Saturday, February 10, 2007

Manly numbers in Tashelhiyt Berber

I've been looking at how and why Arabic numbers have been so widely borrowed into Berber, and came across a rather illuminating quote:
"Also, for the numbers 3-29 one frequently chooses the Arabic terms (ie. those in §171.) The women and small children of the Tazĕrwalt-Shlûḥ by preference count (as far as possible) with the Berber numbers, the men by preference (from 10 up) with the Arabic ones. Therefore the Shlûḥ call the Berber numbers laḥsâb (الحساب) ntimġârin, and the Arabic ones laḥsâb niirgâzĕn - ie women's counting* vs. men's counting."

("Auch für die Zahlen von 3-29 wählt man häufig die arabischen Bezeichnungen (s. diese in §171). Die Frauen und kleinen Kinder der Tazĕrwalt-Schlûḥ zählen lieber (soweit es angeht) mit den berberischen Zahlen, die Männer lieber (von 10 an) mit den arabischen. Deshalb bezeichnen diese Schlûḥ die berberische Zählweise als laḥsâb (الحساب) ntimġârin, die arabische aber als laḥsâb niirgâzĕn - also als die Frauenzählweise, bezw. Männerzählweise." - Stumme 1899:102)

If you're interested, and in the vicinity of Cambridge in March, I'll be talking about this issue at CamLing.

* Shurely "old women's counting"?

Stumme, Hans. 1899. Handbuch des Schilhischen von Tazerwalt. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs.


Anonymous said...

Dear Lameen,

Nice and informative site you have, and just read the short text about counting in Tashelhiyt Berber.

But I have to share with you this information to show you that also aged man and poets used the original Berber numbers in Tashelhiyt Berber.

If you follow the discussion on this link you will see examples given 1) poet 3umar Wahruc 2) colleted information from Demnat by Said Boulifa
And there are more source only to be discoverd.

for feedback right me at:

Kind Regards


Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Thanks for the link - that's an interesting discussion. I've come across some similar examples cited from the poem Bahr ad-dumu3: sḍist tmaḍ "six hundred", timiḍi w wafḍan "a hundred thousand." Clearly, Stumme's comments apply (if at all) only to a specific place and time (Tazeroualt in 1899), not to Tashelhiyt in general. In fact, I'd be very interested to hear more about the current situation - I'll email you shortly.

However, it's not only in (this description of) Tashelhiyt that the Arabic numbers are said to be used more by men than by women; the same is reported to be true in Ouargla in Algeria. The fact that men are involved with trade outside their area, and women usually aren't, provides a certain impetus for men to adopt Arabic forms, while women have less reason to.

Anonymous said...


>The fact that men are involved with trade outside their area, and >women usually aren't, provides a certain impetus for men to adopt >Arabic forms, while women have less reason to.

Good point! Same theory applies to the berber language in general. Berber women are the protectors of the language. It has always been the case. If it wasn't for our grandmothers and mothers,Tamazight would be gone by now.

Lameen, if it is possible, would you please post a brief summary of the your coming talk. Thanks!

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

I'd be happy to, once I've made it (and for that matter written it!)