Berber

Berber Language

Arabic and Berber

At the end of the 7th century, when the first Arabs came to Morocco during the Islamic conquests, Berber was the dominant language in Northern Africa with the exception of some Latinized towns on the Mediterranean coast, whose inhabitants were Romance speakers. After the Islamic conquests, the Arabization of the population seems to have been superficial and limited to the major towns. It was only after the arrival of the Arab tribes of the Banū Hilāl and Banū Sulaym in the 12th century that Arabization progressed in the Maghreb (Colin 1986:1193–1194). More than anything else, the language policies followed by the Maghreb countries in the last decades of the 20th century contributed to a strong Arab advance at the expense of Berber.
 
In view of the historical evolution and the fact that Berber is in constant contact with Arabic (in both its variants, Classical Arabic and dialects), it is hardly surprising that, after more than 14 centuries, all Berber dialects present a high percentage of Arabic loanwords nowadays. According to Chaker (1995:118) these percentages are 38 percent for Kabyli and 25 percent for Tashelhit. Touareg, being isolated and far from traditional cultural Arabic centers, has no more than 5 percent Arabic loanwords. Kossmann (1997:7) estimates that there are 20 percent loanwords from Arabic in the Berber dialect of Figuig.
 
Arabic loanwords occur in almost every field, but they are particularly important in religion and trade, as well as in economic and intellectual activities (Chaker 1995:118). In the last decades of the 20th century, as a consequence of Arabization policies, which tended to diminish the influence of French, many loanwords were introduced which were associated with administration and politics.
 
All examples quoted in this entry are taken from the following works: Laoust (1920), Aspinion (1953), Abdel-Massih (1971), Dallet (1985), Leguil (1985), Amard (1997), Durand (1998), and Kossmann (1997, 2000). Arabic lexical items are always quoted in their Maghrebi dialectal forms except for those specifically noted as a loan from Classical Arabic. Arabic verbs are always quoted in the 3rd person masc. sg. of the perfect and Berber verbs in the 2nd person masc. sg. of the imperative.
 
Phonology
 
Arabic phonemes such as /ḥ/, /ʿ/, /h/ have been incorporated in the Berber inventory, as well as the pharyngealized consonants /ṣ/, /ṭ/, /ḍ/ (Chaker 1995:1189, 1989:838; such phonemes may also appear in genuine Berber words: e.g. Riffian aʿəddis ‘stomach’); depending on the dialect, they may undergo further change:
 
i. /ḥ/: Arabic fəllāḥ > afəllaḥ ‘peasant’ (Tamazight, Tashelhit), Arabic saḥḥār > asəḥḥar ‘magician’, Arabic l-ḥāžž > rḥažž ‘pilgrim’ (Riffian), Arabic ṣ-ṣaḥḥa > ṣṣaḥḥt ‘health’, Arabic l-bḥar > lbḥar ‘sea’ (Tamazight). 
 
ii. /h/: this phoneme rarely occurs and is frequently elided: Arabic l-fqīh > lfqih ‘learned, erudite’ (Tashelhit), Arabic məžhūl > aməžhul ‘irreligious’ (Kabyli), Arabic l-bhīma > ləbhimt ‘beast of burden’ (Tamazight), Arabic l-bhāyəm > rbāym ‘herd of goats’ (Riffian), Classical Arabic šahāda > šada ‘profession of Muslim faith’ (Kabyli). 
 
iii. /ʿ/: Arabic ʿass > ʿass ‘to watch’, Arabic ʿāšūra > taʿšurt ‘feast of Ashoura’ (Tashelhit), Arabic s-sāʿa > tassaʿt ‘then’ (Tashelhit). 
 
iv. /ṣ/: occurs in loanwords like Arabic mṣalla > mṣalla ‘place for prayer’ (Tashelhit), Arabic ṣ-ṣadaqa > ṣṣadaqat ‘alms’ (Tashelhit), Classical Arabic al-qiṣṣa > lqiṣt ‘story’ (Tashelhit). But /ṣ/ is often voiced to /ẓ/: Arabic ṣām > ẓum (Riffian, Tamazight, Tashelhit) and uẓum (Kabyli) ‘to fast’, Arabic ṣalla > ẓẓall (Tamazight, Tashelhit) and ẓajj (Riffian) ‘to pray’, Arabic l-ḥəmməš > lḥiməẓ (Riffian) and ḥumməẓ (Tamazight) ‘chick peas’. 
 
