Tuareg (English: //), also known as Tamasheq (English: //), Tamajaq or Tamahaq (Tifinagh: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵌⴰⵆ), is a language or family of very closely related Berber languages and dialects. It is spoken by the Tuareg Berbers in large parts of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso, with a few speakers, the Kinnin, in Chad.
Tuareg dialects belong to the South Berber group and are commonly regarded as a single language (as for instance by Karl-G. Prasse).They are distinguished mainly by a few sound shifts (notably affecting the pronunciation of original z and h). The Tuareg varieties are unusually conservative in some respects; they retain two short vowels where Northern-Berber languages have one or none, and have a much lower proportion of Arabic loanwords than most Berber languages.
The Tuareg languages are traditionally written in the indigenous Tifinagh alphabet. However, the Arabic script is commonly used in some areas (and has been since medieval times), while the Latin script is official in Mali and Niger. In Morocco, of the three official languages (Arabic, French and Berber), Central Atlas Tamazight is the second Berber language. Some scholars claim that Tifinagh-Tamazight is "one of the oldest scripts in the world," being close both linguistically and in alphabet to Old Phoenician; that the Phoenician alphabet was progenitor of the Greek, and thereby Western alphabets.
- Tamasheq – language of the Kel Adrar (also known as Adrar des Ifoghas), spoken in Mali by approximately 500,000 people.
- Air Tamajaq – language of the Kel Ayer (sometimes spelled Aïr), spoken in Niger by approximately 250,000 people.
- Tawellemet – language of the Iwellemmeden, spoken in Mali and Niger by approximately 800,000 people. The term Iwellemmeden (the name of the people) is sometimes used to denote the language.
- Tamashaq language of Kal Asakan.
Blench (ms, 2006) lists the following as separate languages, with dialects in parentheses:
- Tawellemet (Abalagh/East, West)
- Tayiṛt (Ingal, Gofat)
- Tamesgrest (Azerori)
The Tuareg languages may be written using the ancient Tifinagh (Libyco-Berber) script, the Latin script or the Arabic script. The Malian national literacy program DNAFLA has established a standard for the Latin alphabet, which is used with modifications in Prasse's Lexique and the government literacy program in Burkina, while in Niger a different system was used. There is also some variation in Tifinagh and in the Arabic script.
Early uses of the Tifinagh script have been found on rock art and in various sepulchres. Among these are the 1,500 year old monumental tomb of the Tuareg matriarch Tin Hinan, where vestiges of a Tifinagh inscription have been found on one of its walls.
Tifinagh usage is now restricted mainly to writing magical formulae, writing on palms when silence is required, and in letter-writing. The Arabic script is mostly in use by tribes more involved in Islamic learning, and little is known about its conventions.
The DNAFLA system is a somewhat morphophonemic orthography, not indicating initial vowel shortening, always writing the directional particle as < dd⟩, and not indicating all assimilations (e.g. ⟨Tămašăɣt⟩ for [tămašăq]).
In Burkina Faso the emphatics are denoted by "hooked" letters, as in Fula, e.g. ⟨ɗ ƭ⟩.
The vowel system includes 5 long vowels, /a, e, i, o, u/, "emphatic" versions of /e, o/, and two short vowels, /ə, ă/. Karl Prasse argued that /e/ goes back to Proto-Berber, while /o/ is derived from /u/. Comparative evidence shows that /ə/ derives from a merger of Proto-Berber */ĭ/ and */ŭ/.
Sudlow classes the "semivowels" /w, j/ with the vowels, and notes the following possible diphthongs: /əw/ (> [u]), /ăw/, /aw/, /ew/, /iw/, /ow/, /uw/, /əj/ (> [i]), /ăj/, /aj/, /ej/, /ij/, /oj/, /uj/.
Before emphatics, vowels lower, turning /ə/ into [ă], /e, i/ into "emphatic" [e], and /u, o/ into "emphatic" [o], with some dialectal variation (with the realizations of /i, u/ "less open" than /e, o/).
|Stop||b||t d||tˤ dˤ||ɟ||k ɡ||q||(ʔ)|
|Fricative||f||s z||(sˤ) zˤ||ʃ ʒ||x ɣ||(ħ ʕ)||h|
The consonant inventory largely resembles Arabic: differentiated voicing; uvulars, pharyngeals (traditionally referred to as emphatics) /tˤ/, /lˤ/, /sˤ/, /dˤ/, /zˤ/; requiring the pharynx muscles to contract and influencing the pronunciation of the following vowel (although /lˤ, sˤ/ only occur in Arabic loans and /ɫ/ only in the name of Allah).
The glottal stop is non-phonemic. It occurs at the beginning of vowel-initial words to fill the place of the initial consonant in the syllable structure (see below), although if the words is preceded by a word ending in a consonant, it makes a liaison instead. Phrase-final /a/ is also followed by a phonetic glottal stop.
