Re: Berber/Tifinagh

From: Don Osborn (
Date: Tue Nov 11 2003 - 02:57:13 EST

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    Thanks, Patrick. Replies in text below...

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Patrick Andries" <>
    To: "Don Osborn" <>; <>
    Cc: <>
    Sent: Monday, November 10, 2003 11:47 PM
    Subject: Re: Berber/Tifinagh (was: Swahili & Banthu)

    > ----- Message d'origine -----
    > De: "Don Osborn" <>
    > > I've thought for instance about the small number of schools here in
    > > 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
    > > from the spoken language) make reference to traditions of spelling with
    > > Tifinagh, but it would seem essential.
    > The Touareg (like the new Volkswagen) traditionnal usage of Tifinagh is
    > defective if recall properly Hanoteau (in its Tamachek' Grammar this from
    > memory, not being at home) : geminates not noted, short vowels usually not
    > written, etc. I'm not too sure how you can pass from traditional Touareg
    > Tifinagh to the Latin-based script.

    I agree that the local usage of Tifinagh has variations - perhaps too much
    depends on individual imagination and skill than traditions of usage. I'm
    not sure what sort of efforts if any may have gone into defining usages of
    Tifinagh - most of the effort of education / literacy / applied linguistics
    agencies on this side of the Sahara has been on use of the Latin
    transcriptions (same as with other languages). Better understanding the
    geography of correspondences between two (or three) transcriptions of the
    same language (or same dialects of the language) could still be useful on
    different levels, though not necessary for Tifinagh encoding.

    Generally when vowels are not marked they are understood. If the word is
    clear from the rendition without (short) vowels, then its transformation
    into an orthography that uses vowels shouldn't be a problem. There are
    conventions for transliteration of Arabic into Latin characters, for
    instance, that are fairly well established. And vice-versa - I sat in on
    part of an elementary Arabic class years ago that began teaching the
    language in Latin transcription.

    Non-notation of gemination may pose a problem especially if it represents
    different pronunciation that is significant for meaning. Is this a question
    of user skill/knowledge or just the custom? If the latter and the Latin
    transcription notes gemination, then a transliteration process may have to
    rely on context (something more like translation). But this gets off on
    another tangent.

    Anyway, my thought is that it is worth keeping this issue of the
    relationships of different transcriptions in mind, although, again, it does
    not directly affect the issues of encoding Tifinagh.

    > > 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
    > as
    > > written in different scripts - not to mention that there may still be
    > > 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.
    > I also believe it but I'm also not sure that Tifinagh -- still not
    > encoded -- is best served by us waiting until Latin transliterations of
    > Berber (Chleuh, Kabyle,Tamachek') are harmonized among populations
    > in many countries.

    Re the harmonization of Latin transcriptions, I did not mean that that
    should be a precondition for encoding Tifinagh. It is simply another matter
    that would seem very useful in its own right, and perhaps interesting if
    nothing else to discussions of other transcriptions. Actually there are
    some common aspects in the Latin orthographies used in different countries
    from what I've casually observed (certainly between Mali and Niger, as a
    result in large measure of the expert meetings on I mentioned earlier), so
    this harmonization may be further along than I realize.

    Don Osborn

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