Thursday, May 4, 2017

Names For Days Of The Week In Three Tamazight (Berber) Languages (North Africa)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides information about certain Tamazight (Amazigh, Berber) languages of North Africa with particular attention to the names of days of the week in Central Atlas Tamazight, Tamasheq (Tuareg), and Taqbaylit,(Kabyle, Tamaziɣt).

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series that provides information about and lists for day names in various African languages. Click the "African languages days of the week" tag to find other posts in this ongoing series.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic, cultural, and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

"Berber or the Berber languages or the Amazigh language[2] (Berber name: Tamaziɣt, Tamazight, … are a family of similar and closely related languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa.
Berber is spoken by large populations of Algeria, Morocco and Libya; and by smaller populations of Tunisia, northern Mali, western and northern Niger, northern Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and in the Siwa Oasis of Egypt.

Large Berber-speaking migrant communities, numbering today about 4 million, have been living in Western Europe, spanning over three generations, since the 1950s. About half of this population was born in Europe.

In 2001, Berber became a constitutional national language of Algeria, and in 2011 Berber became a constitutionally official language of Morocco, and in 2016 Berber became a constitutionally official language of Algeria,[3] after years of persecution.[4][5][6][7][8]

Berber constitutes a branch of the Afroasiatic language family,[9] and has been attested since ancient times. The number of Berbers is much higher than the number of Berber speakers. The bulk of the populations of the Maghreb countries are considered to have Berber ancestors. In Algeria, for example, a majority of the population consists of Arabized Berbers.[10]

There is a cultural and political movement among speakers of the closely related varieties of Northern Berber to promote and unify them under a written standard language, called: Tamaziɣt. The name Tamaziɣt (Tamazight) is the current native name of the Berber language in the Moroccan Middle-Atlas region, the Rif regions and the Libyan Zuara region. In other Berber-speaking areas this name was lost. There is historical evidence, from medieval Berber manusctipts,[11][12][13] that all native North Africans from Libya to Morocco have called their language: "Tamaziɣt". The name "Tamaziɣt" is currently being used increasingly by educated Berbers to refer to the written Berber language, and even to Berber as a whole, including Tuareg-Berber.

Around 90 percent of the Berber-speaking population speak one of six major varieties of Berber, each with at least two million speakers. They are, in the order of demographic weight: Tashelhit (Tacelḥit), Kabylian (Taqbaylit), Atlas Tamazight (Tamaziɣt), Rif-Berber (Tmaziɣt), Shawi (Tacawit) and Tuareg (Tamahaq/Tamaceq/Tamajaq).


The term Berber has been used in Europe since at least the 17th century, and is still used today. It was borrowed from Latin Barbari. The Latin word is also found in the Arabic designation for these populations, البربر, al-Barbar, see names of the Berber people.

Etymologically, the Berber root MZƔ (Mazigh) (singular noun Amazigh, feminine Tamazight) means "free man", "noble man", or "defender". The feminine Tamazight traditionally referred specifically to the Riffian and Central Atlas Tamazight languages. Many Berber linguists prefer to consider the term "Tamazight" as a pure Berber word to be used only in Berber text; while using the European word "Berber/ Berbero/ Berbère" in European texts to follow the traditions of European writings about the Berbers. European languages distinguish between the words "Berber" and "barbaric", while Arabic has the same word "al-barbari" for both meanings.

Some other Berber writers, especially in Morocco, prefer to refer to Berber with "Amazigh" when writing about it in French or English.

Traditionally, the term "Tamazight" (in various forms: "thamazighth", "tamasheq", "tamajeq", "tamahaq") was used by many Berber groups to refer to the language they spoke, including the Middle Atlas, the Riffians, the Sened in Tunisia, and the Tuareg. However, other terms were used by other groups; for instance, some parts of Algeria called their language "Taznatit" (Zenati) or 'Shelha', while the Kabyles called theirs "Taqbaylit", the inhabitants of Siwa "Siwi". In Tunisia, the local Amazigh language is usually referred to as "Shelha", a term which has been observed in Morocco as well.[15]

One group, the Linguasphere Observatory, has attempted to introduce the neologism "Tamazic languages" to refer to the Berber languages.[16]

Berber is a member of the Afroasiatic language family.