Gemination is contrastive. Normally /ɣɣ/ becomes [qː], /ww/ becomes [ɡː], and /dˤdˤ/ becomes [tˤː]. /q/ and /tˤ/ are predominantly geminate. In addition, in Tadraq /ɡ/ is usually geminate, but in Tudalt singleton /ɡ/ may occur.
Cluster reduction turns word/morpheme-final /-ɣt, -ɣk/ into [-qː] and /-kt, -ɟt, -ɡt/ into [-kː] (e.g. /tămaʃăɣt/ > [tămaʃăq] 'Tamasheq').
Syllable structure is CV(C)(C), including glottal stops (see above).
Different dialects have slightly different consonant inventories. Some of these differences can be diachronically accounted for. For example, Proto-Berber *h is mostly lost in Ayer Tuareg, while it is maintained in almost every position in Mali Tuareg. The Iwellemmeden and Ahaggar Tuareg dialects are midway between these positions. The Proto-Berber consonant *z comes out differently in different dialects, a development that is to some degree reflected in the dialect names. It is realized as h in Tamahaq (Tahaggart), as š in Tamasheq and as simple z in the Tamajaq dialects Tawallammat and Tayart. In the latter two, *z is realised as ž before palatal vowels, explaining the form Tamajaq. In Tawallammat and especially Tayart, this kind of palatalization actually does not confine itself to z. In these dialects, dentals in general are palatalized before /i/ and /j/. For example, tidət is pronounced [tidʲət] in Tayart.
Other differences can easily be traced back to borrowing. For example, the Arabic pharyngeals ħ and ʻ have been borrowed along with Arabic loanwords by dialects specialized in Islamic (Maraboutic) learning. Other dialects substitute ħ and ʻ respectively with x and ɣ.
The basic word order in Tuareg is verb–subject–object. Verbs can be grouped into 19 morphological classes; some of these classes can be defined semantically. Verbs carry information on the subject of the sentence in the form of pronominal marking. No simple adjectives exist in the Tuareg languages; adjectival concepts are expressed using a relative verb form traditionally called 'participle'. The Tuareg languages have very heavily influenced Northern Songhay languages such as Sawaq, whose speakers are culturally Tuareg but speak Songhay; this influence includes points of phonology and sometimes grammar as well as extensive loanwords.
Tamasheq prefers VSO order; however it contains topic–comment structure (like in American Sign Language, Modern Hebrew, Japanese and Russian), allowing the emphasized concept to be placed first, be it the subject or object, the latter giving an effect somewhat like the English passive. Sudlow uses the following examples, all expressing the concept “Men don’t cook porridge” (e denotes Sudlow’s schwa):
|meddăn wăr sekediwăn ăsink||SVO|
|wăr sekediwăn meddăn ăsink||VSO|
|ăsinkwăr ti-sekediwăn meddăn||‘Porridge, men don’t cook it.’|
|wădde meddăn a isakădawăn ăsink||‘It isn’t men who cook porridge.’|
|meddăn a wăren isekediw ăsink||‘Men are not those who cook porridge.’|
Again like Japanese, the “pronoun/particle ‘a’ is used with a following relative clause to bring a noun in a phrase to the beginning for emphasis,” a structure which can be used to emphasize even objects of prepositions. Sudlow’s example (s denotes voiceless palato-alveolar fricative):
|essensăɣ enăle||‘I bought millet.’|
|enăle a essensăɣ||‘It was millet that I bought.’|
As a root-and-pattern, or templatic language, triliteral roots (three-consonant bases) are the most common in Tamasheq. Niels and Regula Christiansen use the root k-t-b (to write) to demonstrate past completed aspect conjugation:
The verbal correspondence with the use of aspect; Tamasheq uses four, as delineated by Sudlow:
- Perfective: complete actions
- Stative: "lasting states as the ongoing results of a completed action."
- Imperfective: future or possible actions, "often used following a verb expressing emotion, decision or thought," it can be marked with "'ad'" (shortened to "'a-'" with prepositions).
- Cursive: ongoing actions, often habitual ones.
|Verb||Perfective/simple perfect||Stative/intensive perfect||Imperfective/simple perfect||Cursive/intensive imperfect|
|'He went out'||'He has gone out'|
|'He stood up'||'He stood up (and so he is standing up)'|
|ekkeɣ hebu||ekkêɣ hebu|
|'I went to market'||'I am going to market'|
|l-m-d||ad elmedăɣ Tămasăq||lammădăɣ Tămasăq|
|'I will learn Tamasheq'||'I am learning Tamasheq'|
|'He will arrive (here) tomorrow'|
|iwan tattănăt alemmoZ|
|'Cows eat straw'|
|ăru tasăɣalăɣ siha|
|'I used to work over there'|
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