Grammar of Tamazight (based on the dialect of Taqbaylit)


Grammar of Tamazight (based on kabyle dialect)






Kabyle is a Berber dialect spoken by the Kabyle people. In 1995, there were 3,123,000 speakers worldwide, the majority in Algeria, where there were more than 2,000,000. However, according to INALCO estimates, there are 5.5 million speakers in Algeria and about 7 million worldwide.
Kabyle was (with some exceptions) rarely written before the 20th century; however, in recent years a small but increasing body of literature has been printed. The originally oral poetry of Si Mohand is particularly notable in this respect. Famous Kabyle singers include Matoub Lounes, Idir and Ait Menguellet.
• 5 Grammar
o 5.1 Nouns and adjectives
 5.1.1 Gender
 5.1.2 Pluralization
 5.1.3 Free and annexed state
o 5.2 Verbs
o 5.3 Conjugation
o 5.4 Verb framing
o 5.5 Negation
o 5.6 Verb derivation
o 5.7 Agent noun
o 5.8 Action noun
o 5.9 Predicative particule "d"
• 6 Pronoun
o 6.1 Personal pronouns
o 6.2 Possessive pronouns
o 6.3 Pronouns of the verb
o 6.4 Demonstratives
o 6.5 Numerotation
o 6.6 Prepositions
o 6.7 Conjunctions
• 7 Vocabulary
• 8 Sample text
• 9 Sources used for this article
• 10 Bibliography
• 11 References

Nouns and adjectives
 Kabyle has only two genders, Masculine and Feminine. Like most Berber dialects, masculine nouns and adjectives generally start with a vowel (a-, i-, u-), while the feminine nouns generally start with t- and end with a -t (there are some exceptions, however). Note that most feminine nouns are in fact feminized versions of masculine nouns.
• Aqcic "a boy", taqcict "a girl".
• Amghar "an old man", tamghart "an old woman".
• Argaz "a man", Tamettut "a woman".
• Izi "a fly", Tizit "mosquito".

Singular nouns generally start with an a-, and do no have a suffix. Plural nouns generally start with an i- and often have a suffix such as -en. There are three types of plural : external, Internal, mix:
• External or "regular": consists in changing the initial vowel of the noun, and adding a suffix -n,
amghar "an old man"
imgharen "old men".
ifasen "hands"
irgazen "men"
ulawen "hearts"
• Internal: involves only a change in the vowels within the word:
idurar "mountain"
amicic "a cat"
imcac "cats"
• Mix: combines a change of vowels (within the word) with the suffix -n:
igenni "sky"
igenwan "skies".
izan "fly"
izuran "root"
 Free and annexed state
As in all Berber dialects, Kabyle has two typ
es of states or cases of the noun, organized ergatively: one is unmarked, while the other serves as the subject of a transitive verb and the object of a preposition, among other contexts. The former is often called free state, the latter construct state. The construct state of the noun derives from the free state through one of the following rules:
The first involves a vowel alternation, whereby the vowel a become u :
umazi8 "Berber"
umeqqran "big"
udrar "mountain"
The secon
d involves the loss of the initial vowel in the case of some feminine nouns (e is not considered to be a true vowel, it just makes the reading easier):
tem8art "women"
temdint "town"
temurt "country"
The third involves the
addition of a semi-vowel (w or y) word-initially:
w-asif "river"
w-adhu "wind"
y-iles "tongue"
w-uccen "jackal"
Finally, some nouns do not change for free state:
taddart "village"
tuccent "female jackal"
Depending on the role of the noun in the sentence, it takes either its free or annexed state:
• Free: Yewwet aqcic. "He has beaten a boy". (Verb-Object)
• Annexed: Yewwet uqcic. "The boy has beaten". (Verb-Subject)
After a preposition (at the exception of "ar" and "s"), all nouns take their annexed state:
• Free state: Aman (water), Kas n w-aman (a glass of water).
There are three tenses : the Preterite (past), intensive Aorist (present perfect, present continuous, past continuous) and the future (Ad+Aoriste). 

the aorist alone is rarely used in Kabyle .
• "Weak verbs" have a preterite form that is the same as their aoriste. Examples of weak verbs that follow are conjugated at the first person of the singular:
Verb Preterite ad + aorist Intensive aorist
If (to outdo) ife8 ad ife8 ttife8
Muqel (to observe) muqle8 ad muqle8 ttmuqle8
Krez (to plough) kerze8 ad kerze8 kerrze8
• "Strong verbs" or "irregular verbs":
Verb Preterite ad + aorist Intensive aorist
Aru (to write) uri8 ad aru8 ttaru8


