Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tokenistic Tifinagh #fail 2

The Algerian government recently decided to make the Amazigh New Year (really the Julian New Year) - coming up tomorrow - an official holiday. This holiday is actually traditional in a lot of Arabic-speaking areas too, in Algeria and across North Africa - and its origins are of course Roman - but over the past few decades it has been reinterpreted as an Amazigh holiday rather than a North African one, and the government made it official specifically as a gesture towards Amazigh identity. In non-Amazigh areas, this creates some quandaries, as illustrated by the announcement below by the government of the wilaya (province) of Blida...
No automatic alt text available.
The Algerian flag in the middle is flanked on all sides by easily recognizable signs of Amazigh identity - the letter aza, the abzim pins, etc. - none of which are particularly associated with Blida (even though there are still small Berber communities in the mountains above Blida, not to mention Kabyle migrants.)  The main text is in Arabic, but there is one line of Berber in Arabic script - تفاسكا ن يناير tfaska n Yennayer "holiday of Yennayer", using a word for "holiday" that in a Kabyle context amounts to a modern neologism - and two lines written in Tifinagh, whose geometric shapes add yet another easily recognizable symbol of Berber identity.  If you try to read those lines, though, they turn out in each case to be simple transcriptions (not translations) of the line of Arabic above them:

"Celebration of the Amazigh New Year"
احتفالية رأس السنة الأمازيغية iḥtifāliyyat ra's as-sanah al-'amāzīɣiyyah
 ⴰⵃⵜⴼⴰⵍⵉⴰ ⵔⴰⵙ ⴰⵍⵙⵏⴰ ⴰⵍⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵉⴰ aḥtfalia ras alsna alamaziɣia

"Algerian and proud of my Amazigh identity"
جزائري وبأمازيغيتي أفتخر jazā'irī wabi'amāzīɣiyyatī 'aftaxir
ⵊⵣⴰⵉⵔⵉ ⵡⴱⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵉⵜⵉ ⴰⴼⵜⵅⵔ jzairi wbamaziɣiti aftxr

It's arguably not quite as bad as the Oran case we saw last time; at least this transcription doesn't randomly discard letters.  Nevertheless, the message it sends is once again clear: nobody involved in the making of this official, centralized celebration of Amazigh identity speaks Berber, or thought it would be worthwhile to get someone who does speak it to help them out.  If the Algerian government seriously wants to make Tamazight official throughout the country, it's got a long way to go...

PS (update 19/01/2018): Not worth a whole post, but I just came across yet another example:
العمال يطالبو... | وزارة الفقر والسّعادة has:
ارحل ...ارحل ....ارحل
بالعربية : ارحل
بالامازيغية : ⴷⴹⴳⴰⴳⴹ
بالفرنسية : Dégage
بالانجليزية : Get out
ⴷⴹⴳⴰⴳⴹ is dḍgagḍ, where ḍ happens to look just like an e; explanation is hopefully superfluous...


Imed Adel said...

They could've used the Arabic script (as they did with tfaska n Yennayer) and avoided all of this. That is if they really cared about the language at all.

PhoeniX said...

I can't believe they actually managed to get correct Berber on the poster but wrote it in Arabic script, and then wrote Arabic in Tifinagh!

That's amazing. Stealing this for my Sociolinguistics course ;-)

Amazghan said...

North African means Berber (amazigh)

Were there arabs in north Africa in Roman times?! No. So why conflate and give the impression that north africa is partly arab since eternity?! The Darja speaking Algerians who now celebrate the berber year are actually Berbers who converted to speaking arabic dialects after the islamic invasion or because of Benballa's and Boumedienne's anti-amazigh liguicidal arabisation campaigns. In essence they are berbers despite speaking arabic darja.

If you want to talk about "arabic areas" and "berber areas" in Algerria then you should recognise the "french areas" of Algeria as well

And what's wrong with Roman year being reinvented in an amazigh form with amazigh tradition? Isn't the coptic year like this too?

Do we have to call the coptic year some other name like north african or middle eastern because Egyptians now speak masri and nobody there speaks coptic?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Is the entire universe divided between Arabs and Berbers? No, and neither is North Africa. Some Algerians even today are neither Berber nor Arab, as you can see especially clearly in the Sahara. And even if we were all descended 100% from Berber ancestors, that's no guarantee of our being Berbers - or not being Arabs - right now. Identity is not just about where your genes come from.

