Berbers (“Amazigh” or “free men”) — not just nomads

Liberal Arts Blog: Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Culture, and Religion Day

Apuleius, the author of The Golden Ass, the only surviving novel from Ancient Rome, was, in fact, a Berber. So was St. Augustine, one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time. So too, Ibn Battuta (1304–1368), the Marco Polo of Islam. The Berber language (“Amazigh”) is classified as “Afro-Asiatic,” a phylum that includes Semitic. The written tradition has used several different scripts. The most common today are the Latin Berber alphabet, Arabic, and Tifinagh. Recently, the Berber language has gained official recognition in Morocco and Algeria. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

HOW MANY BERBERS TODAY? WHERE DO THEY LIVE?

1, Morocco (11 MM), Algeria (11 MM), Libya (4 MM)

2. France (2 MM), Mali (1.6 MM), Niger (.9 MM)

3. Egypt: estimates range from as low as 45,000 to 1.8 million.

NB: of the total of perhaps 30 MM Berber speakers, less than 10% are nomads.

FOUR PRINCIPAL DIALECTS

1. Shilha (6 MM speakers in southwestern Morocco).

2. Kabyle (5 to 7 MM concentrated in the coastal mountains of northern Algeria)

3. Central Atlas Tamazight (5 MM in central Morocco)

4. Tuareg (3 MM pastoralists in the Sahara — mostly Mali and Niger)

THE BATTLE AGAINST ARABIZATION IN CONTEXT

1. The Arab conquest of the 7th century followed waves of Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, and Byzantine invasion.

2. In 1963, in post-independence Algeria a policy of Arabization intensified. In Morocco, use of Berber script was grounds for imprisonment. Berber protests erupted in Algeria in 1980 (“The Berber Spring”) and in 2001 and 2002 (“The Black Spring”).

3. Berber gained official constitutional status alongside Arabic in Morocco in 2011 and in Algeria in 2016.

Berbers

Berber languages

Afroasiatic languages

Tuareg people

Tifinagh

Black Spring (Algeria)

Berber Spring

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