BERBER LANGUAGES IN MOROCCO
The Berber alphabet is called Tifinagh and is globally universal. It was very present until around the 12th century, then it was gradually replaced by the Arabic alphabet according to the Muslim religion. The Tuaregs, because of their geographical isolation, have continued to use it and more and more people are learning to read and write in Berber, in particular thanks to His Majesty King Mohammed VI, who in 2004 granted the teaching of Amazigh in schools. The new Constitution adopted in 2011 also officially recognized Berber as Morocco’s second official language.
Berber speakers in Morocco
It is estimated that around 60% of the population of Morocco are speakers of some variant of Berber. Currently, Amazigh has become the official language of the country, together with traditional Arabic. The Berber languages mainly spoken in Morocco are the following:
Chilha (also known as Tachelhit or Tashelhiyt or Shilha) is the language with the highest number of speakers of Berber languages in Morocco. It is estimated that the number of speakers is between 3 and 9 million and because of the extension of its area. Chilha is spoken in the southern part of Morocco. From the slopes of the High Atlas to the southern slopes of the Anti-Atlas bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The eastern limits of the chilha are difficult to define because of the smooth transition to the Atlantic.
The Riffian (Tamazight Tarifit) . The Riffian or Tarifit or Chelja is a variety of Berber languages spoken by the Rif people, inhabitants of the Rif region. This variant is also spoken by Rif communities in Algeria, in cities near the border, in Rif cities in Algeria such as Bethioua or Azrew, and in Melilla. The number of speakers of this language is estimated at 6 or 7 million. It has not had an official status until 2011 due to the protests that occurred in the context of the Arab Spring.
As with other Berber languages, its speakers often refer to it by the generic name of Berber, which serves to designate all of them. It should be pointed out that in Morocco many scholars and activists of Berber culture deny that the three great varieties of Berber language that exist in the country are different languages.
Tamazight is a variant of the Berber language belonging to the Afro-Asian language family and spoken mainly in Morocco in the Middle Atlas area by some 3 600 000 speakers, plus a few in Algeria and France. Originally Tamazight, like other Berber languages, was written very little. However, today there are three writing systems for the language: Tifinagh, Arabic alphabet and Latin alphabet. In September 2003, Tifinagh began to be taught to children in Moroccan schools, while the Latin alphabet is preferred by Amazigh linguists and researchers. Aliphate or Arabic alphabet predominates in Moroccan Berber literature.
Tamazight is one of the four most widely spoken Berber languages, being quite close to Tachelhit, another Berber variant, so that speakers of both dialects can communicate without major problems; Rifin is more distant. Differentiating these dialects can be complicated by the fact that speakers of other languages can also refer to their own language as Tamazight. Additionally, the difference between these three dialects is mostly phonological and lexical rather than syntactical.
ECONOMY OF MOROCCAN BERBERS
Most of the Berbers were originally nomads who moved their location camps according to the pastures for their cattle and the climate. Historically, Berber traders were responsible for the transportation of goods by camel caravans. There were basically five trans-Saharan trade routes that stretched across the Sahara from the northern Mediterranean coast of Africa to the large cities, which are located on the southern edge of the Sahara, such as Timbouctou in Mali. From there the goods were distributed all over the world.
Even today the Berbers are often portrayed as a nomadic people who cross the desert on camels, but the reality is that most are farmers and herders in the mountains and valleys throughout North Africa. Some trade throughout the region. Some Berbers work in the flour mills and in handicrafts. The women usually cook and take care of
house and children, weaving and pottery. In addition, many Berbers today work in the big cities or even Spain or France as migrant workers and send money to their family home.
Also, in tourist areas like the Sahara desert in Morocco, the small Berber villages have grown a lot and have become richer thanks to tourism.