Shilha language

Shilha /ˈʃɪlhə/ is a Berber language native to Shilha people. It is spoken by more than eight million people in southwestern Morocco. The endonym is Taclḥit /taʃlʜijt/, and in recent English publications the language is often rendered Tashelhiyt or Tashelhit. In Moroccan Arabic the language is called Šəlḥa, from which the alternative English name Shilha is derived.[2] In French sources the language is called tachelhit, chelha or chleuh.

Native toMorocco
RegionHigh Atlas, Anti-Atlas, Sous, Draa
Native speakers
7,200,000 (2016)[1]
Arabic, Latin, Tifinagh
Language codes
ISO 639-3shi
  Shilha language area
PersonAclḥiy (male)
Taclḥiyt (female)
PeopleIclḥiyn (male)
Ticlḥiyin (female)

Shilha is spoken in an area covering c. 100,000 square kilometres,[3] comprising the western part of the High Atlas mountains and the regions to the south up to the Draa River, including the Anti-Atlas and the alluvial basin of the Sous River. The largest urban centres in the area are the coastal city of Agadir (population over 400,000) and the towns of Guelmim, Taroudant, Oulad Teima, Tiznit and Ouarzazate.

In the north and to the south, Shilha borders on Arabic-speaking areas. In the northeast, roughly along the line Marrakesh-Zagora, there is a dialect continuum with Central Atlas Tamazight. Within the Shilha area, there are several Arabic-speaking enclaves, notably the town of Taroudannt and its surroundings. Substantial Shilha-speaking migrant communities are found in most of the larger towns and cities of northern Morocco and outside Morocco in Belgium, France, Germany, Canada, the United States and Israel.

Shilha possesses a distinct and substantial literary tradition that can be traced back several centuries before the colonial era. Many texts, written in Arabic script and dating from the late 16th century to the present, are preserved in manuscripts. A modern printed literature in Shilha has developed since the 1970s.


Shilha speakers usually refer to their language as Taclḥit[4] (in Tifinagh script: ⵜⴰⵛⵍⵃⵉⵜ;[5] and in older spelling conventions,[6] Tašlḥiyt). This name is morphologically a feminine noun, derived from masculine Acelḥiy "male speaker of Shilha".[7] Shilha names of other languages are formed in the same way, for example Aɛṛab "an Arab", Taɛṛabt "the Arabic language".[8]

The origin of the name Acelḥiy or Shilha is still unknown. The first appearance of this name in the history books was in the 17th century, and it was described as old: « [...] In Morocco and in all the provinces of this Empire, as well as among the Numidians and Getules who move towards the West, they speak a pure African language, which they call Shilha and Tamazegt, very old names. ».[9] Now it is used as an endonym among Shilha speakers.

Some people and sources say that it is exonymic in origin, as the nominal stem šlḥ goes back to the Arabic noun šilḥ "bandit" (plural šulūḥ).[10] But this meaning is only present in the eastern dialects of Arabic, it does not exist in Maghreb dialects, and this is the weakness of this thesis. Also, the majority of those who tried to search for the etymology of the word used foreign language dictionaries, rather it was supposed to search for the relevant language first. This is mainly due to the fact that the proponents of this hypothesis were not Shilha speakers. This meaning has spread in recent times because of the Amazigh movement, which tried to distort the meaning of this name, and tried to make it a taboo among Shilha people, with the aim of uniting the Amazigh peoples under one name, namely Amazigh.[11]

There are a lot of attempts to explain this name based on the language of Tachelhit. The most logical one of them is by the writer Mohammed Akdim, who emphasized in one of his contributions, that the name Shluh, in fact, is the original name given by the original inhabitants of Morocco, Masmouda in the High Atlas and the possessions of Marrakesh, Souss and the Anti-Atlas On themselves. In Tashelhit, the verb Ishlh means to settle down, reside and live, which indicates that the name: Shluh means settled and settled residents or settled residents.[12] He also added that there is no meaning and no use in resorting to searching for the significance of the word “shalh” and “shluh” in other languages, which is not crippling. As for going to its interpretation and explanation in the Arabic language, this is the height of linguistic prejudice in the right of the Amazigh.[13]

The initial A- in Acelḥiy is the Shilha nominal prefix (see § Inflected nouns). The ending -iy (borrowed from the Arabic suffix -iyy) forms denominal nouns and adjectives. There are also variant forms Acelḥay and Tacelḥayt, with -ay instead of -iy under the influence of the preceding consonant .[14] The plural of Acelḥiy is Icelḥiyn; a single female speaker is a Tacelḥiyt (noun homonymous with the name of the language), plural Ticelḥiyin.

In Moroccan colloquial Arabic, a male speaker is called a Šəlḥ, plural Šluḥ, and the language is Šəlḥa,[15] a feminine derivation calqued on Tašlḥiyt. The Moroccan Arabic names have been borrowed into English as a Shilh, the Shluh, and Shilha, and into French as un Chleuh, les Chleuhs, and chelha or, more commonly, le chleuh.

The exonymic, uncomplimentary origin of the names Tacelḥiyt and Acelḥiy now seems lost from memory in Morocco among both Berbers and Arabs,[16] but Hans Stumme (1899:3) noted that a speaker of Shilha will call himself an Acelḥiy while being fully aware that it is a term of abuse, taking his revenge by calling an Arab izikr "rope" (referring to the well-known Bedouin headgear).

The now usual names Tacelḥiyt and Icelḥiyn seem to have gained the upper hand relatively recently, as they are attested only in those manuscript texts which date from the 19th and 20th centuries. In older texts, the language is still referred to as Tamaziɣt or Tamazixt "Tamazight". For example, the author Awzal (early 18th c.) speaks of nnaḍm n Tmazixt ann ifulkin "a composition in that beautiful Tamazight".[17]

Because Sous is the most heavily populated part of the language area, the name Tasusiyt (lit. "language of Sous") is now often used as a pars pro toto for the entire language.[18] A speaker of Tasusiyt is an Asusiy, plural Isusiyn, feminine Tasusiyt, plural Tisusiyin.

Number of speakers

Percentage of Shilha speakers per region according to 2004 census[19]

Completely reliable data on the number of Berberophones in Morocco do not exist. Ethnologue, in its 17th-20th editions (2014-2017) cited the numbers yielded by the Moroccan census of 2004, according to which there were around 4 million speakers of Tashelhiyt, accounting for 13 percent of the total population. In its 21st edition (2018), Ethnologue quotes a number of around 7 million speakers for the year 2016 (source not mentioned), or 20 percent of the population. Assuming that Ethnologue’s 2016 figure is correct, it appears that the 2004 census seriously underreported the number of speakers, as it is highly unlikely that the proportion of Tashelhiyt speakers in Morocco has actually risen by 7 percentage points between 2004 and 2016.

Some authors mention a much higher number of Shilha speakers. Stroomer (2001a) estimated that there are "some 6 to 8 million" speakers, and he subsequently (2008) raised the number to "some 8 to 9 million".[20] Stroomer does not refer to any published sources supporting his estimates, which are certainly too high.

Although many speakers of Shilha, especially men, are bilingual in Moroccan Arabic, there are as yet no indications that the survival of Shilha as a living language will be seriously threatened in the immediate future. Because of the rapid growth of the Moroccan population over the past decades (from 12 million in 1961 to over 33 million in 2014), it is safe to say that Shilha is now spoken by more people than ever before in history.


Dialect differentiation within Shilha, such as it is, has not been the subject of any targeted research, but several scholars have noted that all varieties of Shilha are mutually intelligible. The first was Stumme, who observed that all speakers can understand each other, "because the individual dialects of their language are not very different."[21] This was later confirmed by Ahmed Boukous, a Moroccan linguist and himself a native speaker of Shilha, who stated: "Shilha is endowed with a profound unity which permits the Shluh to communicate without problem, from the Ihahan in the northwest to the Aït Baamran in the southwest, from the Achtouken in the west to the Iznagen in the east, and from Aqqa in the desert to Tassaout in the plain of Marrakesh."[22]

There exists no sharply defined boundary between Shilha dialects and the dialects of Central Atlas Tamazight (CAT). The dividing line is generally put somewhere along the line Marrakesh-Zagora, with the speech of the Ighoujdamen, Iglioua and Aït Ouaouzguite ethnic groups[23] belonging to Shilha, and that of the neighboring Inoultan, Infedouak and Imeghran ethnic groups counted as CAT.

Writing systems

Shilha has been written with several different alphabets. Historically, the Arabic script has been dominant. Usage of the Latin script emerged in the late 19th century. More recently there has been an initiative to write Shilha in Tifinagh.


Tifinagh (or rather, Neo-Tifinagh) was introduced in the late 1990s and its use is now supported by the Moroccan authorities, in a standardised form promulgated by the Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe (IRCAM, Rabat). Publications entirely printed in Tifinagh still remain rare, and only a tiny proportion of Shilha speakers, if any, are able to handle the new script with confidence. Its main role is emblematic, that of a cultural icon. As such, Tifinagh has entered the public space, with town signs now showing the name in Tifinagh as well as in Arabic and Latin script.

Latin script

Many Shilha texts from the oral tradition have been published since the 19th century, transcribed in Latin script. Early publications display a wide variety of transcription systems. Stumme (1899) and Destaing (1920, 1940) use an elaborate phonetic transcription, while Justinard (1914) and Laoust (1936) employ a transcription based on French orthographical conventions. A new standard was set by Aspinion (1953) who uses a simple but accurate, largely phonemic transcription with hyphenation.

Most academic publications of recent decades use the Berber Latin alphabet, a fairly uniform transcription-orthography in Latin script (as used in this article).[24] The most unusual feature of this orthography is the employment of the symbol ɛ (Greek epsilon) to represent /ʢ/ (voiced epiglottal fricative), for example taɛmamt /taʢmamt/ "turban". Except with (= IPA /ʜ/), the subscript dot indicates pharyngealisation, for example aḍrḍur /adˤrdˤur/ "deaf person". Geminated and long consonants are transcribed with doubled symbols, for example tassmi "needle", aggʷrn "flour". Word divisions are generally disjunctive, with clitics written as separate words (not hyphenated).

Arabic script

Shilha written in Arabic script: an 18th-century manuscript of al-Ḥawḍ by Mḥmmd Awzal.
Traditional orthography

Traditional Shilha manuscript texts are written in a conventionalized orthography in Maghribi Arabic script.[25] This orthography has remained virtually unchanged since at least the end of the 16th century, and is still used today in circles of traditional Islamic scholars (ṭṭlba). The main features of the traditional orthography are the use of two extra letters (kāf with three dots for g, and ṣād with three dots for ) and full vocalization (vowels written with fatḥah, kasrah and ḍammah). Clitical elements are written connected to a noun or verb form (conjunctive spelling).[26]

Modern orthography

Since the 1970s, a fair number of books in Shilha have been published inside Morocco, written in a newly devised, practical orthography in Arabic script. The main features of this orthography are the representation of vowels a, i, u by the letters alif, yāʼ, wāw, and the non-use of vocalization signs other than shaddah (to indicate gemination of consonants) and ḍammah (to indicate labialization of velar and uvular consonants). The consonant g is written with گ, and is either written with زٜ (zāy with dot below) or not distinguished from z. Word separations are mostly disjunctive.


Shilha has an extensive body of oral literature in a wide variety of genres (fairy tales, animal stories, taleb stories, poems, riddles, and tongue-twisters). A large number of oral texts and ethnographic texts on customs and traditions have been recorded and published since the end of the 19th century, mainly by European linguists (see § References and further reading).

Shilha possesses a pre-colonial literary tradition. Numerous texts written in Arabic script are preserved in manuscripts dating from the past four centuries. The earliest datable text is a compendium of lectures on the "religious sciences" (lɛulum n ddin) composed in metrical verses by Brahim u Ɛbdllah Aẓnag (Ibrāhīm ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Ṣanhājī, died 1597). The best known writer in this tradition is Mḥmmd u Ɛli Awzal (Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Hawzālī, died 1749), author of al-Ḥawḍ "The Cistern" (a handbook of Maliki law in verse), Baḥr al-Dumūʿ "The Ocean of Tears" (an adhortation, with a description of Judgment Day, in verse) and other texts.[27]

Since the 1970s, a modern literature in Shilha has been developing.

Previous research

The first attempt at a grammatical description of Shilha is the work of the German linguist Hans Stumme (1864–1936), who in 1899 published his Handbuch des Schilḥischen von Tazerwalt. Stumme's grammar remained the richest source of grammatical information on Shilha for half a century. A problem with the work is its use of an over-elaborate, phonetic transcription which, while designed to be precise, generally fails to provide a transparent representation of spoken forms. Stumme also published a collection of Shilha fairy tales (1895, re-edited in Stroomer 2002).

