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|Region||High Atlas, Anti-Atlas, Souss|
|Total speakers||Uncertain, 3 to 9 million|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
|person||ašəlḥi (m), tašəlḥit (f)|
|people||išəlḥin (m), tišəlḥiyn (f)|
Shilha (pronounced /ˈʃɪlhə/; native Taclḥit, variously transcribed Tachelhit, Tachelhiyt, Tachlhit; also Tamazirt n Suss, Moroccan Arabic: Shelha) is one of the large Berber languages with about 3 million speakers, and with about 8 million speakers according to the INALCO linguistic institute in France.
Shilha is spoken in High-Atlas Morocco an area ranging from the northern slopes of the High-Atlas to the southern slopes of the Anti-Atlas, the Great Canyon, bounded to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The northern limit of the Shilha area is difficult to pinpoint because of a smooth transition into Southern Middle Atlas. The High-Atlas Mountains, plains and valleys, and the Great Canyons region is central to the Shilha area, therefore the Shilha people are often called Ichelin-Berber or Chleuh, even though it stretches to surrounding regions well outside of High-Atlas.
Shilha is known for its rich oral literature. Literature written in the Arabic script has been produced from the second half of sixteenth century on; Muhammad Awzal (ca. 1680-1749) was the most prolific poet of the Shilha literary tradition.
Geography and demography
The Ichelans (Arabic: bilād Atlas;[nb 1] Berber: tamazirt n Atlas), one of Morocco's most fertile regions, irrigated by the Wadi Suss and separated from the Sahara by the Anti-Atlas Mountains and Great Canyons, is the central area of the Chleuhs, the speakers of Shilha. As early as the eleventh century, the area was noted for its cultivation and export of sugar. The sale of sugar to Portuguese, Dutch and English traders as well as a share in the Great Canyons gold trade brought prosperity to the region. A traditional Islamic schooling system, 'a rare example of a self-organised and productive education system in an almost entirely rural environment' (vd. Boogert 1997:9), has existed in the area for centuries.
Like other Berber languages, Shilha has been written with several different systems over the years. Historically, the dominant script was the Arabic alphabet, with usage of the Latin alphabet to a lesser degree. More recently, the Tifinagh alphabet was reintroduced and nowadays it is the most used script.
The way Shilha is written in the Arabic script is very consistent, to the extent that it is possible to talk about a "conventionalized orthography". It has remained virtually the same over four centuries.
Two extra letters were added to represent consonants which Shilha possesses but Arabic doesn't: a kaf with three under- or over-dots (<ݣ>) for /ɡ/, and sad with three under- or over-dots for /zˤ/. /rˤ/ and /lˤ/, which bear a minimal functional load, aren't represented.
Texts are always vocalized, with /a/, /i/, and /u/ being written with fatha, kasra, and damma respectively, and consonants without a following phonemic vowel (which might mean that they are followed by a schwa) always vowelized with a sukun.
Maghrebi script is always used. Some features of this: tashdiid may be represented with a different sign;[nb 2] and waṣl is indicated by echoing the final vowel of the preceding word on the alif, and a dot sometimes also occurs on top of the alif, or if the vowel is /u/ the alif occurs with a line through it.
In imitation of Arabic waṣl , word initial vowels are written with alif with fatha, kasra, or a bar (and no superscript bar), and /a, i/ may be accompanied by hamza. In addition the previous word's final consonant may echo the vowel, and this 'anticipatory vowel' may be written as long[nb 3] instead of its trigger.[nb 4]
<ث, ذ, ﻅ> are often replaced by <ت, د, ض> respectively in Arabic loans, due to their Shilha pronunciation of /t, d, dˤ/ (e.g. lḥadit 'tradition'). Final /-a/ in both native Berber words and loan words is sometimes be written with alif maqsura, even if the original Arabic spelling didn't use it (e.g. zzka 'alms tax'. Final /-t/ in words of Arabic origin is sometimes written with ta' marbuta, whether or not the original Arabic word was spelled with it (e.g. zzit 'olive oil'). Nunation diacritics are sometimes used to write final /-Vn/ in Berber words. Words starting with VCː may sometimes be written similarly to the Arabic definite article. Final -u or -w in Berber words may be followed by an alif al-wiqaaya.
