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the language of the Berbers. It is spoken in the United Arab Republic, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the western Sahara, Mauritania, Upper Volta, Niger, Nigeria, and the Republic of Chad. It is related to the Hamito-Semitic languages. The language is divided into a large number of dialects (about 300), which can be unified in five basic dialectical groups: Tuareg (about 500,000 people in Libya, Algeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad); Zenete (over 2 million people in Algeria, the Algerian Sahara, and northern Morocco); Tamazight (about 2 million people in Morocco); Tashelhit (about 2 million people in Morocco); and Zenaga (about 10,000 people in Mauritania). There are about 7 million Berber-speaking people. While the Berber language is losing ground to Arabic in the United Arab Republic, Libya, Tunisia, and Mauritania, the Berber-speaking population is increasing yearly in Algeria and Morocco.
The Berber language has three groups of phonemes—consonants, vowels, and sonants. The accent is very weak; a root may consist of one, two, three, and even four consonants. The phonetic, morphological, syntactical, and lexicological unity of Berber dialects is unconditional, and thus one can speak of one language.
In Berber culture, oral popular art is predominant. From ancient times there have been attempts to give the Berber language and its dialects written form with the assistance of different systems of writing: the Berber Tifinaq and the Arabic and Latin alphabets.
REFERENCESZavadovskii, Iu. N. Berberskii iazyk. Moscow, 1967.
Basset, A. “Les parlers berbères.” In Initiation à la Tunisie. Paris, 1950.
Picard, A. “Les parlers berbères.” In Initiation à l’Algérie. Paris, 1957.
Laoust, E. “Les parlers berbères.” In Initiation au Maroc. Paris, 1959.