Dictionary contributes to spreading the Berber language
A Tamazight-French dictionary has been published in Algeria. Tamazight
is the name of the different Berber languages and dialects spoken
in North Africa.
The dictionary, published by Jazz Editions in Algiers, is extraordinary
because it deals with the entire Tamazight and not, as in previous
studies, with one of the regional versions. The dictionary contains
approximately 65,000 words. It took compilers ten years to put together
the dictionary. In the preface they emphasise that studying Tamazight
is no longer the province of a few linguists. The entire burgeoning
Berber population has an interest in such a work. The compilers
of this dictionary want to contribute to the democratisation and
propagation of the Berber language and Berber culture. A goal that
fits in with the history of the battle that speakers of this language
have fought over the past several decades.
The Algerian constitution of 1963, written after the war of independence,
only recognised Arabic as the official language. In April 1980 students
organised a lecture about classical Tamazight poetry. The lecture
was interrupted by the police, who forbade it to continue. Ever
since, this incident has been referred to as the Berber spring.
The battle for recognition of the Berber language was also a battle
for the recognition of the Berber population. In the spring of 2001
the battle became quite violent, after a student was killed by a
policeman. A number of demonstrations were beaten back and activists
were arrested or killed. The Berber population united in village
committees and drew up its demands. In April of 2002 Tamazight was
recognised as the national language.
Marrigje de Bok
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