Since modern Berber languages are relatively homogeneous, the date of the Proto-Berber language from which the modern group is derived was probably comparatively recent, comparable to the age of the Germanic or Romance subfamilies. In contrast, the split of the group from the other Afro-Asiatic sub-phyla is much earlier, and is sometimes associated with the Mesolithic Capsian culture...

Even for the weekdays, the ancient native names are unknown, so some tried to "fill in the blanks" with new terms. Two series of them are currently widespread. The first and best known is of unclear origin, but probably dates to the circle of the Académie Berbère of Paris in the late 1960s; the second one simply repeats for the weekdays the same process used for the months, with the creation of a suffix -as ("day") in place of -yur.[14] The former series, which begins with Monday[15] and refers to the "European" denominations, is not prone to misunderstandings, while the latter, which refers to a numerical order of the days (beginning, too, with Monday), interferes with the Arabic system currently in use, which starts instead from Sunday, resulting sometimes with the new names being used to refer to different days.[16]"...

(Additions and corrections are welcome.)

Central Atlas Tamazight
"Central Atlas Tamazight language (also known as Central Morocco Tamazight, Middle Atlas Tamazight, Tamazight, Central Shilha, and, rarely, Braber; native name: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ Tamazight [tæmæˈzɪɣt], [θæmæˈzɪɣθ]) is a Berber language[nb 1] of the Afro-Asiatic language family, spoken by 3 to 5 million people in the Atlas mountains of Central Morocco, as well as by smaller emigrant communities in France and elsewhere.[3]

Central Atlas Tamazight is one of the most-spoken Berber languages, along with Kabyle, Shilha, Riff, and Shawiya, and in Morocco it rivals Shilha as the most-spoken. All five languages may be referred to as 'Tamazight', but Central Atlas speakers are the only ones who use the term exclusively. As is typical of Afro-Asiatic languages, Tamazight has a series of "emphatic consonants" (realized as pharyngealized), uvulars, pharyngeals, and lacks the phoneme /p/. Tamazight has a phonemic three-vowel system, but also has numerous words without vowels.

Central Atlas Tamazight (unlike neighbouring Tashelhit) had no known significant writing tradition until the 20th century. It is now officially written in the Tifinagh script for instruction in Moroccan schools,[5][6] while descriptive linguistic literature commonly uses the Latin alphabet, and the Arabic alphabet has also been used.

Tab. 4 – The "Amazigh" week
Day Académie Berbère
Monday -aram
Tuesday -arim
Wednesday- ahad
Thursday- amhad
Friday- sem
Saturday - sed
Sunday -acer

Compounds with numerals
Monday -aynas
Tuesday -asinas
Wednesday - akras
Thursday - akwas
Friday - asemwas
Saturday -asedyas
Sunday - asamas

From Tamazight
"Sunday - ašer
Monday - arim
Tuesday - aram
Wednesday -ahad
Friday -sam
Saturday -sad"

Tamasheq (Tuareg)
Excerpt #1
"Tuareg ..., also known as Tamasheq ..., Tamajaq, or Tamahaq, … is a Berber language, or a family of very closely related languages and dialects, spoken by the Tuareg Berbers, in large parts of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya, and Burkina Faso, with a few speakers, the Kinnin, in Chad.[7]

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 languages 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."...

Excerpt #2:

Pancocojams Editor's Note: The video given as Excerpt #3 is found on that page.


"Reminder: Tamasheq (or Tamajeq, or Tamaheq, stemming from the word Tamazight) is spoken by the Tuareg, a nomadic people that has been settled in the desert areas of North Africa for millennia, over a vast territory reaching from Mali to Libya, from Burkina Faso to Algeria, and including Niger. There are around one million speakers of Tamasheq.

