Shawiya language

For the region in Morocco, see Chaouia (Morocco).
Pronunciation [θʃawɪθ]
Native to Algeria
Region Aurès Mountains ( Batna, Khenchela, Oum El Bouaghi, Souk Ahras, Tébessa)
Native speakers
1.4 million (1993)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 shy
Glottolog tach1249[2]

Geographic distribution of Shawiya dialects in northeastern Algeria

Shawiya Berber, also spelled Chaouïa (native form: Tacawit [θaʃawiθ]), is an Afroasiatic language of the Berber branch. It is a variety of the Zenati languages spoken in Algeria by the Shawiya. The language's primary speech area is the Aurès Mountains in eastern Algeria and the surrounding areas, including Batna, Khenchela, Sétif, Oum El Bouaghi, Souk Ahras, Tébessa, and the northern part of Biskra.


The Shawiya people call their language Tacawit, which is also known as Numidian Berber (IPA: [θʃawɪθ] or [hʃawɪθ]). Estimates of number of speakers range from 1.4 to 3 million speakers.[1][3]

The French spelling of Chaouïa is commonly seen, due to the influence of French conventions on Algeria. Other spellings are "Chaoui", "Shawia", "Tachawit", "Thachawith", "Tachaouith", and "Thchèwith". In Shawiya, the leading /t/ - pronounced [θ] in that phonetic environment - is often reduced to an /h/, so the native name is often heard as Hašawiθ.

Shawiya Berber was, until recently, an unwritten language and rarely taught at school. As the Shawiya people were predominantly rural and secluded, they often code-switch to Algerian Arabic, French or even English to discuss non-traditional technology and sociological concerns.

Recently the Shawiya language, together with Kabylian Berber, has begun to achieve some cultural and media prominence thanks to the Berber cultural and political movements in Algeria, and to the introduction of Berber language education in some public schools.



  1. 1 2 Shawiya at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tachawit". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
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