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A partial reconstruction of Berber (Amazigh) deictics

Maarten Kossmann


Dans cet article, nous étudierons un certain nombre de questions concernant la reconstitution du système déictique en berbère. Sur la base d’une analyse comparative informée par la phonologie historique, il est montré (1) que la variation dans la forme des déictiques proximaux au singulier peut être comprise à partir d’une forme de base a, qui pouvait être étoffée par un élément complémentaire d, et, éventuellement, aussi par un élément Ɂ ; (2) que le système proximal des déictiques comportait à l’origine une différence de nombre, même parmi les déictiques adnominaux ; (3) que la série anaphorique sg -e, pl -id à Ghadamès (Libye) a des parallèles évidents dans d’autres variétés, en particulier en kabyle (Algérie), et que, par conséquent, elle doit être reconstituée pour le proto-berbère.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 I use “variety” as a neutral term to refer to the different geographically defined lects that Berb (...)

1Berber varieties1 (also known as Amazigh) show an enormous variation in deictic systems and forms (Destaing 1922; Naumann 2001). Some only have two distinct forms, while others have up to seven distinctions, among others differentiating between spatial and temporal deixis (Mauri 2020).

2These deictic distinctions are expressed in a number of morphosyntactic categories. In the first place, almost all Berber varieties have adnominal deictics, that is, deictic elements that are added directly to the noun. For example, in Nador Tarifiyt in (1).

(1) Nador Tarifiyt [MA-Z] (Mourigh & Kossmann 2019: 173–175)
aryaz ‘the man, a man’
aryaz-a ‘this man here’ (proximal)
aryaz-in ‘that man over there’ (distal)
aryaz-ənni ‘the aforementioned man’ (anaphoric)
  • 2 Constructions with a demonstrative following a noun are not unknown in other varieties either. Thu (...)

3Only very few Berber varieties lack this possibility; notable exceptions are Ayer Tuareg [ni-t] (Kossmann 2011: 107–109 based on older literature) and Zwara [li-z] (Galand 2005: 191), while Siwa [eg] has a very different (and probably innovative) system in adnominal deixis (Souag 2013: 140; Schiattarella 2015: 162–164; Schiattarella 2016: 33–35).2

4In addition, deictic elements are combined with pronominal bases in order to create demonstrative pronouns. In most varieties, there is a clear connection between the adnominal deictic elements and the elements as found in demonstratives, as for example in (2).

(2) Nador Tarifiyt [MA-Z]
w-a ‘this one over here’ (m:sg:prx)
w-in ‘that one over there’ (m:sg:dist)
w-ənni ‘the one just mentioned’ (m:sg:ana)

5While demonstratives of this type are found in all Berber varieties, the connection with the adnominal forms is not always straightforward, as will be shown below.

6Finally, a number of adverbial elements can be combined with deictic elements. These can be more or less lexicalized. Some examples are given in (3).

(3) Nador Tarifiyt [MA-Z]
da ‘here’ (proximal)
din ‘over there’ (distal)
diha ‘over there’ (far distal)
dinni ‘over there’ (anaphoric)

7It has been proposed that the adnominal deictics are historically derived from constructions of a noun followed by a pronoun. Thus, Galand (2005: 191) writes about adnominal deictics:

  • 3 ‘Originally the construction simply involved the recapitulation of the noun (or nominal element) b (...)

À l’origine de la construction, il y a simplement reprise du nom(inal) par un pronom, comme en touareg (Ahaggar) : aləs wa-rəġ « homme celui-ci » = « cet homme-ci ». Mais le plus souvent cette origine est perdue de vue, le pronom est réduit à l’état d’élément invariable et il fonctionne simplement comme une marque qui accompagne le nom : chleuh argaz-ad, kabyle argaz-agi, nefusi atəRas-uh « cet homme-ci ».3

8In the citation above, it is not entirely clear if Galand considers forms like argaz-ad to be phonetically reduced outcomes of *argaz wad, or that he considers ad to be a pronoun in itself (as suggested by a slightly different formulation in Galand 2010: 156). The first analysis (*argaz wad) would put us way beyond the timeframe of reconstructible Berber, as almost every Berber variety has adnominal deictics that are added directly to the noun. The few varieties that do not have this construction have fossilized forms that show the previous presence of adnominal deixis, such as Ayer Tuareg [ni-t] ămer‑ă ‘at this moment, now’; Siwa [eg] asf-a ‘today’; Zwara [li-z] ass-u ‘today’. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind when studying Tuareg examples like aləs wa-răɣ ‘this man’, that almost all Tuareg varieties also have constructions with adnominal deictics, such as Ahaggar [al-t] aləs-a ‘the man we are talking about’ (Prasse 2010: 116), and it is very well possible that the Tuareg construction with demonstrative-like pronouns (wa-răɣ) is a local innovation (Prasse 1972: 193).

9The second interpretation of Galand’s analysis would be about a refunctionalization of a now-defunct independent pronominal element into a bound morpheme, presumably the “supports de détermination” (pronominal elements that constitute the head of a modified or determined NP); on this question, see Section 5 for further discussion.

10In any case, the adnominal construction with bound deictic elements like in aləs-a, clearly has a long history. Adnominal deictics originally had number agreement to the noun (see Section 2). One could speculate that Galand – who, as far as I know, never commented on this phenomenon – would have considered this an argument in favor of their synchronic status as pronominal elements.

11Most Berber systems have been described as distinguishing at least two deictic points of spatial reference (proximal and distal; exophoric reference in the terminology of Diessel 1999) and, in addition, a dedicated expression of anaphoric deixis (endophoric reference), marking that the referent is already mentioned, or deducible from context. Some varieties distinguish more spatial points of reference, adding for example a difference between ‘near distal’ (or ‘near the hearer’) and ‘far distal’. This can be the case all over the deictic system of the variety, but can also be restricted to certain subsystems. Thus, in Tarifiyt [ma-z], locational adverbs differentiate between general distal din and far distal diha, while it has only one distal element (-in) in the adnominal and demonstrative subsystems. There are a few varieties that only have two spatial deictics. Here the split seems to be between an exophoric proximal and a second deictic used both for distal and anaphoric reference (cf. Kossmann 2015 for Figuig [ma-z]). One should also mention the case of Tetserret [ni], a non-Tuareg variety from Niger, which has an adnominal element ad, which is largely neutral in its deictic reference, opposed to an element un, which tends to be related to the expression of distance (Lux 2013: 443). As argued by Lux, fixed expressions point to an earlier proximal value of ad, e.g. ell-ad ‘here’.

  • 4 The most detailed semantic/pragmatic studies of deixis outside of Kabylia [AL] that I am aware of (...)