v. /ṭ/: a single /ṭ/ is voiced to /ḍ/: Arabic ṭbīb > aḍbib, iḍbibən ‘doctor, doctors’, Arabic xayyāṭ > axəyyaḍ ‘tailor’, Arabic ṭāləb > ḍḍalb ‘religious teacher’, Arabic ṭāžīn > ḍḍažin ‘clay pot in which stew is cooked’, Arabic ṭʿām > ḍḍʿam ‘couscous’, Arabic fṭar > fḍər ‘to take breakfast, to lunch’, Arabic l-qəfṭān > lqəfḍan ‘kaftan’, Arabic qṭaʿ > qḍəʿ ‘to cross’, Arabic šrəṭ > šṛəḍ ‘to impose a condition’, Arabic l-ḥīṭ > lḥiḍ ‘wall’, Arabic ṭabbāx > aḍəbbax ‘cook’ (Tashelhit). But geminated /ṭ/ is never voiced: Arabic ʿaṭṭār > aʿaṭṭar ‘wandering salesman’, Arabic ḥaṭṭāb > aḥəṭṭab ‘woodcutter’ (Tashelhit). 
 
vi. /ḍ/: Arabic ḍədd > ḍəṭṭ ‘against’ (Figuig), Arabic r-rawḍāt > rrawḍat ‘cemeteries’, Arabic l-xuḍra > lxwḍərt ‘legume’ (Tashelhit) and lxwəḍṛa (Kabyli), Arabic ḍāq > ḍaq ‘to be depressed’ (Figuig), Arabic mḍiyyəq > mḍəyyəq ‘narrow’ (Riffian), Arabic ḍawwa > ḍawwa ‘to illuminate’ (Figuig). 
 
vii. /q/: reflexes of Classical Arabic *q are /q/ and /g/. Examples of /q/ are very common: Arabic l-wərq >lwərq ‘leaves’ (Tashelhit, Kabyli, Shawiya, Nefusi, Siwa), Arabic qšūr > aqšur ‘bark’ (Tashelhit, Kabyli, Shawiya), Arabic l-ʿaṛq > lʿaṛq ‘root’ (Tashelhit, Nefusa, Siwa), Arabic qdūḥ > aqduḥ ‘jug for water’ (Riffian), Arabic s-sūq > ssuq ‘market’ (Riffian, Tashelhit). Cases in which *q > /g/ are always loans from Hilalian (Bedouin) dialects (this reflex being one of the most characteristic features of these dialects; Heath 2002: 141–142): Arabic l-gāfla > lgafəlt ‘caravan’ (Figuig), Arabic l-guddām > l-gwddam ‘the front, ahead of’ (Tashelhit), Classical Arabic qaʿūd > agʿud ‘young camel’ (Figuig), Arabic l-gāyla > lgaylət ‘hottest part of a summer day’ (Figuig). 
 
viii. /j/: /ž/ and, in some cases in Morocco, /g/ normally correspond to the standard pronunciation of Classical Arabic /j/. Examples of /ž/: Classical Arabic jiḍr > žədra ‘trunk’ (Tashelhit, Kabyli, Shawiya), Classical Arabic jaḏaba > ždəb ‘to abandon oneself to ecstatic excitation’ (Tashelhit), Classical Arabic al-jawz > lžuž ‘walnuts’ (Tashelhit, Wargla, Kabyli, Shawiya), Classical Arabic jurf > ažarif ‘cliff’ (Tashelhit), Classical Arabic al-jār > aržal ‘neighbor’ (Tashelhit). In some cases, the phoneme /j/ > /g/, because in Maghrebi Arabic dialects /g/ appears as a dissimilatory deaffrication of /j/ in stems with sibilants (Heath 2002:136–137): Classical Arabic jazzār > Moroccan Arabic gəzzār > agəzzar ‘butcher’ (Tashelhit, Riffian), Classical Arabic masjid > ṯaməsgiḏa ‘mosque’ (Riffian), Classical Arabic jazīra > Moroccan Arabic gzīra > ṯagzirt ‘island’ (Riffian). 
 
