Tifinagh (Tuareg Berber language: ⵜⴼⵏⵗ or ⵜⴼⵉⵏⵗ, Berber pronunciation: [tifinaɣ]) or Tuareg Tifinagh is an abjad script used to write the Tuareg Berber language by the Tuareg Berbers of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria, northeastern Mali, northern Niger and northern Burkina Faso. Tuareg Tifinagh is descended from the ancient Libyco-Berber alphabet.[2]

Entrance to the town of Kidal. The name is written in Tuareg Tifinagh (ⴾⴸⵍ/ Kdl) and Latin script.
Script type
Time period
Unknown to today
LanguagesTuareg Berber language
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Neo-Tifinagh (20th century)
Traditional Tuareg Tifinagh

Neo-Tifinagh (ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ) is an alphabet that was created in northern Algeria around the 1980s as a modified version of the traditional Tuareg Tifinagh.[3] Neo-Tifinagh has been used since the 1980s by Algerians and later by Moroccans for the symbolic promotion of the Berber language, while mainly using the Berber Latin alphabet in most publications. Neo-Tifinagh is often simply called "Tifinagh" by non-academics in Berber countries and in the media, thus confusing it with the traditional and distinct "Tuareg Tifinagh" which is the actual "Tifinagh".

There are significant differences between the ancient Libyco-Berber script and the Tuareg Tifinagh script, but also many similarities. Many letters from the ancient Libyco-Berber script do not exist (anymore) in the Tuareg Tifinagh, while other letters evolved into a different pronunciation in the current Tuareg Tifinagh script.

There are also significant differences between the Tuareg Tifinagh script and the newly created Neo-Tifinagh alphabet. Many Tuareg Tifinagh letters are discarded in Neo-Tifinagh, and other ones are modified in form or in pronunciation. The Neo-Tifinagh alphabet also features invented vowels and other letters not found in Tuareg Tifinagh. About half of the letters in the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet were either completely invented (ⵥ,ⴻ,ⵕ,ⵄ,ⵃ,ⵞ,ⵯ,ⵇ,ⵚ,ⴽ,ⵅ,ⴿ,ⵖ,ⵠ), modified in form (ⴰ,ⵓ,ⴼ,ⵁ,ⵍ) or repurposed for a different pronunciation (ⵀ,ⵡ,ⴵ). All traditional Tuareg Tifinagh letters that consist entirely of dots (ⵗ,ⵈ,ⴾ,ⵆ,ⵘ,ⵂ) were discarded by the creators of Neo-Tifinagh and were replaced by newly invented ones. Tuareg people in the Sahara desert continue to use these dotted letters as an integral part of their traditional Tuareg Tifinagh script, thus deliberately distinguishing themselves and their writings from the northern Berbers of Morocco and northern Algeria who use the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet or the Berber Latin alphabet in writing the Berber language.

The ancient Libyco-Berber script[4][5] (or the Libyc script) was used by the ancient northern Berbers known as Libyco-Berbers,[6][7] also known as Libyc people, Numidians, Afri and Mauretanians who inhabited the northern parts of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya as well as the Canary Islands west of Morocco.

From the ancient Libyco-Berber script came the Tifinagh script (Tuareg Tifinagh) through a long evolution. And then from the Tifinagh script was the modern Neo-Tifinagh alphabet created.

The name Tifinagh is stylized as Tifinaɣ in the Berber Latin alphabet, and in the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet it is written as ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ, while in the Tuareg people's traditional Tifinagh it's written as ⵜⴼⵉⵏⵗ or ⵜⴼⵏⵗ.

Neo-Tifinagh, which was created in northern Algeria around the 1980s, is a heavily modified version of the traditional Tuareg Tifinagh script. This newly created Neo-Tifinagh script spread from Algeria to Morocco and was rebranded by the Moroccan Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) as "Tifinaghe-Ircam" or simply "Tifinaghe", and is used in a small part of Moroccan and some Libyan elementary schools to teach the Berber language to children, as well as in a number of literary publications and some websites and media.[8][9] In Algeria, most Berber language education programs in elementary schools, high schools and university use the Berber Latin alphabet, while a small number of schools use Neo-Tifinagh, Tuareg Tifinagh in the south, or even the Arabic alphabet.

The word tifinagh is thought by some scholars to be a Berberized feminine plural cognate or adaptation of the Latin word "Punicus", (meaning "Punic" or "Phoenician") through the Berber feminine prefix ti- and Latin Punicus; thus tifinagh could possibly mean "the Phoenician (letters)"[10][11][12] or "the Punic letters". Others support an etymology involving the Tuareg verb efnegh, meaning to write.[13] However, the Tuareg verb efnegh is probably derived from the noun "Tifinagh" because all the northern Berbers of Morocco, northern Algeria, Tunisia and northern Libya have a different (and probably older) verb "ari, aru, ara" which means "to write".

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