The next author to grapple with Shilha is Saïd Cid Kaoui (Saʿīd al-Sidqāwī, 1859-1910), a native speaker of Kabyle from Algeria. Having published a dictionary of Tuareg (1894), he then turned his attention to the Berber languages of Morocco. His Dictionnaire français-tachelh'it et tamazir't (1907) contains extensive vocabularies in both Shilha and Central Atlas Tamazight, in addition to some 20 pages of useful phrases. The work seems to have been put together in some haste and must be consulted with caution.

On the eve of the First World War there appeared a small, practical booklet composed by Captain (later Colonel) Léopold-Victor Justinard (1878–1959), entitled Manuel de berbère marocain (dialecte chleuh). It contains a short grammatical sketch, a collection of stories, poems and songs, and some interesting dialogues, all with translations. The work was written while the author was overseeing military operations in the region of Fès, shortly after the imposition of the French protectorate (1912). Justinard also wrote several works on the history of the Sous.

Emile Laoust (1876–1952), prolific author of books and articles about Berber languages, in 1921 published his Cours de berbère marocain (2nd enlarged edition 1936), a teaching grammar with graded lessons and thematic vocabularies, some good ethnographic texts (without translations) and a wordlist.

Edmond Destaing (1872–1940) greatly advanced our knowledge of the Shilha lexicon with his Etude sur la tachelḥît du Soûs. Vocabulaire français-berbère (1920) and his Textes berbères en parler des Chleuhs du Sous (Maroc) (1940, with copious lexical notes). Destaing also planned a grammar which was to complete the trilogy, but this was never published.

Lieutenant-interpreter (later Commander) Robert Aspinion (…?–...?) is the author of Apprenons le berbère: initiation aux dialectes chleuhs (1953), an informative though somewhat disorganized teaching grammar. Aspinion's simple but accurate transcriptions did away with earlier phonetic and French-based systems.

The first attempted description in English is Outline of the Structure of Shilha (1958) by American linguist Joseph Applegate (1925–2003). Based on work with native speakers from Ifni, the work is written in a dense, inaccessible style, without a single clearly presented paradigm. Transcriptions, apart from being unconventional, are unreliable throughout.

The only available accessible grammatical sketch written in a modern linguistic frame is "Le Berbère" (1988) by Lionel Galand (1920–2017), a French linguist and berberologist. The sketch is mainly based on the speech of the Ighchan (Iɣeccan) ethnic group of the Anti-Atlas, with comparative notes on Kabyle of Algeria and Tuareg of Niger.

More recent, book-length studies include Jouad (1995, on metrics), Dell and Elmedlaoui (2002 and 2008, on syllables and metrics), El Mountassir (2009, a teaching grammar), Roettger (2017, on stress and intonation) and the many text editions by Stroomer (see also § References and further reading).


Stress and intonation

Stress and intonation in Shilha are the subject of a monograph by Roettger (2017), who used instrumental testing. He established the fact that Shilha does not have lexical stress (Roettger 2017:59), as noted earlier by Stumme (1899:14) and Galand (1988, 2.16).


Shilha has three phonemic vowels, with length not a distinctive feature.[28] The vowels show a fairly wide range of allophones.[29] The vowel /a/ is most often realized as [a] or [æ], and /u/ is pronounced without any noticeable rounding except when adjacent to w. The presence of a pharyngealized consonant invites a more centralized realization of the vowel, as in kraḍ [krɐdˤ] "three", kkuẓ [kkɤzˤ] "four", sḍis [sdˤɪs] "six" (compare yan [jæn] "one", sin [sin] "two", semmus [smmʊs] "five").

Front Central Back
Close i u
Open a

Additional phonemic vowels occur sporadically in recent loan-words, for example /o/ as in rristora "restaurant" (from French).

Transitional vowels and "schwa"

In addition to the three phonemic vowels, there are non-phonemic transitional vowels, often collectively referred to as "schwa". Typically, a transitional vowel is audible following the onset of a vowelless syllable CC or CCC, if either of the flanking consonants, or both, are voiced,[30] for example tigemmi [tigĭmmi] "house", ameḥḍar [amɐ̆ʜdˤɐr] "schoolboy". In the phonetic transcriptions of Stumme (1899) and Destaing (1920, 1940), many such transitional vowels are indicated.

Later authors such as Aspinion (1953), use the symbol ⟨e⟩ to mark the place where a transitional vowel may be heard, irrespective of its quality, and they also write ⟨e⟩ where in reality no vowel, however short, is heard, for example ⟨akessab⟩ [akssæb] "owner of livestock", ⟨ar išetta⟩ [ar iʃtta] "he's eating". The symbol ⟨e⟩, often referred to as "schwa", as used by Aspinion and others, thus becomes a purely graphical device employed to indicate that the preceding consonant is a syllable onset: [a.k⟨e⟩s.sab], [a.ri.š⟨e⟩t.ta].[31] As Galand has observed, the notation of "schwa" in fact results from "habits which are alien to Shilha".[32] And, as conclusively shown by Ridouane (2008), transitional vowels or "intrusive vocoids" cannot even be accorded the status of epenthetic vowels. It is therefore preferable not to write transitional vowels or "schwa", and to transcribe the vowels in a strictly phonemic manner, as in Galand (1988) and all recent text editions.[33]

Treatment of hiatus

Hiatus does not occur within a morpheme, i.e. a morpheme never contains a sequence of two vowels without an intervening consonant. If hiatus arises when a morpheme-final vowel and a morpheme-initial vowel come together in context, there are several strategies for dealing with it.[34] The first of the two vowels may be elided or, alternatively, the semivowel y may be inserted to keep the vowels apart:

/tumẓin ula asngar/ → tumẓin ulasngar or tumẓin ula y asngar "barley as well as maize"
/fukku anɣ/ → fukkanɣ or fukku y anɣ "set us free!"

Less commonly, vowels /i/ and /u/ may change into y and w: /ddu-at/ "go ye!" (imperative plural masculine) is realized either as dduyat (with inserted y) or as ddwat.


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. Consonant gemination or length is contrastive.

The chart below represents the consonants in the standard Latin transcription. Where the transcription differs from the IPA orthography, the Latin transcription is bolded.

Bilabial Labio-
Dental Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal/
plain pharyngeal plain labialized plain labialized
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless   t k q  
voiced b d g
Fricative voiceless f  s /sˤ/ š ʃ x χ χʷ ʜ
voiced z /zˤ/ ž ʒ ɣ ʁ ɣʷ ʁʷ ɛ ʢ h ɦ
Approximant l y jw
Trill r
value (IPA)
voiced bilabial nasal
voiced dental nasal
voiceless dental stop
voiceless pharyngealized dental stop
voiceless prevelar stop
voiceless labialized prevelar stop
voiceless uvular stop
voiceless labialized uvular stop
voiced bilabial stop
voiced dental stop
voiced pharyngealized dental stop
voiced prevelar stop
voiced labialized prevelar stop
voiceless labiodental fricative
voiceless dental fricative
voiceless pharyngealized dental fricative
voiceless postalveolar fricative
voiceless uvular fricative
voiceless labialized uvular fricative
voiceless epiglottal fricative
voiced dental fricative
voiced pharyngealized dental fricative
voiced postalveolar fricative
voiced uvular fricative
voiced labialized uvular fricative
voiced epiglottal fricative or approximant
voiced glottal fricative or approximant
voiced dental lateral approximant
voiced pharyngealized dental lateral approximant
voiced palatal approximant
voiced labial-velar approximant
voiced dental trill
voiced pharyngealized dental trill

Additional phonemic consonants occur sporadically in recent loan-words, for example /bʷ/ as in bbʷa "(my) father" (from Moroccan Arabic), and /p/ as in laplaž "beach" (from French).


The semivowels /w/ and /y/ have vocalic allophones u and i between consonants (C_C) and between consonant and pause (C_# and #_C). Similarly, the high vowels /u/ and /i/ can have consonantal allophones w and y in order to avoid a hiatus. In most dialects,[35] the semivowels are thus in complementary distribution with the high vowels, with the semivowels occurring as onset or coda, and the high vowels as nucleus in a syllable. This surface distribution of the semivowels and the high vowels has tended to obscure their status as four distinct phonemes, with some linguists denying phonemic status to /w/ and /y/.[36]

Positing four distinct phonemes is necessitated by the fact that semivowels and high vowels can occur in sequence, in lexically determined order, for example tazdwit "bee", tahruyt "ewe" (not *tazduyt, *tahrwit). In addition, semivowels /w/ and /y/, like other consonants, occur long, as in afawwu "wrap", tayyu "camel's hump".[37] The assumption of four phonemes also results in a more efficient description of morphology.[38]

In the examples below, /w/ and /y/ are transcribed phonemically in some citation forms, but always phonetically in context, for example ysti- "the sisters of", dars snat istis "he has two sisters".

Gemination and length

There is a phonemic contrast between single and non-single (geminated or long) consonants:

tuga "grass" vs. tugga "testimony"
tamda "pool" vs. tamdda "sparrowhawk"

Gemination and lengthening play a role in the morphology of nouns and verbs:

agllid "king", igldan "kings" (ll becomes l)
imgr "he harvested", ar imggr "he is harvesting" (g becomes gg)

All consonants can in principle occur geminated or long, although phonemic xxʷ and ṛṛ do not seem to be attested. The uvular stops only occur geminated or long (qq, qqʷ).[39]

Four consonants have each two corresponding geminate or long consonants, one phonetically identical and one different:

: ḍḍ and ṭṭ
w : ww and ggʷ
ɣ : ɣɣ and qq
ɣʷ : ɣɣʷ and qqʷ

In the oldest layers of the morphology, , w, ɣ, ɣʷ always have ṭṭ, ggʷ, qq, qqʷ as geminated or long counterparts:

ɣrs "slaughter", ar iqqrs "he is slaughtering" (compare krz "plough", ar ikkrz "he is ploughing")
izwiɣ "be red", izggʷaɣ "it is red" (compare isgin "be black", isggan "it is black")

Whether a non-single consonant is realized as geminated or as long depends on the syllabic context. A geminated consonant is a sequence of two identical consonants /CC/, metrically counting as two segments, and always separated by syllable division, as in tamdda [] "sparrowhawk". A long consonant is a consonant followed by a chroneme /C:/, metrically counting as a single segment and belonging to one syllable, as in tugga [tu.g:a.] "testimony". When a morpheme contains a non-single consonant, it can be either geminated or long, depending on the context:

/azzl-Ø/ azzl! [az.zl.] "run!" (geminate)
/azzl-at/ azzlat! [] "run!" (long)

It is also possible for two identical consonants to occur in sequence, both being released separately and constituting the onset and nucleus of a vowelless syllable. Such sequences are transcribed with an intervening apostrophe:

uššan'n [u.š:a.n'n.] "jackals"
ixmm'm [i.xm.m'm.] "he pondered"
frṭ'ṭṭu [fr.ṭ'ṭ.ṭu.] "bat"

Syllable structure

Shilha syllable structure has been the subject of a detailed and highly technical discussion by phoneticians. The issue was whether Shilha does or does not have vowelless syllables. According to John Coleman, syllables which are vowelless on the phonemic level have "schwa" serving as vocalic nucleus on the phonetic level. According to Rachid Ridouan on the other hand, Shilha's apparently vowelless syllables are truly vowelless, with all phonemes, vowels as well as consonants, capable of serving as nucleus. The discussion is summed up in Ridouan (2008, with listing of relevant publications), where he conclusively demonstrates that a perfectly ordinary Shilha phrase such as tkkst stt "you took it away" indeed consists of three vowelless syllables [tk.ks.tst:.], each made up of voiceless consonants only, and with voiceless consonants (not "schwa") serving as nucleus. Many definitions of the syllable that have been put forward do not cover the syllables of Shilha.[40]

Syllable types

The syllable structure of Shilha was first investigated by Dell and Elmedlaoui in a seminal article (1985). They describe how syllable boundaries can be established through what they call "core syllabification". This works by associating a nucleus with an onset, to form a core syllable CV or CC. Segments that are higher on the sonority scale have precedence over those lower on the scale in forming the nucleus in a core syllable, with vowels and semivowels highest on the scale, followed by liquids and nasals, voiced fricatives, voiceless fricatives, voiced stops and voiceless stops. When no more segments are available as onsets, the remaining single consonants are assigned as coda to the preceding core syllable, but if a remaining consonant is identical to the consonant that is the onset of the following syllable, it merges with it to become a long consonant. A morpheme boundary does not necessarily constitute a syllable boundary. Example:

ddan s yaw wurti kšmn iss ad ššin tazart d waḍil
"they went to a garden and entered it to eat figs and grapes"

Core syllabification:

d (da) (ns) (ya) w (wu) r (ti) k (šm) (ni) s (sa) (dš) (ši) n (ta) (za) r (td) (wa) (ḍi) l

Coda assignment:

(d:a) (ns) (ya) (w:ur) (tik) (šm) (ni) (s:a) (dš) (šin) (ta) (zar) (td) (wa) (ḍil)

Application of core syllabification produces the following Shilha syllable types:

C V C: V
C V C C: V C C V C: C: V C:
C C C: C C C: C: C:
C C C C: C C C C C: C: C C:

Shilha syllable structure can be represented succinctly by the formula CX(C), in which C is any consonant (single/long), and X is any vowel or consonant (single) and with the restriction that in a syllable CXC the X, if it is a consonant, cannot be higher on the resonance scale than the syllable-final consonant, that is, syllables such as [tsk.] and [wrz.] are possible, but not *[tks.] and *[wzr.].