ix. All Classical Arabic interdentals (/ṯ/, /ḏ/, /ḏ̣/) are replaced by the corresponding occlusives: jiḏr > žədra ‘trunk’ (Tashelhit, Kabyli, Shawiya), (aḏ-) ḏahab > ddhəb ‘gold’ (Kabyli), ḏāb/yḏūb > dub ‘to melt’, ṯalāṯīn > tlatin ‘thirty’ (Tamazight). In some Berber dialects, however, a restitution of the old Arabic interdentals took place, as a result of secondary affrication of occlusives. This is the case in Riffian: Classical Arabic ṯalāṯa ‘three’, ṯamāniya ‘eight’ > Maghrebi Arabic tlāta, tmənya > Riffian ṯlāṯa, ṯmənya (Kossman 2000:160; but tmənya in Tamazight, Durand 1998:112). 
 
x. Due to the phonological changes many Arabic loans, especially in Rif Berber, are hardly recognizable: Arabic qla > qra ‘to fry’, Arabic qləb > qrəb ‘to overthrow’, Arabic līla > jirṯ ‘night’, Arabic fəllāḥ > afjaḥ ‘peasant’, Arabic l-lūz > jəwz ‘almonds’ (not related to Arabic jawz ‘nuts’), Arabic ṣalla > ẓaj ‘to pray’, Arabic səlləm > səjəm (səddəm) ‘to greet’, Arabic l-xəll > rxəj ‘vinegar’, Arabic mməllaḥ > aməjaḥ ‘salted’, Arabic l-bṣəl > rəbṣər ‘onions’. In Tamazight, too, loanwords are sometimes difficult to recognize: Arabic salāma > slant ‘peace’, Arabic ḥizām > taḥzant ‘belt’ (but tiḥzamin in plural).
 
Morphology of Arabic nominal loans
 
Arabic loans have been adapted to the respective Berber nominal patterns:
 
i. masculine: Arabic fəllāḥ > afəllaḥ, pl. ifəllaḥən ‘peasant, farmer’, Arabic bərrāḥ > abərraḥ, pl. ibərraḥən ‘town crier’, Arabic ḥbīb > aḥbib, pl. iḥbibən ‘dear friend’ (Tamazight), Arabic ḥūli > aḥuli, pl. iḥuliyn ‘sheep, ram’, Arabic ḥəžžām > aḥəžžam, pl. iḥəžžamən ‘barber’, Arabic maḥḍār > aməḥḍar, pl. imḥəḍar ‘student, pupil’, Arabic musləm > amusləm, pl. imusəlmən ‘Muslim [masc.]’, Arabic nəššād > anəžžad, pl. inəžžadən ‘poet, singer’, Arabic səḥḥār > asḥḥar, pl. isəḥḥarən ‘magician’, Arabic xəbbāz > axəbbaz, pl. ixəbbazən ‘baker’ (Tashelhit), Arabic məndīl > aməndil, pl. iməndal ‘scarf’, Arabic ḥfīr > aḥfir, pl. iḥəfrawən ‘pit’ (Riffian), Arabic xəddam > axəddam, pl. ixəddamən ‘worker, laborer’, Arabic ḥəddād > aḥəddad, pl. iḥəddadən ‘blacksmith’, Arabic nəžžār > anəžžar, pl. inəžžarən ‘carpenter’, Arabic bənnāy > abənnay, pl. ibənnayən ‘bricklayer, mason’, Arabic xərrāz > axərraz, pl. ixərrazən ‘shoemaker’ (Tashelhit).
 
ii. feminine: Arabic qbīla > ṯaqbilt, pl. ṯiqəbbal ‘tribe’, Arabic mdīna > ṯamdint, pl. ṯiməddam ‘town’ (Riffian), Arabic ḥmāma > taḥəmmamt, pl. tiḥəmmamin ‘dove’, Arabic zlāfa > tazlaft, pl. tazlafin ‘large wooden or clay plate’, Arabic xābya > txabit, pl. tixabyin ‘big jug’, Arabic bḥīra > tabḥirt, pl. tibḥarin ‘garden’, Arabic msəlma > tansəlmt, pl. tinsəlmin ‘Muslim [fem.]’ (Tamazight), Arabic xayma > taxyamt, pl. tixyamin ‘tent’, Arabic qdīma > taddimt, pl. tiqdimin ‘old woman’, Arabic šāqūr > tašaqurt, pl. tišuqar ‘hatchet’, Arabic ḥrīra > taḥrirt ‘soup’ (Tashelhit).
 
