KABYLE

Name and ISO code : Kabyle (KAB), alternatively called Taqbaylit by speakers and in some publications.

Speakers : 3.5 million speakers in Kabylie, at least 2 more millions in other regions of Algeria, in France and in Canada.

Region : Kabylie, which is situated in the north-east of Algeria, 50 km east of Algiers, is about 25 000 km2.

Classification : Kabyle is a Berber language (Berber is a branch of the AfroAsiatic phylum).

Dialectology : Its main dialects are Western Kabyle (spoken in the light green region of the map below, in the Wilaya of Tizi-Wezzu (Tizi-Ouzou)), and Eastern Kabyle (spoken in the darker green region of the map below, in the Wilaya of Bgayet (Bejaia)).

Status : Kabyle is the mother-tongue of more than 80% of the inhabitants of the region. It is used in the home and for all interactions of everyday life. Almost all Kabyles below 50 are bi- or tri-lingual (with dialectal Arabic, French, standard Arabic). A considerable number of women above 50 (and almost all women above 70) are still monolingual. Children below school age are monolingual too. Since 2002, Berber (considered as one language) is mentioned in the Constitution as ‘second national language’, after Arabic, which is the first national (and only official) language. It is studied in the Universities of Tizi-Wezzu and Bgayet, and optionally taught in a number of schools. It is written mainly in Latin script (‘notation usuelle’), but also in Tifinagh and Arabic script. However, its use is still mainly oral.

Main typological features : Kabyle is a root-and-pattern, head-initial, pronominal-argument language, with flexible word order. It has two genders (masculine and feminine), two numbers (singular and plural), and two states (absolute and annexed, on nouns). It has verbal as well as nominal adjectives. Its phonology is complex, with a varied consonant inventory including affricates, a three-vowel system (plus a schwa), pervasive assimilation (internal and external sandhi), extensive fricativization of stops, pharyngealization, and labio-velarization.