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Tifinagh (Berber pronunciation: [tifina?]; in Tamazight Latin: Tifina?; in Neo-Tifinagh: ?; in Tuareg Tifinagh: or ?) is an abjad script used to write the Tamazight languages.[1]

Neo-Tifinagh, a modern alphabetical derivative of the traditional script, was reintroduced in the 20th century. A slightly-modified version of the traditional script, called Tifinagh IRCAM, is used in a number of Moroccan elementary schools in teaching the Berber language to children as well as a number of publications.[2][3]

Time period
2nd millennium BC to the present time[4]
Parent systems
Saharan petroglyphs
  • Libyco-Berber
Child systems
Workshop on Tifinagh during WikiArabia 2019 conference in Marrakech.


Tifinagh or Libyc was widely used in antiquity by speakers of Libyc languages throughout North Africa and on the Canary Islands. Some authors believe it to be attested from as far back as the 2nd millennium BC, to the present time.[5] The script's origin is considered by most scholars as being of local origin,[6] although a relationship between the Punic alphabet or the Phoenician alphabet has also been suggested.[7]

The ancient Tifinagh script was a pure abjad; it had no vowels. Gemination was not marked. The writing was usually from the bottom to the top, although right-to-left, and even other orders, were also found. The letters would take different forms when written vertically from when they were written horizontally.[8]

Ancient variants

There are four known variants: Eastern Libyc, Western Libyc, Bu Njem Libyc and Saharan Libyc.[]

Eastern Libyc or Numidian

The eastern variant covers approximately the north-west of Tunisia as well as eastern Algeria, the western limit of its use is placed at the east of Sétif although inscriptions of the eastern type can exceptionally be in Kabylia, it shows a clear Phoenician influence. It is the best-deciphered variant, due to the discovery of several Numidian bilingual inscriptions in Libyan and Punic (notably at Dougga in Tunisia). Researcher Lionel Galand maintains that there are two versions of Eastern Libyc: one used for monuments, which he called the Dougga script, and one for funerary steles, which is Eastern Libyc proper. The latter contains only 23 letters, which agrees with observations made by historian Fabius Planciades Fulgentius. In the Dougga script, 22 letters out of the 24 were deciphered so far.[]

Western Libyc or Moorish

The western variant covers Morocco and the western half of Algeria (country populated by the Mauri), as well as the Canary Islands. It is more archaic and shows no Phoenician influence[]. Its inscriptions are fewer and generally shorter and rougher. The characteristic of this alphabet is that it includes additional signs, that the eastern one is unaware of, whose value could not be given. Some of these characters are identical to the Tuareg letters of the alphabet.[]

Bu Njem Libyc or Libyan

There are graffiti discovered at Bou Njem, the ancient Gholaia in Libya, on the wall of an old monument which dated from the 3rd century. The writing is horizontal, made up of nine inscriptions. This variant was heavily influenced by Latin to the point of constituting a special alphabet.[]

Saharan Libyc or Garamantian

This variant was widespread in pre-Saharan and Saharan Libya, territory of the Gaetuli and Garamantes, where it was used by the inhabitants to engrave their messages. It is mostly unknown and badly located.[]

Tuareg Tifinagh

Entrance to the town of Kidal. The name is written in Tifinagh (// Kdl) and Latin script.
Time period
unknown to present
Parent systems
  • Tifinagh
Child systems

The Libyco-Berber script is used today in the form of Tifinagh to write the Tuareg languages, which belong to the Berber branch of the Afroasiatic family. Early uses of the script have been found on rock art and in various tombs. Among these are the 1500 year old monumental tomb of the Tuareg queen Tin Hinan, where vestiges of a Tifinagh inscription have been found on one of its walls.[9]

According to historians, the Tuareg are "an entirely oral society in which memory and oral communication perform all the functions which reading and writing have in a literate society... The Tifinagh are used primarily for games and puzzles, short graffiti and brief messages."[10]

Occasionally, the script has been used to write other neighbouring languages such as Tagdalt, which is a Northern Songhay language and not a member of the Afroasiatic family.


