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.org/).
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
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
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
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/.
The above table was taken from the Royal Institute of Tamazight
Culture website (ircam.ma/ar/index.php)
From Magazine Amezyan (amezyan.com)
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:
Tifinagh fonts (the zipped file originally was downloaded from the IRCAM
website at: ircam.ma/ar/index.php?soc=telec).
Unzip the downloaded file to a folder in your computer.
Double click on the yellow folder (Polices_PI)
Copy all the font files (ending with extension .ttf) (do not copy the .pdf
Then go to: C:\WINDOWS\Fonts
Paste the font files in C:\WINDOWS\Fonts
(2): the software:
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.)
Unzip the downloaded file to a folder in your computer (example, desktop)
Inside the unzipped folder (PCUnicodeVista) you
will see another zipped folder: t-ircamb.zip
Unzip t-ircam.zip to the same folder (just right-click,
then <extract here>)
Inside the unzipped folder (t-ircamb) you will see setup.exe
Double click setup.exe
Allow the permissions required by Windows, then click <close> at the
end of the installation.
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
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:
Children were encouraged to locate Tifinagh words in a number
of exercises as this one.
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.org