Exceptional syllables of the types X (vowel or single/long consonant) and V(C) (vowel plus single/long consonant) occur in utterance-initial position:

rgl t [r.glt.] "close it!" (syllable C)
ffɣat [f:.ɣat.] "go out!" (syllable C:)
awi t id [a.wi.tid.] "bring it here!" (syllable V)
aški d [aš.kid.] "come here!" (syllable VC)

Another exceptional syllable type, described by Dell and Elmedlaoui (1985), occurs in utterance-final position, when a syllable of the type CC or CC: is "annexed" to a preceding syllable of the type CV or C:V, for example fssamt "be silent!" is [fs.samt.] not *[].

Since any syllable type may precede or follow any other type, and since any consonant can occur in syllable-initial or final position, there are no phonotactical restrictions on consonant sequences. This also means that the concept of the consonant cluster is not applicable in Shilha phonology, as any number of consonants may occur in sequence:

frḥɣ s lmɛrft nnk
[fr.ḥɣs.lm.ɛ] (six syllables, fourteen consonants, no vowels)
"I'm glad to make your acquaintance"


The metrics of traditional Shilha poems, as composed and recited by itinerant bards (inḍḍamn), was first described and analyzed by Hassan Jouad (thesis 1983, book 1995; see also Dell and Elmedlaoui 2008). The traditional metrical system confirms the existence of vowelless syllables in Shilha, and Jouad's data have been used by Dell and Elmedlaoui, and by Ridouane to underpin their conclusions.

The metrical system imposes the following restrictions:

  • each line in a poem contains the same number of syllables as all the other lines
  • each syllable in a line contains the same number of segments as its counterpart in other lines
  • each line contains one particular syllable that must begin or end with a voiced consonant
  • each line is divided into feet, with the last syllable in each foot stressed ("lifted") in recitation

Within these restrictions, the poet is free to devise his own metrical form. This can be recorded in a meaningless formula called talalayt which shows the number and the length of the syllables, as well as the place of the obligatory voiced consonant (Jouad lists hundreds of such formulae).

The system is illustrated here with a quatrain ascribed to the semi-legendary Shilha poet Sidi Ḥammu (fl. 18th century) and published by Amarir (1987:64):

a titbirin a tumlilin a timgraḍ
ab bahra wr takkamt i lxla hann lbaz
igan bu tassrwalt ig lxatm ɣ uḍaḍ
ak kʷnt yut ukan iɣli d ignwan izug
"O white doves, O pets!
Do not venture into the desert too often, for there is the falcon,
Wearing small trousers; he'll put a ring on [your] finger,
To strike you but once — then he ascends into the sky and is gone!"

Application of Dell and Elmedlaoui's core syllabification reveals a regular mosaic of syllables:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Line 1 a t í t b i r i n a t ú m l i l i n a t í m g r á ḍ
Line 2 a b: á h r a w r t a k: á m t i l x l a h á n: l b á z
Line 3 i g á n b u t a s: r w á l t i g l x a t ḿ ɣ u ḍ á ḍ
Line 4 a kʷ: ń t y u t u k a n í ɣ l i d i g n w á n i z ú g

The poem is composed in a metre listed by Jouad (1995:283) and exemplified by the formula a láy, la li la láy, la li la lá, li lád (the d in the last syllable indicates the position of the compulsory voiced consonant).



On the basis of their morphology, three types of Shilha nouns can be distinguished, two indigenous types and one type of external origin:

  • inflected nouns
  • uninflected nouns
  • unincorporated loans

The relevant morpho-syntactic categories are gender, number and state.[41]

Inflected nouns

Inflected nouns are by far the most numerous type. These nouns can be easily recognised from their outward shape: they begin with a nominal prefix which has the form (t)V-:

aggu "smoke"
igigil "orphan"
uṣkay "hound"
tadggʷat "evening"
tibinṣrt "marsh mallow (plant)"
tuḍfit "ant"

Inflected nouns distinguish two genders, masculine and feminine; two numbers, singular and plural; and two states, conventionally referred to by their French names as état libre (free state) and état d'annexion (annexed state)[42] and glossed as EL and EA. Gender and number are all explicitly marked, but historical and synchronic sound changes have in some cases resulted in the neutralization of the difference between EL and EA.

The nominal prefix has no semantic content.[43] It is made up of one or both of two elements, a gender prefix and a vocalic prefix. Singular feminine nouns may also have a gender suffix. For example, the noun tazdwit "bee" has the feminine prefix t-, the vocalic prefix a- and the feminine singular suffix -t added to the nominal stem zdwi. While feminine inflected nouns always have the feminine prefix, masculine nouns do not have a gender prefix in the free state (EL); for example abaɣuɣ "fox" has no gender prefix, but only a vocalic prefix a- added to the nominal stem baɣuɣ.

Gender is thus marked unambiguously, albeit asymmetrically. In just a handful of nouns, the morphological gender does not conform to the grammatical gender (and number): ulli "sheep and goats" is morphologically masculine singular, but takes feminine plural agreement; alln "eyes" is morphologically masculine plural, but takes feminine plural agreement; tarwa "(someone's) children, offspring" is morphologically feminine singular, but takes masculine plural agreement.

The annexed state (EA) is regularly formed by reducing the vocalic prefix to zero and, with masculine nouns, adding the masculine gender prefix w-:[44]

EL t-a-zdwi-t "bee" → EA t-zdwi-t
EL a-baɣuɣ "fox" → EA w-baɣuɣ

With some nouns, the original vocalic prefix has fused with a stem-initial vowel, to produce an inseparable (and irreducible) vowel:

EL ayyur "moon, month" → EA w-ayyur (not *w-yyur)
EL t-afuk-t "sun" → EA t-afuk-t (not *t-fuk-t)

With feminine nouns that have an inseparable vocalic prefix, the difference between EL and EA is thus neutralized.

While most inflected nouns have a vocalic prefix a-, some have i- (in some cases inseparable), and a few have u- (always inseparable). When a masculine noun has the vocalic prefix i- (separable or inseparable), the masculine gender prefix w- changes to y-. The table below presents an overview (all examples are singular; plurals also distinguish EL and EA):

Masculine Feminine
"Moon" a-ɣyul w-ɣyul "Sun" t-afuk-t t-afuk-t
"egg" t-a-glay-t t-glay-t
"wadi" asif w-asif "thigh" t-aɣma t-aɣma
"cave" i-fri y-fri
"bread" a-rom a-rom "meat" t-i-fiyi t-fiyi
"ash" iɣd y-iɣd "salt" t-isn-t t-isn-t
"mouflon" udad w-udad "light" t-ufaw-t t-ufaw-t

The EA is not predictable from the shape of the noun, compare:

afus "hand" → EA wfus
afud "knee" → EA wafud

The phonological rules on the realization of /w/ and /y/ apply to the EA as well. For example, the EA of a-mɣar "chief" is /w-mɣar/, realized as wmɣar after a vowel, umɣar after a consonant:

ifka t i wmɣar "he gave it to the chief"
imun d umɣar "he accompanied the chief"

Inflected nouns show a great variety of plural formations, applying one or more of the following processes:

  • suffixation (masculine -n, feminine -in)
  • vowel change (insertion or elision, or ablaut)
  • consonant gemination or degemination
  • stem extension (+aw, +iw, +t, +w, always in combination with a suffix)

There are also irregular and suppletive plurals. The feminine singular suffix -t is naturally lost in the plural.

Independent from these processes, the separable vocalic prefix a- is always replaced with i-. An inseparable vocalic prefix either remains unchanged, or changes as part of vowel change (but if the vocalic prefix is inseparable in the singular, it may be separable in the plural, as with aduz "dune", and vice versa, as with aydi "dog"; see table below).

Below is a sample of nouns, illustrating various plural formations.

"dune"aduzi-dazz-nvowel change, gemination, suffixation
"head"a-gayyui-guyyavowel change
"ear"a-mẓẓuɣi-mzga-n(irregular plural)
"waterhole"anuunavowel change
"document"arraarra+t-nstem extension, suffixation
"day"assussa-nvowel change, suffixation
"dog"a-ydiiḍa-n(irregular plural)
"forehead"i-gnzii-gnzi+t-nstem extension, suffixation
"forearm"i-ɣili-ɣall-nvowel change, gemination, suffixation
"scorpion"iɣirdmiɣardm+iw-nvowel change, stem extension, suffixation
"witness"i-nigii-naga-nvowel change, suffixation
"slave"i-smgi-smga-nvowel change, suffixation
"face"udmudm+aw-nstem extension, suffixation
"jackal"uššnuššan-nvowel change, suffixation
"egg"t-a-glay-tt-i-glay(irregular plural)
"thing"t-a-ɣawsat-i-ɣaws+iw-instem extension, suffixation
"churn"t-a-gššul-tt-i-gʷšl-invowel change, suffixation, degemination
"fireplace"t-aka-tt-aka+t-instem extension, suffixation
"porcupine"t-aruš-tt-urašvowel change
"key"t-a-saru-tt-i-suravowel change
"house"t-i-gmmit-i-gʷmmavowel change
"ewe"t-ilit-att-n(suppletive plural)
"meal"t-irm-tt-iramvowel change
"eye"t-iṭṭall-n(suppletive plural)
"mountain pass"t-izit-izzavowel change, gemination
"lioness"t-izm-tt-izm+aw-insuffixation, stem extension

The plural is generally not predictable from the shape of the singular, compare:

a-duku "shoe", plural i-duka-n
a-ruku "utensil", plural i-ruku+t-n

Many nouns have more than one plural, for example a-žnwiy "knife", plural i-žnway (vowel change) or i-žnwiy-n (suffixation).

Many Shilha place-names are morphologically inflected nouns:

A-nammr "Anammeur"
I-ɣʷrays-n " Irhoreïsene"
T-a-rudan-t "Taroudant"
T-i-zgzaw-in "Tizegzaouine"

The same is the case with Shilha ethnic names:

Amml-n "the Ammeln" (singular Imml)
Aštuk-n "the Achtouken" (singular Aštuk)
I-lall-n "the Ilallen" (singular I-lillu)
I-skʷta-n "the Isouktan" (singular A-sktu)

Among the inflected nouns are found many incorporated loans. Examples include (see also § Loan-words):

t-a-kira "wax" (from Latin)
a-ɣanim "reeds" (from Punic)
urti "garden" (from early Romance)
a-muslm "Muslim" (from Arabic)
t-a-bra-t "letter, missive" (from Arabic)

Uninflected nouns

This is the least common type, which also includes some loans. Examples:

dikkuk "cuckoo"
fad "thirst"
gmz "thumb"
kḍran "tar" (from Arabic)
lagar "station" (from French)
laẓ "hunger"
maṭiša "tomatoes" (from Spanish?)
mllɣ "index finger"
sksu "couscous"
wazdwit "light afternoon meal"
wiẓugn "cricket"
xizzu "carrots"

It is probable that all uninflected nouns were originally masculine. The few that now take feminine agreement contain elements that have been reanalyzed as marking feminine gender, for example ttždmnni "type of spider" (initial t seen as feminine prefix), hlima "bat" (not an Arabic loan-word, but final a analyzed as the Arabic feminine ending).

Many uninflected nouns are collectives or non-count nouns which do not have a separate plural form. Those that have a plural make it by preposing the pluralizer id, for example id lagar "stations".