Traditional Tifinagh

Common forms of the letters are illustrated at left, including various ligatures of t and n. Gemination, though phonemic, is not indicated in Tifinagh. The letter t, +, is often combined with a preceding letter to form an orthographic ligature. Most of the letters have more than one common form, including mirror-images of the forms shown here.

When the letters l and n are adjacent to themselves or to each other, the second is offset, either by inclining, lowering, raising, or shortening it. For example, since the letter l is a double line, ||, and n a single line, |, the sequence nn may be written || to differentiate it from l. Similarly, ln is |||, nl |||, ll ||||, nnn |||, etc.

Traditionally, the Tifinagh script does not indicate vowels except word-finally, where a single dot stands for any vowel. In some areas, Arabic vowel diacritics are combined with Tifinagh letters to transcribe vowels, or y, w may be used for long ? and ?.


Tifinagh alphabet.png
LanguagesStandard Moroccan Berber and other Northern Berber languages
Time period
1980 to present
Parent systems
Saharan petroglyphs
  • Libyco-Berber
    • Tifinagh
      • Neo-Tifinagh
ISO 15924Tfng, 120
Unicode alias

Neo-Tifinagh is the modern fully alphabetic script developed from earlier forms of Tifinagh. It is written left to right.

Until recently, virtually no books or websites were published in this alphabet, with activists favouring the Latin (or, more rarely, Arabic) scripts for serious use; however, it is extremely popular for symbolic use, with many books and websites written in a different script featuring logos or title pages using Neo-Tifinagh.

In Morocco, use of Neo-Tifinagh was suppressed until recently. The Moroccan state arrested and imprisoned people using this script during the 1980s and 1990s.[11] In 2003, however, the king took a "neutral" position between the claims of Latin script and Arabic script by adopting Neo-Tifinagh; as a result, books are beginning to be published in this script, and it is taught in some schools. However, many independent Berber-language publications are still published using the Berber Latin alphabet. Outside Morocco, it has no official status.

In Algeria, almost all Berber publications use the Berber Latin Alphabet. The Algerian Black Spring was partly caused by the repression of Berber languages.[12]

In Libya, the government of Muammar Gaddafi consistently banned Tifinagh from being used in public contexts such as store displays and banners.[13]

After the Libyan Civil War, the National Transitional Council has shown an openness towards the Berber languages. The rebel Libya TV, based in Qatar, has included the Berber language and the Tifinagh alphabet in some of its programming.[14]

An IRCAM version of Neo-Tifinagh
Neo-Tifinagh, Arabic and French at a store in Morocco


The following are the letters and a few ligatures of traditional Tifinagh and Neo-Tifinagh:

