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Rifi redirects here, for the location of the same name in Greece, see Rifi, Greece
ⵜⴰⵔⵉⴼⵉⵜ, تاريفيت
Spoken in Morocco
Region Rif
Total speakers 5 million (incl. abroad Morocco)
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 ber
ISO 639-3 rif

Hoi SALAH1Tamazight Tarifit (ⵜⴰⵔⵉⴼⵉⵜ, تاريفيت) is a Northern Berber variety of Berber spoken mainly in the Moroccan Rif and in other cities by about 4 million people. There are about 800,000 Tarifit-speaking immigrants in Europe.



Tarifit is a Berber sub-language, belonging to the Zenati subgroup of Northern Berber, and possibly the Rif subgroup of Zenati.

Geographic distribution

Tarifit is spoken mainly in the Moroccan Rif on the Mediterranean coast and in the Rif mountains, with a large minority in the Spanish Autonomous city of Melilla. There are also speakers of Tarifit in Morocco outside the Rif, among them are sizable communities in Oujda, Tangiers, Tetouan, Larache, Fes, and Casablanca. A substantial Tarifit-speaking community exists in the Netherlands as well as in other European countries including Belgium, Germany, France, and mainland Spain. Its own speakers simply call it Thamazight, or Tamazight, a term also often applied in a broader sense to Berber languages in general.



There is a large amount of dialectal variation in Rif Berber; this can easily be seen using the dialect Atlas (Lafkioui 1997).

Stop sign in Arabic and Tamazight-Tarifit in Nador, Morocco. This sign was shortly removed by Moroccan authorities for political reasons, depite it being approved by the Nador city council. No official Berber signs are allowed in Moroccan streets.


Tarifit's most noticeable differences from other Berber languages are that:

  • /l/ becomes /r/ as in ul (heart) → ur
    • /ll/ (i.e., geminated /l/) becomes /dj/ as in illi (daughter) → idji.
    • /lt/ becomes /tch/ as in ultma (sister) → utchma.
  • postvocalic /r/ preceding a consonantal coda is dropped, as in taddart (house/home) → taddat. Thus in tamara the /r/ is conserved because it precedes a vowel.
  • /k/ usually becomes /ch/ , while in some local sub-accents it is merely softened.
  • Additionally, the initial masculine a- prefix is dropped in certain words, e.g., afus (hand) becomes fus, and afighar (snake) becomes fighar. This change, characteristic of Zenati Berber varieties, further distances Tarifit from neighbouring dialects such as Atlas-Tamazight and Tashelhiyt.

Writing system

Like other Berber languages, Tarifit has been written with several different systems over the years. Most recently (since 2003), Tifinagh has become official throughout Morocco, while the Arabic alphabet and Latin alphabet continue to be used unofficially online and in various publications. However, unlike the nearby Tachelhit (Tasusit), Tarifit has little written literature before the twentieth century.

See also


  • Biarnay, Samuel. 1911. Etude sur le dialecte des Bet't'ioua du Vieil-Arzeu. Alger: Carbonel.
  • Biarnay, Samuel. 1917. Etude sur les dialectes berbères du Rif. Paris: Leroux.
  • Cadi, Kaddour. 1987. Système verbal rifain. Forme et sens. Paris: Peeters.
  • Colin, Georges Séraphin. 1929. "Le parler berbère des Gmara." Hespéris 9: 43-58.
  • Kossmann, Maarten. 2000. Esquisse grammaticale du rifain oriental. Paris: Peeters.
  • Lafkioui, Mena. 2007. Atlas linguistique des variétés berbères du Rif. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.
  • McClelland, Clive. The Interrelations of Syntax, Narrative Structure, and Prosody in a Berber Language (Studies in Linguistics and Semiotics, V. 8). Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000. (ISBN 0-7734-7740-3)*Renisio, A. 1932. Etude sur les dialectes berbères des Beni Iznassen, du Rif et des Senhaja de Sraïr. Paris: Leroux.

External links


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