The uninflected noun mddn or middn "people, humans" is morphologically masculine singular but takes masculine plural agreement.

Names of people and foreign place-names can be seen as a subtype of uninflected nouns, for example Musa (man's name), Muna (woman's name), Fas "Fès", Brdqqiz "Portugal". Gender is not transparently marked on these names, but those referring to humans take gender agreement according to the natural sex of the referent (male/masculine, female/feminine).

Unincorporated loans

These are nouns of Arabic origin (including loans from French and Spanish through Arabic) which have largely retained their Arabic morphology. They distinguish two genders (not always unambiguously marked) and two numbers (explicitly marked). A notable feature of these nouns is that they are borrowed with the Arabic definite article, which is semantically neutralized in Shilha:

Moroccan Arabic l-fraš "the bed" → Shilha lfraš "the bed, a bed"
Moroccan Arabic š-šariž "the basin" → Shilha ššariž "the basin, a basin"

The Arabic feminine ending -a is often replaced with the Shilha feminine singular suffix t:

Moroccan Arabic l-faky-a → Shilha lfaki-t "fruit"
Moroccan Arabic ṛ-ṛuḍ-a → Shilha ṛṛuṭ-ṭ "tomb of a saint"

Arabic loans usually retain their gender in Shilha. The exception are Arabic masculine nouns which end in t; these change their gender to feminine in Shilha, with the final t reanalyzed as the Shilha feminine singular suffix -t:

Moroccan Arabic l-ḥadit "the prophetic tradition" (masculine) → Shilha lḥadi-t (feminine)
Moroccan Arabic l-mut "death" (masculine) → Shilha lmu-t (feminine)

Arabic plurals are usually borrowed with the singulars. If the borrowed plural is not explicitly marked for gender (according to Arabic morphology) it has the same gender as the singular:

lbhim-t "domestic animal" (feminine), plural lbhaym (feminine)
lbzim "buckle" (masculine), plural lbzaym (masculine)

Loan-words whose singular is masculine may have a plural which is feminine, and marked as such (according to Arabic morphology), for example lɛlam "flag" (masculine), plural lɛlum-at (feminine).

Use of the annexed state

The annexed state (EA) of an inflected noun is used in a number of clearly defined syntactical contexts:[46]

  • when the noun occurs as subject in postverbal position:
tfulki tmazirt nnun ( EA-country "your country is beautiful"
tamazirt nnun tfulki (EL-country "[as for] your country, it is beautiful"
tiskrt d uẓalim "EL-garlic with (and) EA-onions" (EL aẓalim)
tangult n uɣrum "a EL-loaf of EA-bread" (EL aɣrum)
  • after numerals 1 to 10 and after the indefinite numeral (see also § Numerals):
kraṭṭ tmkilin "three EA-dishes" (EL timkilin)
mnnaw wussan "many EA-days" (EL ussan)
  • after some elements indicating descent and origin which require a following noun phrase (see also § Possessed nouns):
ayt Ugadir "the people of Agadir"
bu tɣanimt "he with EA-reed: flute player" (EL taɣanimt)

Outside these contexts, the EL is used. Uninflected nouns and unincorporated loans, which do not distinguish state, remain unchanged in these contexts.

Semantics of feminine nouns

The formation of feminine nouns from masculine nouns is a productive process. A feminine noun is formed by adding both the feminine nominal prefix t- (and, if necessary, a vocalic prefix), and the feminine singular suffix -t to a masculine noun. The semantic value of the feminine derivation is variable.

For many nouns referring to male and female humans or animals (mainly larger mammals), matching masculine and feminine forms exist with the same nominal stem, reflecting the sex of the referent:

adgal "widower" → tadgalt "widow"
amuslm "Muslim" → tamuslmt "Muslima"
ikni "twin boy" → tiknit "twin girl"
afullus "cock, rooster" → tafullust "chicken"
izm "lion" → tizmt "lioness"
udad "mouflon" → tudatt "female mouflon"

In a few cases there are suppletive forms:

argaz "man, husband" ― tamɣart "woman, wife"
ankkur "buck" ― taɣaṭṭ "goat"

Feminine nouns derived from masculine nouns with inanimate reference have diminutive meaning:

aẓru "stone" → taẓrut "small stone"
ifri "cave" → tifrit "hole, lair"
lbit "room" → talbitt "small room"
ṣṣnduq "box" → taṣṣnduqt "little box"
urti "garden" → turtit "small garden"

Conversely, a masculine noun derived from a feminine noun has augmentative meaning:

tamda "lake" → amda "large lake"
tigmmi "house" → igmmi "large house"
tiznirt "fan palm" → iznir "large fan palm"

Feminine nouns derived from masculine collective nouns have singulative meaning:

asngar "maize" → tasngart "a cob"
ififl "peppers" → tififlt "a pepper"
biṭlžan "aubergines" → tabiṭlžant "an aubergine"
luqid "matches" → taluqitt "a match"

Femine derivations are also used as names of languages, professions and activities:

ahulandiy "Dutchman" → tahulandiyt "the Dutch language"
fransis "the French" → tafransist "the French language"
amzil "blacksmith" → tamzilt "blacksmith's profession"
inmmtri "beggar" → tinmmtrit "begging"
lmumsik "miser" → talmumsikt "avarice"
gʷma "(my) brother" → tagʷmat "brotherhood"

There is an overlap here with feminine nouns denoting females:

tafransist "Frenchwoman" and "the French language"
tinmmtrit "beggarwoman" and "begging"

Nominal deictic clitics

There are three deictic clitics which can follow a noun: proximal a-d "this, these", distal a-nn "that, those" (compare § Verbal deictic clitics) and anaphoric lli "the aforementioned":

tammnt ad ur tɣʷli "[as for] this honey, it is not expensive"
yaɣ uṣmmiḍ taɣaṭṭ ann bahra "the cold has badly afflicted that goat"
ifk ṭṭir lli i tazzanin ar srs ttlɛabn "[and then] he gave the bird to some children to play with"

Personal pronouns

There are three basic sets of personal pronouns:

  • independent
  • direct object clitics
  • suffixes

In addition, there are two derived sets which contain the suffixed pronouns (except in 1st singular):

  • indirect object clitics
  • possessive complements

Gender is consistently marked on 2nd singular, and on 2nd and 3rd plural. Gender is not consistently marked on 3rd singular and 1st plural. Gender is never marked on 1st singular.

Direct object
Indirect object
1sg.nkki(n)yyiV-Ø / C-iyyiV nw / C inw
sg.f.nttattt / stt
2pl.m.kʷnni(n)kʷnV-wn / C-una-wnnn-un
pl.f.kʷnnimti(n)kʷntV-wnt / C-unta-wntnn-unt
∅ = zero morpheme

The independent ("overt") pronouns are used to topicalize the subject or the object.

nkkʷni wr a nlssa turẓyin n waggʷri "[as for] us, we don't wear sandals [made] of alfa"
tumɣarin nttntin a ybnnun andaru n ifullusn "[as for] the women, they're the ones who build a chicken coop"

They are also used with certain pseudo-prepositions such as zund "like", abla "except":

ɛlah, nkki, giɣ aɣyul zund kyyi? "why, [as for] me, am I an ass like you?"
ur iqqadda ay yakʷr abla kʷnni "no one could have stolen [it] except you"

The direct object clitics are used with transitive verbs:

yuzn tn s tmzgida "he sent them to the Koranic school"
yyi yut ar ttrwalɣ "when he beats me I run away"

The 3rd singular feminine variant stt is used after a dental stop, compare:

awi tt id "bring her here!" (imperative singular)
awyat stt id "bring her here!" (imperative plural masculine)

The direct object clitics are also used to indicate the subject with pseudo-verbs,[47] and with the presentative particle ha "here is, voici":

waḥdu yyi (alone me) "I alone"
kullu tn (all them) "they all, all of them"
laḥ t (absent him) "he's not there, he's disappeared"
manza tt (where her) "where is she?"
ha yyi ( me) "here I am"

The pronominal suffixes are used with prepositions to indicate the object (see § Prepositions), and with a closed set of necessarily possessed kinship terms to indicate possession (see § Possessed nouns). The plural forms add an infix -t- before the suffix with kinship terms, for example baba-t-nɣ "our father" (never *baba-nɣ); this infix also occurs with some prepositions as a free or dialectal variant of the form without the -t-:

flla-sn or flla-t-sn "on them"
dar-sn "with them" (never *dar-t-sn)

The indirect object clitics convey both benefactive and detrimental meaning:

alliɣ immut ur as d ifil walu (when he.died not to.her hither he.left anything) "when he died he didn't leave her anything"
tamurɣi tšša y as tibḥirt nns (EL-locust she.ate to.her of.her) "the locusts have eaten her vegetable garden"

The possessive complements follow the noun (see § Possession).


Prepositions can have up to three different forms, depending on the context in which they are used:

  • before a noun or demonstrative pronoun
  • with a pronominal suffix
  • independent in relative clause

The form before nouns and demonstrative pronouns and the independent form are identical for most prepositions, the exception being the dative preposition i (independent mi, mu).

Before noun or

With pronominal suffix

Translation equivalents

ar"until, as far as"
ddid-, did-comitative: "with, in the company of; and"
dardardar-"at, by, chez"
dduddaw-, ddawa-"beneath, under"
ffflla-"on; because of"
ɣɣgi(g)-locative: "in, at"
imi, mu(indirect object clitics)dative: "for, to"
n(possessive complements)possessive: "of"
ssis-instrumental: "with, by means of"
sssr-allative: "to, toward"
zgi(g)-ablative: "from"
— inexistent
… unattested, probably inexistent

Most prepositions require a following inflected noun to be in the annexed state (EA) (see § Use of the annexed state). Exceptions are ar "until", s "toward" (in some modern dialects, and in premodern texts) and prepositions borrowed from Arabic (not in the table) such as bɛd "after" and qbl "before".

The instrumental and allative prepositions s "by means of" (with EA) and s "toward" (with EL) were still consistently kept apart in premodern manuscript texts. In most modern dialects they have been amalgamated, with both now requiring the EA, and with the pre-pronominal forms each occurring with both meanings: sr-s "toward it" (now also "with it"), is-s "with it" (now also "toward it").

The use of the different forms is illustrated here with the preposition ɣ "in":

iḍr unẓar izwarn ɣ ukššum n ktubr "the first rain fell in the beginning of October" (with noun)
ggawrn gisnt ar ssan lqhwa "they sit in them [i.e., cafés] drinking coffee" (with pronominal suffix)
urti ɣ llan lašžar lli stɣllanin ar ittyiswa "a garden in which there are fruit-bearing trees is usually irrigated" (independent)

Two prepositions can be combined:

illa yglgiz lli yttzdaɣn ɣ ddu tsbnit "there is a [type of] beetle which lives below the dung" (ɣ ddu, lit. "in under")
ar ttddan s dar uḥžžam ɣ Tfrawt "they always go to a barber in Tafraout" (s dar, lit. "to at")

Spatial relations are also expressed with phrases of the type "on top of":

ɣ iggi n umdduz "on top of the dung heap"
ɣ tama n uɣaras "beside the road"
ɣ tuẓẓumt n wasif "in the midst of the river"

The preposition gi(g)- "in" with pronominal suffixes, with all its free and dialectal variants,[48] is presented below. The other prepositions display much less variety.

gig-gi-with -t-Irregular formations
1 sg.gig-igi-Ø
2 sg.m.gik-kgi-k
2 sg.f.gig-m gi-m
3, gid, git
1 pl.gig-nɣgi-(n)ɣgi-t-nɣ
2 pl.m.gig-ungi-wngi-t-un
2 pl.f.gig-untgi-wntgi-t-unt
3, gidsn
3, gidsnt


The inherited cardinal numeral system consists of ten numerals (still in active use) and three numeral nouns (now obsolete) for "a tensome", "a hundred" and "a thousand". There is also an indefinite numeral meaning "several, many" or "how many?" which morphologically and syntactically patterns with the numerals 1 to 10. For numbers of 20 and over, Arabic numerals are commonly used.

Numerals 1 to 10, indefinite numeral

These are listed below.[49] The formation of feminine "one" and "two" is irregular.

