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Tifinagh

Tifinagh is an abjad script used to write the Tamazight languages. Neo-Tifinagh, a modern alphabetical derivative of the traditional script was reintroduced 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. Tifinagh or Libyc was used in antiquity by speakers of Libyc languages throughout North Africa and on the Canary Islands; some authors believe it to be attested from as far back as the 2nd millennium BC, to the present time. The script's origin is considered by most scholars as being of local origin, like all scripts it builds on other scripts—likely the Phoenician alphabet. An alternative suggestion, by Helmut Satzinger, is that its origin is to be seen in the Ethiopian script. There are four known variants: Western Libyc, Bu Njem Libyc and Saharan Libyc; the eastern variant covers the north-west of Tunisia as well as eastern Algeria, the western limit of its use is placed at the east of Sétif although inscriptions of the eastern type can exceptionally be in Kabylia, it shows a clear Phoenician influence.

It is the best-deciphered variant, due to the discovery of several Numidian bilingual inscriptions in Libyan and Punic. Researcher Lionel Galand maintains that there are two versions of Eastern Libyc: one used for monuments, which he called the Dougga script, one for funerary steles, Eastern Libyc proper; the latter contains only 23 letters, which agrees with observations made by historian Fabius Planciades Fulgentius. In the Dougga script, 22 letters out of the 24 were deciphered so far; the western variant covers the western half of Algeria, as well as the Canary Islands. It shows no Phoenician influence, its inscriptions are fewer and shorter and rougher. The characteristic of this alphabet is that it includes additional signs, that the eastern one is unaware of, whose value could not be given; some of these characters are identical to the Tuareg letters of the alphabet. There are graffiti discovered at Bou Njem, the ancient Gholaia in Libya, on the wall of an old monument which dated from the 3rd century.

The writing is horizontal, made up of nine inscriptions. This variant was influenced by Latin to the point of constituting a special alphabet; this variant was widespread in pre-Saharan and Saharan Libya, territory of the Gaetuli and Garamantes, where it was used by the inhabitants to engrave their messages. It is unknown and badly located; the ancient Tifinagh script was a pure abjad. Gemination was not marked; the writing was from the bottom to the top, although right-to-left, other orders, were found. The letters would take different forms when written vertically than when they were written horizontally; 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 Afroasiatic family. Early uses of the script have been found in various sepulchres. Among these are the 1,500 year old monumental tomb of the Tuareg queen Tin Hinan, where vestiges of a Tifinagh inscription have been found on one of its walls. According to historians, the Tuareg are "an 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 for games and puzzles, short graffiti and brief messages."Occasionally, the script has been used to write other neighbouring languages such as Tagdal, which belongs to a separate Songhay family.

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 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, raising, or shortening it. For example, since the letter l is a double line, ||, n a single line, |, the sequence nn may be written || to differentiate it from l. 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. Neo-Tifinagh is the modern alphabetic script developed from earlier forms of Tifinagh, it is written left to right.

Until virtually no books or websites were published in this alphabet, with activists favouring the Latin scripts for serious use. In Morocco, use of Neo-Tifinagh was suppressed until recently; the Moroccan state imprisoned people using this script during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, the king took a "neutral" position between the claims of Latin script and Arabic script by adopting Neo-Tifinagh. However, many independent Berber-language publications are still published using the Berber Latin alphabet. Outside Morocco, it has no official status. In Algeria all Berber publications use the Berber Latin Alphabet; the A

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