Monday, December 1, 2008

The extinction of Tcawit?

By : Nouri

“Chaouia is not a written language and based on the fact that it is not taught in schools, it may soon become extinct. Being that the Chaouia are predominantly rural and secluded, speakers often code-switch to Arabic, French or even English to discuss non-traditional technology and sociological concerns.

“Chaouia,” English Wikipedia, as of 24 November, 2008.

Is this not true of most Berber languages in Algeria, and North Africa more generally? I don’t think that’s the result of Chaouia speakers being “rural and secluded,” as much as it just not having the vocabulary to describe certain things, as is the case in other Berber dialects, both in urban and rural areas. I’m not a linguistics student or expert, but I don’t think that code-switching in Chaouia is the result of its speakers being rural, just based off of the fact that I’ve heard urban speakers do it more frequently than I have in villages.

I was also troubled to read first sentence, which suggest that Chaouia is on the verge of extinction: This is the case with many languages in Algeria, and that Chaouia is not written does not help its struggle. But I find the suggestion that it would soon go extinct somewhat hyperbolic. There are something like 2-3 million people speaking it (that have been counted), and there are not estimates for many areas where it is spoken. Just a thought, since the post I had prepared for today (about the tensions between Algeria and Morocco) was mistakenly deleted from my computer by a friend.

I encourage people more engaged in and educated about linguistic matters than myself to comment and add their opinions to the matter. Is Chaouia likely to go extinct? What is the affect of rural living vs. urban life on Berber languages generally? These are question I am not qualified to answer, but would like to get some insight on.


Anonymous said...

I am not a linguist but I am reading a number of Linguistics books about The Amazigh language variaties including Tacawit. Tacawait in particular shows a striking similarity to Tarifit (Morocco).

I do believe that Tarifit (about 4 million speakers in Morocco) and porobably Tacawit too face the danger of extinction over some 40 years from now. Please don't get mislead by the number of millions of speakers that a language has. Languages disappear faster than we think.

I also believe that the current Arabization of North Africa happens much faster and stronger in urban areas where Arabophones constitute a sizable minority or a majority. The urban areas have state schools and administrations, and people there are more frequently exposed to Darijiphone, Francophone and Arabophone TV and radio.

I notice this Arabization in the Moroccan town of Nador which is one of the Amazigh urban strongholds with about 150,000 inhabitants. It's happening everyday. If you look at the map representing Tarifit in Northern Morocco you'll notice that Tarifit's space on the map is being driven away and squeezed by urban areas from the west (Tangier - Tetouan), from the east (Oujda) and from the south (Fes).

Rural areas are relatively more immune from Arabization. But the Moroccan government is currently busy with arabizing it through the alphabetization initiative.

Moubarik Belkasim

shawi yegguma said...

Hi Belkasim,
Thank you very much for your input! I urge the readers to debate the issues you raised.

>Tacawait in particular >shows a striking similarity to Tarifit (Morocco).

Indeed, Tashawit speakers will have no problem understanding Tarifit and vice versa.

In terms of the issue of extinction, I tend to be a bit optimistic. Tashawit/Tarifit and Tamazight in general face big challenging problems: lack of political will, urbanism...etc. But I believe we are in a better position than 25 years ago.

On the issue of urbanism, I tend to agree with you. It is a huge problem.

Anonymous said...

One of the best ways to save Tamazight and let it flourish is by the intercommunication between Imazighen. Our problem is that we don't communicate in Amazigh language. Amazigh dialectal blocks in Morocco and Algeria are isolated and insulated.

If we find a way to form an Amazighophone public opinion across Tamazgha, we could guarantee that Tamazight will not go extinct.

This goes through mass media like TV and cinema.

Moubarik Belkasim

shawi yegguma said...

>One of the best ways to save Tamazight and let it >flourish is by the intercommunication between Imazighen.

Yes, very much so, It will help and accelerate the process of standarisation.

>If we find a way to form an Amazighophone public >opinion across Tamazgha, we could guarantee that Tamazight will not go extinct.

That is where the internet comes in! The internet is a wonderful tool. We must take advantage of it.

If you want to write anything on Tarifit or other Moroccan varieties, I will be glad to post it. Just email me.

Thanks awma Belkasim

Anonymous said...

Tanmmirt attas a uma.

If I have something valuable to tell about Tarifit, I will make sure to send it to you.

Currently I am working on a small individual project of an Amazigh thematic word list. I was wondering if you could help me find the "Lexique religieux berbere" of Kamal Nait Zerrad. This book was published in Italy in 1998. But I can't find it anywhere. I can't even find its ISBN.

Moubarik Belkasim

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