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date: 17 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The Berber languages are indigenous to North Africa, in which their first written attestations date back more than two millennia, and extend south from the Mediterranean across the Sahara well into the Sahel. At present, most Berber speakers live in Morocco and Algeria, but smaller communities of speakers continue to be scattered throughout this range, between the Atlantic and western Egypt. Major Berber languages include Shilha, Tamazight, and Rif in Morocco; Kabyle and Shawi in northern Algeria; Tuareg throughout the south-central Sahara, particularly in Mali and Niger; and, at a smaller scale, Nafusi in northeastern Libya. Like any other language family, Berber has been in contact with a variety of languages, and the relatively good early documentation of Mediterranean languages allows this contact to be traced back almost three millennia. However, its contact with Arabic is remarkable for the unusually wide range of examples of intense language-contact phenomena that it provides, enabled by widespread fluent bilingualism, especially among men. Such phenomena are especially pervasive in smaller varieties surrounded by Arabic speakers, many of which are in danger of disappearance. Berber itself has significantly impacted Maghrebi Arabic and languages of the Sahel region, but this chapter discusses only the impacts of other languages on Berber.

Keywords: language, Berber, Arabic, Punic, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, borrowing

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