Under influence of Arabic's orthographic merging of stem + pronominal suffixes and some prepositions and preverbals into single words, Berber manuscripts do the same to a greater degree, merging all prepositions, preverbals, pronominal affixes, and demonstratives to adjacent words (usually onto nouns or verbs). Sometimes a verb's subject merges with the verb.
Ibrāhīm Aẓnag and Muḥammad Awzal indicate some prosody, representing vowels stressed in recitation or chanting by adding the appropriate ḥarf al-madd, even loanwords.
A different orthography was used in the few Berber texts in existence from the eleventh to the fourteenth century BCE, written in a older Berber language likely to be most closely related to Shilha. /g/ was represented by jim or kaf, /zˤ/ by sad or sometimes zay, /dˤ/ by ta or sometimes da, /a, i, u/ by harakat followed by huruf al-madd, word final waw usually accompanied by alif al-wiqaya, avoidance of sequences of two waws or yahs (in /uw/, /wu/, /ij/, /ji/), the schwa represented by a fatha with or without alif, and prepositions and possessive pronouns written separately from adjacent nouns. The texts also display archaicisms including /jə, əj/ where modern has /i/ and /wə, əw/ where modern has /u/, /ə/ in in places where it has disappeared,[nb 5] schwa being written in places where it was likely to have been elided (but still written for consistency), some nouns with plural /u-/ or /tu-/ rather than /i-/ or /ti-/, plural stative verbs, /gəɣ/[nb 6] for 'in' rather than the /ɣ/ of all later texts, and masculine construct forms with /wə/, /jə/ where Shilha has /u-/, /i-/. Some of this system's archaic conventions are preserved in Arabic loan words.
Shilha, like other Berber languages, has an extensive body of oral literature in a wide variety of genres. Fables and animal stories often revolve around the character of the jackal (uššn); other genres include legends, imam/taleb stories, riddles, and tongue-twisters.
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Less well known is the existence of a distinct literary tradition which can be traced back at least to the early sixteenth century. For at least four centuries, Sous Berber has been written by local scholars in a Magribic variant of the Arabic script. The most prolific writer of this tradition was Muḥammad Awzal (ca. 1680-1749); the longest extant text in Shilha however is a commentary on al-Ḥawḍ entitled 'the pasture' (al-Mandja) from the hand of al-Ḥasan b. Mubarak al-Tamudizti (d. 1899). Important collections of Shilha Berber manuscripts can be found in Aix-en-Provence (the fonds Arsène Roux) and Leiden. Virtually all manuscripts are of religious nature, and their main purpose was to instruct the illiterate common people. Many of the texts are in versified form to facilitate memorisation and recitation.
The written language differs in some aspects from normal spoken Shilha. For example, it is common for the manuscript texts to contain a mix of dialectal variants not found in a single dialect. The language of the manuscripts also contains a higher number of Arabic words than the spoken form, a phenomenon that has been called arabisme poétique.[nb 7] Other characteristics of the written language include use of a plural form instead of the singular; plural formation by use of the prefix ida; use of stopgaps like daɣ 'again', hann and hatinn 'lo!' to fill the metre of the verse; and the use of archaisms.
Shilha has three phonemic vowels: /i/ /a/ /u/. The schwa ([ə]) which turns up in many words between two consonants (e.g. inbgi = [inəbɡi] 'guest', tigmmi = [tiɡəmmi] 'house') has no phonemic status; some authors do not write it for that reason, while others (e.g. Aspinion) write it because it is heard nonetheless. Historically, schwa is thought to be the result of a pan-Berber reduction or merger of three other vowels. The phonetic realization of the vowels, especially /a/, is highly influenced by the character of the surrounding consonants; emphatic consonants invite a more open realization of the vowel, e.g. aẓru = [az̴ru] 'stone' vs. amud = [æmud] 'seed'.
