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. Geographically, mountains (the Djurdjura range and the Babors one) play an important role in the delimitation of the main dialectal zones. The current Kabyle-speaking zone is delimited on the map by a red dotted line. Beyond that line, Kabyle is at best residual, at worst completely lost. The Kabyle-speaking zone used to be much larger, and part of a continuum with Shawiya (spoken in the Aures mountains) (southwards), and other Berber-speaking zones (westwards)

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

Dialectology : Its main dialects are Western Kabyle (spoken in the Wilaya of Tizi-Wezzu (Tizi-Ouzou)), and Eastern Kabyle (spoken in the Wilaya of Bgayet (Bejaia)). Two other (peripheral) zones have been labeled Extreme Western, and Extreme Eastern Kabyle. For more details on Kabyle dialectology, see Basset (1959) and Guerrab (2014).

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. 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. Verb roots are marked for mood, negation and aspect : there are four MAN forms (aorist, perfective, negative perfective, and imperfective). Some verbal affixes specify relationships between predicate and arguments, additional preverbs specify MAN distinctions. Nouns have two genders (masculine and feminine), two numbers (singular and plural), and two states (absolute and annexed, on nouns). There are no articles, only demonstratives. Kabyle has verbal as well as nominal adjectives.