“Meat” and “drink” in Libyan Berber

The previously mentioned Facebook group has been continuing its activity – particular credit should go to Sami Halasa and Faycel Marir, for asking many dialectologically interesting questions.  Two recent ones seem interesting enough to share, and illustrate slightly different isogloss patterns – as usual, the Jebel Nefusa minus Yefren+Al-Qalaa and Wazzin stands out, but this time it shows significant internal divisions too, in a different place each time.

Meat“: aksum in dark green, aysum in green, usəm in yellowish-green, isan in white.


Aksum/aysum is pretty well universal in Berber along the Mediterranean – showing the usual Nefusi vowel shift in usəm – while isan is more associated with Tuareg.  It’s possible that isan is related to aksum/aysum/usəm: in Ghadames, it appears that isan is actually the irregularly formed plural of aksəm.  If so, however, I don’t understand the relationship well: was -um a singulative? or perhaps just -w, with -un-w > -um?

Also interesting is “he drinks“: isəss in green, itəssu/isəssu in yellowish green, yəssaw in white:


Of these, isəss, as the most irregular form, is presumably original (cf. Kossmann 2008); the other two have been partially regularised to fit better with more common conjugations.  The Nalut form looks exactly like Siwi, but that may be coincidence.  Sokna shows a combination of both innovations: itəssaw.


About Lameen Souag
Descriptive/historical linguist

2 Responses to “Meat” and “drink” in Libyan Berber

  1. Marijn says:

    I’ve thought about an etymological connection between aksum and isan as well, exactly for the reason that Ghadames considers them part of the same word.

    I don’t have a solution, but isan does look like a iCəCC-an plural, like agəllid pl. igəldan

    so aksum pl. ikəsman.

    The sequence *ikə would yield > iyə > i so that gives us: isman.

    But then we’re still stuck with the /m/.

  2. Maarten Kossmann says:

    ssaw is consistent with the fact that in the Imperfective formation of CC verbs, C1C1aC2 has been generalized in Beguinot’s Fassato dialect. Only ‘eat’ retains its original form tett.
    In Beguinot, the only other non-C1C1aC2 form is efk, I: fekk, which, itself, is an analogical reformation from *ikk or *akk or the like. Apparently, at teh time fekk was introduced, the CC* verbs still had imperfectives according to their ancient form (C1C2C2).


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