"eight"tam, ttamtam-t, ttam-t
"nine"tẓa, ttẓatẓa-t, ttẓa-t

The numerals 1 to 10 are constructed with nouns (inflected nouns in the EA), the gender of the numeral agreeing with that of the noun:

yan wagʷmar "one EA-horse"
yat tfunast "one EA-cow"
sin wagʷmarn "two EA-horses"
snat tfunasin "two EA-cows".[50]

The same obtains with the indefinite numeral:

mnnaw wagʷmarn "several/many EA-horses, how many horses?"
mnnawt tfunasin "several/many EA-cows, how many cows?"

Numerals yan, yat "one" also serve as indefinite article, for example yan urumiy "one Westerner, a Westerner", and they are used independently with the meaning "anyone" (yan), "anything" (yat):

ur iẓri ḥtta yan "he didn't see anyone"
ur ksuḍɣ yat "I'm not afraid of anything"

The final n of masculine yan "one" and sin "two" is often assimilated or fused to a following w, y or l:

/yan w-ass/ → yaw wass "one EA-day"
/yan w-sggʷas/ → ya wsggʷas "one EA-year"
/yan lmakan/ → yal lmakan "a place"
/sin y-sggʷas-n/ → si ysggʷasn "two EA-years"
/sin y-ir-n/ → siy yirn "two EA-months"


The teens are made by connecting the numerals 1 to 9 to the numeral 10 with the preposition d "with". In the premodern language, both numerals took the gender of the counted noun, with the following noun in the plural (EA):

sin d mraw wagʷmarn (two with ten EA-horses) "twelve horses"
snat d mrawt tfunasin (two with ten EA-cows) "twelve cows"

In the modern language, fused forms have developed in which the first numeral is always masculine,[51] while the following noun is in the singular, and connected with the preposition n "of":[52]

sindmraw n wagʷmar (twelve of EA-horse) "twelve horses"
sindmrawt n tfunast (twelve of EA-cow) "twelve cows"

Tens, hundreds, thousands

There are three inherited nouns to denote "a tensome", "a hundred" and "a thousand". These now seem to be obsolete, but they are well attested in the premodern manuscripts.[53] Morphologically, they are ordinary inflected nouns.

"a tensome"t-a-mraw-tt-mraw-tt-i-mraw-int-mraw-in
"a hundred"t-i-miḍit-miḍit-i-maḍt-maḍ
"a thousand"ifḍy-ifḍafḍa-nw-afḍa-n

The tens, hundreds and thousand were formed by combining the numerals 1 to 10 with the numeral nouns:

snat tmrawin (two EA-tensomes) "twenty"
snat tmaḍ (two EA-hundreds) "two hundred"
sin wafḍan (two EA-thousands) "two thousand"

The numeral nouns are connected with the preposition n "of" to a noun, which is most often in the singular:

timiḍi n wagʷmar (EL-hundred of EA-horse) "a hundred horses"
snat tmaḍ n wagʷmar (two EA-hundreds of EA-horse) "two hundred horses"
ifḍ n tfunast (EL-thousand of EA-cow) "a thousand cows"
sin wafḍan n tfunast (two EA-thousands of EA-cow) "two thousand cows"

In the modern language the Arabic tens are used, which have developed a separate feminine form:

ɛšrin n wagʷmar (twenty of EA-horse) "twenty horses"
ɛšrint n tfunast (twenty of EA-cow) "twenty cows"

The numerals between the tens are most frequently made with the Arabic numerals 1 to 10:

xmsa w ɛšrin n wagʷmar (five and twenty of EA-horse) "twenty-five horses"
xmsa w ɛšrint n tfunast (five and twenty of EA-cow) "twenty-five cows"

The Arabic hundreds and thousands are used in the modern language, taking the places of the original numeral nouns while the original syntax is maintained:

miya n wagʷmar (hundred of EA-horse) "a hundred horses"
snat id miya n wagʷmar (two PL hundred of EA-horse) "two hundred horses"
alf n tfunast (thousand of EA-cow) "a thousand cows"
sin walfiwn n tfunast (two EA-thousands of EA-cow) "two thousand cows"

There is also a vigesimal system built on the Arabic numeral ɛšrin "twenty, score",[54] for example sin id ɛšrint n tfunast (two PL score of EA-cow) "forty cows".

Ordinal numerals

"First" and "last" are usually expressed with relative forms of the verbs "be first" and "be last":

tawriqqt izwarn (page "the first page"
ussan ggʷranin (days which.are.last) "the last days"

There are also agent nouns derived from these verbs which are apposed to a noun or used independently:

aḍrf amzwaru (furrow "the first furrow"
tuška d tamggarut (she.arrived hither "she arrived last"

The other ordinals are formed by prefixing masc. wis-, fem. tis- to a cardinal numeral,[55] which is then constructed with a plural noun in the usual manner:

wis-kraḍ wussan (ORD-three EA-days) "the third day"
tis-kraṭṭ twal (ORD-three EA-times) "the third time"

The ordinal prefixes is also used with Arabic numerals and with the indefinite numeral:

wis-xmsa w-ɛšrin n dulqqiɛda "the 25th [day] of [the month] Dhū'l-Qaʽda"
wis-mnnawt twal "the how-manieth time?"

Because four of the numerals 1 to 10 begin with s, the geminated ss that results from the prefixation of wis-, tis- (as in wissin, wissmmus, etc.) is often generalized to the other numerals: wissin, wisskraḍ, wisskkuẓ, etc.


A Shilha verb form is basically a combination of a person-number-gender (PNG) affix and a mood-aspect-negation (MAN) stem.

Sample verb

The workings of this system are illustrated here with the full conjugation of the verb fk "to give". The Perfective negative goes with the negation wr "not". The Imperfective goes with the preverbal particle ar (except usually the imperative, and the relative forms).

MAN stem →fk(i)fki/afkiakka
1ɣfki-ɣur fki-ɣar akka-ɣ
2 sg.t-fk-tt-fki-tur t-fki-tar t-akka-t
3 sg.m.i-fki-fkaur i-fkiar y-akka
3 sg.f.t-fkt-fkaur t-fkiar t-akka
1 pl.n-fkn-fkaur n-fkiar n-akka
2 pl.m.t-fki-mt-fka-mur t-fki-mar t-akka-m
2 pl.f.t-fki-mtt-fka-mtur t-fki-mtar t-akka-mt
3 pl.m.fki-nfka-nur fki-nar akka-n
3 pl.f.fki-ntfka-ntur fki-ntar akka-nt
2 sg.fkakka
sg.i-fka-nur i-fki-ny-akka-n
pl.fka-n-inur fki-n-inakka-n-in

The verb "give" has the full complement of four different MAN stems:

Aorist fk(i)fk in 1st, 2nd and 3rd singular, 1st plural, and the imperatives, but fki in 2nd and 3rd plural
Perfective fki/afki in 1st and 2nd singular, but fka with the other forms
Perfective negative fki ― all forms
Imperfective akka (an irregular formation) ― all forms

Person-number-gender affixes

There are two basic sets of PNG affixes, one set marking the subject of ordinary verb forms, and another set marking the subject of imperatives.

Two suffixes (singular -n, plural -in) are added to the 3rd singular and masculine 3rd plural masculine verb forms respectively to make relative forms (also known as "participles"), as in i-fka-n "who gives", fka-n-in "who give".[56]

1 sg
2 sg.t--t
3 sg.m.y-
3 sg.f.t-
1 pl.n-
2 pl.m.t--m
2 pl.f.t--mt
3 pl.m.-n
3 pl.f.-nt
2 sg.
2 pl.m.-at
2 pl.f.-amt
3 sg.y--n
3 pl.-n-in

Mood-aspect-negation stems

A few verbs have just one MAN stem. The majority of verbs have two, three or four different MAN stems.[57] The Aorist stem serves as the citation form of a verb. The list below offers an overview of MAN stem paradigms. Around 15 paradigms of non-derived verbs can be recognized, based on the formation of the Perfective and the Perfective negative. Further subdivisions could be made on the basis of the formations of the Imperfective. All sections in the list contain a selection of verbs, except sections 12, 14, and 15, which contain a full listing.

"sit"skkiwsskkiwsskkiwsskkiwis, tt-skiwis
"be crazy"nuflnuflnufltt-nuful
"mention"bdrbdrbdiraddr, tt-bdar
"ascend, climb"ɣlyɣlyɣliyaqqlay
"open, be open"rẓmrẓmrẓimtt-nurẓum
5"break, be broken"rẓ(i)rẓi/arẓirẓẓa
"show, explain"ml(i)mli/amlimmal
"be; put"g(i)gi/agitt-gga
6"sew"gnugni/agnignna, gnnu, tt-gnu
"go"ftufti/aftifttu, tt-ftu
"go"dduddi/additt-dda, tt-ddu, tt-udu
7"be better"afufuftt-afa
"give back"rarrurrurtt-rara
11"hold, possess"ṭṭf, ṭṭafṭṭf, ṭṭafṭṭiftt-ṭṭf, tt-ṭṭaf
"take away"kks, kkiskks, kkiskkistt-kks, tt-kkis
"go out"ffɣ, ffuɣffɣ, ffuɣffiɣtt-ffɣ, tt-ffuɣ
13"be afraid"iksuḍ, ksuḍksaḍksaḍtt-iksuḍ, tt-ksuḍ
"be first, precede"izwur, zwurzwarzwartt-izwur, zggʷur

Uses of MAN stems

The table below is adapted from Kossmann (2012:40, table 2.12 Uses of MAN stems in Figuig Berber).

MAN stemMain context in which MAN stem is usedExamplesTranslation
"(and then) he took"
ad + Aoristnon-realizeday y-amẓ"that he take"
rad + Aoristfutureray y-amẓ"he will take"
ur + Aoristnegated consecutiveur y-amẓ"(and then) he didn't take"
ad + ur + Aoristnegated imperativead ur t-amẓ-t"don't take!"
ur + rad + Aoristnegated futureur ray y-amẓ"he will not take"
Perfectivepast action
state (including resultant state)
"he took"
"it was hot, it is hot"
ur + Perfective Negativenegated past action
negated state
ur y-umiẓ
ur i-rɣi
"he did not take"
"it was not hot, it is not hot"
Imperfectivehabitual/iterative imperativett-amẓ"always take!"
ad + Imperfectivehabitual/iterative imperativeat tt-amẓ-t[58]"you must always take"
ad + ur + Imperfectivenegated habitual/iterative imperativead ur tt-amẓ-t"you should never take"
ar + Imperfectivesimultaneous action (progressive)
habitual, iterative, durative
ar i-tt-amẓ"he is taking, he always takes"
ur + ar + Imperfectivenegated simultaneous action
negated habitual, iterative, durative
ur a y-tt-amẓ, ur aɣ i-tt-amẓ[59]"he is not taking, he never takes"

Stative verbs

Shilha has around twenty verbs which express basic adjectival meanings. These "stative" verbs are still recognizable as a separate group on the basis of their MAN stem paradigms. In earlier stages of the language, they had their own separate set of PNG markers, which are sporadically found in premodern manuscripts:[60]

iḍ ɣzzif "the night, it is long" (cf. modern iḍ i-ɣzzif)
rẓag-t isafarn "medicines are bitter" (cf. modern rẓag-n isafarn)

In the modern language, these verbs take the regular PNG markers. Only the original singular relative form without prefix y- may still be encountered, for example adrar mqqur-n or adrar i-mqqur-n (mountain "big mountain". Stative verbs do not have a separate Perfective negative form. The table shows a selection of stative verbs.

