Optimal Measures for the Maintenance and/or Revival of the Amazigh Language in Morocco

Submitted by: Yamina El Kirat El Allame
Abstract: Amazigh, one of the mother tongues in Morocco besides Darija, has been for long a stigmatized and marginalized minority language. Recently, however, under the pressure of the Amazigh Cultural Movement and Human Rights Organizations, the Moroccan authorities have changed their attitudes from total rejection to official recognition and officialization. This is progressively leading to the development of a degree of language awareness and a change in attitudes among the Amazigh people. This is, however, still very limited and does not concern all the Amazigh communities, and especially those in contact areas, which have been undergoing a language shift in progress leading to language loss, as is the case for instance for the Beni Iznassen Amazigh, spoken in the North-Eastern part of Morocco. The aim of the present study is to address the issue of Amazigh language endangerment and propose some optimal measures for its maintenance and revival/revitalization.
The study is based on exhaustive fieldwork, mainly in the Beni Iznassen Amazigh areas but also at the Moroccan national level. Comparison between some other communities, namely those having reached an advanced stage of endangerment and those still struggling for survival reveal the factors that accelerate or slow down language loss process. The study explores the impact of the official intervention, i.e. teaching, standardization and officialization and proposes some optimal measures for the maintenance and revival or revitalization and protection of an endangered language in general and the Amazigh language in particular. To this end, the study addresses questions related to (i) the main factors that may contribute to the slowing down and/or stopping of the process of loss; and (ii) the optimal measure(s) that may contribute to the maintenance, revival of an endangered language at the age of globalization.

Key words: Amazigh language shift/loss, language endangerment, Language maintenance/revival measures, language awareness.

Boukous, A. (2012). Revitalisation de l’amazighe: Enjeux et stratégies. Rabat: L’Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh Publishing
El Kirat El Allame, Yamina & Boussagui Yassine. (2018). Amazigh in Morocco. In Seals, C. A. & Shah, S. (Eds.). Heritage Language Policies around the World (pp. 111-127). New York, NY: Routledge.