Conjugation in Kabyle is done by adding suffixes (prefixes, postfixes or both). These suffixes are static and identical for all tenses (only the theme changes):
Person Singular Plural
1st — (e)8 n(e) —
2nd (m) t(e) — (e)d t(e) — (e)m
2nd (f) t(e) — (e)d t(e) — (e)mt
3rd (m) y(e) — — (e)n
3rd (f) t(e) — — (e)nt
• Example: verb afeg (to fly) with its four themes : ufeg (preterite), ufig (negative preterite), afeg (aorist), ttafeg (intensive aorist).
Person Preterite Negative Preterite Ad+Aorist Intensive Aorist Imperative Intensive Imperative
 Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ufge8 nufeg ur ufige8 ur nufig ad afge8 ad nafeg ttafge8 nettafeg    
2nd (m) tufgedh tufgem ur tufigedh ur tufigem ad tafgedh ad tefgem tettafgedh tettafgem afeg afget ttafeg ttafget
2nd (f) tufgedh tufgemt ur tufigedh ur tufigemt ad tafgedh ad tefgemt tettafgedh tettafgemt afeg afgemt ttafeg ttafgemt
3rd (m) yufeg ufgen ur yufig ur ufigen ad yafeg ad afgen yettafeg ttafgen    
3rd (f) tufeg ufgent ur tufig ur ufigent ad tafeg ad afgent tettafeg ttafgent    
Preterite Participle Aorist Participle Intensive Aorist Participle
Positive Negative  Positive Negative
yufgen ur nufig ara yafgen yettafeg ur nettafeg

Verb framing
Berber is a satellite-framed based language, Kabyle verbs use two particles to show the path of motion:
• dd orientates toward the speaker, and could be translated as "here".
• nn orientates toward the interlocutor or toward a certain place, and could be translated as "there".
• « yeruh-dd » (he came), « yeruh-nn » (he went).
• « awi-dd aman» (bring the water), « awi aman » (carry away the water).

Kabyle usually expresses negation in two parts, with the particle ur attached to the verb, and one or more negative words that modify the verb or one of its arguments. For example, simple verbal negation is expressed by « ur » before the verb and the particle « ara » after the verb:
• « Urare8 » ("I played")
« Ur urare8 ara » ("I didn't play")
Other negative words (acemma...etc.) are used in combination with ur to express more complex types of negation.
[edit] Verb derivation
Verb derivation is done by adding suffixes. There are three types of der
ivation forms : Causative, reflexive and Passive.
• Causative: obtained by prefixing the verb with s- / sse- / ssu- :
ffe8 "to go out"
ssuffe8 "to make to go out"
kcem "to enter"
ssekcem "to make to enter, to introduce"
irid "to be washed"
ssired "to wash".
• Reflexive: obtained by prefixing the verb with m- / my(e)- / myu-:
zer "to see"
mzer "to see each other"
ttef "to hold"
myuttaf "to hold each other".
• Passive: is obtained by prefixing the verb with ttu- / ttwa- / tt- / mm(e)- / n
- / nn-:
krez "to plough"
ttwakrez "to be ploughed"
etc"to eat"
mmečč "to be eaten".
• Complex forms: obtained by combining two or more of the previous prefixes:
en8 "to kill"
mmen8 "to kill each other" smen8 "to make to kill each other"
terestingly, two prefixes can cancel each other:
enz "to be sold"
zzenz "to sell" ttuzenz "to be sold" (ttuzenz = enz !!).