"be few"idrusdrustt-idrus
"be many"igutgguttt-igut
"be small, young"imẓiymẓẓiytt-imẓiy
"be big, old"imɣurmqqurtt-imɣur
"be yellow"iwriɣwraɣtt-iwriɣ
"be red"izwiɣzggʷaɣtt-izwiɣ

Verbal deictic clitics

There are two deictic clitics which are used with verbs to indicate movement toward or away from the point of reference: centripetal d "hither" and centrifugal nn "thither":

ur issin man ass d wrrin "he knew not on which day they would return (toward him)"
nɣiɣ awn babatun luḥɣ nn ixf nns ɣ wanu "I killed your father and threw his head (away from me) into a waterhole"

The use of these clitics is compulsory (idiomatic) with certain verbs. For example, the verb "come" always goes with the centripetal particle, and "find" with the centrifugal clitic:

yuška d darsn yan urqqas zɣ Ɛli Umḥawš "a messenger came to their place from Ali Oumhaouch"
iggʷz s wanu yaf nn ixf n izimmr "he descended into the waterhole and found the head of a ram"

When the verbal deictic clitics occur after an object pronoun, they change to id and inn:

iga tn id ɣ yan uqqrab "he put them in a pouch"
ar tn inn nttgga ɣ txuba "we always put them in jars"

Within a noun phrase

A possessive construction within a noun phrase is most frequently expressed as Possessee n Possessor. The preposition n "of" requires a following inflected noun to be in the annexed state. This kind of possessive construction covers a wide range of relationships, including both alienable and inalienable possession, and most of them not involving actual ownership:

anu n Dawd "Daoud's waterhole"
imi n tsraft "the entrance of the grain silo"
tarwa n Brahim "Brahim's children"
igʷdar n idqqi "pots of clay"
imikk n tisnt "a little salt"
atig n usngar "the price of maize"
tiɣʷrdin n imkli "after lunch"
lmdint n Ssnbul "the city of Istanbul"
aɣllay n tafukt "the rising of the sun"
aɣaras n sskʷila "the road to school"
ddin n Wudayn "the religion of the Jews"
lqqiṣt n Yusf "the story of Joseph"

Many such possessive constructions are compounds, whose meaning cannot be deduced from the ordinary meaning of the nouns:

aɣaras n walim "road of straw: the Milky Way"
imi n wuššn "mouth of jackal: a length measure (the distance between the outstretched tips of thumb and little finger)"
talat n tilkin "ravine of lice: nape, back of the neck"
tassmi n ifrgan "needle of hedges: type of bird"

The possessor can itself be a possessee in a following possessive construction:

lmudda n tgldit n Mulay Lḥasan "the period of the reign of Moulay Lahcen"
luqt n warraw n wulli "the time of the giving birth of the sheep and goats"

As a rule, the preposition n assimilates to, or fuses with, a following w, y, l or m:[61]

/awal n w-aɛrab-n/ → awal w waɛrabn "the language of the Arabs"
/a-ḍbib n y-isa-n/ → aḍbib y yisan "horse-doctor"
/luq-t n w-nẓar/ → luqt unẓar "the season of rain"
/a-gllid n y-muslm-n/ → agllid imuslmn "the king of the Muslims"
/a-sngar n miṣr/ → asngar m Miṣr "maize of Egypt"

The possessor can also be expressed with a pronominal possessive complement. This consists of a pronominal suffix added to the preposition, which then takes the shape nn- (see § Pronouns). The form of the 1st singular possessive complement is anomalous: nw after a vowel, and inw after a consonant (or, in some dialects, niw):

agayyu nu "my head"
ifassn inu "my hands"
aḍar niw "my leg"
aqqrab nnk "your (sg.m.) pouch"
lumur nnm "your (sg.f.) affairs"
timlsa nns "her clothes"
rriy nns "his opinion"
aḍu nns "its smell"
adžarn nnɣ "our neighbours"
tawwuri nnun "your (pl.m.) occupation"
timddukkal nnunt "your (pl.f.) friends"
lmɛišt nnsn "their (m.) livelihood"
tikʷyaḍ nnsnt "their (f.) locks of hair"

Within a clause

There are two ways to express possession within a clause. The most common way is to use the "exist with" construction:

tlla dars yat txsayt (she.exists with.him one EA-pumpkin) "he has a pumpkin"
ur dari ylli wmya ma nn lssaɣ (not it.exists EA-anything what thither I.wear) "I've got nothing to wear"

The verb "exist" is usually omitted, leaving a verbless clause:

darnɣ argan ar inkkr ɣ tagant ( EL-argan in EA-forest) "we have an argan tree growing in the forest"
is ur dark kra yaḍnin? (question not something other) "don't you have something different?"

Alternatively, the verb ṭṭf, ṭṭaf "hold, possess" can be used:

iṭṭaf yan uɣyul immuddu srs (he.possesses one EA-donkey he.travels "he has a donkey which he travels with"
nkki wr ṭṭifɣ luraqq inu (I not I.possess papers "[as for] me, I haven't got my papers"

In addition, there is the verb ili "possess", whose use is restricted to (inalienable) part-whole relationships and kinship relationships:

liɣ alln ɛdlnin (I.possess EL-eyes which.are.good) "I have good eyes"
lan sḍis tarwa (they.possess six EA-children) "they have six children"

In al its usages ili can be replaced with ṭṭaf or the "exist with" construction, but not the other way around:

azrg ila yan uskti, or azrg iṭṭaf yan uskti (EL-hand-mill it.possesses one EL-handle) "a hand-mill has one handle"
ṭṭafɣ snat tgʷmma, not *liɣ snat tgʷmma (I.possess two EA-houses) "I have two houses"

Possessed nouns

These are a subtype of uninflected nouns. As with proper names, gender is not transparently marked on possessed nouns, which take gender agreement according to the natural sex of the referent. Plurals are either suppletive or made with the preposed pluralizer id. Most possessed nouns are consanguinal kinship terms which require a possessive suffix (the table contains a selection).

"the mother(s) of"ma-id ma-
"the father(s) of"baba-id baba-
"the daughter(s) of"ylli-ysti-
"the son(s) of"yiw-, yu-, ywi-(t-arwa)the plural is a pl.m. inflected noun "sons, offspring"
"the sister(s) of"wlt-ma-yst-ma-compound, lit. "the daughter(s) of the mother of"
"the brother(s) of"gʷ-ma-ayt-ma-compound, lit. "the son(s) of the mother of"
"grandmother: the mother of the mother of"ždda-Arabic loan
"grandfather: the father of the mother of"ti-ma-compound
"grandmother: the mother of the father of"tabt-ti-compound
"grandfather: the father of the father of"žddi-Arabic loan

These kinship terms cannot occur without pronominal suffix. Example:

ultma-Ø"my sister"
ultma-k"your (sg.m.) sister"
ultma-m"your (sg.f.) sister"
ultma-s"her sister, his sister"
istma-t-nɣ"our sisters"
istma-t-un"your (pl.m.) sisters"
istma-t-unt"your (pl.f.) sisters"
istma-t-sn"their (m.) sisters"
istma-t-snt"their (f.) sisters"

If these nouns are part of an NP-internal possessive construction, possession must be indicated twice:

baba-s n tslit (father-her of EA-bride) "the father of the bride"
yiwi-s n gʷma-Ø (son-his of brother-my) "my brother's son"
illi-s n wasif (daughter-its of EA-river) "the daughter of the river: fever" (compound)

The suffix must also be added when possession is expressed in a clause:

ur iṭṭif abla yat ultma-s (not he.possesses except one sister.his) "he only has one sister"

Some kinship terms are not possessed nouns but inflected nouns which take possessive complements (see examples above).

Another group of possessed nouns require a following noun phrase, occurring only in an NP-internal possessive phrase. A following inflected noun must be in the EA.

"the son(s) of, native(s) of"wayt
"the female native(s) of"wltyst

These four possessed nouns occur as first element in compound kinship terms (see above; w then becomes in gʷ-ma- "the brother of"). They also serve to indicate descent, origin and ethnicity:

Ḥmad u Musa "Ahmed son of Moussa" (name of a famous saint)[62]
u Brayyim "member of the Aït Brayyim ethnic group"
u bṛṛa "native of outside: a foreigner"
u Trudant "a native of Taroudant"
ayt Ugrsif "the natives of Aguercif"
ult Uglu "native woman of Aglou"
ist Tfrawt "the women of Tafraout"

When w is followed by another (phonemic) w the result is ggʷ:

/w wižžan/ → Ggʷižžan "native of Ouijjane" (also surname: Gouijjane)
/a-rgaz w w-rgaz/ → argaz ggʷrgaz "a man, son of a man: a man of virtue"

Ayt occurs in many Shilha ethnonyms:

Ayt Bubkr "the Sons of Boubker" (Aït Boubker), singular U Bubkr
Ayt Wafqqa "the Sons of Ouafka" (Aït Ouafka), singular /w wafqqa/ → Ggʷafqqa

Proprietive and privative elements

The proprietive elements masc. bu "he with, he of" and fem. mm "she with, she of" are borrowed from Arabic (original meaning "father of", "mother of"). They are used as versatile formative elements to make nicknames, and require a following inflected noun to be in the annexed state. The plural is formed with the pluralizer id:

bu sa yiwaliwn (he of seven EA-words) "a liar"
bu tagant (he of EA-forest) "wild boar"
bu tbratin (he with EA-letters) "postman"
id bu waga (PL he with EA-bucket) "French colonial soldiers (wearing a képi)"

In many cases, bu fuses with a following nominal prefix:

/bu w-marg/ (he with EA-poetry) → bumarg "a poet"
/bu y-gʷra/ (he with EA-frogs) → Bigʷra "Biougra" (place-name)

The feminine mm is encountered less frequently:

mm igrtal (she with EA-mats) "prayer room in a mosque"
id mm ifalan (PL she with EA-threads) "needles"

The privative elements masc. war "he without" and fem. tar "she without" are made up of a gender prefix (masculine w-, feminine t-) and an element ar which is probably related to the negation wr "not". They do not require the annexed state, and should probably be translated as "who does not have", with the following noun phrase as object:

war ašrik (he without EL-partner) "God"
id war tawwuri (PL he without EL-job) "the unemployed"
tar azal (she without EL-daylight) "wide-brimmed hat"
tar laman (she without certainty) "the world, worldly existence"


Shilha retains a large native (non-borrowed) lexicon, supplemented by borrowings from the languages with which its speakers came into contact.


The main available lexicographical sources for the modern language are: Stumme 1899 (contains Shilha–German wordlist, pp. 155–246) ; Destaing 1920 (French–Shilha); Cid Kaoui 1907 (French-Shilha, not entirely reliable); Jordan 1934 (Shilha–French, extracted from Laoust 1921); Destaing 1940 (a collection of texts with copious lexicographical notes and a Shilha index); Ibáñez 1954 (Spanish–Shilha); Boumalk and Bounfour 2001 (Shilha-French). An indigenous source for the premodern language is in van den Boogert (1998). These sources will be made accessible, with much additional data, in Stroomer's Dictionnaire tachelhit–français (forthcoming). No reliable wordlist in Shilha and English is available in print.[63]


The earliest identifiable loan is tiyni "dates" (cf. Tamasheq tehäyne, Ghadamès aβēna), from Egyptian-Coptic (cf. Coptic bnne, beni, benni "date palm-tree; dates"[64]).

Phoenician-Punic, a Northwest-Semitic language, was spoken in parts of North Africa, especially in what is now Tunisia, up to the 5th century CE. Punic loans are found in several Berber languages, among them Shilha. Examples (etymons are cited from Hebrew, another Northwest-Semitic language which is closely related to Phoenician-Punic, but much better attested):

agadir "fortress" (cf. Hebrew gādēr "wall")
aẓalim "onions" (cf. Hebrew beṣālîm)
aɣanim "reeds" (cf. Hebrew qānîm)
tifst "flax, linen" (premodern Shilha, cf. Hebrew pišt-)

The verb lmd "to learn" is probably also a Punic loan (cf. Hebrew lāmad).

The noun uday "Jew" probably came to the Berber languages from the Aramaic language spoken by early Jewish immigrants in North Africa (cf. Aramaic-Syriac yūdāy-ā vs. Hebrew yehûdî, Arabic yahūdī; the Aramaic noun is also the source of Greek ἰουδαῖος, Latin iūdaeus).

It has been noted[65] that the numerals 5 to 9 seem to be Semitic loans. The corresponding numerals in Phoenician-Punic and in Arabic, the historically most likely origin, do not seem to be the source. A comparison:

"six"sḍisšɨdɨš-ššsitt- (ordinal sādis)
"eight"tam, ttamšommon-šmnθamān-
"nine"tẓẓa, ttẓatɨšʕat-tšʕtisʕ-

A variety of Latin/Romance was spoken in parts of northern Morocco right up to the advent of Islam. Loans from Latin and early Romance include:

afullus "cock, rooster" (Latin pullus "young animal, chick")
afurnu "oven" (cf. Latin fornus)
asnus "ass's foal" (Latin asinus "ass")
fliyyu "pennyroyal" (plant, cf. Latin pulēium)
ikikr "chickpeas" (Latin cicer)
tafala "peel, spade" (Latin pāla)
talima "file" (Latin līma)
tayuga "yoke, pair" (early Romance singular *iuga, cf. Latin plural iuga, singular iugum "yoke")
urti "garden" (early Romance, cf. Latin hortus)
taɣawsa "thing" (Latin causa)
takira "wax" (Latin cēra)
tibitas "beets" (early Romance betas, cf. Latin singular bēta)
tifiras "pears" (early Romance *piras, cf. Latin plural pira, singular pirum)

Later Romance loans can be distinguished by the fact that original s becomes š instead of s as in the earlier loans. Presumably, the later loans originated from Ibero-Romance, with which Berber speakers came into contact in al-Andalus (Islamic Spain). Examples include:

acaqqur "axe" (cf. premodern Spanish segur, Latin securis)
cemrir "hat" (cf. Spanish sombrero)
acenti "rye" (cf. Spanish centeno; in medieval Shilha šəntin, a form which naturally developed into a feminine plural ticentin, from which masculine singular ašnti was back-formed).

