A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

As Yannayer Approaches, Algeria to Make Tamazight Official

You may think the holidays are over, but don't forget the traditional Berber agricultural New Year, Yannayer, usually celebrated January 14, the new year in the Julian Calendar, though some Algerian Amazigh celebrate today, January 12.

And this year, Algerian Imazighen have some good news for the new year; a proposed constitutional change that would make Tamazight "a national and official language" alongside Arabic. An Academy of Amazigh Language is also promised, perhaps to standardize various existing languages into a national language.

In 2004 a constitutional change made Tamazight a "national" language but not an "official" one. Arabic is still defined as "the national and official language of the state,"  while Tamazight is "also a national and official language." The addition of "official" is new.

See articles: in French here, Lameen Souag on the subject here and on party reactions here and an article on expanding Tamazight language teaching here, and the links to pdfs of the new constitution in Arabic and French.

Yes, Algeria changes constitutions frequently, and President Bouteflika is ailing and there are rumors his brother is calling the shots, but this is yet another example of the growing assertiveness and recognition of the Amazigh role in contemporary North Africa.

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