12In a groundbreaking study of the semantics and pragmatics of deixis in Kabyle [al], Amina Mettouchi (2011) has shown that their use is less about describing space in reality, but rather about interpersonal construction of reference. As a result, the boundary between endophoric and exophoric deixis is much more permeable than suggested by the common analysis (see also Mauri 2020). It is very well possible (and even probable) that the systems in other Berber varieties are as complex and subtle as in Kabyle [al]. However, as long as there are only few detailed studies of the use of deictics, especially in conversation,4 it is impossible to say to what extent the Kabyle [al] situation applies to Berber deixis in general.

13This article will provide a partial analysis of the history of the morphology of deictic systems in Berber. As this is a study of morphology and not of semantics, I have chosen to retain the common denominations of these series. Thus, in spite of Mettouchi’s insights, I will stick to ‘proximal’, ‘distal’, ‘anaphoric’, even though there is no doubt that this is just an oversimplified character­ization of much more complex semantic and pragmatic facts.

14This article will focus on three subjects. The first subject is the reconstruction of the singular forms of the proximal deictic. The second subject is the expression of number together with the expression of deixis. The third subject is a series of deictics, which is only sporadically attested in Berber, but will be proposed here as being ancient. This article does in no way pretend to provide a full analysis of all aspects of Berber deictic forms. For example, there are more series, especially those including a non-proximal element n (e.g. Tarifiyt [ma-z] -in and -nni), which will only be mentioned where relevant, and left out of our general efforts in reconstruction. This omission is in no way a dismissal of these forms as innovative. Similarly, the history of elements specialized in expressing temporal deixis will not be studied here.

15One variety that illustrates the systems that will be studied here is Ghadames [li] (Ayt Waziten dialect; Lanfry 1968; Kossmann 2013b). In this variety, there are three basic series, which have different forms depending on number (4). In addition, the proximal and the distal deictics have extended forms using a suffix -ăt.

  • 5 According to Lanfry (1968: 354), this form marks greater proximity than -o alone.
(4) Ghadames [LI] (Ayt Waziten dialect; Lanfry 1968; Kossmann 2013b)
prx prx.ext5 dist dist.ext ana
adnom:sg -o -odăt -ănn ~ -onn -ănnăt ~ -onnăt -e
adnom:pl -i -idăt -inn -innăt -id

16The origin of the singular proximal forms -o and -odăt will be treated in Section 2; the plural forms will be treated in Section 3, while the anaphoric series -e/-id will be the subject of Section 4.

2. The singular forms of the proximal deictic

17Berber varieties show three different basic forms of the proximal deictic (Destaing 1922; Naumann 2001). Zenaga [mt] will be treated below.


-o and –u


18Forms in a are found in Tuareg, in Kabyle [al], and in a number of Central Moroccan, Senhaja de Sraïr [ma], and Zenatic varieties, as well as in Awjila [li]. Forms in -u and -o are found in a sub-set of Zenatic and in Ghadames [li]. Forms in ad are typical of Moroccan Berber: Tashelhiyt [ma], most Central Moroccan dialects [ma], Ghomara [ma], and some Senhaja de Sraïr [ma] varieties. They also occur in Tasahlit [al], in Zenaga [mt], and in Tetserret [ni].

19Ghadames [li] points to a fourth option, -od. In this variety, the proximal and distal deictics have extended forms ending in ăt. In the distal, this ăt is simply joined to the deictic: -ănn-ăt. In the proximal, the basis seems to be od rather than o, and we get -od-ăt. The extra d also appears in the extended form of the locational adverb, da, which is dadăt ‘here’.

20In addition, a few varieties have proximal forms ending in h. The first one is Jebel Nefusa (Jado) [li], which has a binary distinction between proximal and distal forms. The consonant h is found in both deictic series, for example, in the adnominal suffixes prx -uh ~ -uha; dist -ih ~ -iha (Beguinot 1942: 120). The second one is Zwara [li-z], where h-final forms are restricted to proximal demonstratives (Mitchell 1953: 376–377); h does not occur in the few fossilized forms with adnominal deixis such as ass-u ‘today’ (Mitchell 2009: 80). Like in Jebel Nefusa, this variety only expresses two degrees of deixis, with the proximal demonstratives wuh (m:sg), yih (m:pl) (f: tuh/tih), and the non-proximal demonstratives wəddin (m:sg), yidin (m:pl) (f: təddin/tidin).

21In Siwa [eg], final h is typical for the distal demonstratives, e.g., wih ‘that one’, and in many other varieties, h functions as (part of) the distal element (cf. Tarifiyt [ma-z] diha ‘over there’). One way to explain why h functions as a proximal in Zwara [li-z], while it seems to have distal semantics elsewhere, is the following – perforce speculative – scenario. Originally, both Jebel Nefusa [li] and Zwara [li-z] had two (or more) forms, one of which was non-proximal, and ended in -h, while another was proximal, and did not end in -h. In both varieties, the final h was generalized to the proximal deictic. This is the situation as currently found in Jebel Nefusa (Jado). In Zwara, this expansion of -h to the proximal deictic did not extend to all fixed expressions, as witnessed by ass-u ‘today’. In a later development, Zwara lost the non-proximal form ending in ­-h, whose function was taken over by forms in -ddin, which may or may not have been part of the larger deictic system already. As a result, the only remaining form ending in -h in Zwara is the proximal, even though h originally comes from a non-proximal form.

22It has been long remarked that the d in proximal deictics is similar in form with the directional clitic dd, which, generally speaking, expresses movement towards the speaker (on which, see Bentolila 1969; Kossmann 2014; Taine-Cheikh 2015, and many others; for a critical reassessment, Mettouchi 2015). The comparison is strengthened by the fact that in many varieties, distal and/or anaphoric deictics contain the consonant n, which can be compared to the directional clitic nn expressing movement away from the speaker. Thus, for example, Tashelhiyt [ma] has a highly symmetric system (5).

(5) Tashelhiyt [MA]
directional deictic
prx dd ad (also a)
dist nn ann
  • 6 The deictic element d has been recognized in a number of other grammatical elements, see Taine-Che (...)

23This has lead scholars to reconstruct the proximal deictic in Berber as a non-deictic vocalic element a, followed by a deictic element d. According to one account, the varieties without d in the deictic would have lost it somewhere during their history due to phonetic erosion (Marcy 1939: 157; Reesink 1979: II, 297). However, the idea that a and o/u constitute shortened forms of ad runs into phonological problems, as I am not aware of any other phonetic development in Berber where word-final d would be elided.6 There is no reason to assume analogical pressure that could have lead to the elision either.

24Therefore, it is better to consider forms with a and o/u as alternatives to ad rather than derivations from it (Galand 2002: 208 [1969]; 2010: 156; Taine-Cheikh 2010). Whether d is really identical to the directional clitic, and, if so, which directionality we should assume, are questions that lie outside the scope of this article (cf. Gutova 2021: 309 for a discussion with references).