Another probable loan from a Romance language is tabaɣa "tobacco".[66]

Also borrowed from Romance are the names of the months of the Julian calendar:[67]

ibril, ibrirabrilabrilabril

Most Spanish and French nouns borrowed since the colonial era came via Arabic, as shown by the presence of the Arabic definite article:

lficta "feast" (Spanish fiesta)
sskʷila "school" (Spanish escuela)
lbakit "package" (French paquet)
ṭṭumubil "car" (French automobile)

The noun atay [atæj] "tea" is a unique loan, from Dutch thee [tej].[68]

By far the most numerous group of loans is from Arabic. As with most languages spoken in the Islamic cultural sphere, Shilha has adopted many hundreds of words from Arabic, which now permeat the entire lexicon (except body parts and other basic vocabulary). Loans include verbs and nouns as well as numerals, prepositions, conjunctions and adverbs. Borrowed verbs are completely absorbed into the Shilha verbal system. Many of the borrowed nouns were not incorporated into the nominal morphological system, thus constituting a subgroup of their own (see above, § Unincorporated nouns).

Although some nouns denoting typically Islamic concepts such as timzgida "mosque", taẓallit "ritual prayer", uẓum "fasting", which certainly belong to the very oldest layer of Arabic loans,[69] are incorporated into Shilha morphology, but that many equally central Islamic concepts are expressed with unincorporated nouns (for example lislam "Islam", lḥajj "pilgrimage to Mecca", zzka "alms tax" ). It is possible that during the early stages of islamization such concepts were expressed with native vocabulary or with earlier, non-Arabic loans. One such term which has survived into the modern era is tafaska "ewe for slaughter on the (Islamic) Feast of Immolation",[70] from pascha,[71] the Latinized name of the Jewish festival of Passover (Pesaḥ) or, more specifically, of the paschal lamb (qorbān Pesaḥ) which is sacrificed during the festival. Another example is ibkkaḍan "sins", obsolete in the modern language, but attested in a premodern manuscript text,[72] whose singular abkkaḍu is borrowed from Romance (cf. Spanish pecado, Latin peccātum; modern Shilha uses ddnub "sins", from Arabic).

Secret languages

Destaing[73] mentions a secret language (argot) called inman or tadubirt which is spoken by "some people of Sous, in particular the descendants of Sidi Ḥmad u Musa." He quotes an example: is kn tusat inman? "do you speak the secret language?"

Two secret languages used by Shilha women are described by Lahrouchi and Ségéral (2009). They are called tagnawt (cf. Shilha agnaw "deaf-mute person") and taɛžmiyt (cf. Moroccan Arabic ɛəžmiya "foreign language") or taqqžmiyt. They employ various processes, such as reduplication, to disguise the ordinary language.

Sample text

Free translation

(1) The story of the man who sold honey in the souk. (2) A man had filled several leather bags of honey in the souk. (3) There came another man to him, who wanted to buy honey. He said: "At how much do you sell that honey?" (4) The seller said to him: "Just taste it, and if it pleases you, you can make a bid." (5) The man took a bag, poured out some, tasted the honey and gave it back to its owner. He said: "Hold it, until I have tried another one". (6) [The seller] held it in his hand, while the buyer took another bag, poured out some, tasted the honey and gave it back to its owner. (7) He held it in his other hand; then the buyer took one bag of honey and ran away. The honey-seller could not do anything because of the bags he held. (8) He started calling out to people to liberate him.


(1) Lqqiṣt n yan urgaz lli yzznzan tammnt ɣ ssuqq. (2) Yan urgaz iɛmmr mnnaw yilmawn n tammnt ɣ ssuqq. (3) Yašk nn dars yan urgaz, ira ad dars isɣ tammnt. Inna y as: "Mnšk at tzznzt tammnt ann?" (4) Inna y as: "Mḍi tt, iɣ ak tɛžb ar gis tsawalt." (5) Yasy urgaz ann yan yilm, ifsi t, imḍi tammnt, ifk t i bab nns, inna as: "Amẓ, ar kiɣ gussɣ wayyaḍ." (6) Yamẓ t s ufus nns, yasi daɣ umsaɣ lli wayyaḍ, ifsi t, imḍi tammnt, ifk t daɣ i bab nns. (7) Yamẓ t s ufus nns yaḍnin, yasy umsaɣ yan yilm n tammnt, irur. Iggammi bu tammnt mad a yskar i yilmawn lli yumẓ. (8) Ar yaqqra y mddn at t fukkun.

Word-by-word translation

(1) story of a man who is.selling honey in market (2) a man he.filled several leather.bags of honey in market (3) he.came thither with.him a man he.wanted to with.him he.buys honey he.said to.him how.much you.sell honey that (4) he.said to.him taste it if it.pleased (5) he.picked.up man that one leather.bag he.poured.out it he.tasted honey he.gave it to owner he.said to.him hold until when I.tasted (6) he.held it with hand of.him he.picked.up also buyer the.aforementioned he.poured.out it he.tasted honey he.gave it also to owner (7) he.held it with hand of.him other he.picked.up buyer one leather.bag of honey he.fled he.was.incapable.of he.of honey to leather.bags which he.held (8) he.starts.calling to people that him they.liberate


(1) lqqiṣ-t = feminine noun, "story" (Arabic loan) | n = preposition, "of" | ya-n = masculine numeral, "one, a" | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, "man" | lli = relative pronoun, "who" (Arabic loan) | y-zz-nza-n = singular relative verb form, "who is selling" (causative < nz(i) "be sold") | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, "honey" | ɣ = preposition, "in" | ssuqq = masculine noun, "market" (Arabic loan) (2) ya-n = masculine numeral, "one, a" | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, "man" | i-ɛmmr = 3sg.m. perfective, "he filled" (Arabic loan) | mnnaw = masculine indefinite numeral, "several, many" | y-ilmaw-n = masculine plural noun, annexed state, "skins, leather bags" | n = preposition, "of" | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, annexed state, "honey" | ɣ = preposition, "in" | ssuqq = masculine noun, "market" (Arabic loan) (3) y-ašk = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he came" | nn = directional particle, centripetal, "thither" | dar-s = preposition + 3sg. suffix, "with him" | ya-n = masculine numeral, "one, a" | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, "man" | i-ra = 3sg.m. perfective, "he wanted" | ad = prospective preverbal particle | dar-s = preposition + 3sg. suffix, "with him" | i-sɣ = 3sg.m. aorist, "he buys" | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, "honey" | i-nna = 3sg.m. perfective, "he said" | y = inserted consonant (hiatus breaker) | a-s = 3sg. indirect object clitic, "to him" | mnšk = question word, "how much?" | at /ad/ = "is-it-that" | t-zz-nz-t = 2sg. aorist, "you sell" (causative < nz "be sold") | t-ammn-t, feminine noun, free state, "honey" | a-nn = demonstrative particle, distal, "that" (4) i-nna = 3sg.m. perfective, "he said" | y = inserted consonant (hiatus breaker) | a-s = 3sg. indirect object clitic, "to him" | mḍi = imperative singular, "taste!" | tt = 3sg.f. object clitic, "it" | iɣ = conjunction, "if" | a-k = 2sg.m. indirect object clitic, "to you" | t-ɛžb = 3sg.f. perfective, "it pleased" (Arabic loan) | ar = imperfective preverbal | gi-s = preposition + 3sg. suffix, "in it, about it" | t-sawal-t = 2sg. imperfective, "you talk, you can talk" (5) y-asy = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he picked up" | u-rgaz = masculine noun, annexed state, "man" | a-nn = demonstrative particle, distal, "that" | ya-n = masculine numeral, "one, a" | y-ilm = masculine noun, annexed state, "skin, leather bag" | i-fsi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he poured out" | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "it" | i-mḍi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he tasted" | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, "honey" | i-fk = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he gave" | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "it" | i = preposition, "to" | bab = masculine noun, "owner" | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, "of it" | i-nna = 3sg.m. perfective, "he said" | a-s = 3sg. indirect object clitic, "to him" | amẓ = imperative singular, "hold!" | ar = preposition, "until" | kiɣ = conjunction, "when" | guss-ɣ = 1sg. perfective, "I tasted" | wayyaḍ = masculine singular, "another one" (6) y-amẓ = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he held" | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "it" | s = preposition, "with" | u-fus = masculine noun, annexed state, "hand" | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, "of him" | y-asi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he picked up" | daɣ = adverb, "also" | u-m-saɣ = masculine noun, annexed state, "buyer" (agent noun < sɣ "buy") | lli = demonstrative particle, anaphoric, "the aforementioned" | wayyaḍ = masculine singular, "another one" | i-fsi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he poured out" | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "it" | i-mḍi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he tasted" | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, free state, "honey" | i-fk = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he gave" | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "it" | daɣ = adverb, "also" | i = preposition, "to" | bab = masculine noun, "owner" | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, "of it" (7) y-amẓ = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he held" | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "it" | s = preposition, "with" | u-fus = masculine noun, annexed state, "hand" | nn-s = 3sg. possessive complement, "of him" | yaḍnin = "other" | y-asy = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he picked up" | u-m-saɣ = masculine agent noun, annexed state, "buyer" | ya-n = masculine numeral, "one, a" | y-ilm = masculine noun, annexed state, "skin, leather bag" | n = preposition, "of" | tammnt = feminine noun, annex state, "honey" | i-rur = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he fled" | i-ggammi = 3sg.m. aorist (consecutive), "he was incapable of" | bu = masculine proprietive element, "he of" (Arabic loan) | t-ammn-t = feminine noun, annexed state, "honey" | mad /ma + ad/ = "what it-is-that" | a = imperfective preverbal particle | y-skar = 3sg.m. imperfective, "he is doing, he can do" | i = preposition, "to" | y-ilmaw-n = masculine plural noun, annexed state, "skins, leather bags" | lli = relative pronoun, "which" (Arabic loan) | y-umẓ = 3sg.m. perfective, "he held" (8) ar = imperfective preverbal | y-aqqra = 3sg.m. "he is calling, he starts calling" | y /i/ = preposition, "to" | mddn = masculine plural noun, "people" | at /ad/ = prospective preverbal particle | t = 3sg.m. object clitic, "him" | fukku-n = 3pl.m. aorist, "they liberate" (Arabic loan).