When the Arabs got to North Africa, they found a multiethnic population there already - some speaking Berber, some speaking Latin (including most of northern Tunisia), possibly even a few still speaking Punic. Both Berber speakers and Arabic speakers in the Maghreb got their agricultural calendar - including the names of the months and the idea of celebrating the New Year on 1 Yennayer - from Latin. There is no reason to suppose that all Maghrebi Arabic speakers got these months from Berber, and in fact good reason to suppose the opposite. Berber has a phoneme g; why would Berbers borrow Augustus as "Ghusht" rather than as "Gusht" or "Gust"? If the name came into Berber from Maghrebi Arabic, on the other hand, the reason becomes obvious; Arabic has no g, and often converts g to gh in borrowed words.

The Coptic year is a rather different case. It seems to have been invented in Egypt - it derives directly from the Ancient Egyptian calendar - and all the names of its months are actually from Coptic, not (like the Amazigh calendar) from Latin. But call either of them whatever you want. I'm interested in the facts, not in the labels.

David Marjanović said...


Oh dear.

Amazighan said...

The Genes?? Who said anything about the genes ?! Why everyone who has a probleme with Berbers talks about the genes? I don't care about the genes. We are not racists.

There was multi ethnic population in Tamazgha when the Islam invasion arrived??? ok 1% Roman and 1% jews are not really multi ethnic.. Every country in the world is than multiethnic including the Arabs and the Romansq. In Hijaz or Irak there must be 2% Farsis and 2% ethiopians and 2% Jews....etc not really multi ethnic but just a small variation. Nobody says Saudi Arabia or Irak is Farsi or ethiopian. An amazigh who speaks latin is still an amazigh because he lives in Tamazgha. If he refuses then he is a stranger or immigrant. But to say Tamezgha is latin or roman or French or Arab that's the mentality of the colonisation or occupation. The Arabs are fighting against occupation and tahwide التهويد in Palestine against Israël but they like very much to convert other countries as arab and if the local people refuse than they are racists!

The problem is like this : the amazigh year either must be called Roman / latin to honour the Romans or it must be called north African to accomodate the so called Arabs. But god forbid we call it Amazigh year on the base of its people and its country because that discriminates against the so called "arabs"! The so called Arabs don't even call it the arab year or north africain year! Many of them hate it and prefer the islamic hegire year! I heared them call it jahle الجهل or aljahilia or wathaniya وثنية

Concerning the month ghousht who says the Arabs don't have "g" , of course they have "g" they say g all the time and they write with al qaf ق , ghousht can be قشت or جشت or كشت ..etc . The coptic year is christian and christianity is not from Egypt.
I am intersted in the facts too. Names are facts too.
Who plays with the names will play with the facts.

And a commentary about the Tifinagh problem in this poster : Maybe those who write those Tifinagh mistakes don't even speak Tamazight or maybe they never learned to write it so you can't blame anybody exept the state

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

My Algerian great-grandparents would hardly even have heard the word "Amazigh", much less identified themselves with it. Very likely yours didn't either - the term disappeared a long time ago in Kabylie, and only got (re)introduced in the 20th century. Now you want to come and tell me I have to consider myself Amazigh, otherwise I'm a stranger or immigrant? Get lost. You're just parroting Arab nationalist discourse with "Amazigh" substituted for "Arab".

Before the Hilalian invasions, Maghrebi Arabic seems not to have has not have a sound g; the change of q to g is a Bedouin innovation absent from the dialects of the first cities to be Arabized. But you're missing the point: whatever the situation in early Arabic, the form of the borrowing implies that it passed through a language that had gh but not g. Every Tamazight variety has always had g, so it's unlikely to have reached Kabylie or Morocco directly from Latin. (Libyan Imazighen call it Awussu, which might be a direct borrowing from Latin.) Note also that the same reasoning applies to Dujember. Most Tamazight varieties have a sound ch; why would they turn the c of December (pronounced ch) into j? If it reached Tamazight through Arabic, on the other hand, this change is easy to explain. Note that even in the Middle Ages - well after Arabs arrived - Moroccan Imazighen still had their own set of non-Latin month names (as nicely summarised in Wikipedia.) And the Arabic origins of Meghres for March are too obvious to need comment, although that's just Kabylie - elsewhere it's usually called Mars.

The Coptic calendar long predates Christianity, by the way.

As for why the Julian calendar became Amazigh in the 20th century, that has as much to do with Ben Badis as with the Academie Berbere. The Ulama decided Yennayer was bidaa, and so people in the towns stopped celebrating it, while increasingly using the Gregorian calendar with French month names. But the Ulama movement's influence in Grande Kabylie was much less. Within a generation or two, a Roman custom that had previously been pan-North African disappeared from so many Arabic-speaking areas that it could become a visible sign of Amazigh identity.