25This brings us to the next question: how should we understand the dialectal alternation between a(d) on the one hand and u/o on the other? At this point, the advances in Berber historical phonology of the last few decades come to our rescue. As shown in Kossmann (2001), stressed *ăɁ became o in Ghadames [li] and u in a number of Zenatic varieties and in Jebel Nefusa [li]. The evidence is based on correspondences found in verb conjugations that have an original glottal stop in Zenaga, the only Berber variety that has preserved this phoneme (Taine-Cheikh 2004).

  • 7 See also Prasse (1972: 193, fn. 142). An exception is Ayt Iznasen [MA-Z], which has proximal u, bu (...)

26Van Putten (2015) has shown that the same phonetic rules probably applied to *aɁ. As the varieties that have o or u in the proximal deictic are the same as those that show o or u in the verb system,7 this strongly suggests that the deictic o/u goes back to stressed *ăɁ or *aɁ. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to this reconstructed form as *aɁ.

27As for the varieties that have a(d), there is a distinct possibility that they also go back to *aɁ, as a is the regular correspondent there. However, a reconstruction *a is also possible, and for the individual varieties, it is impossible to decide which one to choose. In fact, the original forms may have been different for different varieties.

28It is relevant that the varieties that have o or u (< *aɁ) as their adnominal deictic have deictic forms with -a in locational adverbs. A number of varieties of this type are listed in (6).

(6) adnom:prx(:sg) ‘here’ source
Ghadames [LI] -o da Lanfry (1968)
Jebel Nefusa [LI] -uh(a) dah Beguinot (1942)
Ouargla [AL-Z] -u da Delheure (1987)
Figuig [MA-Z] -u da Kossmann (1997)
Ayt Seghrushen [MA-Z] -u da Bentolila (1981)

29This suggests that, at some moment in their history, these varieties had both a deictic with *aɁ and one with a; the form with *Ɂ was generalized to adnominal and demonstrative deixis, while the form without *Ɂ was retained in some spatial adverbs.

30This idea is reinforced by the existence of a further set of demonstrative pronouns in Ghadames [li], which have sg a instead of o. This is the case of the pronoun ‘another’, e.g., m:sg wa-yiḍ and the interrogative ‘which one’, e.g., m:sg wa-din (Kossmann 2013b: 49). These forms are likely derived from a basis *-a rather than *-aɁ.

  • 8 Note that Zenaga demonstrative pronouns lack the initial masculine marker w-, commonly found elsew (...)

31Things become more complicated once we include the evidence from Zenaga [mt] (Taine-Cheikh 2010). Zenaga has a threefold distinction in its deictic system, which is described by Taine-Cheikh as essentially exophoric with a proximal, a medial and a distal form. The medial is also often used for anaphoric reference. The singular demonstrative forms have basically the same system as the adnominal forms,8 but the morphology of locational adverbs is different (7).

(7) Zenaga [MT] (Taine-Cheikh 2010)
prx med dist
adnom:sg äđ iʔđ ān
dem:m:sg äđ iɁđ ān
dem:f:sg đ tiɁđ tān
neutral äyđ äɁđ ān
locational adverb đāđ đäɁđ y

32As one can see, Zenaga has a deictic form with a glottal stop, but this is in the medial series, which is characterized by a non-low vowel. Zenaga i can go back to proto-Berber *ə, *i, *u, *e, but not to *ă and *a (Kossmann 2002), so Zenaga đ cannot be directly cognate to *aɁ or *ăɁ.

33The forms of the locational adverbs in Zenaga are difficult to explain, as the origin of the long vowel in đāđ ‘here’ is unclear. One may conjecture that they somehow go back to a locational basis da- followed by the deictic element, and that *da-ad became đāđ, while *da-iɁd became đäɁđ. The latter vowel coalescence rule might also be used to explain the neutral medial pronoun äɁđ (< *a-iɁđ ?), but the rule *a-a > ā needed for đāđ does not have a counterpart elsewhere in the language. In fact, the origin of other long vowels in Zenaga seems to be different, and therefore this explanation of đāđ is, at best, pure speculation.

34There are two ways to explain the relationship between the Ghadames [li] (etc.) forms with reconstructible glottal stops and the Zenaga [mt] system. In order to do so, we will also take into consideration the Zenaga medial deictics, which, arguably, correspond to the Ghadames anaphoric deictics in -e (see Section 4 for a comprehensive discussion).

35In the first scenario, an early phase of Berber had a system that included the following deictic singular forms (forms with n have not been included):



*-aɁ (or *-ăɁ)

*-iɁ (or *-eɁ)

  • 9 Note that in present-day Zenaga underlying word-final VɁ# is pronounced without the following glot (...)

36At some point in time, the element d was added to the medial , while the original deictics *-a and ‑aɁ were lost in Zenaga [mt].9 According to this scenario, in Ghadames [li] (etc.) *-ad was lost, while *-a only survives in locational adverbs and in ‘another’ and ‘which one’ (8).

(8) Scenario 1 Ancestral system Zenaga [MT] Ghadames [LI]
prx-1 *-a lost (maintained in adverbs)
prx-2 *-ad đ lost
prx-3 *-aɁ lost -o
med / ana *-iɁ *-iɁ + d >> -iɁđ -e

37In the alternative explanation, there would not have been an element *-in proto-Berber, and the subset of deictics that concern us here could be reconstructed as follows:




38In Zenaga [mt], *-a was lost, and the consonant d was joined to *-iɁ according to the same developments as proposed in the first scenario. In Ghadames [li], Jebel Nefusa [li] and (part of?) Zenatic, the glottal stop of *iɁ was extended to proximal deixis (except in adverbs), and, in an unrelated development, *ad was lost. The second scenario is summarized in (9).

(9) Scenario 2 Ancestral system Zenaga [MT] Ghadames [LI]
prx *-ad đ lost
prx-2 *-a lost *-a + Ɂ >> -aɁ > -o adverbs maintain *-a
med / ana *-iɁ *-iɁ + d >> -iɁđ -e

39Both scenarios are predicated upon the presence of a glottal stop in the original form of the Anaphoric series in Ghadames [li]. This is impossible to prove or disprove outside Zenaga [mt], as (stressed) *əɁ and likely also *iɁ (or *eɁ) merged with e or i everywhere (cf. van Putten 2016: 27), so Ghadames -e could go back both to * (or *e) and to *e.

40These scenarios are, of course, speculative, and I have no strong opinion about which of them should be considered more likely.

  • 10 Note that, in Ghadames, o also spread to the distal system, where adnominal deictics attached to f (...)