  1. Shilha at Ethnologue (23nd ed., 2020)
  2. When referring to the language, anthropologists and historians prefer the name "Shilha", which is in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Linguists writing in English prefer "Tashelhiyt".
  3. The Shilha language area is approximately the size of Iceland, or the US state of Kentucky.
  4. El Mountassir (2017:167)
  5. "Dictionnaire Général de la Langue Amazighe Informatisé". Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  6. Justinard (1914:2), Destaing (1920:166), Galand (1988, 1.14).
  7. In most of its usages, Acelḥiy simply means "a speaker of Shilha". It is not known whether children of Shilha speakers in the migrant communities who have not acquired an active knowledge of the language still identify themselves as Acelḥiy. There is also an ethnic (racial) dimension to the term: white native speakers of Shilha generally refer to black native speakers (the modern descendants of liberated slaves) with the term asuqqiy, a pejorative term derived from Arabic suq "market" (where slaves were bought and sold). The literature offers no information on the self-designation of black speakers.
  8. Destaing (1920:20, 166). See also § Semantics of feminine nouns.
  9. Perrot d’Ablancourt 1667 : 92-93
  10. Stumme (1899:3); see also Dozy, R. (1881), Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, Leyde: Brill, p. I:781, shilḥ, plural shulūḥ "voleur, brigand".
  11. (ar) Maghrebvoices - Why do the Berbers of Morocco refuse to call them 'Shluh'?
  12. (ar) - Shluh, Tashelhit, Masmouda and Masamida"
  13. (ar) Maghrebvoices - Why do the Berbers of Morocco refuse to call them 'Shluh'?
  14. Stumme (1899:3); Laoust (1936:v).
  15. Fox and Abu-Talib (1966:155), Colin (1993:976).
  16. At least, the existing lexicographical sources for Moroccan Arabic and Shilha do not record a pejorative meaning.
  17. Awzal, Baḥr al-Dumūʿ, v. 5 (edition in van den Boogert 1997).
  18. Justinard (1914:2), Laoust (1936:vi).
  19. Based on data found Here
  20. Stroomer (2001a:183n1), Stroomer (2008:289n1).
  21. Stumme (1899:4).
  22. Boukous (1977:126).
  23. Shilha ethnic names are quoted here in a conventional French orthography, as is usual in berberological literature. These names are also often given in an Arabicized form, for example Ghoujdama, Glaoua, Fetouaka, etc.
  24. In this article, the graphs š and ž are used instead of standard c and j in order to make the transcribed examples more accessible to readers with no background in berberology.
  25. On the peculiarities of Maghribi script and orthography see van den Boogert (1989).
  26. For a full description of the traditional orthography see van den Boogert (1997:61–67) and the article Berber orthography.
  27. Van den Boogert (1997) offers a first exploration of Shilha manuscript literature, including an edition and translation of Awzal's work Baḥr al-Dumūʿ. An older edition of this work, in the original Arabic script, is in Stricker (1960).
  28. Galand (1988, 2.4).
  29. Galand (1988, 2.13).
  30. Galand (1988, 2.1).
  31. Cf. Dell and Elmedlaoui (2002:232), who observe the same practice in transcriptions of Moroccan Arabic. The practice is almost never applied entirely consistently. For example, the noun idrimn "money" is written as ⟨idrimen⟩, with ⟨e⟩ indicating that m is the onset of the last syllable: [id.ri.m⟨e⟩n]. But when a vowel follows, as in idrimn inu "my money", ⟨e⟩ should not be written, because the syllabic structure then becomes []. In such cases Aspinion and others routinely write ⟨idrimen inu⟩, with superfluous ⟨e⟩.
  32. Galand (1988, 2.1), "le plus souvant les nombreuses notations de [ə] que l'on observe chez les berbèrisants résultent d'habitudes étrangères au chleuh".
  33. Text published in the modern orthography in Arabic script also do not represent transitional vowels or "schwa".
  34. The effects of these strategies are often not accurately represented in transcriptions.
  35. The speech of the Ighchan, and possibly other Shilha variants, often retains the original semivowels (Galand 1988, 2.9), and this can also be seen in premodern manuscript texts (van den Boogert 1997:249).
  36. Applegate (1958), Dell & Elmedlaoui (1985, 2002), Ridouane (2008).
  37. This issue is discussed in connection with other languages by Dixon (2010:284).
  38. Van den Boogert (1997:247–8), with examples.
  39. See Van den Boogert (1997:244–245).
  40. For example, "Syllable: A phonological unit consisting of a vowel or other unit that can be produced in isolation, either alone or accompanied by one or more less sonorous units" (P.H. Matthews, Oxford concise dictionary of linguistics, Second Edition, Oxford: OUP, 2007). See also Syllable, which contains references to other languages with vowelless syllables.
  41. Galand (1988, 4.9–12).
  42. Both Galand (1988. 4.11) and Kossmann (2012:67n7) rightly point out that the annexed state in Berber is not to be confused with the construct state of the Semitic languages.
  43. That is, it is not a sort of (in)definite article, although it may be demonstrative in origin.
  44. Galand (1988, 4.11).
  45. In a few feminine nouns, the plural vocalic prefix i has become u under the influence of a following m, as in t-u-mɣar-in "women" and t-u-mẓ-in "barley" (cf. Central Atlas Tamazight t-i-mɣar-in, t-i-mẓ-in).
  46. Galand (1988, 4.11).
  47. Cf. Kossmann (2012:86–7),
  48. Gathered from published texts.
  49. Galand (1988, 4.11).
  50. All examples of numerals with horses and cows are extrapolated from attested constructions.
  51. Examples in Destaing (1920) sub "onze, douze", etc.
  52. Galand (1988, 4.15).
  53. See van den Boogert (1997:286–7).
  54. Aspinion (1953:254).
  55. Galand (1988, 4.18).
  56. Each relative form is now used for both genders. An obsolete feminine singular relative form t-…-t is found in some manuscript texts, for example tikki t-ɛḍm-t (gift "a glorious gift" (modern tikki y-ɛḍm-n).
  57. A fifth MAN stem, the Imperfective negative, is sporadically found in manuscript texts (see Van den Boogert 1997:270).
  58. Imperfective 2sg. /t-tt-amẓ-t/ is usually realized as tt-amẓ-t.
  59. The imperfective preverbal particle ar changes to a or (depending on the dialect) after the negation.
  60. See van den Boogert (1997:271–272).
  61. For the sake of transparency, the preposition "of" is consistently transcribed as n in the examples in this article. Unassimilated realizations occur in deliberate speech.
  62. The possessed noun wlt, the feminine counterpart of w, is not used in genealogies; thus, Fadma the daughter of Moussa is Faḍma Musa, not *Faḍma wlt Musa (cf. Aspinion 1953:30).
  63. The wordlist in Applegate (1958: 45–71) is useless because of its generally unreliable transcriptions.
  64. Crum, W.E. (1939). A Coptic Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon, p. 40b; Coptic ⟨b⟩ represented /β/ or /v/.
  65. Van den Boogert (1997:221).
  66. The etymon of tabaɣa seems to be tabaca rather than tabaco.
  67. Original Berber (Shilha) names of the month are attested in manuscripts, see van den Boogert (2002).
  68. Tea was introduced into Morocco by Dutch and English traders through the international port of Agadir at the end of the 18th century (Bellakhdar 1997:230).
  69. Van den Boogert and Kossmann (1997).
  70. The Feast of Immolation itself is known in Shilha as lɛid n tfaska "the feast of the sacrificial ewe".
  71. Pronounced in classical times as [paskha] or [paska].
  72. Aẓnag (late 16th century), Lɛqayd n ddin, in the phrase ingaẓn n tarwa…da ssiridn ibkkaḍan "the pains of childbirth are washing away the sins".
  73. Destaing (1920:21).
  74. Text from Podeur (1995:140–141).

References and further reading

  • Amard, P. (1997). Textes berbères des Aït Ouaouzguite. Edités et annotés par Harry Stroomer. Aix-en-Provence: Edisud. ISBN 2-85744-960-7.
  • Amarīr, ʿU. (1987). al-Shiʿr al-āmāzīghī al-mansūb ilā Sīdī Ḥammū al-Ṭālib. Casablanca: Maktabat Provence (in Arabic and Shilha).
  • Applegate, J.R. (1958). An outline of the structure of Shilḥa. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Aspinion, R. (1953). Apprenons le berbère. Initiation aux dialectes chleuhs. Rabat: Moncho.
  • Bellakhdar, J. (1997). La pharmacopée marocaine traditionnelle. N.p.: Ibis Press. ISBN 2-910728-03-X.
  • Boogert, N. van den (1989). "Some notes on Maghribi script" (PDF). Manuscripts of the Middle East. 4: 30–43.
  • Boogert, N. van den (1997). The Berber literary tradition of the Sous. De Goeje Fund, Vol. XXVII. Leiden: NINO. ISBN 90-6258-971-5.
  • Boogert, N. van den (1998). La révélation des énigmes. Lexiques arabo-berbères des xviie et xviiie siècles. Travaux et documents de l'Irémam, no. 19. Aix-en-Provence: Irémam. ISBN 2-906809-18-7.
  • Boogert, N. van den (2000). "Medieval Berber orthography". In Chaker, S.; Zaborski, A. (eds.). Etudes berères et chamito-sémitiques, Mélanges offerts à Karl-G. Prasse. Paris and Louvain: Peeters (pp. 357–377). ISBN 978-90-429-0826-0.
  • Boogert, N. van den (2002). "The names of the months in medieval Berber". In Naït-Zerrad, K. (ed.). Articles de linguistique berbère. Mémorial Werner Vycichl. Paris: L'Harmattan (pp. 137–152). ISBN 2747527069.
  • Boogert, N. van den & Kossmann, M. (1997). "Les premiers emprunts arabes en berbère" (PDF). Arabica. 44 (2): 317–322. doi:10.1163/1570058972582506. hdl:1887/4151.
  • Boukous, A. (1977). Langage et culture populaires au Maroc. Essai de sociolinguistique. Casablanca: Dar El Kitab (the bland title hides a book on Shilha containing, among others, nine narrative texts with translations, pp. 152–289).
  • Boumalk, A. (2004). Manuel de conjugaison du tachelhit. Paris: L'Harmattan. ISBN 2747555275.
  • Boumalk, A. & Bounfour, A. (2001). Vocabulaire usuel du tachelhit (tachelhit-français). Rabat: Centre Tarik Ibn Zyad. ISBN 9954022899.
  • Cid Kaoui, S. (1907). Dictionnaire français-tachelh'it et tamazir't (dialectes berbères du Maroc). Paris: Leroux.
  • Colin, G.S. (1993). Le dictionnaire Colin d'arabe dialectal marocain. Vol. 1–8. Edited by Z.I. Sinaceur. Rabat: Al Manahil, Ministère des affaires culturelles. ISBN 9981-832-03-0.CS1 maint: location (link)
  • Dell, F. & Elmedlaoui, M. (1985). "Syllabic consonants and syllabification in Imdlawn Tashlhiyt Berber". Journal of African Languages and Linguistics. 7 (2): 105–130. doi:10.1515/jall.1985.7.2.105.
  • Dell, F. & Elmedlaoui, M. (2002). Syllables in Tashlhiyt Berber and in Moroccan Arabic. Dordecht, Boston, London: Kluwer. ISBN 978-1-4020-1077-4.
  • Dell, F. & Elmedlaoui, M. (2008). Poetic metre and musical form in Tashelhiyt Berber songs. Köln: Köppe. ISBN 978-3-89645-398-3.
  • Destaing, E. (1920). Etude sur la tachelḥît du Soûs. Vocabulaire français-berbère (PDF). Paris: Leroux (reprinted 1938).
  • Destaing, E. (1937). Textes arabes en parler des Chleuḥs du Sous (Maroc). Paris: Geuthner.
  • Destaing, E. (1940). Textes berbères en parler des Chleuhs du Sous (Maroc). Paris: Geuthner (contains the same texts as Destaing 1937, which see for the translations).
  • Dixon, R.M.W. (2010). Basic linguistic theory. Volume 1, Methodoloy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957106-2.
  • Fox, M. & Abu-Talib, M. (1966). A dictionary of Moroccan Arabic. Washington: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-007-9.
  • Galand, L. (1988). "Le berbère". In D. Cohen (ed.). Les langues dans le monde ancien et moderne. Troisième partie, Les langues chamito-sémitiques. Paris: CNRS (pp. 207–242). ISBN 2-222-04057-4.
  • Galand-Pernet, P. (1972). Recueil de poèmes chleuhs. Paris: Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-01415-6.
  • Ggʷižžan, Lḥusin bn Iḥya (2002). Amarg n Faṭima Tabaɛmrant. Rabat: al-Jamʿīyah al-maghribīyah li-l-baḥth wa-l-tabādul al-thaqāfī (in Shilha).
  • Ibáñez, E. (1954). Diccionario Español-Baamarani (dialecto Bereber de Ifni). Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Africanos.
  • Jordan, A. (1934). Dictionnaire berbère-français (dialectes tašelhait). Rabat: Omnia.
  • Jordan, A. (1935). Textes berbères, dialecte tachelhait. Rabat: Omnia.
  • Jouad, H. (1983). Les éléments de la versification en berbère marocain, tamazight et tachlhit. Paris: Thèse en vue du Doctorat de 3ème cycle.
  • Jouad, H. (1995). Le calcul inconscient de l'improvisation. Poésie berbère. Rythme, nombre et sens. Paris, Louvain: Peeters. ISBN 9789068317503.
  • Justinard, L. (1914). Manuel de berbère marocain (dialecte chleuh). Paris: Librairie orientale & américaine.
  • Justinard, L. (1954). Un petit royaume berbère: le Tazeroualt. Paris: Librairie orientale & américaine.
  • Kossmann, M. (2012). "Berber". In Frajzyngier, Z.; Shay, E. (eds.). The Afroasiatic languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (pp. 18–101). ISBN 978-0-521-86533-3.
  • Kossmann, M. (2013). The Arabic influence on Northern Berber. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-25308-7.
  • Kossmann, M.G. & Stroomer, H.J. (1997). "Berber phonology". In Kaye, A.S. (ed.). Phonologies of Asia and Africa. Vol. 1. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns (pp. 461–475). ISBN 1-57506-017-5.CS1 maint: location (link)
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