I am currently in Bechar, the local capital, and plan to take the four-hour coach trip to Tabelbala tomorrow inshallah. After corresponding with a computing student here whose family is from Tabelbala for some time, I've finally met him in person; he seems a nice guy. Interestingly, when speaking Arabic, he calls Korandje "shelHiyya" - the name usually applied to the Berber dialects of the region and of southern Morocco. This suggests to me that this word may have become a generic term for non-Arabic local languages, in which case all statements about a given oasis around here speaking "Tachelhit" or "Shelha" need to be checked carefully.
Naturally, I've combed the local bookstores (there aren't too many, but there is a university here after all); I only found one book relating to the linguistics of this rough area, a work by Mohamed Bouali (2004) on the attitudes of people in the Berber-speaking oasis of Boussemghoun in western Algeria to a number of issues, including their own and other Algerian languages. Not very surprisingly, these seem closely aligned with moderate conservative opinion in Algeria generally, rather than showing any particularly strong similarity to the spectrum of attitudes common in Kabylie; his interviewees displayed pride in their language, but also identified fairly strongly with Arabic, and were more often than not hostile to the idea of teaching Berber ("Tachelhit") in school. The author reports that, unlike in some nearby oases, the Semghounis have consistently retained Berber and show no signs of shifting to Arabic as a home language. In Bechar itself, all talk I've heard has been in Arabic; the local accent is distinguished a lot of affricated t's (ts) and frequent use of "wah" for "yes", but is overall even closer to my own dialect then I was expecting.
That mystery language was…
6 hours ago