41Thus, harking back to the general reconstruction of the proximal system, there would be an element a (with a plural i, see Section 3), which could be combined with either d or (possibly) Ɂ. There is little evidence that d and Ɂ could be combined, but the extended form -odăt in Ghadames [li] might be reconstructed as something like *-a-Ɂ-d + -ăt. It is very well possible, though, that the vowel o in the Ghadames extended form was analogically introduced from the short form o, and that the original forms were *‑a‑Ɂ and *-a-d-ăt.10

42We may safely assume that there was a semantic difference between proximal forms without a formative, forms with d and, if reconstructible, forms with Ɂ. As there is no variety that has clearly preserved this original system, it is impossible to decide what difference this could have been exactly.

3. Number marking in deictic forms

3.1 Introduction

43The majority of Berber varieties do not have gender or number marking in adnominal deixis. Thus, in Tarifiyt [ma-z], -a, -in, -nni can be combined with singular and plural nouns, and with feminine and masculine nouns without any changes, as, for example, in (10).

(10) Nador Tarifiyt [MA-Z]
prx dist ana
‘donkey’ (m:sg) aɣyuř-a aɣyuř-in aɣyuř-ənni
‘donkeys’ (m:pl) iɣyař-a iɣyař-in iɣyař-ənni
‘donkey’(f:sg) taɣyuč-a taɣyuč-in taɣyuč-ənni
‘donkeys’ (f:pl) tiɣyař-a tiɣyař-in tiɣyař-ənni

44Demonstratives, on the other hand, normally have gender and number marking. Gender is marked in the initial consonant of the pronoun, while number is marked in the vowel following this initial consonant, or by other means (on which, see Section 4).

45In the case of Tarifiyt [ma-z], the demonstrative can be analyzed as the combination of a pronominal element, which includes gender and number marking, and the same deictic elements that are used for adnominal deixis (11).

  • 11 The neutral pronominal basis is used for vague reference, and does not have a gender or number opp (...)
(11) Nador Tarifiyt [MA-Z]
prx dist ana
adnom -a -in -nni
dem:m:sg w-a w-in w-ənni
dem:m:pl in-a in-in in-ni (< in-nni)
dem:f:sg t-a t-in t-ənni
dem:f:pl tin-a tin-in tin-ni (< tin-nni)
neutral11 ay-a - ay-ənni

46The Ashtuken Tashelhiyt [ma] system is even more balanced, with clearly distinguished gender marking, number marking and deictic marking (12).

(12) Ashtuken Tashelhiyt [MA] (Aspinion 1953: 92–94; forms adding initial ɣ not included)
prx med dist ana
adnom ad nna ann lli
dem:m:sg w-a-d w-a-nna w-a-nn w-a-lli
dem:m:pl w-i-d w-i-nna w-i-nn w-i-lli
dem:f:sg t-a-d t-a-nna t-a-nn t-a-lli
dem:f:pl t-i-d t-i-nna t-i-nn t-i-lli
neutral ay-a-d, ay-a ay-nna ay-a-nn ay-lli

47In varieties like Tashelhiyt [ma], morphemic analysis is simple, and it makes sense to distinguish a pronominal basis with gender/number marking from a second part that consists of the specific morphemes that indicate deixis.

  • 12 Note that the morpheme boundaries are unclear. One could also assume, for instance, gender marking (...)

48In other varieties the situation is more complicated. In the first place, as will be shown in Section 3.2, there are varieties that also have number marking in adnominal deixis. In the second place, the morphemic analysis of the demonstrative as a pronominal element expressing gender and number and a deictic element expressing deixis only can be problematic. One example of the latter, which will be studied in more detail below (Section 4), is found in the Kabyle [al] variety of Ayt Iraten (Chaker 1983: 156). In this variety, the singular distal demonstratives are wihin (m) and tihin (f), while the corresponding plural forms are wihid (m) and tihid (f). In such forms, the gender expressions w and t are separated from the number expressions n and d by an invariable element ihi which expresses distal deixis.12 Therefore, one cannot maintain that there is a division between an initial pronominal part and a part that exclusively expresses deixis, as number marking follows the deictic expression. It is probably this kind of system that Basset (1952: 34) had in mind when stating: “Mais le plus souvent, le pluriel pose des problèmes extrêmement délicats et non résolus” (But most commonly, the plural poses extremely delicate, unresolved problems).

3.2 Number marking in adnominal deixis

  • 13 Cases where adnominal deixis is expressed by means of a demonstrative or a construction clearly de (...)

49Most Berber varieties do not express number in adnominal deictics.13 There are, however, a number of varieties where the opposition also appears in this context. This is found all over the Berber speaking area: Libya, northern Algeria, northern Morocco and Zenaga in Mauritania. Table 1 lists those cases that I know of.

Table 1 — Varieties that have a number opposition in adnominal deictics: distribution

Variety Expression of number Source
Zenaga [MT] only proximal adnominal deictics Taine-Cheikh (2010)
Senhaja (Ketama, Taghzout) [MA] most adnominal deictics Gutova (2021)
Ghomara [MA] all adnominal deictics Mourigh (2015)
Blida Atlas [AL] only distal adnominal deictics El Arifi (2016)
Eastern Kabyle (Ayt Mbarek) [AL] proximal and distal adnominal deictics Genevois (1955)
Tasahlit (Ayt Mhend) [AL] only proximal adnominal deictics Rabhi (1994)
Ghadames [LI] all adnominal deictics Lanfry (1968); Kossmann (2013b)
Awjila [LI] all adnominal deictics van Putten (2014a)
El-Fogaha [LI] only proximal adnominal deictics Paradisi (1963)

50Number marking in adnominal deixis is found both in varieties that have final d in the proximal and varieties without d. Thus Zenaga [mt], Senhaja (Ketama) [ma], Ghomara [ma], and Tasahlit (Ayt Mhend) [al] have forms in d, while Eastern Kabyle [al] (Ayt Mbarek), Ghadames [li], and Awjila [li] lack d. One may therefore conclude that the presence of number marking is independent of the presence or absence of d. Table 2 presents the relevant forms (unless stated otherwise, proximal forms are listed).

Table 2 — Varieties that have a number opposition in adnominal deictics: proximal forms

Variety sg pl
Zenaga [MT] -äđ -iđ
Senhaja (Ketama) [MA] -ad, -adah -id, -idah
Senhaja (Taghzout) [MA] -ada -idi
Ghomara [MA] -ad, -adin, -adinət -id, -idi, -idinət
Blida Atlas [AL] [distal:] -adin (among other forms) [distal:] -idin (among other forms)
Eastern Kabyle (Ayt Mbarek) [AL] -a -i
Tasahlit (Ayt Mhend) [AL] -a, -ad -i, -id
Ghadames [LI] -o, -odăt -i, -idăt
Awjila [LI] -aya, -e, -ək -iya, -iyək
El-Fogaha [LI] -dda -di, -ddi

51It seems that *iɁ became i everywhere in Berber; therefore, all plural forms of the proximal could (but need not) go back to *iɁ.

