Tamazight Tifinagh

tifinagh letters
Image from: IRCAM.


Tamazight Tifinagh (Berber Alphabet)

Among the earliest Tifinagh inscriptions found in North Africa are those found inscribed on rocks and painted in cave shelters (Wadi Takdhalt and Matkhandoush). Although the dating of the script was based on the earliest inscriptions found in some coastal areas, there is no comprehensive study to catalogue and date the prehistoric collection found in cave art across the Sahara. Most if not all the inscriptions found so far are yet to be deciphered. As the dating of many of these rock engravings and paintings themselves is also questionable, the age of Tifinagh is not conclusive and may not be known for some time.

Most foreign estimates, however, suggest the script to be around 3000 years old, primarily based on the fact that the Phoenicians arrived in North Africa around that time, and hence the widely accepted conclusion that the name Ti-finagh itself was derived from the word Phoniq.

The Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus region has located more than one hundred Tifinagh and Tifinagh-related sites in Libya. A copy of the collected data, the first archive of Tifinagh rock inscriptions in Fezzan, will be available for registered users in the Mission's website (acacus.it/). Copies were also given to the British Library in London and to the Libyan Department of Archaeology. [The British Library: EAP265: The tifinagh rock inscriptions in the Tadrart Acacus mountains (SW Libya): an unknown endangered heritage: eap.bl.uk/database/overview_project.a4d?projID=EAP265;r=9514]

There are a number of versions of the Berber alphabet Tifinagh, also known as the Libyan Alphabet, or the Libyco-Berber script, which slightly differ from one another. For example, the letters 's' and 'b' were confused, while some of the original letters were changed. These changes presumably were made to facilitate writing. The new Tifinagh system contains 55 letters, 22 of which were new additions.

After lengthy discussions whether to use Berber, Latin or Arabic script, the IRCAM of Morocco has opted to use Tifinagh. In June 2004 Tifinagh was registered in the ISO's register of the languages of the world, after the ISO recognised Berber Tifinagh. This means that the coding of Tifinagh will enable it, from 2005, to be integrated into the software products of the major companies. Microsoft Windows 8 was the first version of the operating system to include Tifinagh.

Professor of Tamazight Salem Chaker says the IRCAM's imposed decision is like putting the carriage before the horse. In an interview with Aid Chemakh and Masin Ferkal, Chaker points out that the decision to use Tifinagh is "a hasty and badly founded decision", and that the goal of the IRCAM "can only be an attempt by the dominant spheres and their auxiliaries to take over the Amazigh field by driving this transitional period of Amazigh writing and teaching into a sure dead end . . . The creation of the IRCAM, as well as the adoption of the Tifinagh script are part of a strategy which aims at reducing the Amazigh social and political factor to nothing or close to nothing."

Chaker argues that the political decision to impose Tifinagh was made without conducting any serious or academic work on the subject of Tifinagh to bring it up to date, and given the fact that it has not been in effective use for nearly a millennium, Tifinagh can only

"play an identity or emblematic role and cannot be used as a basis for a functional writing system that can easily be disseminated . . . The version currently in use . . . is purely and simply aberrant since it is actually a phonetic notation of Kabyl based on Tifinagh characters. This was developed in 1970 in the Berber Academy circles by amateurs full of goodwill, but nonetheless without any linguistic training. The result is that the alphabet which is currently presented to us as the Amazigh alphabet is not an authentic one. It was strongly altered in order to transcribe the phonetic characteristics of Kabyl. It cannot thus be an Amazigh-wide alphabet."

Read the full interview at: amazgha.fr/Professor-Chaker-Speaks-Out-on-the-Tifinagh-Script-Issue,427.html

You can also read the response of the IRCAM to this, and similar criticism, at the following link, in which the head of the IRCAM answers some questions relating to the constitutionalisation of Tamazight and the use of Tifinagh script:
ircam.ma/ar/index.php?soc=artip&pg=1&rd=44 : بوكوس: دسترة الأمازيغية حدث تاريخي وكتابتها بحرف «تيفيناغ» حظي بتوافق وطن 

In Barry Fell’s two books,  America BC and Saga America, one learns about the Berber Tifinagh inscriptions found in America (California, New Mexico, Texas, Iowa and Nevada) and in Polynesia; but the the findings were dismissed by the scientific community. See the Occasional publications of the Epigraphic Society for an index of Fell’s work at equinox-project.com/. 




Berber tifinagh and latin  keyboard

The above table was taken from the Royal Institute of Tamazight Culture website (ircam.ma/ar/index.php)




From Magazine Amezyan (amezyan.com)




Libyan Tifinagh:

Berber Tuareg tifinagh or alphabet  framed picture from the museum of Ghadames in Libya

The Tuareg Berber alphabet and its Arabic translation, Ghadames Museum, Libya.