Color Key
Basic Tifinagh (IRCAM)[15] Extended Tifinagh (IRCAM) Other Tifinagh letters Modern Tuareg letters
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D30 2D30.png ? a ? æ ya
U+2D31 2D31.png ? b ? b yab
U+2D32 2D32.png ? ? ? ? yab fricative
U+2D33 2D33.png ? g ? ? yag
U+2D34 2D34.png ? g? ? ? yag fricative
U+2D35 2D35.png ? dj ? d Berber Academy yadj
U+2D36 2D36.png ? dj ? d yadj
U+2D37 2D37.png ? d ? d yad
U+2D38 2D38.png ? ? ? ð yad fricative
U+2D39 2D39.png ? ? ? d? ya?
U+2D3A 2D3A.png ? ? ð? ya? fricative
U+2D3B 2D3B.png ? e ? ? yey
U+2D3C 2D3C.png ? f ? f yaf
U+2D3D 2D3D.png ? k ? k yak
U+2D3E 2D3E.png ? k ? k Tuareg yak
U+2D3F 2D3F.png ? ? ? x yak fricative
U+2D40 2D40.png ? h
= Tuareg yab
U+2D41 2D41.png ? h ? h Berber Academy yah
U+2D42 2D42.png ? h ? h Tuareg yah
U+2D43 2D43.png ? ? ? ? ya?
U+2D44 2D44.png ? ' (?) ? ? ya? (ya?)
U+2D45 2D45.png ? kh (x) ? ? yax
U+2D46 2D46.png ? kh (x) ? ? Tuareg yax
U+2D47 2D47.png ? q ? q yaq
U+2D48 2D48.png ? q ? q Tuareg yaq
U+2D49 2D49.png ? i ? i yi
U+2D4A 2D4A.png ? j ? ? yaj
U+2D4B 2D4B.png ? j ? ? Ahaggar yaj
U+2D4C 2D4C.png ? ? ? z? Tuareg ya?
U+2D4D 2D4D.png ? l ? l yal
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D4E 2D4E.png ? m ? m yam
U+2D4F 2D4F.png ? n ? n yan
U+2D50 2D50.png ? ny ? Tuareg yagn
U+2D51 2D51.png ? ng ? ? Tuareg yang
U+2D52 2D52.png ? p ? p yap
U+2D53 2D53.png ? u
w yu
= Tuareg yaw
U+2D54 2D54.png ? r ? r yar
U+2D55 2D55.png ? ? ? r? ya?
U+2D56 2D56.png ? gh (?) ? ? ya?
U+2D57 2D57.png ? gh (?) ? ? Tuareg ya?
U+2D58 2D58.png ? gh (?)
Aïr ya?
= Adrar yaj
U+2D59 2D59.png ? s ? s yas
U+2D5A 2D5A.png ? ? (ts) ? s? ya?
U+2D5B 2D5B.png ? sh (?) ? ? ya?
U+2D5C 2D5C.png ? t ? t yat
U+2D5D 2D5D.png ? t ? yat fricative
U+2D5E 2D5E.png ? ch (t?) t yat?
U+2D5F 2D5F.png ? ? ? t? ya?
U+2D60 2D60.png ? v ? v yav
U+2D61 2D61.png ? w ? w yaw
U+2D62 2D62.png ? y ? j yay
U+2D63 2D63.png ? z ? z yaz
U+2D64 2D64.png ? z ? z Tawellemet yaz
= Harpoon yaz
U+2D65 2D65.png ? ? (dz) ? z? ya?
U+2D66 2D66.png ? e   e ye (APT)
U+2D67 2D67.png ? o   o yo (APT)
U+2D6F 2D6F.png  ? +? + ? ? Labio-velarization mark
= Tamatart
? <super> 2D61
Digraphs (for which ligatures are possible)[16]
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
RTL LTR -> Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D31 U+2D5C Tifinagh ligature Yab Yat by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? bt ...
U+2D33 U+2D5C ?⵿? gt ...
U+2D36 U+2D5C ?⵿? djt ...
U+2D37 U+2D4A ?⵿? dj d yadj
U+2D37 U+2D63 ?⵿? dz d?z yadz
U+2D4C U+2D5C ?⵿? z?t ...
U+2D4D U+2D5C Tifinagh ligature Yal Yat by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? lt ...
U+2D4E U+2D5C Tifinagh ligature Yam Yat by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? mt ...
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
RTL LTR -> Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D4F U+2D3E Tifinagh ligature Yan Yak by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? nk ...
U+2D4F U+2D5C Tifinagh ligature Yan Yat by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? nt ...
U+2D54 U+2D5C Tifinagh ligature Yar Yat by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? rt ...
U+2D59 U+2D5C ?⵿? st ...
U+2D5B U+2D5C Tifinagh ligature Yash Yat by Foucauld.svg ?⵿? sht (?t) ...
U+2D5C U+2D59 ?⵿? ts t?s yats
U+2D5C U+2D5B ?⵿? ch (t?) t yat?
Note: working ligatures appears without underline


Tifinagh was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2005, with the release of version 4.1.

