Get Tuareg Languages essential facts below. View Videos or join the Tuareg Languages discussion. Add Tuareg Languages to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Tuareg dialects belong to the South Berber group and are sometimes regarded as a single language (as for instance by Karl-Gottfried 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 Arabicloanwords 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.
Tamahaq - language of the Kel Ahaggar, and Kel Ajjer spoken in Algeria, western Libya and in the north of Niger by around 77,000 people. Also known as Tahaggart.
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.
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.
Traditional Tifinagh, including various ligatures of t and n. Gemination is not indicated. Most of the letters have more than one common form. When the letters l and n are adjacent to themselves or to each other, the second one is inclined: || l, |/ nn, ||/ ln, |// nl, ||// ll, |/| nnn.
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. ⟨T?mat⟩ for [t?maq]).
In Burkina Faso the emphatics are denoted by "hooked" letters, as in Fula, e.g. ⟨? ?⟩.
The vowel system includes 5 long vowels, /a, e, i, o, u/, "emphatic" versions of /e, o/, and two short vowels, /?, ?/. Karl Prasse argued that /e/ goes back to Proto-Berber, while /o/ is derived from /u/. Comparative evidence shows that /?/ derives from a merger of Proto-Berber */?/ and */?/.
Sudlow classes the "semivowels" /w, j/ with the vowels, and notes the following possible diphthongs: /?w/ (> [u]), /?w/, /aw/, /ew/, /iw/, /ow/, /uw/, /?j/ (> [i]), /?j/, /aj/, /ej/, /ij/, /oj/, /uj/.
Before emphatics, vowels lower, turning /?/ into [?], /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/).
The consonant inventory largely resembles Arabic: differentiated voicing; uvulars, pharyngeals (traditionally referred to as emphatics) /t?/, /l?/, /s?/, /d?/, /z?/; requiring the pharynx muscles to contract and influencing the pronunciation of the following vowel (although /l?, s?/ only occur in Arabic loans and only in the name of Allah).
/?/ is rare, /?/ is rare in Tadraq, and /?, ?/ are only used in Arabic words in the Tan?sl?mt dialect (most Tamasheq replace them with /x, ?/ respectively).
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 // becomes [q:], /ww/ becomes [?:], and /d?d?/ becomes [t?:]./q/ and /t?/ are predominantly geminate. In addition, in Tadraq /?/ is usually geminate, but in Tudalt singleton /?/ may occur.
Voicing assimilation occurs, with the first consonant taking the voicing of the second (e.g. /ed?k?r/ > [et?k?r]).
Cluster reduction turns word/morpheme-final /-?t, -?k/ into [-q:] and /-kt, -?t, -?t/ into [-k:] (e.g. /t?mat/ > [t?maq] 'Tamasheq').
Contrastive stress may occur in the stative aspect of verbs.
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 ? in Tamasheq and as simple z in the Tamajaq dialects Tawallammat and Tayart. In the latter two, *z is realised as ? 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, tid?t is pronounced [tidt] in Tayart.
Other differences can easily be traced back to borrowing. For example, the Arabic pharyngeals ? and ? have been borrowed along with Arabic loanwords by dialects specialized in Islamic (Maraboutic) learning. Other dialects substitute ? and ? respectively with x and ?.
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):
medd?n w?r sekediw?n ?sink
w?r sekediw?n medd?n ?sink
?sinkw?r ti-sekediw?n medd?n
'Porridge, men don't cook it.'
w?dde medd?n a isak?daw?n ?sink
'It isn't men who cook porridge.'
medd?n a w?ren isekediw ?sink
'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):
'I bought millet.'
en?le a essens
'It was millet that I bought.'
The indirect object marker takes the form i/y in Tudalt and e/y in Tadraq.
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.
'He went out'
'He has gone out'
'He stood up'
'He stood up (and so he is standing up)'
'I went to market'
'I am going to market'
ad elmed T?mas?q
'I will learn Tamasheq'
'I am learning Tamasheq'
'He will arrive (here) tomorrow'
iwan tatt?n?t alemmoZ
'Cows eat straw'
?ru tasal siha
'I used to work over there'
Commands are expressed in the imperative mood, which tends to be a form of the imperfective aspect, unless the action is to be repeated or continued, in which case the cursive aspect is preferred.
Bougchiche, Lamara. (1997) Langues et litteratures berberes des origines a nos jours. Bibliographie internationale et systematique. Paris: Ibis Press.
Chaker, Salem, ed. (1988) Etudes touaregues. Bilan des recherches en sciences sociales. Travaux et Documents de i.R.E.M.A.M. no. 5. Aix-en-Provence: IREMAM / LAPMO.
Leupen, A.H.A. (1978) Bibliographie des populations touaregues: Sahara et Soudan centraux. Leiden: Afrika Studiecentrum.
Page 247 of the 1951 Dictionnaire Touareg-Français, showcasing De Foucauld's meticulous handwriting accompanied by detailed illustrations of tasdest 'tent-pole' and other tent-building terms of the Kel Ahaggar.
Charles de Foucauld (1951-1952) Dictionnaire touareg-francais. 4 vol. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale de France. [posthumous facsimile publication (author dec. 1916); dialect of Hoggar, southern Algeria]
Karl-G Prasse, Ghoubeid Alojaly and Ghabdouane Mohamed, (2003) Dictionnaire touareg-francais (Niger). 2nd edition revised; 2 vol. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen. [1st edition 1998; covers two dialects of the northern Republic of Niger]