The first column on the right is the Arabic translation of the second column, the third of the fourth, and so on. The English translation is as follows: starting from top right and going down (of the second column from the right): A, B, T, J, KH, D, then from the top of the fourth column from the right: R, Z, GH, N, S, SH, then from the sixth column from the right: D' (emphatic D), F, Q, L, M, Z' (emphatic heavy D, similar to Z), then from the top of first column on the left: H, Y, O (or W), G, Dg (as in judge), K, and emphatic T (heavy open form of English /th/, as in English "ta" (short for 'thank you')).






Tamazight Tifinagh Fonts:

To be able to write with Tifinagh you need to download and install the fonts. Instructions for different computer systems are found at: ircam.ma/fr/index.php?soc=telec&rd=3 . But in case the instructions are not clear, please follow the following instructions for Windows Vista and Windows 7:

(1): the fonts:

  1. Download Tifinagh fonts (the zipped file originally was downloaded from the IRCAM website at: ircam.ma/ar/index.php?soc=telec).
  2. Unzip the downloaded file to a folder in your computer.
  3. Double click on the yellow folder (Polices_PI)
  4. Copy all the font files (ending with extension .ttf) (do not copy the .pdf guide)
  5. Then go to: C:\WINDOWS\Fonts 
  6. Paste the font files in C:\WINDOWS\Fonts

(2): the software:

  1. ircam.ma/fr/index.php?soc=telec&rd=3 : Download PCUnicodeVista.zip (all fonts and keyboards with Windows installation procedures: automatic installation) (once you are in the above page, go down to: "Pilotes des claviers Unicode pour Windows Vista:", and choose the 33 or the 55 system.)
  2. Unzip the downloaded file to a folder in your computer (example, desktop)
  3. Inside the unzipped folder (PCUnicodeVista) you will see another zipped folder: t-ircamb.zip
  4. Unzip t-ircam.zip to the same folder (just right-click, then <extract here>)
  5. Inside the unzipped folder (t-ircamb) you will see setup.exe
  6. Double click setup.exe
  7. Allow the permissions required by Windows, then click <close> at the end of the installation.
  8. Now just go to your word processor, then choose the Tifinagh font as you normally would any other installed font.





Tamazight Tifinagh Keyboard:


Download the keyboard software:

The following zipped files come from Paul Anderson's website at: akufi.org . Each download includes pdf guides and layouts. The first and the third links (below) are Latin-mapped keyboard layouts, while the second one is Arabic-mapped layout.



Download the keyboard layout:

pdf sign
Download the complete Tamazight Keyboard Layouts (version 1.22)

Berber tifinagh and latin  keyboard


Berber tifinagh and latin  keyboard

Berber tifinagh and latin  keyboard

Berber tifinagh and latin  keyboard



Tifinagh Books:


tifinagh letters according to Libyan Tawalt
Tifinagh letters according to Tawalt.com.


The following PDF books were produced by Tawalt.com to document the structure and grammar of Berber language, as well as introduce Berber Tifinagh script.  The books are written in Arabic, to teach Tamazight Tifinagh. One of the books is titled "Tifinagh In Four Steps", which teaches how to read and write in Tamazight; while another includes children activities to practice and learn Tifinagh, as in the following image, in which children are encouraged to identify the Berber words in the square:


tifinagh exercise for children

Children were encouraged to locate Tifinagh words in a number of exercises as this one.



Download Tifinagh Books & Articles:


pdf signDownload the Berber copy of the Declaration of the Libyan National Tamazight Congress (ALT) in Tifinagh:

The following pdf files were originally downloaded from www.tawalt.com, and are here made available to download and use for personal purposes only.

pdf sign Tifinagh - Tifinagh

pdf signTifinagh - Tira

pdf signTifinagh - Tira 2

pdf signTifinagh - Tamusni Turari

pdf signTifinagh - Turari

pdf signTifinagh - Eghma

pdf signTifinagh - Eghma 2

pdf signTifinagh - Amawal N Imudar

pdf signTifinagh - Tamusni

pdf signTifinagh - Tamusni 2




Links & Resources Relating To Tifinagh:

  • The British Library: EAP265: The tifinagh rock inscriptions in the Tadrart Acacus mountains (SW Libya): an unknown endangered heritage: eap.bl.uk/database/overview_project.a4d?projID=EAP265;r=9514

  • Salem Chaker: tamazgha.fr/Professor-Chaker-Speaks-Out-on-the-Tifinagh-Script-Issue,427.html

  • Paul Anderson: download Tifinagh keyboard software and layout: akufi.org/en/tools/azerty2.html

  • Royal Institution for Amazigh Culture: download Tifinagh fonts and Tamazight keyboard for Windows and Mac systems; the eight fonts and the keyboard were both developed by IRCAM: ircam.ma/ar/index.php?soc=telec , ircam.ma/amzfr.htm

  • The Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus: acacus.it
  • mondeberbere.com/langue/tifinagh




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