Evidence supports the conclusion that the schwa is non-phonemic - for instance, it lacks its own time slot or articulatory target. Due to this Shilha can be analyzed as containing words without phonemic vowels.
Shilha has thirty-three phonemic consonants. Like other Berber languages and Arabic, it has both pharyngealized ("emphatic") and plain dental consonants. There is also a distinction between labialized and plain dorsal obstruents. Gemination is contrastive.
In Latin orthography, emphatics are marked by an underwritten dot. Also, /χ/ is written ‹x›, /ʁ/ is written ‹ɣ›, and /j/ is written ‹y›.
Some pharyngealized consonants are very common(i.e. /tˤ, dˤ, sˤ, zˤ/), while others are very rare, found mostly in Arabic loans (e.g. /nˤ, lˤ, rˤ/).
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Due to the presence of vowelless words, sometimes entirely voiceless (e.g. t-fk-t=stt 'you gave it') Shilha poses a difficulty regarding syllabification. Some regard all consonants as possible nuclei, while another opinion is that schwa serves as the phonetic realization of the syllable nucleus.
Shilha pronouns distinguish between male and female gender in both singular and plural forms of the second and third person. There are several sets of pronouns, each for different contexts. Five common paradigms are given below. The first paradigm of possessive pronouns is used for some specific associative relations such as kinship terms (e.g. baba-k 'your (m) father', baba-tnɣ 'our father') and spatial relation terms, as in ɣ-eddaw-s 'its underpart' (lit. in-under-its). The second set of possessive pronouns consists of the preposition nn 'of' and the first paradigm, e.g. tigmmi-nn-k [təɡəmːinːək] 'your (f) house' (lit. house of you), aydi-nn-sn [æjdinːəsən] 'their (m) dog' (lit. dog of them (m)). The 3sm independent pronoun ntta 'he' may be shortened to ntt. The 3sf direct object pronoun appears as stt after a dental stop, e.g. krfat stt 'shackle her!' and also after the particle 'ad'. The 1s possessive pronoun has several allomorphs; after a consonant, the form inu is used and after a vowel the form nu. The final u is realized as w when followed by a vowel-initial word.
|Independent||Direct object||Indirect object||Possessive 1||Possessive 2|
|s = singular, p = plural, m = male, f = female, ø = zero morpheme.|
Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case. There are two genders, masculine and feminine. There are several ways to mark plurality in Shilha. Common plural formations are:
- the affixation of i-…-n for masculine nouns starting in a, or ti-…-in for feminine nouns starting with ta-, e.g. a-fullus 'rooster, cock' > i-fullus-n or ta-gan-t 'forest' > ti-gan-in.
- several kinds of vowel change, for example a…a…u > i…u…a (a-gayyu 'head' > i-guyya) or
- in ethnonyms and loanwords, prefixation of the word id or ida, (id-bllarj 'storks' < Gr. pelargos; ida ssur 'walls' < Arabic, ida wsmlal 'the Ida Ousemlal people' < asmlal sg.). The use of ida is a characteristic feature of poetic language.
Sometimes a combination of vowel change and affixation is used, e.g. ilf 'wild boar' > alfiwn or ass 'day' > ussan. Double consonants are often shortened and single consonants doubled, e.g. a-fus 'hand' > i-fass-n, a-gllid 'king' > i-gld-an.
Shilha nouns come in two cases, commonly called état libre (EL) and état d'annexion (EA), that are marked by prefixes. A noun appears in the état d'annexion in a number of syntactic contexts. The most important among these is when the noun occurs as a subject in postverbal position, e.g. isu wa'-gʷmar 'the horse (a-gʷmar) drinks', y-azzl wu-ššn 'the jackal (u-ššn) runs', or tnwa t-fiyyi 'the meat (ti-fiyyi) is cooked, done'. Nouns are also in the état d'annexion after numerals and most prepositions: sin wu-lawn 'two hearts (u-lawn, sg. ul)', tamart n u-rgaz 'beard of the man (a-rgaz)', ifta s dar 't-mɣart 'he went to the woman (ta-mɣart)'.