Agent noun
Every verb has a corresponding agent noun. In English it could be translated into verb+er. It is obtained by prefixing the verb with « am- » or with « an- » if the first letter is b / f / m / w (there are exceptions however).
• Examples:
ttef "to hold"
anattaf "holder"
inig "to travel"
iminig "traveller"
eks "to graze"
ameksa "shepherd"
Action noun
Every ver
b has a corresponding action noun, which in English it could be translated into verb+ing:
ffer "to hide"
tuffra "hiding" (stem VI), « Tuffra n tidett ur telhi » — "Hiding the truth is bad".
There are 6 regular stems of forming action nouns, and the 7th
is for quality verbs : (C for consonant, V for vowel)
Stem Verb Action noun
I cvcv acvcv
II c(c)vc(c) ac(c)vc(c)v
III c(c)ecc ac(c)ecci
IV (c)cac(c) a(c)cac(c)i
V c1c2ec3 accac
VI ccec tuccca
VII ic1c2vc3 tec1c2ec3
• Examples:
8ezz "to bite"
zdi "to be united"
ini "to say"
Predicative particule "d"
The predicative particule "d" is an indispensable tool in speaking Kabyle, "d" is equivalent to both "it is + adjective" and "to be + adjective", but cannot be replaced by the
verb "ili" (to be). It is always followed by a noun (free state).
• D taqcict, "it's a girl".
• D nekk, "it's me".
• Nekk d argaz, "I'm a man".
• Idir d anelmad, "Idir is a student".
• Idir yella d anelmad, "Idir was a student".
The predicative particule "d" should not be confused with the particle of coordination "d"; indeed, the former is followed by a noun at its annexed state while the first is always followed by a noun at its free state.



Personal pronouns
Person Singular Plural
1st (m) nekk  nekk'ni
1st (f) nekk  nekk'nti
2nd (m) kec kenwi
2nd (f) kemm  kennemti
3rd (m) netta /  netni
3rd (f) nettat netnti
Example : « Ula d nekk. » — "Me too."
 Possessive pronouns
Person Singular Plural
1st (m) (i)w / inu nne8
1st (f) (i)w / inu nnte8
2nd (m) (i)k / nek nwen
2nd (f) (i)m / nem nkent
3rd (m) (i)s / nes nsen
3rd (f) (i)s / nes nsent
Example : « Axxam nne8. » — "Our house." (House-our)
Pronouns of the verb
• Direct object
Person Singular Plural
1st (m) (i)yi 8 / (y)a8 / ne8 / (y)ane8
1st (f) (i)yi 8 / (y)a8 / tne8 / (y)ante8
2nd (m) (i)k (i)ken
2nd (f) (i)kem (i)kent
3rd (m) (i)t (i)ten
3rd (f) (i)tt (i)tent
Example : « Yu8-it. » — "He bought it." (He.bought-it)
• Indirect object
Person Singular Plural
 Long form Short form Long form Short form
1st (m) (i)yi ayi 8 / (y)a8 8
1st (f) (i)yi ayi 8 / (y)a8 8
2nd (m) (y)ak k (y)awen wen
2nd (f) (y)am m (y)akent kent
3rd (m) (y)as s (y)asen sen
3rd (f) (y)as s (y)asent sent
• Example : « Yenna-yas. » — "He said to him." (He.said-to.him)
• Complex example (Mixing indirect and direct object) : « Yefka-yas-t. » — "He gave it to him." (He.gave-to.him-it)
[edit] Demonstratives
There are three demonstratives, near-deictic ('this, these'), far-deictic ('that, those') and absence:
• Suffix: Used with a noun, example : « Axxam-agi» — "This house." (House-this).
Near-deictic Far-deictic Absence
Singular Plural Singular Plural 
(y)a / (y)agi (y)agini (y)ihin / (y)ihinna (y)inna nni
• Isolated : Used when we omit the subject we are speaking about : «Wagi yelha» — "This is nice." (This-is.nice)
 Near-deictic Far-deictic Absence
 Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
masculine wa/ wagi/ wagini wi/ wigi/ wigini wihin / wihinna wihid / wihidak
widak-inna / wigad-inna
widak-ihin / wigad-ihin win / winna wid / wid-nni
widak / widak-nni
feminine ta / tagi / tagini ti / tigi / tigini tihin / tihinna tihid / tihidak
tidak-inna / tigad-inna
tidak-ihin / tigad-ihin tin / tinna tid / tid-nni
tidak / tidak-nni
Only the first two numbers are Berber; for higher numbers, Arabic is used. They are yiwen (f. yiwet) "one", sin (f. snat) "two". The noun being counted follows it in the genitive: sin n yirgazen "two men".
"First" and "last" are respectively amezwaru and aneggaru (regular adjectives). Other ordinals are formed with the prefix wis (f. tis): wis sin "second (m.)", tis tlata "third (f.)", etc.
Prepositions precede their objects: « i medden » "to the people", « si temdint » "from the town". All words preceded by a preposition (at the exception of « s » and « ar », "towards", "until" ) take their annexed state.
Some prepositions have two forms : one is used with pronominal suffixes and the other form is used in all other contexts.
Also some of these prepositions have a corresponding relative pronoun (or interrogative), example:
« i » "for/to"
« iwumi » "to whom"
« Tefka aksum i umcic » "she gave meat to the cat"
« Amcic iwumi tefka aksum » "The cat to whom she gave meat"
Kabyle prep
Preposition With suffixes translation equivalent Corresponding Relative pronoun
translation equivalent
d yid- / did- 'and, with, in the company of' (w)ukud / wi d 'with whom'
i — 'for, to' (dative)
iwumi / iwimi / imi / umi / mi 'to whom' (dative) / 'whose'
8er / ar — 'to' (direction) i8er / 8er way / (s)ani8er / (s)awier / 8er 'to' (direction)
s — 'to' (direction) sani 'to' (direction)
8ur — 'among' (w)u8ur / 8ur 'among'
8ef / af / f fell- 'on; because of; about' i8ef / 8ef way / 8ef wadeg / 8ef 'on what'
 di — 'in' ideg / deg way / deg waydeg / anda / deg 'where'
 si  — 'from' iseg / seg way / ansi 'from where'
s iss- / yiss- / yis- 'with, by means of, using' (instrumental)
s ways / s wacu / s / iss / is 'with what' (instrumental)