In some words final -t was interpreted as the Berber feminine morpheme (Aspinion 1953:11): Arabic ḥānūt > taḥanut, pl. tiḥuna ‘store’ (Tashelhit), Arabic yāqūt > talyaqut, pl. tilyaqutin ‘sapphire’, Arabic z-zīt > zzit ‘oil’ (Tamazight, Tashelhit), Arabic l-mūt > lmut ‘death’ (Tashelhit), Arabic l-bīt > lbit ‘room’ (Tashelhit). In other cases, there is no obvious reason for the change of gender: Arabic xātəm > ṯxaṯəmt, talxtamt ‘ring’ (Riffian, Tamazight; xātəm is also feminine in some Moroccan dialects), Arabic məsžīd > tamzgida, timzgidawin ‘mosque’ (Tamazight).
 
iii. loanwords with Arabic article (with respective assimilations), partly with additional Berber feminine morpheme: Arabic l-xənša > talxənšt ‘sack, bag’ (Tashelhit), Arabic l-bərqūq > lbərquq ‘plum’, Arabic l-kammūn > lkkamun ‘cumin’ (Tamazight), Arabic l-xurṣa > talxurṣt ‘ring’ (Tashelhit), Arabic l-ḥāžž > rḥažž ‘pilgrim’, Arabic l-qanṭra(t) > rqəndarṯ ‘bridge’ (Riffian), Arabic l-kās > lkas ‘glass, cup’, Arabic ṣ-ṣīnīya > ṣṣinit ‘tray’, Arabic d-dālya > ddilit ‘vine’, Arabic d-dunya > ddunit ‘world’, Arabic l-qāləb d-s-sukkār > lqaleb n sekkwar ‘sugar loaf’, Classical Arabic al-ʾiḏāʿa > lidaʿa ‘radio station’, Arabic l-bhīma > ləbhimt ‘beast of burden’ (Tashelhit), Arabic ṣ-ṣaḥḥa > ṣṣaḥt ‘health’, Arabic l-ġāba > lġabt ‘forest’ (Tashelhit). Modern loanwords normally take the Arabic article: Classical Arabic al-muraššaḥ > lmuṛəššəḥ, lmuṛəššəḥin ‘deputy’, Classical Arabic al-jamāʿa al-qarawiyya > lžamaʿa lqaṛawyya ‘the village council’.
 
Some loanwords keep their original Arabic plurals (Aspinion 1953:59–60; Durand 1998: 97; Kossmann 2000:48): Arabic z-zənqa, pl. z-znāqi > zzənqəṯ, pl. zznaqi (Riffian), Arabic ṭ-ṭāžīn, pl. ṭ-ṭwāžən > ḍḍažin, pl. ḍḍwažən ‘clay pot in which stew is cooked’, Arabic l-wāldīn > lwaldin ‘parents’, Arabic l-bāb, pl. l-bībān > lbab, pl. lbiban ‘door’, Arabic l-bəṛma, pl. l-bəṛmāt > lbəṛma, pl. lbəṛmat ‘pot’, Arabic l-fənni, pl. l-fənniyīn > lfənni, pl. lfənniyin ‘technician’, Arabic l-bhīma, pl. l-bhāym > lbhimt, pl. lbaym ‘beast of burden’, Arabic l-lūn, pl. lə-lwān > llun, lalwan ‘color’, Arabic l-wuqt, pl. l-awqāt > luqt, lawqat ‘time’, Arabic s-sūq, pl. lə-swāq > ssuq, pl. laswaq ‘market’, Arabic lə-ḥwāyəž > lḥwayž ‘clothes, things’, Arabic l-xədma, pl. l-xədmāt > lxdəmt, pl. l-xədmāt, Arabic l-ʿīn, pl. lə-ʿyūn > lʿin, pl. lʿyun ‘spring’, Arabic lə-bḥər, pl. lə-bḥūr > lbḥər, pl. lbḥur ‘sea’, Arabic šāhəd, pl. šhūd > šahd, pl. šhud ‘witness’ (Tashelhit, Tamazight).
 
