Judeo-Berber language

Region Israel
Native speakers
L2 speakers: 750 (2010)[2]
generally not written
Language codes
ISO 639-3 jbe
Glottolog (insufficiently attested or not a distinct language)

Judeo-Berber (Berber: Tamazight Tudayt, Hebrew: ברברית יהודית) is any of several hybrid Berber varieties traditionally spoken as a second language in Jewish communities of central and southern Morocco, and perhaps earlier in Algeria. Judeo-Berber is (or was) a contact language; the first language of speakers was Judeo-Arabic.[1] (There were also Jews who spoke Berber as their first language, but not a distinct Jewish variety.)[1] Speakers emigrated to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. While mutually comprehensible with the Tamazight spoken by most inhabitants of the area (Galand-Pernet et al. 1970:14), these varieties are distinguished by the use of Hebrew loanwords and the pronunciation of š as s (as in many Jewish Moroccan Arabic dialects).

Geographic distribution

Communities where Jews in Morocco spoke Judeo-Berber included : Tinerhir, Ouijjane, Asaka, Imini , Draa valley , Demnate and Ait Bou Oulli in the Tamazight-speaking Middle Atlas and High Atlas and Oufrane, Tiznit and Illigh in the Tasheliyt-speaking Souss valley (Galand-Pernet et al. 1970:2). Jews were living among tribal Berbers, often in the same villages and practiced old tribal Berber protection relationships.

Almost all speakers of Judeo-Berber left Morocco in the years following its independence, and their children have mainly grown up speaking other languages. In 1992, about 2,000 speakers remained, mainly in Israel; all are at least bilingual in Judeo-Arabic.


Apart from its daily use, Judeo-Berber was used for orally explaining religious texts, and only occasionally written, using Hebrew characters; a manuscript Pesah Haggadah written in Judeo-Berber has been reprinted (Galand-Pernet et al. 1970.) A few prayers, like the Benedictions over the Torah, were recited in Berber.[4]


Taken from Galand-Pernet et al. 1970:121 (itself from a manuscript from Tinghir):

יִכְדַמְן אַיְיִנַגָא יפּרעו גְמַצָר. יִשוֹפִגַג רבי נּג דְיְנָג שוֹפוֹש נִדְרע שוֹפוֹש יִכיווֹאַנ
ixəddamn ay n-ga i pərʿu g° maṣər. i-ss-ufġ aġ əṛbbi ənnəġ dinnaġ s ufus ən ddrʿ, s ufus ikuwan.
Rough word-for-word translation: servants what we-were for Pharaoh in Egypt. he-cause-leave us God our there with arm of might, with arm strong.
Servants of Pharaoh is what we were in Egypt. Our God brought us out thence with a mighty arm, with a strong arm.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Chetrit (2016) "Jewish Berber", in Kahn & Rubin (eds.) Handbook of Jewish Languages, Brill
  2. Judeo-Berber at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Judeo-Berber". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. "Jews and Berbers" (PDF). (72.8 KB)


External links

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