gar gar- 'between' — —
n — 'of' — —
nnig / sennig — 'on top of' — —
ddaw / seddaw — 'beneath, under' — —
ar — 'until' — —
deffir — 'behind' — —
 zzat — 'in front of' — —
amm — 'like, as' — —
Conjunctions precede the verb: mi yiwwedh "when he arrived", muqel ma yusa-dd "see if he came".
Kabyle has absorbed quite some Arabic and French vocabulary. According to Salem Chaker, about a third of Kabyle vocabulary is of Arabic origin; the amount of French loanwords has not been studied yet. These loanwords are sometimes Berberized and sometimes kept in their original form. The Berberized words follow the regular grammar of Kabyle (free and annexed state).
Examples of berberized Arabic or french words :
Kitab => Taktabt (Book, Ar.)
Machine => Tamacint (Machine, Fr.)
Many loanwords from Arabic have often a different meaning in Kabyle:
El Mal (Money, Ar.) => Lmal (Domestic animals, Kab.)
All verbs of Arabic origin follow a Berber conjugation and verbal derivation:
fhem (to understand) => ssefhem (to explain). 
Sample text
 Sources used for this article

• Kamal Nait-Zerrad. Grammaire moderne du kabyle, tajerrumt tatrart n teqbaylit. Editions KARTHALA, 2001. ISBN 978-2-84586-172-5
• Dallet, Jean-Marie. 1982. Dictionnaire kabyle–français, parler des At Mangellet, Algérie. Études etholinguistiques Maghreb–Sahara 1, ser. eds. Salem Chaker, and Marceau Gast. Paris: Société d'études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France.
• Kamal Nait-Zerrad. Grammaire moderne du kabyle, tajerrumt tatrart n teqbaylit. Editions KARTHALA, 2001. ISBN 978-2-84586-172-5
• Dallet, Jean-Marie. 1982. Dictionnaire kabyle–français, parler des At Mangellet, Algérie. Études etholinguistiques Maghreb–Sahara 1, ser. eds. Salem Chaker, and Marceau Gast. Paris: Société d'études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France.
• Achab R. : 1996 - La néologie lexicale berbère (1945-1995), Paris/Louvain, Editions Peeters, 1996.
• Achab R. : 1998 - Langue berbère. Introduction à la notation usuelle en caractères latins, Paris, Editions Hoggar.
• Dallet J.-M. : 1982 - Dictionnaire kabyle-français, Parler des At Mangellat, Selaf, Paris.
• Mammeri M. : 1976 - Tajerrumt n tmazight (tantala taqbaylit), Maspero, Paris.
• Naït-Zerrad K. : 1994 - Manuel de conjugaison kabyle (le verbe en berbère), L'Harmattan, Paris.
• Naït-Zerrad K. : 1995 - Grammaire du berbère contemporain, I - Morphologie, ENAG, Alger.
• Naït-Zerrad K. : 2001 - Grammaire moderne du kabyle, Karthala, Paris.
• Tizi-Wwuccen. Méthode audio-visuelle de langue berbère (kabyle), Aix-en-Provence, Edisud, 1986.
• F.Amazit-Hamidchi & M.Lounaci : Kabyle de poche, Assimil, France, ISBN 2-7005-0324-4


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