Northern Berber languages

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Northern Berber
Northwest Africa
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic
Glottologkaby1244  (Kabyle–Atlas Berber)
zena1250  (Zenatic)

The Northern Berber languages are a dialect continuum spoken across the Maghreb, constituting a subgroup of the Berber branch of the Afroasiatic family. Their continuity has been broken by the spread of Arabic, and to a lesser extent by the Zenati group of Northern Berber. The Zenati idioms share certain innovations not found in the surrounding languages; notably a softening of k to sh and an absence of a- in certain words, such as "hand" (afus vs. fus.)

Northern Berber languages spoken by over a million people include Shilha, Central Morocco Tamazight, Riff, Shawiya and Kabyle. They fall into three groups:

The eastern boundaries of the North Berber varieties are uncertain. Some linguists include the Nafusi and Ghadames languages, while others do not. Most regard Ghadamès as lying outside of Northern Berber, but Ethnologue does not.

There is no authoritative answer as to whether the Northern Berber varieties constitute languages rather than dialects. Some academics believe that not only Northern Berber but all the Berber languages are dialects of a single language, whereas others come up with much higher counts. At any rate, mutual comprehensibility among the Northern Berber varieties is high, though not perfect.