Re: Berber/Tifinagh (was: Swahili & Banthu)

From: Don Osborn (
Date: Mon Nov 10 2003 - 17:25:09 EST

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: Re[2]: Berber/Tifinagh (was: Swahili & Banthu)"

    Patrick's message on this topic gets to the heart of the issue of why to
    encode Tifinagh (as Tifinagh) in the first place. But I think that
    Philippe's sentiment is not misplaced, if one approaches transliteration on
    the character and not the glyph level, as John and others put it. But
    correspondences between characters or groups of characters (not
    necessarily - and perhaps not possibly in some cases - one-to-one) among
    different scripts are a linguistic issue not a coding one.

    The advantage to clarifying the correspondences among alternative
    transcriptions is indicated in part by Philippe's original concern - people
    who learn Berber (more properly Tamazight, Tamashek, etc.) in one
    transcription but not another. How to facilitate their encounter with the
    diverse renditions of the language? But again it's not a font issue.

    I've thought for instance about the small number of schools here in Niger
    that teach in Tamajak, using the Latin based script and how easy it will or
    will not be for the students to make the connections with the Tifinagh that
    is traditionally used. It would be tidy to have one-to-one correspondences,
    but even if not, some fairly consistent rules would help. I'm not sure the
    extent to which people working on Tamajak in Latin orthography (presumably
    from the spoken language) make reference to traditions of spelling with
    Tifinagh, but it would seem essential.

    And it is perhaps imporant too to take this on a broader scale to understand
    the traditional ways of writing Berber in Tifinagh (and Arabic) and to
    harmonize the Latin transliterations in the region. It may well be that
    aside from whatever complexities there may be on the character-to-character
    level, that there may be different conventions arising in the language(s) as
    written in different scripts - not to mention that there may still be work
    yet to do in standardizing spellings in either script within any given
    variety of Berber. Dealing with such issues would not be served by treating
    Tifinagh as anything less than a script in its own right.

    And as Berber is increasingly used on computers & the internet, it will
    become important to be able to do reliable conversions of text in any of the
    three transcriptions - work towards which may bring up its own set of
    questions. And these would be best dealt with on the character level.

    Don Osborn

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Patrick Andries" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Monday, November 10, 2003 8:33 PM
    Subject: Re: Berber/Tifinagh (was: Swahili & Banthu)

    > ----- Message d'origine -----
    > Philippe Verdy a écrit :
    > >
    > >I was concerned recently by some people who wanted to better write the
    > >Tifinagh languages
    > Stricto sensu, they are no tifinagh languages, but languages (or dialects
    > the Berber language) written with the tifinagh script.
    > >(such as Berber) with the Latin script (notably for North
    > >Africa, but also in Europe due to the important North African community,
    > >notably in France).
    > I'm not sure why you want to privilege the Latin script. A large part in
    > chosing a script for tifinagh [Berber] is based on subjective reasons.
    Tifinagh is
    > seen as a neutral (neither Western, neither Arabic), indigeneous and
    > historically-rooted script. These sentiments must be respected and
    > communities may choose whatever script they feel best suited for their own
    > needs (affirming one's identity should not be disregarded here).
    > >When the Tifinagh script will be standardized, it would then be
    > interesting
    > >to allow it to be rendered correctly with Latin letters and diacritic
    > glyphs
    > >on a user font preference, as it corresponds more to the now modern use
    > >the script...
    > This makes no sense : the modern use of the Tifinagh script cannot be
    > another script... You may have meant the modern day script used for the
    > berber language. This is highly disputable (Morocco just started teaching
    > Tifinagh in its schools and they are many Berber sites in Tifinagh and
    > Arabic scripts). It also does not follow that being able to switch fonts
    > between two scripts used for a language should take precedence over coding
    > properly the different scripts. What if there is no one-to-one mapping
    > between the characters of the different scripts ? What about a mapping
    > between the Arabic and Tifinagh transcriptions of Berber ? Should we be
    > able to switch between the Arabic and Latin transcriptions by a simple
    > adjustment ? What is one then to do with the « emphatiques conditionnées »
    > noted by some scholars in Latin and Tifinagh but for which no Arabic
    > character seems to be available ?
    > Patrick Andries

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