Nafusi language

Native to Libya
Native speakers
140,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 jbn
Glottolog nafu1238[2]

Nafusi (also spelt Nefusi; Berber: Maziɣ) is a Berber language spoken in the Nafusa Mountains (Drar n infusen), a large area in northwestern Libya. Its primary speakers are the Ibadite communities around Jadu, Nalut (Lalut) and Yafran.

The dialect of Yefren in the east differs somewhat from that of Nalut and Jadu in the west.[3] A number of Old Nafusi phrases appear in Ibadite manuscripts as early as the 12th century.[4]

The Ethnologue entry includes nearby Zuara Berber, Matmata Berber and Djerbi under the rubric "Nafusi", which corresponds to neither local nor to academic usage of the term.

The dialect of Jadu is described in some detail in Beguinot (1931).[5] Motylinski (1898) describes the dialect of Jadu and Nalut as spoken by a student from Yefren.[6]

Nafusi shares several innovations with the Zenati languages, but unlike these other Berber varieties it maintains prefix vowels before open syllables. For example, ufəs "hand" < *afus, rather than Zenati fus. It appears especially closely related to Sokni and Siwi to its east.[7]


  1. E. K. Brown, R. E. Asher & J. M. Y. Simpson, Encyclopedia of language & linguistics, Volume 1, p.155 (Elsevier, 2006, ISBN 9780080442990)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nafusi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Beguinot 1931:VIII
  4. Tadeusz Lewicki, "De quelques textes inédits en vieux berbère provenant d'une chronique ibāḍite anonyme" and André Basset, "Note additionnelle", Revue des études islamiques VIII, 1934, pp. 277, 298
  5. Francesco Beguinot, Il berbero nefûsi di Fassâṭo: grammatica, testi raccolti dalla viva voce, vocabolarietti. Roma: Istituto per l'Oriente 1931
  6. p. 1, A. de Calassanti-Motylinski, Le Djebel Nefousa: transcription, traduction française et notes, avec une étude grammaticale, Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1898.
  7. Maarten Kossmann, 1999, Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère, Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, pp. 29-33

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