[lg policy] Draft law paves way for Amazigh language academy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Jun 25 11:05:11 EDT 2018

 Draft law paves way for Amazigh language academy

Wagdy Sawahel22 June 2018 Issue No:222
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Algeria has approved a draft law paving the way for the creation of an
Amazigh language academy dedicated to the teaching and promotion of
research on Tamazight, as well as its standardisation.

"This is a historic decision and breakthrough which completes the Tamazight
rehabilitation process, opening up considerable prospects for work in
multiple fields for the promotion and development of the language,”
Secretary of the High Commission for Amazigh, Si El Hachemi, was quoted
as saying.

The draft law, presented by the minister of higher education and scientific
research, on the creation of the Algerian Academy for Tamazight Language
was adopted at a 5 June meeting of the Algerian Council of Ministers,
chaired by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to a
of the council.

Amazigh is the main language used by the Amazigh people, formerly known as
Berbers, who live in the Kabylie region of Algeria, which includes several
provinces east of the capital along with other regions across the country,
especially the Aures (south of Constantine).

Amazighs are the indigenous inhabitants of North African countries
including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, and Northern Mali,
Northern Niger, and part of western Egypt, according to the historical
records of the region.

While there are no reliable statistics, the Amazigh-speaking populations
are unlikely to constitute as much as a third of Algeria's 42 million
people; 20-25% would be more plausible, according to Lameen Souag, a
researcher at LACITO – a laboratory of the French National Center for
Scientific Research.

The Amazigh language became the second official language of Algeria after
Modern Standard Arabic, in accordance with a constitutional amendment
effected in early 2016.


The new draft law defines the missions, composition, organisation and the
functioning of the Algerian Academy for Tamazight Language (AATL) envisaged
by Article 4 of the Constitution, amended in 2016, according to the Council
of Ministers
The academy will have a council, president, bureau and specialised
commissions along with about 50 experts with proven skills in the field of
language science.

The academy will be responsible for creating a standard form of the
language that will guarantee mutual understanding among all the Amazigh
communities and facilitate its use as an official language at all levels.
This will also involve the codification of the language through the
development of grammar books and dictionaries.

"The academy will also have to address the issue of the script to be
adopted when it comes to writing the Tamazight language," according to Yamina
El Kirat El Allame <http://amasproject.org/yamina-el-kirat-el-allame/>,
international adviser and consultant in the field of higher education and
vice dean for research and cooperation at the faculty of letters and human
sciences of Mohammed V University of Rabat, Morocco.

"Given the non-official status of Tamazight in Algeria, the language is
being written in different scripts, namely, Arabic, Latin and Tifinagh.
Indeed, the officialisation of the language will require the adoption of
one unique script," El Allame said.

The academy will have to draw on experts in the fields of linguistics and
language policy, pedagogy and didactics, anthropology, history and computer
science as well as experts in the Amazigh language, El Allame said.

*Cultural value*

El Allame said the AATL will help to change attitudes towards the Amazigh
language, culture and identity and contribute to their visibility at
national and international levels, particularly if the language is
introduced to schools. The latter would also motivate universities to
invest in research programmes.

Currently, several Algerian universities including Tizi-Ouzou, Bejaia and
Bouira have Amazigh language and culture departments which offers courses
in Tamazight literature, according to the Temehu
<https://www.temehu.com/imazighen/education.htm> website.

Hana Saada, a researcher at the Higher Arab Institute for Translation, an
Algiers-based academic body of the Arab League of states, told *University
World News* that the value of the Tamazight language was not limited to
communication. “It can contribute to the development of knowledge and
provide added value to research in all fields as well as enhance group
identity and solidarity."

"Besides, the standardisation of Tamazight and the formulation of a
referential dictionary, AATL may help to convey life experiences,
traditions, culture, tips and literature," Saada said.

"This would play a crucial role in the formation and development of new
concepts and perspectives that may further boost collective learning and
collaboration as diversity means new visions and ideas.”

Observers have also commented on the political motivations behind the move.
Algerian author Azraj Umar wrote in the *Al-Arab*
newspaper as follows: "The Algerian regime is betting on the Amazigh
language for political purposes and not as a cultural issue of relevance to
the processes of building national identity away from the pretensions of
power struggles."

*Political motivations*

Asked whether establishing AATL was a sincere educational project for
promoting teaching and research programmes at universities and educational
institutions in Algeria or simply a political tactic to get more votes in
the 2019 presidential election, Souag told *University World News*: "That's
a false dichotomy."

"Politically, it's more than a short-term tactic for the next 2019
presidential elections. It's just the latest stage in a long-term effort by
the government to present itself as the legitimate guardian of the Amazigh
identity, and thus to coopt one long-standing rallying point of its
opponents,” he said.

However, Souag cautiously welcomed the academy, saying it would help to
promote research with practical applications in education. "Once its
membership has been announced, its prospects will become clearer,” he said.

"The principal problem AATL will face is the question of how to reconcile
the desire for a single national standard Amazigh, suitable for use by a
highly centralised government, with the reality of the substantial
linguistic differences between the Amazigh varieties of different regions
and the Constitution's explicit endorsement of this diversity," Souag said.

El Allame suggested that for AATL to succeed it should try to establish as
an independent institution “with no political agenda”.

"There is a lot to learn from the experience of the Morocco-based Royal
Institute of the Amazigh Culture <http://www.ircam.ma/> which is an
academic institute devoted to the safeguarding and promotion of the Amazigh
culture and languages," El Allame said.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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