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Neo-Tifinagh, Arabic and French at a store in Morocco

Tifinagh (Berber pronunciation: [tifinaɣ]; also written Tifinaɣ in the Berber Latin alphabet; Neo-Tifinagh: ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ; Tuareg Tifinagh: ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵗ or ⵜⴼⵏⵗ) is an abjad script used to write the Berber languages.[1]

A modern alphabetical derivative of the traditional script, known as Neo-Tifinagh, was introduced in the 20th century. A slightly modified version of the traditional script, called Tifinagh Ircam, is used in a number of Moroccan elementary schools in teaching the Berber language to children as well as a number of publications.[2][3]

The word tifinagh is thought to be a Berberised feminine plural cognate of Punic, through the Berber feminine prefix ti- and Latin Punicus; thus tifinagh could possibly mean "the Phoenician (letters)"[4][5] or "the Punic letters".


Time period
3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD
Parent systems
Child systems

Tifinagh is believed to have descended from the ancient Libyan (libyque) or Libyco-Berber script, although its exact evolution is unclear,[6] the latter writing system was widely used in antiquity by speakers of Berber languages throughout Africa and on the Canary Islands. It is attested from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD, the script's origin is uncertain, with some scholars suggesting it is related to the Phoenician alphabet.[7]

There are two known variants: eastern and western, the eastern variant was used in what is now Constantine and the Aurès regions of Algeria and in Tunisia. It is the best-deciphered variant, due to the discovery of several Numidian bilingual inscriptions in Libyan and Punic (notably at Dougga in Tunisia). 22 letters out of the 24 were deciphered. The western variant was more primitive (Février 1964–1965), it was used along the Mediterranean coast from Kabylie to the Canary Islands. It used 13 supplementary letters.

The Libyco-Berber script was a pure abjad; it had no vowels. Gemination was not marked. The writing was usually from the bottom to the top, although right-to-left, and even other orders, were also found, the letters would take different forms when written vertically than when they were written horizontally.[8]

Tuareg Tifinagh[edit]

Entrance to the town of Kidal. The name is written in Tifinagh (ⴾⴸⵍ) and Latin script.
Languages Tuareg
Time period
unknown to present
Parent systems
Child systems

The Libyco-Berber script is used today in the form of Tifinagh to write the Tuareg languages, which belong to the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. Early uses of the script have been found on rock art and in various sepulchres, among these are the 1,500 year old monumental tomb of the Tuareg matriarch Tin Hinan, where vestiges of a Tifinagh inscription have been found on one of its walls.[9]

According to M.C.A. MacDonald, the Tuareg are "an entirely oral society in which memory and oral communication perform all the functions which reading and writing have in a literate society… The Tifinagh are used primarily for games and puzzles, short graffiti and brief messages."[6]

Occasionally, the script has been used to write other neighbouring languages such as Tagdal, a Songhay language, which belongs to the separate Nilo-Saharan family.


Traditional Tifinagh

Common forms of the letters are illustrated at left, including various ligatures of t and n. Gemination, though phonemic, is not indicated in Tifinagh. The letter t, +, is often combined with a preceding letter to form a ligature. Most of the letters have more than one common form, including mirror-images of the forms shown here.

When the letters l and n are adjacent to themselves or to each other, the second is offset, either by inclining, lowering, raising, or shortening it, for example, since the letter l is a double line, ||, and n a single line, |, the sequence nn may be written |/ to differentiate it from l. Similarly, ln is ||/, nl |//, ll ||//, nnn |/|, etc.

Traditionally, the Tifinagh script does not indicate vowels except word-finally, where a single dot stands for any vowel; in some areas, Arabic vowel diacritics are combined with Tifinagh letters to transcribe vowels, or y, w may be used for long ī and ū.


Amz-plake province Tiznite.JPG
Languages Standard Moroccan Berber and other Northern Berber languages
Time period
1980 to present
Parent systems
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Tfng, 120
Unicode alias

Neo-Tifinagh is the modern fully alphabetic script developed from earlier forms of Tifinagh, it is written left-to-right.