Not only isolated words were borrowed, but also whole syntagms such as genitive constructions: qəṭṭaʿ əṭ-ṭriq, pl. qəṭṭaʿin əṭ-ṭriq ‘highwayman’ (Figuig). The fact that many loanwords were borrowed with the article, however, sometimes led to deviant Arabic constructions like lʿid lmulud (i.e., with two articles in a genitive construction, a construction impossible in Arabic) instead of ʿīd l-mulūd ‘the Prophet's birthday’
 
Arabic bu ‘father of’ is quite productive and is combined with Arabic, French, and Berber nouns (Aspinion 1953:47; Durand 1998:110–111). Examples from Tashelhit: bu lbuṣṭa ‘postman’ (< Arabic l-buṣṭa < French poste), bu lḥəmmam ‘public bath attendant’ (< Arabic l-ḥəmmām ‘bath’), bu lqəhwa ‘coffee shop owner’ (< Arabic l-qəhwa ‘coffee shop’), bu tuġmas ‘dentist’ (< Tashelhit tuġmas ‘tooth’), bu tḥanut ‘shopkeeper’ (< Arabic ḥānūt ‘shop, store’), bu tiyni ‘tailor’, bu mḥand, bu mḥamməd ‘hedgehog’ (< Classical Arabic muḥammad ‘Muhammad’), bu təgra ‘turtle’.
 
Nouns referring to relatives were borrowed with the Arabic pronominal suffixes (Kossmann 2000:47): Arabic xāli > xali ‘my maternal uncle’, Arabic xālti > xalti ‘my maternal aunt’, Arabic ʿammi > ʿammi ‘my paternal uncle’ (Tamazight, Tashelhit), Arabic žəddi > žəddi ‘my grandfather’ (Tashelhit). In some dialects, these loanwords retain their original Arabic plurals (Kossmann 2000:48): ʿmumi ‘my paternal uncles’ (< Arabic ʿmūm), xwali ‘my maternal uncles’ (< Arabic xwāl).
 
Morphology of Arabic verbal loans
 
Verbal morphology is doubtless the part of the language least affected by Arabic influence. Verbs are always borrowed as lexical items, which do not affect morphology. Since the Berber verbal system contains verbal forms similar in appearance to those in Arabic (although not necessarily in meaning), their adaptation does not present any difficulty. The verbal pattern R1R2əR3 is represented both by genuinely Berber terms such as mġər ‘to grow’ (Figuig), ffəġ ‘to go out’ (Tashelhit), and by loans from Arabic such as fṛəḥ > frəḥ ‘to be happy’, ddən > ddən ‘to make the call to prayer’. The same phenomenon occurs with other patterns like R1aR2R3, R1āR3, or R1əR2R2əR3: sawl ‘to speak’ and Arabic šāwər > šawr ‘to consult with’, Arabic sāfər > safr ‘to travel’, šərrəs ‘to knot’ and Arabic kəmməl > kəmməl ‘to finish’, Arabic ṣḥa > ṣḥu ‘to be healthy’, Arabic ḏāb/yḏūb > dub ‘to melt’, Arabic səmma > səmma ‘to name’, Arabic ḏāq/yḏūq > duq ‘to taste’, Arabic dāṛ/ydūṛ > ḍuṛ ‘to surround’ (Tashelhit).
 
Other loans
 
Numerals from four upward are in almost all Berber dialects loans from Arabic (Durand 1998:112–113): rəbʿa ‘four’, xəmsa ‘five’, sətta ‘six’, səbʿa ‘seven’, tmənya ‘eight’, təsʿa ‘nine’, ʿəšra ‘ten’
 
Loans common to almost all Berber dialects are labas ‘fine’, mslxiṛ ‘good evening’, fiməṛṛa ‘at once’, ḷḷayhənnik ‘goodbye’, ḷḷaysəllm ‘[response to hello]’, nʿam ‘yes [in response to someone calling your name]’, ṣaḥḥa ‘thank you’, ṣbaḥəlxir ‘good morning’, šḥal ‘how many, how much?’, walu ‘nothing’, yaḷḷah ‘let us’, bsif ‘by force’, bzayd ‘more than’, iʿni ‘that is to say’, linnahu ‘because’, təqriban ‘almost’, bla ‘without’, šway šway (Riffian), šḥalmənwaḥəd ‘how many times?’ (Figuig).
 
Jordi Aguadé, (University of Cadiz)
Peter Behnstedt, (Chipiona, Spain)
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