Around 90 percent of the Berber-speaking population speak one of six major varieties of Berber, each with at least two million speakers. They are, in the order of demographic weight: Tashelhit (Tacelḥit), Kabyle (Taqbaylit), Atlas Tamazight (Tamaziɣt), Riffian (Tamaziɣt/Tarifit), Shawi (Tacawit) and Tuareg (Tamahaq/Tamaceq). Additionally, the extinct Guanche language spoken on the Canary Islands by the Guanches as well as the languages of the ancient C-Group Culture in present-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan are believed to have belonged to the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.

The Berber languages and dialects have had a written tradition, on and off, for over 2,200 years, although the tradition has been frequently disrupted by invasions. They were first written in the Tifinagh alphabet, still used by the Tuareg. The oldest dated inscription is from about 200 BCE. Later, between about 1000 CE and 1500 CE, they were written in the Arabic script, and since the 20th century in the Berber Latin alphabet, especially among the Kabyle and Riffian communities of Morocco and Algeria. The Berber Latin alphabet was also used by most European and Berber linguists during the 19th and 20th centuries.

A modernized form of the Tifinagh alphabet was made official in Morocco in 2003. Algerians mostly use the Berber Latin alphabet. Mali and Niger recognize a Tuareg Berber Latin alphabet customized to the Tuareg phonological system. However, traditional Tifinagh is still used in those countries. Both Tifinagh and Berber-Latin alphabets are being increasingly used in Morocco and parts of Algeria, while the Arabic script has been abandoned by Berber writers.


In the image below, you can see a graph with the evolution of the times that people look for Berber languages. And below it, you can see how many pieces of news have been created about Berber languages in the last years.
Thanks to this graph, we can see the interest Berber languages has and the evolution of its popularity.

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