Until recently, virtually no books or websites were published in this alphabet, with activists favouring the Latin (or, more rarely, Arabic) scripts for serious usage; however, it is extremely popular for symbolic use, with many books and websites written in a different script featuring logos or title pages using Neo-Tifinagh. In Morocco, the king took a "neutral" position between the claims of Latin script and Arabic script by adopting Neo-Tifinagh in 2003; as a result, books are beginning to be published in this script, and it is taught in some schools. However, many independent Berber-language publications are still published using the Berber Latin alphabet, outside Morocco, it has no official status. The Moroccan state arrested and imprisoned people using this script during the 1980s and 1990s,[10] the Algerian Black Spring was also partly caused by this repression of Berber languages.[citation needed]

In Algeria, almost all Berber publications use the Berber Latin Alphabet.

In Libya, the government of Muammar Gaddafi consistently banned Tifinagh from being used in public contexts such as store displays and banners.[11]

After the Libyan Civil War, the National Transitional Council has shown an openness towards the Berber languages, the rebel Libya TV, based in Qatar, has included the Berber language and the Tifinagh alphabet in some of its programming.[12]


An IRCAM version of Neo-Tifinagh

The following are the letters and a few ligatures of traditional Tifinagh and Neo-Tifinagh:

Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D30 2D30.png a ا æ ya
U+2D31 2D31.png b ب b yab
U+2D32 2D32.png b ٻ β yab fricative
U+2D33 2D33.png g گ ɡ yag
U+2D34 2D34.png g ڲ ɣ yag fricative
U+2D35 2D35.png dj ج d͡ʒ Berber Academy yadj
U+2D36 2D36.png dj ج d͡ʒ yadj
U+2D37 2D37.png d د d yad
U+2D38 2D38.png d ذ ð yad fricative
U+2D39 2D39.png ض yaḍ
U+2D3A 2D3A.png ظ ðˤ yaḍ fricative
U+2D3B 2D3B.png e ه ə yey
U+2D3C 2D3C.png f ف f yaf
U+2D3D 2D3D.png k ک k yak
U+2D3E 2D3E.png k ک k Tuareg yak
U+2D3F 2D3F.png ⴿ k ک x yak fricative
U+2D40 2D40.png h
= Tuareg yab
U+2D41 2D41.png h ھ h Berber Academy yah
U+2D42 2D42.png h ھ h Tuareg yah
U+2D43 2D43.png ح ħ yaḥ
U+2D44 2D44.png ʕ (ɛ) ع ʕ yaʕ (yaɛ)
U+2D45 2D45.png kh (x) خ χ yax
U+2D46 2D46.png kh (x) خ χ Tuareg yax
U+2D47 2D47.png q ق q yaq
U+2D48 2D48.png q ق q Tuareg yaq
U+2D49 2D49.png i ي i yi
U+2D4A 2D4A.png j ج ʒ yaj
U+2D4B 2D4B.png j ج ʒ Ahaggar yaj
U+2D4C 2D4C.png j ج ʒ Tuareg yaj
U+2D4D 2D4D.png l ل l yal
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D4E 2D4E.png m م m yam
U+2D4F 2D4F.png n ن n yan
U+2D50 2D50.png ny ني nj Tuareg yagn
U+2D51 2D51.png ng ڭ ŋ Tuareg yang
U+2D52 2D52.png p پ p yap
U+2D53 2D53.png u
w yu
= Tuareg yaw
U+2D54 2D54.png r ر r yar
U+2D55 2D55.png ڕ yaṛ
U+2D56 2D56.png gh (ɣ) غ ɣ yaɣ
U+2D57 2D57.png gh (ɣ) غ ɣ Tuareg yaɣ
U+2D58 2D58.png gh (ɣ)
Aïr yaɣ
= Adrar yaj
U+2D59 2D59.png s س s yas
U+2D5A 2D5A.png ص yaṣ
U+2D5B 2D5B.png sh (š) ش ʃ yaš
U+2D5C 2D5C.png t ت t yat
U+2D5D 2D5D.png t ت θ̱ yat fricative
U+2D5E 2D5E.png ch (tš) تش t͡ʃ yatš
U+2D5F 2D5F.png ط yaṭ
U+2D60 2D60.png v ۋ v yav
U+2D61 2D61.png w ۉ w yaw
U+2D62 2D62.png y ي j yay
U+2D63 2D63.png z ز z yaz
U+2D64 2D64.png z ز z Tawellemet yaz
= Harpoon yaz
U+2D65 2D65.png ژ yaẓ
U+2D66 2D66.png e   e ye (APT)
U+2D67 2D67.png o   o yo (APT)
U+2D6F 2D6F.png  ⵯ +ʷ + ٗ ʷ Labio-velarization mark
= Tamatart
≈ <super> 2D61
Digraphs (for which ligatures are possible)
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D5C U+2D59 2D5C.png2D59.png ⵜⵙ ts تس t͡s yats
U+2D37 U+2D63 2D37.png2D63.png ⴷⵣ dz دز d͡z yadz
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D5C U+2D5B 2D5C.png2D5B.png ⵜⵛ ch (tš) تش t͡ʃ yatš
U+2D37 U+2D4A 2D37.png2D4A.png ⴷⵊ dj دج d͡ʒ yadj
Color Key
Basic Tifinagh (IRCAM)[13] Extended Tifinagh (IRCAM) Other Tifinagh letters Modern Tuareg letters


