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Berber

Berber or the Amazigh languages or dialects (Berber name: Tamaziɣt, Tamazight, ) are a family of similar and closely related languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa. They are spoken by large populations in Algeria and Morocco, and by smaller populations in Libya, Tunisia, northern Mali, western and northern Niger, northern Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and in the Siwa Oasis of Egypt. Large Berber-speaking migrant communities have been living in Western Europe since the 1950s. In 2001, Berber became a constitutional national language of Algeria, and in 2011 Berber became a constitutionally official language of Morocco, after years of persecution. Berber constitutes a branch of the Afroasiatic language family, and has been attested since ancient times. The number of ethnic Berbers is much higher than the number of Berber speakers. The bulk of the populations of the Maghreb countries are considered to have Berber ancestors. In Algeria, for example, a majority of the population consists of Arabized Berbers. There is a movement among speakers of the closely related varieties of Northern Berber to unite them under a standard language. The name Tamazight, originally the self-name in the Atlas and the Rif regions, is being increasingly used for this Standardized Berber, and even for Berber as a whole, including Tuareg-Berber. About 90 percent of the Berber-speaking population speak one of six major varieties of Berber, each with at least two million speakers. They are, in the order of demographic weight: Tashelhit (Tacelḥit), Kabyle (Taqbaylit), Atlas Tamazight (Tamaziɣt), Riffian (Tamaziɣt/Tarifit), Shawi (Tacawit), Tuareg (Tamahaq/Tamaceq). The Berber languages and dialects have had a written tradition, on and off, for over 2,200 years, although the tradition has been frequently disrupted by invasions. They were first written in the Tifinagh alphabet, still used by the Tuareg. The oldest dated inscription is from about 200 BCE. Later, between about 1000 CE and 1500 CE, they were written in the Arabic script, and since the 20th century in the Berber Latin alphabet, especially among the Kabyle and Riffian communities of Morocco and Algeria. The Berber Latin alphabet was also used by most European and Berber linguists during the 19th and 20th centuries. A modernized form of the Tifinagh alphabet was made official in Morocco in 2003. Algerians mostly use the Berber Latin alphabet. Mali and Niger recognize a Tuareg Berber Latin alphabet customized to the Tuareg phonological system. However, traditional Tifinagh is still used in those countries. Both Tifinagh and Berber-Latin alphabets are being increasingly used in Morocco and parts of Algeria, while the Arabic script has been abandoned by Berber writers.