The Unicode block range for Tifinagh is U+2D30–U+2D7F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+2D3x ⴿ
U+2D7x   ⵿  
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ To a limited extent: See Interview Archived 2008-05-03 at the Wayback Machine with Karl-G. Prasse and Penchoen (1973:3)
  2. ^ "Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe" (in French). Ircam.ma. Archived from the original on 2008-04-25. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe". Ircam.ma. Archived from the original on 2008-04-21. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Franklin, Natalie R.; Strecker, Matthias (2008-08-05). Rock Art Studies - News of the World Volume 3. Oxbow Books. p. 127. ISBN 9781782975885.
  5. ^ Franklin, Natalie R.; Strecker, Matthias (2008-08-05). Rock Art Studies - News of the World Volume 3. Oxbow Books. p. 127. ISBN 9781782975885.
  6. ^ Achab, Karim (2012-03-15). Internal Structure of Verb Meaning: A Study of Verbs in Tamazight (Berber). Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 36. ISBN 9781443838269.
  7. ^ Suleiman, Yasir (1996). Language and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa. Psychology Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-7007-0410-1.
  8. ^ "Berber". Ancient Scripts. Archived from the original on 2017-08-26. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Briggs, L. Cabot (February 1957). "A Review of the Physical Anthropology of the Sahara and Its Prehistoric Implications". Man. 56: 20-23. doi:10.2307/2793877. JSTOR 2793877.
  10. ^ Millard, Alan Ralph; Piotr, Bienkowski; Mee, C.B. (2005). Writing and Ancient Near East Society: Essays in Honor of Alan Millard. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-567-02691-0.
  11. ^ "Rapport sur le calvaire de l'écriture en Tifinagh au Maroc". Amazighworld.org. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Maddy-Weitzman, Bruce (2011). The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States. University of Texas Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-292-72587-4.
  13. ^ ? ? ? ? [Libyan security authorities to prevent the publication of the official poster for the festival traditional costume Pkpau] (in Arabic). TAWALT. 2007.
  14. ^ "Libya TV - News in Berber". Blip.tv. Retrieved .[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Polices et Claviers Unicode" (in French). IRCAM. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Tuareg alphabet by A. de Motylinski from Grammaire, dialogues et dictionnaire touaregs published by René Basset, Alger, 1908". www.win.tue.nl. Retrieved .


  • Aghali-Zakara, Mohamed (1994). Graphèmes berbères et dilemme de diffusion: Interaction des alphabets latin, ajami et tifinagh. Etudes et Documents Berbères 11, 107-121.
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  • Ameur, Meftaha (1994). Diversité des transcriptions : pour une notation usuelle et normalisée de la langue berbère. Etudes et Documents Berbères 11, 25-28.
  • Boukous, Ahmed (1997). Situation sociolinguistique de l'Amazigh. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 123, 41-60.
  • Chaker, Salem (1994). Pour une notation usuelle à base Tifinagh. Etudes et Documents Berbères 11, 31-42.
  • Chaker, Salem (1996). Propositions pour la notation usuelle à base latine du berbère. Etudes et Documents Berbères 14, 239-253.
  • Chaker, Salem (1997). La Kabylie: un processus de développement linguistique autonome. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 123, 81-99.
  • Durand, O. (1994). Promotion du berbère : problèmes de standardisation et d'orthographe. Expériences européennes. Etudes et Documents Berbères 11, 7-11.
  • O'Connor, Michael (1996). The Berber scripts. The World's Writing Systems, ed. by William Bright and Peter Daniels, 112-116. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Penchoen, Thomas G. (1973). Tamazight of the Ayt Ndhir. Los Angeles: Undena Publications.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Savage, Andrew. 2008. Writing Tuareg - the three script options. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 192: 5-14
  • Souag, Lameen (2004). "Writing Berber Languages: a quick summary". L. Souag. Archived from the original on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2014.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. Tifinagh.

External links

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