Bill paves way for Amazigh language academy


ALGERIA

Algeria approved a bill paving the way for the creation of an Amazigh language academy dedicated to teaching and promoting research on Tamazight, as well as its standardization.

“This is a historic decision and a breakthrough which completes the process of rehabilitation of Tamazight, opening up considerable prospects for work in multiple fields for the promotion and development of the language,” said the secretary of the High commission for the Amazigh, Si El Hachemi. cited as told.

The bill, presented by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, establishing the Algerian Tamazight Language Academy was adopted at a June 5 meeting of the Algerian Council of Ministers, chaired by the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to a communicated advice.

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 as well as other regions of the country. , in particular the Aurès (south of Constantine).

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

Although there are no reliable statistics, it is unlikely that the Amazigh-speaking populations constitute up to a third of Algeria’s 42 million inhabitants; 20-25% would be more plausible, according to Lameen Souag, 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 made in early 2016.

Academy

The new bill defines the missions, composition, organization and functioning of the Algerian Academy of Tamazight Language (AATL) provided for by article 4 of the Constitution, amended in 2016, according to the Council of Ministers. The academy will have a council, a president, an office and specialized commissions as well as about fifty experts with proven skills in the field of language sciences.

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

“The academy will also have to address the question of the script to adopt when it comes to writing the Tamazight language”, according to Yamina El Kirat El Allame, adviser and international consultant in the field of higher education and vice-dean for research and cooperation at the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences of the Mohammed V University of Rabat, Morocco.

“Given the unofficial status of Tamazight in Algeria, the language is written in different scripts, namely Arabic, Latin and Tifinagh. Indeed, the formalization of the language will require the adoption of a single script. “said El Allame.

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

Cultural value

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

Currently, several Algerian universities including Tizi-Ouzou, Bejaia and Bouira have departments of Amazigh language and culture that offer courses in Tamazight literature, according to the Temhu website.

Hana Saada, a researcher at the Arab Higher Institute of Translation, an academic body of the Arab League of States based in Algiers, said News from academia that the value of the Tamazight language was not limited to communication. “It can contribute to the development of knowledge and bring added value to research in all fields as well as to strengthen the identity and solidarity of the group. “

“In addition to standardizing Tamazight and formulating a reference dictionary, AATL can help impart life experiences, traditions, culture, tips and literature,” Saada said.

“This would play a crucial role in shaping and developing new concepts and perspectives that could further strengthen collective learning and collaboration, as diversity means new visions and ideas. ”

Observers also commented on the political motivations behind the move. Algerian writer 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 relevant to the process of building national identity away from the claims of power struggles.”

Political motivations

When asked if the creation of AATL was a sincere educational project to promote teaching and research programs in universities and educational institutions in Algeria or simply a political tactic to gain more voice in the 2019 presidential election, Souag said. News from academia: “It’s a false dichotomy.”

“Politically, this is more than a short-term tactic for the upcoming presidential elections in 2019. It is only the last step in a long-term effort by the government to present itself as the legitimate guardian of identity. Amazigh, and thus to co-opt a long permanent rallying point for his adversaries, ”he declared.

However, Souag cautiously greeted the academy, saying it would help promote research with practical applications in education. “Once his membership is announced, his outlook will become clearer,” he said.

“The main problem that AATL will face is the question of how to reconcile the desire for a single Amazigh national standard, usable by a highly centralized government, with the reality of the substantial linguistic differences between the Amazigh varieties of the different regions and the approval Constitution. explicit about this diversity, ”said Souag.

El Allame suggested that for AATL to be successful, it should try to establish itself as an independent institution “without a political agenda”.

“There is a lot to learn from the experience of the company based in Morocco Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture which is a university institute dedicated to the safeguard and the promotion of the culture and the Amazigh languages ​​”, declared El Allame.

About Wesley V. Finley

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