Like Kabyle, Shawia, or Rifian, Tamasheq is in fact a variant of Berber (or Tamazight), a group of languages that covers the whole of North Africa (Marocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and Burkina Faso), not to mention a large diaspora in Europe and America. Total estimations account for over 45 million speakers of Berber languages.

One distinctive feature of the Berber language is its writing. An alphabet known as Tifinagh appeared during the first millennium B.C., and despite its disappearing in most of the North where it was replaced by Roman and Arabic alphabets, the Tuareg have been using it ever since. In the second half of the 20th century, a modern version, first created by the Berber Academy and then modified by linguists to reach a standard form that would be suitable to all the idioms, is now widely used in the North and was even formalized in Morocco in 2001. This Alphabet, known as Neo-Tifinagh, while raising enthusiasm in the North, still encounters reluctance among the Tuareg people."

Excerpt #3:

Days of the week in Tamasheq

Sorosoro, Uploaded on Jul 15, 2011
Image & sound: Arnaud Contreras
Language advice: Salem Mezhoud and Abdoulahi Attayoub
Editing: Caroline Laurent

[Here's my transcription of that video]:

The days of the week in Tamasheq (with Moussa)
"The days of the week in Tamasheq are the same as in Arabic, because the Tuareq didn't use to express time. Tamasheq has months but not days.

Monday - litnin
Tuesday - altanata
Wednesday- alarba
Thursday -alghamis
Saturday -assebet
Sunday -alkhed"
For comparison's sake, here's an excerpt about the Arabic names for the days of the week:
..."The Arabic word for “day” is يَوم (yawm), and properly the name of each day is يَوم plus the word from the list below (as, in English, we append “day” onto other words to create the names of the days: “Sun” + “day” = “Sunday,” etc.). However, you will often see يَوم omitted and the days simply called by the names listed below:

Monday = الإثْنَين (al-ithnayn)
Tuesday = الثَلاثاء (al-thalāthāʾ)
Wednesday = الأربَعاء (al-arbaʿāʾ)
Thursday = الخَميس (al-khamīs)
Friday = الجُمُعة (al-jumuʿah)
Saturday = السَبْت (al-sabt)
Sunday = الأحَد (al-aḥad)

Other than Friday and Saturday, these names are derived from the cardinal numbers.... So “Sunday” is literally “first day,” Monday “second day,” and so on."...

Taqbaylit,(Kabyle, Tamaziɣt)
Excerpt #1:
"Kabyle... or Kabylian ... (native names: Taqbaylit, ... Tamaziɣt Taqbaylit, or Tazwawt) is a Berber language spoken by the Kabyle people in the north and northeast of Algeria. It is spoken primarily in Kabylie, east of Algiers, and in the capital Algiers, but also by various groups near Blida, such as the Beni Salah and Beni Bou Yaqob(extinct?). Estimates about the number of speakers range from 5 million to about 7 million speakers (INALCO) worldwide, the majority in Algeria.

Kabyle is one of the Berber languages, a family within Afroasiatic. It is believed to have broken off very early from proto-Berber after the Zenaga language. [3][4]

Geographic distribution
Kabyle Berber is native to Kabylie. It is present in seven Algerian districts.

Approximately one-third of Algerians are Berber-speakers, clustered mostly near Algiers, in Kabylian and Shawi, but with some communities in the west, east and south of the country.[5] Kabyles are the largest Berber group in Algeria, but may not constitute a majority.[5]


Kabyle Berber is also spoken as a native language among the Algerian Kabyle-descended diaspora in European and North American cities (mainly France). It is estimated that half of Kabyles live outside the Kabylian region."

Excerpt #2:
"Kabyle [days of the week]

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  1. Hi there, Please consider having all the informations before claming that th e mazigh does not have namings of the days of the week !
    Sunday - ašer
    Monday - arim
    Tuesday - aram
    Wednesday -ahad
    Friday -sam
    Saturday -sad"

    1. Greetings, hcen.

      Thank you for your comment.

      I transcribed what was said in that video that is given as Excerpt #3 in this post. I have no direct knowledge of this subject as you apparently do. It appears that the person I quoted in that video was wrong.

      Thanks for that correction.