In most other cases, nouns have the état libre or unmarked case; this is also the form in which the noun would appear in a dictionary. Nouns starting with u or tu in the état libre have wu and tu in the état d'annexion. Other forms cannot simply be predicted from the unmarked form, cf. for example a-fus (EL), u-fus (EA) 'hand' but a-fud (EL), wa-fud (EA) 'knee', and ta-gra (EL), t-gra (EA) 'bowl' but ta-ɣla (EL), ta-ɣla (EA) 'lamb'. Another term for the état d'annexion is état construit or construct state.
Verbs carry the person, number and gender information of their subject in the form of affixes. There are four inflectional forms of the verb traditionally called aorist, preterite, negative preterite and intensive. The basic opposition is between the aorist, a non-past form which lacks further tense information, and the preterite which often conveys past tense. The intensive (usually called inaccomplit in French) encodes habitual and/or durative/continuative aspect. It is often preceded by a particle ar, for instance in ar ttsisn waman (lit. ar cook:3pm:INT water:EA) 'the water is cooking'.[nb 8] In texts, a sequence of aorist verb forms usually follows after the initial setting of tense by an imperfect or intensive verb form.
A relative form of the verb, usually called participle, is used in relative clauses. It looks like the preterite form of the verb, with affixes added for person and number: i-...-n for 3rd person singular (y-...-n with vowel-initial verbs), and -in for 3rd person plural. For example, the relative forms of ili 'to be' (with preterite form lli) are illan and llanin for singular and plural, respectively. A singular imperative consists of the bare form of the verb without any affixes (fssa! 'be silent, sg'); in the plural, the imperative distinguishes between masculine and feminine by means of the affixes -at and -amu, respectively.
Stative verbs, verbs expressing qualities, are characterized by initial i- in the aorist, e.g. imɣur 'be big (aorist)', imim 'be sweet (aorist)', ili 'be, exist (aorist)'. The aorist form of stative verbs usually has a subjunctive or counter-factual reading, whereas the preterite form (characterized by gemination of the consonant, e.g. lli/lla 'be (pret.)') generally is used to express a (current) state of affairs, e.g. llan islman ɣ isaffn (be:PRET:3pm fish:pm in river) 'there are fishes in the river'. Shilha has only few simple adjectives; the most common adjectival construction is the relative form of a stative verb, as in argaz imqquṛn (man PTC:sg:m-be.big-PTC:sg:m) 'big man'.
Derived verb forms exist: a causative s, medial m (or nasal), and passive tt... can be recognized, as in muddu 'travel' from ddu go' + medial, or smugr 'meet each other' from gr 'touch' + causative + medial. However, derivation is no longer productive, i.e. speakers no longer consciously produce causatives, medials, or passives by applying derivative morphology to verbs.
Most prepositions have a short and a long form. The long form is used with pronominal suffixes, and the short form is used in all other contexts, e.g. nniga-s 'on top of him/her', nnig- tgmmi 'on top of the house'. A common colocation is s-dar 'to' as in s-dar tgmmi 'to the house'. Most of the prepositions require the following noun to be in the état d'annexion; only ar 'until' and some prepositions of Arabic origins such as bɛd 'after' and qbl 'before' are exceptions to this rule. Examples: ddu tafukt 'under the sun (EA)', ɣ wayyur n šuttanbir 'in the month (EA) September', ifškan n tgmmi 'the things of the house (EA)', s wuzzal 'by means of the iron (EA)', but ar assf n ljaza 'until the Day (EL) of Judgment', qbl iḍ 'before the night (EL)'.