  • 14 The distal form is -dden without number agreement. One might speculate that El-Fogaha integrated l (...)

52In the proximal forms, the main opposition is between a(d) (Ghadames [li] o) in the singular and i(d) in the plural. One remarks, though, the El-Fogaha [li] forms -dda, -d(d)i, where the number marking follows an element dd. I have no straightforward explanation for these forms.14

53In many varieties with number marking in adnominal deictic elements, the same opposition appears in non-proximal deictics, as seen in (13)-(15) (for Kabyle [al] forms see below).

  • 15 Gutova (2021) also mentions a rare medial form -da without number distinction. This seems to be re (...)
(13) Senhaja (Ketama) [MA]15
prx dist
sg -ad(ah) -adin
pl -id(ah) -idin
(14) Senhaja (Taghzout) [MA]
prx med dist
sg -adi -ayəs -an, -ayən, -ayənnah
pl -idi -iyyəs -iyyən, -iyyənnah
(15) Ghomara [MA]
prx med ana
sg -ad, -adin, -adinət -an, -ani, -anit -ahən
pl -id, -idi, -idinət -in, -ini, -ininət -ihən, ihin

54In Ghadames [li] (see Section 1), the proximal o/i marking corresponds to a marking sg -ănn ~ ‑onn, pl ‑inn in the distal.

55The situation in Awjila [li] (16) is difficult to analyze, as the exact system behind the attested forms is unclear. While it is conceivable that -aya is an extended form of -e, the form -ək may in fact be related to Siwa [eg] forms with addressee agreement (van Putten 2014a: 121; Souag 2014a: 548; 2014b: 43).

(16) Awjila [LI]
prx med dist
sg -aya, -e, -ək -idin -iwan
pl -iya, -iyək - -idanin

56From the discussion above, one may conclude that in adnominal deixis number marking is wide-spread, being found in varieties of Mauritania, northern Morocco, eastern Algeria, and Libya. This suggests that it is an old phenomenon in Berber.

4. The Ghadames anaphoric series and its cognates elsewhere

4.1 Introduction

57Ghadames [li] is quite different from most Berber varieties in that it has two series of (adnominal and demonstrative) deictic elements that both end in a vowel in the singular. The Ghadames system is summarized in (17), leaving aside the extended forms in (d)ăt (Lanfry 1968; Kossmann 2013b).

  • 16 According to Lanfry (1968: 355), the variant -onn and its extended form ‑onnăt are only used with (...)
(17) Ghadames [LI]
prx dist ana
adnom:sg -o -ănn ~ -onn16 -e
adnom:pl -i -inn -id
dem:m:sg w-o w-ănn w-e
dem:m:pl w-i w-inn w-id
dem:f:sg t-o t-ănn ~ t-onn t-e
dem:f:pl t-i t-inn t-id

58While the distal marker is characterized by the consonant nn, the proximal and the anaphoric marker are distinguished by having different vowels.

59The anaphoric series in Ghadames, with its variation -e (sg), -id (pl) has a number of possible cognates in other eastern varieties. The exact meaning of the forms is sometimes different, and rarely well-described, so one should assume a certain degree of systemic reshuffling, either in Ghadames, or elsewhere, or both.

  • 17 In view of the common development *a > i in Awjila, this could also come from *idanan.

60In Awjila [li], the most obvious possible cognate is the variant -e of the prx:sg. As mentioned above, the exact meaning of this suffix is unknown, so we may in fact be dealing with something that is not entirely equivalent to the other proximal forms in this variety, -aya and -ək. Another point of comparison is found in the distal forms. Assuming that Ghadames [li] -e can also correspond to Awjila [li] -i, the forms -iwan and idanin might be analyzed as i + wan and id + anin,17 where the sg element w is of unknown origin, while in the pl the final in (maybe from *an, van Putten 2014b) could be some additional plural marker derived from nominal morphology. The demonstratives are similar in their structure to Ghadames, with a number-neutral pronominal base w- (m), t- (f), followed by deictic elements.

61In Siwa [eg], the original adnominal deictic series was lost, but in the demonstratives a system similar to Awjila [li] and Ghadames [li] appears (18). Siwa has three degrees of distance: proximal, medial, and distal. In the medial set, a difference is made according to the addressee (Naumann 2001: 70; Souag 2014a; 2014b; Schiattarella 2016: 33). These medial demonstratives derive from the incorporation of the preposition ɣuṛ ‘at’ (Souag 2014a: 541; Souag & van Putten 2016: 192), and will not be provided or discussed here (forms following Souag 2014b: 36).

(18) Siwa [EG]
prx dist
dem:m:sg wa, waya wih
dem:f:sg ta, taya tih
dem:pl wi, wiyya widin

62The similarity to Ghadames [li] is obvious: Ghadames ana:pl -e corresponds to Siwa [eg] dist:pl ­‑i (+ h), while ana:pl -id corresponds to Siwa dist:pl ‑id (+ in).

63There are a number of Berber varieties that have ‑i as a proximal or medial marker, both in the singular and in the plural. It is possible that they represent cognates of the Ghadames Anaphoric series. The following cases have been identified:

1. South-Eastern varieties of Central Moroccan Berber (Ayt Atta, Mauri 2020; Dades region, Willms 1972: 175): Proximal -i.

(19) Ayt Atta [MA] (Mauri 2020: 6)
nkkʷni n-kk abrid-i
we 1pl-pass:ao road-prx
‘(and) we’ll take this road’

64Ayt Atta [ma] also has an alternative proximal marker, ‑a, which combines with a small subset of nouns mostly used in adverbial contexts, e.g., ass ‘day’, ass-a ‘today’. Willms (1972: 175), writing about neighboring dialects, describes the forms with i as belonging to the “zweite Entfernungsstufe” (“second degree of distance”), which probably refers to near-hearer deixis, whereas ‑i is a simple proximal marker in the variety described by Mauri.

2. Jebel Nefusa (Jado) [li] has two deictics, both neutral as to number: proximal ‑uh(a) and distal ‑ih(a) (Beguinot 1942: 120), where the final h(a) may be some kind of fossilized suffixed element. The distal form ‑i (+ h) could be cognate to Ghadames [li] ‑e.

3. Mali Tuareg has a number-neutral proximal adnominal deictic ‑i, where other Tuareg varieties have ‑a (Heath 2005: 242). The same form ‑i is used in Ayer Tuareg [ni-t] for near-hearer deixis in some fixed expressions (Prasse et al. 2003: 966). It should be noted that in this case the correspondence with Ghadames [li] ‑e is not straightforward. Tuareg has an opposition /e/ vs. /i/, and assuming a neutralization of this opposition in the relevant forms is ad hoc.

