Berber languages form an independent branch of the Afroasiatic superfamily. The earliest evidence of Berber in North Africa is possibly to be found in the so-called Libyco-Berber inscriptions. It is clear that Berber languages were dominant in these parts of the world before the expansion of Arabic.

Since there is a strong mutual influence of Berber languages and spoken forms of Arabic, it is recommendable to study Berber languages in combination with local Arabic vernaculars. The same is true, to a great extent, for elements of so-called traditional culture and oral literature.

There are approximately ten Berber languages. They are closely related, much like the linguistic relation between Roman languages such as French, Spanish and Italian. The most important Berber languages, in terms of number of speakers, are:

  1. Tashelhiyt-Berber or Sous Berber (8-9 million / High Atlas, Anti Atlas, Souss, Morocco)
  2. Kabyle-Berber or Taqbaylit (5 million / North Algeria)
  3. Middle Atlas Berber or Tamazight (3-4 million / Middle Atlas, Morocco)
  4. Rif-Berber or Tarifit (1-2 million / North Morocco)
  5. Toeareg Berber (Tamahaq, Tamajaq, Tamasheq, together 1-2 million / Algeria, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso)
  6. Chaouia-Berber or Tashawit (0.5-1 million / North East Algeria)


The study of Berber languages was introduced at Leiden University in 1986 by dr. H.J. Stroomer (Department Languages and Cultures of the Islamic Middle East). He offered a course in Tashelhiyt Berber that remained on the program ever since.

From 1990 onwards subsidies for various projects on Berber languages and literatures were granted by the National Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Faculty of Letters (Leiden University) and the Oosters Instituut, sponsoring the researchers Nico van den Boogert and Maarten Kossmann.

In September 2000 dr. Stroomer founded the monograph series Berber Studies, published with Rüdiger Köppe Verlag in Cologne, Germany.

In February 2002 dr. Stroomer was appointed professor charged with Berber Studies at Leiden University.


Harry Stroomer,
  1. 1995Textes berbères des Aït Souab (Anti-Atlas / Maroc) recueillis par le capitaine Jean Podeur, édités et annotés par Nico van den Boogert, Michelle Scheltus et Harry Stroomer. Edisud, Aix-en-Provence, 160 p.
  2.  Stroomer, Harry (1997), Textes berbères des Aït Ouaouzguite (Ouarzazate / Maroc) recueillis par Pierre Amard, Edisud, Aix-en-Provence, 221 p.
  3.  Textes berbères des Guedmioua et Goundafa (Haut-Atlas, Maroc), basés sur les documents de F. Corjon, J.-M. Franchi et J. Eugène, (Edisud) Aix-en-Provence, 188
  4. 2001An anthology of Tashelhiyt Berber Folktales, Köppe Verlag, Cologne, Berber Studies vol. 2.
  5.  Tashelhiyt Berber Folktales from Tazerwalt (South Morocco) A linguistic reanalysis of Hans Stumme's Tazerwalt texts with an English translation. Berber Studies no. 4. Koeln 2002. (253 p.)
  6.  Stroomer, Harry, Tashelhiyt Berber texts from the Ayt Brayyim, Lakhsas and Guedmioua region (South Morocco) A linguistic reanalysis of Récits, contes et légendes berbères en Tachelhiyt by Arsène Roux with a translation in English. Berber Studies no. 5. Koeln 2003. (233 p.)

Maarten Kossmann,
  1.  Grammaire du parler berbère de Figuig (Maroc oriental) Peeters, Paris/Louvain 1997.
  2.  Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère, Köln: Köppe Verlag.
  3.  Esquisse grammaticale du rifain oriental. Paris/Louvain: Peeters.
  4.  A study of Eastern Moroccan Fairy Tales, FF Communications edited for the Folklore Fellows Vol. CXXVI, No. 274. (Academia Scientiarum Fennica) Helsinki.

Nico van den Boogert,
  1.  Catalogue des manuscrits arabes et berbères du Fonds Roux (Aix-en-Provence), Aix-en-Provence: IREMAM.
  2.  The Berber Literary Tradition of the Sous. Stichting De Goeje, Leiden / Leuven: Peeters.
  3.  La Révélation des Enigmes, lexiques arabo-berbères des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Aix-en-Provence: IREMAM.

Merolla, Daniela
  1.  Gender and community in the Kabyle literary space. Leiden: CNWS.

Mena Lafkioui & Daniela Merolla,
  1.  Textes berbères chaouis de l'Aurès d'après Gustave Mercier, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, Köln 2001 (163 p.)

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