|short form||long form||translation equivalent|
|d||id-||'with, in the company of'|
|ddu||ddaw-, ddawa-||'beneath, under'|
|f||flla-||'on; because of'|
|nnig||nniga-||'on top of'|
|s||is-||'with, by means of'|
In Shilha, as in most Northern Berber languages, the number system is permeated with Arabic numbers. The original cardinal numbers (one to ten) are yan, sin, kraḍ, kkuẓ, smmus, sḍis, sa, ttam, tẓẓa, mraw, but they are increasingly rare. Van den Boogert (1997) argues some of these to be of Phoenician-Punic origin. As with nouns, feminine forms are derived from the masculine: yat (irregular), snat (irregular), kraṭṭ, kkuṣt, smmust, etc. Nouns following cardinals from 1 to 10 are in the état d'annexion. Above ten, they are not pluralized and n 'of' precedes the noun: contrast kkuẓ wu-ssan (four EA-day.pl) 'four days' with kraḍ d mraw n wuššn (three and ten of EA-jackal) 'thirteen jackals'. In the tens, Arabic numerals are used, e.g. ɛšrin 'twenty', tltin 'thirty', etc. Tens are combined with Arabic units. Sometimes cardinals behave like nouns in that they are countable as well: sin id-ɛšrin n tgʷmma (two pl-twenty of EA-houses) 'forty houses'. Ordinal numbers are constructed by use of wiss (m) or tiss plus the cardinal number, e.g. wiss kraḍ 'the third (m)'.
Like all Berber languages, Shilha has absorbed quite some Arabic vocabulary, especially in the religious domain.
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Two secret languages used by Tashelhiyt Berber women are Taqjmit and Tagnawt.
Lqiṣt n yan urgaz lli izznzan tammnt ɣ ssuq. 1 Yan urgaz iɛmmr mnnaw yilmawn n tammnt ɣ ssuq. ² Yašk nn dars yan urgaz, ira ad dars isɣ tammnt. Inna yas: "Mnšk at tzznzt tammnt ann?" ³ Inna yas: "Mḍi tt, iɣ tt tɛjb ar gis tsawalt." 4 Yasi urgaz ann yan yilm, ifsi t, imḍi tammnt, ifk t i bab nns, inna as: "Amẓ, ar kiɣ gussɣ wayyaḍ." 5 Yamẓ t s ufus nns, yasi daɣ umssaɣ lli wayyaḍ, ifsi t, imḍi tammnt, ifk t daɣ i bab nns. 6 Yamẓ t s ufus nns yaḍnin, yasi umssaɣ yan yilm n tammnt, irur, iggammi bu tammnt mad an iskar i yilmawn lli yumẓ. 7 Ar yaqqra i mddn at t fukkun.[nb 9]
The story of the man who sold honey in the souk. 1 A man was filling some leather bags of honey in the souk. ² There came another man to him, who wanted to buy honey. He said: "At how much do you sell that honey?" ³ The seller said to him: "Just taste it, and if it pleases you, make a bid." 4 The man took a bag, poured out some, tasted the honey and gave it back to its owner; he said: "Please hold it, so that I can try another one". 5 The seller held it in his hand, the buyer took another bag, poured out some, tasted the honey and gave it back to its owner, 6 who held it in his other hand. Then the man took another bag of honey and ran away. The seller could not do anything because of the bags he held. 7 He called for help until they liberated him.
[Word for word translation:] Story of one man who selling honey in souk. 1 One man he.fill some leather.bags of honey in souk. 2 He.came there to.him one man, want to him buy honey. He.say to.him: "How.much is.it you.sell honey that?" 3 He.say to.him: "Taste it, if to.you it.please then about.her speak. 4 He.take man there one leather.bag, he.pour-out it, he.taste honey, he.give it to owner its, he.say to.him: "Hold, until (ar kiɣ) I.test another. 5 He.hold it in hand his, he.take again seller that another, he.pour-out it, he.taste honey, he.give it again to owner its. 6 He.hold it in hand his other, he.take seller one bag of honey, he.run, he.not-able owner.of honey what to he.do because leather.bags that he.held. 7 Then he.call to people that him they.liberate.
- ^ Note that early Arab geographers used the name chleuh to refer to the whole of Morocco, see Boogert (1997:1)
- ^ Tashdiid may occur with sukun in Shilha, which never occurs in Arabic.
- ^ Vowel length isn't distinctive in Shilha but orthographically long vowels may indicate prosody, see Boogert (1997:66)
- ^ Note that this usage is the mirror-image of Maghrebi.