4. One may add Zenaga [mt], which has ‑iɁđ as the number-neutral medial deictic, both in adnominal deictics and in demonstratives. One way to analyze this is that its vowel is cognate to the Ghadames [li] anaphoric form. The adjunction of đ may be considered a generalization of the final consonant of the plural form, probably also inspired by the final đ of the proximal äđ (see Section 2).

4.2 Greater Kabylia and the Ghadames anaphoric series

65Varieties from Greater Kabylia [al] provide highly relevant forms when it comes to this question. As mentioned above, Mettouchi (2011) has shown that the description of deixis as only related to distance and anaphora is too simplistic for Kabyle [al]. The chosen labels should therefore be taken as representing different morphological series, and not as full (or even correct) descriptions of their usage.

  • 18 Irjen data from Basset & Picard (1948); Ayt Iraten from Chaker (1983: 201); At Mangellat from Dall (...)

66In these varieties, the adnominal deictics are neutral for number and have the forms given in (20). 18

  • 19 According to several sources, forms in -a and forms in -aġi do not have exactly the same meanings. (...)
(20) Greater Kabylia [AL]
prx dist ana
Irjen a, aġi19 ihin, ihina, in (rare) nni
At Iraten a, aġi, aġini ihin, inna nni
At Mangellat ‑a, ‑aġi, ‑aġik, ‑aġikana ‑ihin, ‑ihinna, ‑inna ‑ahin, ‑ahinna ‑nni
Iɛemṛanen ‑a ‑ihin ‑nni

67In addition, there are forms with -ən, which appear in adverbial expressions like ass-ən ‘that day’, imir‑ən ‘that time’ (Basset & Picard 1948: 94–96; Chaker 1983: 178–179). Note that non-lenited ġ [g] in -aġi (etc.) comes from *yy, so all forms with -aġi represent *-ayyi.

68With demonstratives the system is different. In the following, only the masculine demonstratives will be provided, which start in w-. Feminine forms are the same, except that w- is substituted by t-. In addition, there are neutral demonstratives based on ay-. They sometimes have combinatory restrictions with deictic elements, but this does not seem to be relevant to the issues at stake here.

69We shall start with the system in At Iraten [al] in (21), as described by Chaker (1983). In this variety, demonstratives have four degrees, which will be labeled here as proximal, medial, distal and anaphoric. In addition, there is an “indefinite” form, whose uses remain unexplained, and which is rare (Chaker 1983: 156; see also Naumann 2001: 41, who argues that the entire indefinite series should be detached from the demonstrative paradigm; see also the discussion in Section 5 concerning supports de détermination). Chaker’s description of the uses of the demonstratives has been contested by Naumann (2001) on the basis of the texts annexed to Chaker’s work.

  • 20 Corrected from m:pl tiġini in Chaker (1983: 155), which is obviously a typographical error.
(21) At Iraten [AL]
prx indef med dist ana
dem:m:sg wa, waġi, waġini wi winna wihin win
dem:m:pl wi, wiġi, wiġini20 wid, wiġad, aġad, iġad, widak wiġadinna, widakinna wihid, wiġadihin, widakihin widnni, wiġadnni, widaknni

70The systems presented in the Kable [al] varieties of Irjen (Basset & Picard 1948; Boulifa 1897: 21–23) in (22), At Mangellat (Vincennes & Dallet 1960: 93–95; Dallet 1982) in (23), and Iɛemṛanen (Aoumer 2013) in (24) are similar, although they present less distinctions than At Iraten Kabyle as described by Chaker. Sometimes the various descriptions provide different meanings for the same form; one may safely assume that this is at least in part due to the lack of precision inherent to this categorization.

(22) Irjen [AL]
prx indef dist ana
dem:m:sg wa, waġi, waġini, waġik̇nint win wihin, wihina winna
dem:m:pl wi, wiġi, wiġini, wiġik̇nint wid wihid, wihidak widak
(23) At Mangellat [AL]
prx dist ana
dem:m:sg wa, waġi, waġini, waġikana wahi, wahin, wahinna, wahikana, wihin, wihinna win, winna
dem:m:pl wi, wiġi, wiġini, wiġikana wihidən, wihidak, wihikana wid, wud, widən, widak
  • 21 Aoumer labels the forms corresponding to “distal” elsewhere as “là2” and those corresponding to “a (...)
(24) Iɛemṛanen [AL]
prx 221 1
dem:m:sg wa wihin win
dem:m:pl wiyi widakihin widak

71In general, the singular forms of the demonstratives correspond to the forms of the adnominal deictics: proximal wa corresponds to ‑a; medial winna corresponds to ‑nna, one of the variants of the distal; distal wihin corresponds to distal ‑ihin; and anaphoric winni corresponds to anaphoric ‑nni. Forms like win may be analyzed as including the residual distal marker -ən attested in words like ass-ən ‘that day’.

72The situation is different in the plural. Let us summarize the situation, as in Table 3, leaving out some lengthened variants that are irrelevant to number marking, and adding some morphological analysis. By means of <.> I will mark a division of constituent parts in these forms based on the comparison, distinguishing the vowel part (a/i in the proximal; i elsewhere), the number-neutral part of the deictic component, the number marking, and what seem to be further extensions. The use of <.> is to be understood as a historical, not a synchronic analysis of the forms; thus Iɛemṛanen widakihin is presented as w‑i.d.ak.ihi.n even though the elements dak and (i)hin are no doubt morphologically simplex in this variety.

Table 3 — Historical morphological analysis of demonstratives in four Kabyle varieties

At Iraten [AL] prx indef ana dist med
dem:m:sg w-a w-i w-i.n w-i.hi.n w-i.nna
dem:m:pl w-i w-i.d, w-i.d.ak, w-i.ġa.d w-i.d.nni w-i.d.ak.nni wi-ġa.d.nni w-i.hi.d w-i.d.ak.ihi.n w-i.ġa.d.ihi.n w-i.d.ak.i.nna w-i.ġa.d.i.nna
Irjen [AL] prx indef dist ana
dem:m:sg w-a w-i.n w-i.hi.n w-i.nna (w-i.n.nna?)
dem:m:pl w-i w-i.d w-i.hi.d w-i.d.ak
At Mangellat [AL] prx ana (1) dist ana (2)
dem:m:sg w-a w-i.n w-a.hi
dem:m:pl w-i w-i.d w-i.hi.d.ak
Iɛemanen [AL] prx 1 2
dem:m:sg w-a w-i.n w-i.hi.n
dem:m:pl w-i.yi w-i.d.ak w-i.d.ak.ihi.n

73We find the following markers related to number:

(i) sg n vs. pl d
At Iraten ana, dist (possibly med)
Irjen indef, dist (possibly ana)
At Mangellat ana1 (the situation with dist and ana2 is more complicated)
Iɛemṛanen 1 (the situation in 2 is more complicated)
(ii) sg ø vs. pl d.ak
At Iraten indef, ana, dist, med
Irjen ana
At Mangellat dist, ana2
Iɛemṛanen 1, 2
(iii) sg ø vs. pl ġa.d
At Iraten indef, ana, dist, med
(iv) sg nna vs. pl ø or nni
Irjen ana
At Mangellat ana2
(v) sg ø vs. pl nni
At Iraten ana
  • 22 Demonstrative forms involving k are also found in other varieties. For an analysis, see Souag (201 (...)

