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Title: Tifinagh  
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Subject: Writing systems of Africa, History of medieval Tunisia, Berber orthography, Shilha language, Central Atlas Tamazight
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Arabic, Neo-Tifinagh, and French at a store in Morocco.

Tifinagh (Berber pronunciation: ; also written Tifinaɣ in the Berber Latin alphabet, ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ in Neo-Tifinagh, and تيفيناغ in the Berber Arabic alphabet) is a series of abjad and alphabetic scripts used to write Berber languages.[1]

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

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


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

Tifinagh may have descended from a script sometimes named the Libyan (libyque) or Libyco-Berber script although the descent is unclear and uncertain.[6] This was widely used by speakers of Berber languages all across North Africa and on the Canary Islands. It is attested from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Its origin is uncertain, with some scholars suggesting it is related to the Punic alphabet or the Phoenician alphabet.[7] The word Tifinagh is a feminine plural noun whose singular in Tamasheq is Tafineqq; it means 'the Phoenician (letters)', according to the most known opinions. For a discussion (in French), see [1] and [2].

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

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

Tuareg Tifinagh

Languages Tuareg language
Time period
?? to present
Parent systems
Child systems

The Libyco-Berber script survived in the writing of the Tuareg language.

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

Occasionally the script has been used to write other neighboring languages, such as Tagdal Songhai.

Right: Entrance to the town of Kidal. The name is written in Tifinagh (ⴾⴸⵍ) and Latin script.


Traditional Tifinagh

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

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

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


Languages Standard Moroccan Tamazight and other northern Berber languages
Time period
1980 to present
Parent systems
ISO 15924 Tfng, 120
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias

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

Until recently, virtually no books or websites were published in this alphabet, with activists favouring the Latin (or, more rarely, Arabic) scripts for serious usage; however, it is extremely popular for symbolic use, with many books and websites written in a different script featuring logos or title pages using Neo-Tifinagh. In Morocco, the king took a "neutral" position between the claims of Latin script and Arabic script by adopting the Neo-Tifinagh script in 2003; as a result, books are beginning to be published in this script, and it is taught in some schools. However, many independent Berber-language publications are still published using the Berber Latin alphabet. Outside Morocco, it has no official status. Ironically, the Moroccan state arrested and imprisoned people using this script during the 1980s and 1990s.[9]

In Algeria, almost all Berber publications use the Berber Latin alphabet, not Tifinagh.

In Libya, the regime of Gaddafi consistently banned the Berber Tifinagh script from being used in public contexts such as store displays and banners.[10]

After the Libyan Civil War, the National Transitional Council has shown an openness towards the Berber language. The independent rebel Libya TV, based in Qatar, has included the Berber language and the Tifinagh alphabet in some of its programming.[11]


An IRCAM version of Neo-Tifinagh

Letters and a few ligatures of traditional Tifinagh and Neo-Tifinagh:

Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D30 a ا æ ya
U+2D31 b ب b / β yab
U+2D32 b ٻ b / β yab fricative
U+2D33 g گ ɡ yag
U+2D34 g ڲ ɡ yag fricative
U+2D35 dj ج d͡ʒ Berber Academy yadj
U+2D36 dj ج d͡ʒ yadj
U+2D37 d د d yad
U+2D38 d د ð yad fricative
U+2D39 ض yaḍ
U+2D3A ض ðˤ yaḍ fricative
U+2D3B e ه ə yey
U+2D3C f ف f yaf
U+2D3D k ک k yak
U+2D3E k ک k Tuareg yak
U+2D3F ⴿ k ک k yak fricative
U+2D40 h
= Tuareg yab
U+2D41 h ھ h Berber Academy yah
U+2D42 h ھ h Tuareg yah
U+2D43 ح ħ yaḥ
U+2D44 ʕ (ɛ) ع ʕ yaʕ (yaɛ)
U+2D45 kh (x) خ χ yax
U+2D46 kh (x) خ χ Tuareg yax
U+2D47 q ق q yaq
U+2D48 q ق q Tuareg yaq
U+2D49 i ي i yi
U+2D4A j ج ʒ yaj
U+2D4B j ج ʒ Ahaggar yaj
U+2D4C j ج ʒ Tuareg yaj
U+2D4D l ل l yal
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D4E m م m yam
U+2D4F n ن n yan
U+2D50 ny ني nj Tuareg yagn
U+2D51 ng ڭ ŋ Tuareg yang
U+2D52 p پ p yap
U+2D53 u
w yu
= Tuareg yaw
U+2D54 r ر r yar
U+2D55 ڕ yaṛ
U+2D56 gh (ɣ) غ ɣ yaɣ
U+2D57 gh (ɣ) غ ɣ Tuareg yaɣ
U+2D58 gh (ɣ)
Aïr yaɣ
= Adrar yaj
U+2D59 s س s yas
U+2D5A ص yaṣ
U+2D5B sh (š) ش ʃ yaš
U+2D5C t ت t yat
U+2D5D t ت t yat fricative
U+2D5E ch (tš) تش t͡ʃ yatš
U+2D5F ط yaṭ
U+2D60 v ۋ v yav
U+2D61 w ۉ w yaw
U+2D62 y ي j yay
U+2D63 z ز z yaz
U+2D64 z ز z Tawellemet yaz
= Harpoon yaz
U+2D65 ژ yaẓ
U+2D66 e   e ye (APT)
U+2D67 o   o yo (APT)
U+2D6F  ⵯ +ʷ + ٗ ʷ Labio-velarization mark
= Tamatart
Digraphs (for which ligatures are possible)
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D5C U+2D59 ⵜⵙ ts تس t͡s yats
U+2D37 U+2D63 ⴷⵣ dz دز d͡z yadz
Unicode Image Font Transliteration Name
Latin Arabic IPA
U+2D5C U+2D5B ⵜⵛ ch (tš) تش t͡ʃ yatš
U+2D37 U+2D4A ⴷⵊ dj دج d͡ʒ yadj
Color Key
Basic Tifinagh (IRCAM)[12] Extended Tifinagh (IRCAM) Other Tifinagh letters Modern Tuareg letters


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

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

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+2D3x ⴿ
U+2D7x   ⵿  
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ To a limited extent: See Interview met Karl-G. Prasse and Penchoen (1973:3)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Penchoen (1973:3)
  5. ^ O'Connor (2006:115)
  6. ^ a b M.C.A. MacDonald (2005). Elizabeth A. Slater, C.B. Mee and Piotr Bienkowski, ed. Writing and Ancient Near East Society: Essays in Honor of Alan Millard. T.& T.Clark Ltd. p. 60.  
  7. ^ Suleiman, Yasir (1996). Language and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa. Routledge. p. 173.  
  8. ^ "Berber". Ancient Scripts. Retrieved 2013-04-30. 
  9. ^ (French)Rapport sur le calvaire de l’écriture en Tifinagh au Maroc
  10. ^ سلطات الامن الليبية تمنع نشر الملصق الرسمي لمهرجان الزي التقليدي بكباو (in Arabic). TAWALT. 2007(?). 
  11. ^ "Libya TV – News in Berber". 
  12. ^ "Polices et Claviers Unicode" (in French).  


External links

  •, an excellent compilation of images and information]
  • (French), official website of the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture]
    • Ircam – Online lessons in Amazigh and the Tifinagh alphabet
  • Unicode character picker for Moroccan Tifinagh
  • Tifinagh Font for Windows
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