Tifinagh was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2005, with the release of version 4.1.

The Unicode block range for Tifinagh is U+2D30–U+2D7F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+2D3x ⴿ
U+2D7x   ⵿  
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ To a limited extent: See Interview with Karl-G. Prasse and Penchoen (1973:3)
  2. ^ "Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe" (in French). Ircam.ma. Archived from the original on 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2015-07-14. 
  3. ^ "Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe". Ircam.ma. Archived from the original on 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2015-07-14. 
  4. ^ Penchoen (1973:3)
  5. ^ O'Connor (2006:115)
  6. ^ a b M.C.A. MacDonald (2005). Elizabeth A. Slater, C.B. Mee and Piotr Bienkowski, ed. Writing and Ancient Near East Society: Essays in Honor of Alan Millard. T.& T.Clark Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 9780567026910. 
  7. ^ Suleiman, Yasir (1996). Language and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa. Psychology Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-7007-0410-1. 
  8. ^ "Berber". Ancient Scripts. Retrieved 2017-10-09. 
  9. ^ Briggs, L. Cabot (February 1957). "A Review of the Physical Anthropology of the Sahara and Its Prehistoric Implications". Man. 56: 20–23. JSTOR 2793877. 
  10. ^ "Rapport sur le calvaire de l’écriture en Tifinagh au Maroc". Amazighworld.org. Retrieved 2017-10-09. 
  11. ^ سلطات الامن الليبية تمنع نشر الملصق الرسمي لمهرجان الزي التقليدي بكباو [Libyan security authorities to prevent the publication of the official poster for the festival traditional costume Pkpau] (in Arabic). TAWALT. 2007. 
  12. ^ "Libya TV – News in Berber". Blip.tv. Retrieved 2015-07-14. 
  13. ^ "Polices et Claviers Unicode" (in French). IRCAM. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 


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  • Chaker, Salem (1996). Propositions pour la notation usuelle à base latine du berbère. Etudes et Documents Berbères 14, 239–253.
  • Chaker, Salem (1997). La Kabylie: un processus de développement linguistique autonome. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 123, 81–99.
  • Durand, O. (1994). Promotion du berbère : problèmes de standardisation et d’orthographe. Expériences européennes. Etudes et Documents Berbères 11, 7–11.
  • O’Connor, Michael (1996). The Berber scripts. The World’s Writing Systems, ed. by William Bright and Peter Daniels, 112–116. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Penchoen, Thomas G. (1973). Tamazight of the Ayt Ndhir. Los Angeles: Undena Publications. 
  • Savage, Andrew. 2008. Writing Tuareg – the three script options. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 192: 5–14
  • Souag, Lameen (2004). "Writing Berber Languages: a quick summary". L. Souag. Archived from the original on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  • Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. Tifinagh.

External links[edit]