74The forms under (iv) and (v) correspond to the adnominal deictics ‑nni and ‑inna. The plural element ak in (ii) – always combined with d – is no doubt some kind of fossilized particle (Reesink 1979: II, 297), maybe related to akkʷ ‘all’.22 The plural element ġa [ga] (< *yya) – always combined with d – seems to be related to the common extension (a)ġi (cf. forms like dem:m:sg:prx w-a.ġi [wagi] < *w-a.yyi), which somehow became restricted to the plural in these forms. We may therefore assume that in the cases (ii)-(iii)-(iv)-(v) the adjunction of these elements constitutes an innovation.

75This is not at all obvious for (i), that is, the opposition of sg n to pl d as found in the At Iraten and Irjen forms w-ihin / w-ihid, and in the Irjen Indefinite form w-in / w-id. An element d is also easily recognized in the composite elements d.ak and ġa.d, which are only used in the plural.

76At Mangellat dist w-ahi(n), w-ihidən is a bit more complicated, as the n is found both in the singular and in the plural forms. It should be remarked that in neither number the presence of n is obligatory: At Mangellat also has sg w-ahi and pl forms like w-ihidak, w-ihikana, without the final n. One remarks the same adjunction of n to the plural forms in the ana2 form w-idən (corresponding to sg w-inna).

77A different situation is found in Iɛemṛanen w-ihin, w-idakihin. In these forms, the main marker of 2 deixis is ihin in both numbers, with the addition of (i)dak to mark the plural. This is best understood as a functional change in which the final n is no more interpreted as a number marker, but constitutes a stable part of the deictic element. Note that in adnominal deixis, the singular form has been generalized (‑ihin), so the analogical pressure towards this reinterpretation is particularly strong.

78Thus, Greater Kabyle [al] demonstratives present evidence for a number opposition expressed by means of n in the singular and d in the plural. In At Iraten and Irjen forms like w-i.hi.n / w-i.hi.d the number markers follows the deictic element; hence n/d cannot be part of the initial pronominal element in the demonstrative.

4.3 Varieties from the peripheries of Kabylia

79Varieties more to the geographical periphery of Kabylia show systems that can be analyzed to some degree as going back to a similar system, even though a large number of – mostly transparent – innovations blur the picture considerably.

80We shall look at three eastern varieties, two of which are normally included in Kabyle [al], while the third is part of Tasahlit [al].

81The first system is that in Ayt Mbarek. Here we find the forms given in (25) (only masculine forms cited).

(25) Ayt Mbarek [AL] (Genevois 1955: 47)
prx dist ana
adnom:sg ‑a ‑nanha ən
adnom:pl ‑i ‑ninhi ən
dem:m:sg waha wanha win
dem:m:pl wihi winhi widak

82This variety has a final element sg ha pl hi in the distal, as well as in the demonstrative forms of the proximal. The adnominal distal is composed of a deictic marker n, followed by a (deictic) number marker a/i, followed by a repetition of the deictic marker n, followed by h and a repetition of the number marker a/i. The distal demonstratives lack the initial n, but are the same otherwise. It is difficult to see how this four-part form came into being, but it likely constitutes an innovation.

83On the other hand, the anaphoric demonstratives display forms well-known from Greater Kabylia, a singular form ending in n and a plural form ending in d extended by ak.

84In the Ihbachen dialect, we find the forms given in (26).

(26) Ihbachen [AL] (Rabdi 2004: 72–74)
prx dist ana
adnom a, ayyi, ayyina ihin, ihinna nni,n, in,
dem:m:sg wa, wayyi, wayyina wihin, wihinna winn, winna
dem:m:pl wiyya, widakayyi widakihin, widakihinna widaknni

85This system has a number of interesting features. The forms of the proximal demonstrative show an intriguing variation between singular ayyi and plural iyya. While there is little doubt that these are extended forms based on a/i, the final vowel of the extension shows the opposite correlation to number: sg ayyi, pl iyya. While the singular form wayyi corresponds perfectly to other Kabyle forms such as waġi (< *wayyi), the final a in the plural wiyya is unexpected. One may speculate that this pattern was inspired by nominal plural patterns with forms like sg aţaksi pl iţuksa ‘car’ (Rabdi 2004: 64), where the final vowel also changes sg i to pl a.

86The demonstrative distal forms are reminiscent of those in Iɛemṛanen Kabyle [al], where the part ihin is common to both numbers, while the plural demonstrative adds (i)dak to express the plural. However, while the element dak is restricted to non-proximal deixis in Iɛemṛanen, it can occur in all deictic degrees in Ihbachen, and thus has become a general marker of plurality.

87The Tasahlit variety of Ayt Mhend (Aokas) [al] described by Rabhi (1994: 48–50) and Berkai (2013: 87–90) presents us with an extremely complicated system. Among these two sources, Berkai (2013) focuses on the demonstratives, and only provides limited information about adnominal deixis.

88In this variety, number marking in the deictic is complemented by gender marking. Both the adnominal and the demonstrative system have forms distinguishing gender and number. For ease of understanding, the gender markers have been detached by hyphenation from the other parts of the deictic in the presentation in (27).

  • 23 Rabhi (1994: 49, fn. 1) points to the neighboring dialects of Ayt Smaal, that have -nninhi in the (...)
(27) Tasahlit (Ayt Mhend) [AL] (Rabhi 1994)
prx prx:gender dist dist:gender ana
adnom:m:sg a(d) ad-aka(d), ad-akaya nnanha nn-akan ənn
adnom:f:sg a(d) ad-atta(d), ad-attaya nn-attan ənn
adnom:m:pl i(d) id-akni(d) nnanha23 nn-aknin ənn
adnom:f:pl i(d) id-akti(d) nn-aktin ənn

89As one can see, this is a variety where the proximal optionally has the final d (see Section 2).

90Gender marking is according to agreement with the gender of the noun, and based on a paradigm m:sg aka, f:sg atta; m:pl akni; f:pl akti. These elements are transparently derived from proximal and distal presentative forms, such as akaya ‘here he is’, akni ‘here they (m) are’, aknan ‘there they (m) are’ (Berkai 2013: 90, 575).

