Tifinagh

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Tifinagh (pronounced [tifinaɣ], written ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ in Neo-Tifinagh, تيفيناغ in the Berber Arabic alphabet and Tifinagh in the Berber Latin alphabet) is a series of abjad and alphabetic scripts used by some Berber peoples, notably the Tuareg, to write their language.[1] The Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. It is not in widespread use as a means of daily communication, but often serves to assert a Berber identity politically and symbolically. A slightly modified version of the traditional script, called Tifinagh Ircam, is used in a limited number of Moroccan elementary schools in teaching the Berber language to children.

The word tifinagh or tifinigh is widely thought to be a feminine plural cognate of Punic, through the feminine prefix ti- and Latin Punicus; thus tifinigh would mean "the Phoenician (letters)".[2][3]

Contents

Tifinagh or Neo-Tifinagh?

Linguists and historians tend to be specific in distinguishing between the millennia-old Berber abjad, which is Tifinagh, and the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet, which is based on the abjad but marks vowels and distinguishes more consonants.

The old Tifinagh script is found engraved in stones and tombs in some historical sites in northern Algeria, in Tunisia, and in Tuareg areas in the African Sahara.

The Neo-Tifinagh script was developed and computerized in the 20th century mainly by Moroccan and Algerian researchers, some of whom were based in Europe.

History

An older version of Tifinagh was more widely used in North Africa. It is attested from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.

  • There are two variants: eastern and western.
  • The eastern variant was used in what is now Constantine, the Aures region and Tunisia. It is the best-deciphered variant, due to the discovery of several Numidian bilingual inscriptions in Libyan and Punic (notably at Dougga in Tunisia.) 22 letters out of the 24 were deciphered.
  • The western variant was more primitive (Février 1964–1965). It was used along the Mediterranean coast from Kabylie to the Canary Islands. It used 13 supplementary letters.
  • The Libyco-Berber 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.

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