Because all of my knowledge of Tifinagh came from the Wikipedia article, I was quite puzzled to read this blog.

For those of you that just don't bother checking, the author describes the different positions of English and French scholars.

Nobody is quite sure where the Berber script, used by the nomads of Northern Africa, came from. English sources are pretty certain that Tifinagh evolved from the Phoenician script that settlers brought with them when they founded Carthage in about 1000 BC. French sources admit the possibility that it evolved from a much older, unknown, native script. [...]

Both languages’ sources say that there was an eastern dialect and a western dialect of the script. Both agree that Tifinagh was used until about 200 AD, when the artifact record died out, but there is disagreement on the dating of the start of its use. Because of a small number of bilingual texts and its continuation into the modern era (more on that later), scholars are pretty sure what phonemes the glyphs correspond to. The English sources say that, like Etruscan, they cannot read the language. French sources say that the Eastern dialect has been deciphered. Because of who was in the area, they are both pretty sure it was a language of the Berber nomads. [...]

Unusually for scripts of that era, Tifinagh was usually written vertically, and even more unusually, most commonly from bottom-to-top. Only some glyphs were allowed at the beginning of lines. These could be used to tell which direction to read the writing in.

What evidence support either version? I am particularly interested about the French version, as I have some vague idea of the English one.

  • If that link no longer worked, your question wouldn't make any sense. Fold in the information from the article you linked to.
    – Joe
    Jan 15, 2013 at 16:12
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the request for evidence is effectively a source request. May 12, 2015 at 22:24
  • 3
    Could possibly be a better question for Linguistics.SE. Jul 26, 2018 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


Karim Achab's Internal Structure of Verb Meaning: A Study of Verbs in Tamazight (Berber) spends a page on the debate over Tifinagh's origins. James Février was the author that advanced the Phoenician thesis, on the basis of the script's name and some similarity between symbols. Supporting the independent development hypothesis, distinct Western and Eastern variants have been identified, with only the latter showing Phoenician influence. Other challenges to the Phoenician hypothesis are based on archaeological finds of older rock art that seems to have "prealphabetic precursors" to Tifinagh; Achab cites Chaker & Hachi.

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