- ^ Syllable-final /ə/ demonstrates its phonemicity, e.g. /jəwət/.
- ^ This word has no attested cognates in Berber languages
- ^ A term introduced by Paulette Galand-Pernet as cited in vd. Boogert 1997:52.
- ^ A term introduced by Paulette Galand-Pernet as cited in vd. Boogert 1997:52.
- ^ Source of this short text: Stroomer 1995.
- ^ a b Shilha language at Ethnologue
- ^ a b INALCO, LE TACHELHIT OU CHLEUH (Maroc).
- ^ Harry Stroomer note on Tashelhit Berber
- ^ "Shilha". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
- ^ Boogert (1997:1)
- ^ a b c d e Boogert (1997:61)
- ^ Boogert (1997:62)
- ^ Boogert (1997:62–63)
- ^ Boogert (1997:63)
- ^ a b c Boogert (1997:64)
- ^ Boogert (1997:64–65)
- ^ a b c Boogert (1997:65)
- ^ Boogert (1997:66)
- ^ Boogert (1997:66–67)
- ^ Boogert (1997:103, 106–107)
- ^ Boogert (1997:103–104)
- ^ a b Boogert (1997:105–106)
- ^ PDF (319 KB)
- ^ PDF (284 KB)
- ^ PDF (58.9 KB)
- ^ a b PDF (119 KB)
- ^ Boogert & Stroomer (2004)
- ^ PDF (158 KB)
- Aspinion, Robert (1953). Apprenons le berbère: initiation aux dialectes chleuhs. Rabat: Moncho.
- Boogert, Nico van den (1997). Berber Literary Tradition of the Sous — with an edition and translation of 'The Ocean of Tears' by Muḥammad Awzal (d. 1749). (De Goeje Fund, Vol. XXVII) Leiden: NINO. ISBN 90-6258-971-5
- Boogert, Nico van den & Harry Stroomer (2004) 'Tashelhiyt Berber of South Morocco — a morphological survey'. Unpublished.
- Stroomer, Harry (1995). Textes berbères des Aït Souab (Anti-Atlas) recueillis par le capitaine Jean Podeur, édités et annotés. Aix-en-Provence: Edisud.
- Stroomer, Harry (2001). An anthology of Tashelhiyt Berber folktales (South Morocco). (Berber Studies, vol. 2). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.
- Stroomer, Harry (2002). Tashelhiyt Berber Folktales from Tazerwalt (South Morocco). A Linguistic Reanalysis of Hans Stumme's Tazerwalt Texts with an English Translation. (Berber Studies, vol. 4). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.
- Stroomer, Harry (October 2008). "Three Tashelhiyt Berber Texts from the Arsène Roux Archives.". In F.H.H. Kortlandt, Alexander Lubotsky, Jos Schaeken, Jeroen Wiedenhof. Evidence and Counter-Evidence. Essays in Honour of Frederik Kortlandt. Volume 2: General Linguistics. (Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics). Amsterdam: Rodolpi. ISBN 9789042024717. "In Morocco, Berber is spoken in the Rif (Tarifit), in the Middle Atlas (Tamaziyt) and in the High Atlas, the Sous plains and the Anti-Atlas (Tasusiyt, Tashelhit), by an estimated 45% of the total population of 30 million people... Berber immigrant communities of various origins have settled in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Israel. Of all Berber languages Tashelhit Berber is the one with the highest (estimated) number of speakers: some 8 to 9 million."
- Report on Tachelit language from the MultiTree Project
- Map of Tachelit language from the LL-Map Project
- PDF (142 KB)
- PDF (153 KB)
- PDF (125 KB)
- PDF (690 KB)
- PDF (140 KB)
- PDF (117 KB) - see Chapter 3, section 2
- PDF (350 KB)
- WALS - Tashlhiyt
- Shilha Music
- Sous Music
- Atlas Music
- Shilha language at Ethnologue
- John Coleman, 'Epenthetic vowels in Tashlhiyt Berber' (includes sound samples)
- Berber folktales including many Shilha folktales