  • 24 Collective demonstratives have been left out of the discussion.

91The demonstratives are a bit different, as seen in (28).24

  • 25 In this series, Berkai consistently gives forms with n instead of nn.
(28) Tasahlit (Ayt Mhend) [AL] (R = Rabhi 1994; B = Berkai 2013)
prx prx:gender dist:gender ana
dem:m:sg wa(d) [R,B] waha [R,B] wahad [R] wad-aka [R,B] wad-akaya [R] wad-akad [B] wahad-aka [B] wann-akan [R,B] wann25 [R,B] wahann [R,B] win [B]
dem:f:sg ta(d) [R,B] taha [R,B] tahad [R] tad-atta [R,B] tad-attaya [R] tad-attad [B] tahad-atta [B] tann-attan [R,B] tann [R,B] tahann [R,B] tin [B]
dem:m:pl wi(d) [R,B] wihi [R,B] wihid [R] wid-akni(d) [R,B] wihid-akni [B] winn-aknan [R,B] winn-aknin [R] winn [R] widak [B] widakənn [R,B] wihinn [R]
dem:f:pl ti(d) [R,B] tihi [R,B] tihid [R] tid-akti(d) [R,B] tihid-akti(d) [B] tinn-aktan [R,B] tinn-aktin [R] tinn [R] tidak [B] tidakənn [R,B] tihinn [R]

92There is no demonstrative counterpart to the gender-neutral adnominal deictic nnanha.

93In comparison to the adnominal forms, the distal demonstratives have the number sensitive initial vowel a/i preceding the deictic element, which is exclusive to the proximal forms in adnominal deixis. The same element is found in the anaphoric demonstratives as described by Rabhi. In Berkai’s materials, win(n) and tin(n) are singular forms (see the discussion in Berkai 2013: 90).

94Otherwise, the proximal and the distal forms are mostly the same as in adnominal deixis; the most important differences are the optional presence of an added ha/hi in the proximal, and the presence of an initial vowel a/i in the distal forms. The anaphoric forms are quite different in the demonstrative series. In the first place, there are lengthened forms with ha/hi preceding the deictic element. In the second place, some variants have a dedicated plural marker dak following the initial vowel.

95As regards the n/d number opposition, Tasahlit only provides restricted evidence. The forms with d in the gender-sensitive forms of the proximal are both singular and plural, and the d here is no doubt related to the proximal marker d, which is also found in short forms. The only clear indication of an ancient number opposition using d as a plural marker appears in the anaphoric plural demonstratives widak, tidak, widakənn, tidakənn.

96At the western side of Kabylia, the variety spoken in the Blida Atlas [al] also shows adnominal and demonstrative systems (29) highly different from the Greater Kabylia forms (El Arifi 2016: 741–743 and s.v.). El Arifi only distinguishes two degrees of deixis, proximal and distal. In the adnominal forms, only the distal forms have number opposition. El Arifi’s data stem from a large number of dialects; as it is not clear for every single form to which dialect it belongs, I will present them together in the table below, providing the dialectal information, as far as given by the source, in footnotes.

  • 26 For Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ, a, ay, ayi, ayyi, yayyi, -aǧi, and ayini are noted; for Ayṯ Mesɛud, ay, yay (...)
  • 27 This is probably a form used when nouns end in a vowel, as in the example provided by El Arifi (20 (...)
  • 28 (w)inubbʷa is typical for the dialect of Ayṯ Mesɛud, while (w)inuwwa belongs to the Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ vari (...)
  • 29 From the presentation of the examples in El Arifi (2016: 134), this may be a form used in Ayṯ Ṣale (...)
  • 30 In the singular, wa and wada are indicated as Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ (El Arifi 2016: 136); wadda is indicated a (...)
  • 31 Among these forms, the following are used in Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ: win, winuwwa, winubbʷa, wadin, waḋin, winn (...)
(29) Blida Atlas [AL]
prx dist
adnom:sg ‑a, ‑ay, ‑ayi, ‑ayyi, ‑aǧi, ‑aǧǧi26 ‑yayyi27 ‑ayin, ‑ayini ‑u ‑iyu ‑iyin, ‑iyinuwa, ‑inubbʷa28 ‑adin ‑nni
adnom:pl = sg idin29 inni
dem:m:sg wa30 wadda, wada watta win31 winuwwa, winubbʷa wadi, wai wadin, wain winni, winna
dem:m:pl widdi, widi, widda witta waddi wid, wi widin

97As in Greater Kabylia, the feminine forms differ mostly by having initial t- rather w-. One notes however an enigmatic dem:f:pl form twidi (Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ; next to expected tiddi).

  • 32 The latter is only given for Ayṯ Miṣra (El Arifi 2016: 335), but one can easily imagine that it al (...)

98The demonstratives incorporate a number of extensions, like da/di and adin/idin which encapsulate the locational deictics da ‘here’ and din ‘there’.32

99Most important for our purposes, however, are the distal demonstratives without extentions, which show a variation sg -in pl -id very similar to what is found in Greater Kabylia.

5. Discussion

100The Kabyle [al] and Tasahlit [al] forms show great variability in their formation of adnominal and demonstrative deictics. Many of these elements and variants can be explained as extensions and grammaticalizations that became fixed to more simple forms. Abstracting away from these extensions and grammaticalizations, we find a number of basic patterns:

  1. The proximal series has a number distinction sg a, pl i. This is found in adnominal deixis in a number of varieties, and – with few exceptions – consistently in demonstratives. By analogical extension, the a/i distinction was introduced to the other demonstratives in many varieties, especially in Morocco (Basset 1933). In these varieties, they should now be synchronically analyzed as part of the pronominal first half of the demonstrative.
  2. In Kabyle [al], non-proximal deixis tends to start in a number-neutral vowel i. In demonstratives, varieties from Greater Kabylia show a distinction sg n, pl d. While this distinction has been altered elsewhere in Kabyle, and in Tasahlit [al], remnants are found all over the region, esp. in non-proximal plurals containing d. In the varieties that preserve the distinction, the number-sensitive elements may follow other deictic markers (e.g., w-ihin, w-ihid). This implies that the n/d marking is not part of the initial pronominal element of the demonstrative.

101This situation is at many points similar to what is found in Ghadames [li], which has proximal ‑o/‑i (corresponding to (1)) and anaphoric ‑e/‑id (corresponding to (2)). The most salient difference is the absence of n as a marker of the singular in the Ghadames [li] ‑e/‑id set.


a. There are scattered indications all over Berber for a deictic series with (singular) *‑e (> -i). The Kabyle [al] correspondent seems to be ‑in (which could go back to *en)

b. Kabyle [al] and Ghadames [li] point to a number distinction in this series, where the plural is id.

102In view of Zenaga [mt] iʔđ (sg=pl), probably from sg *iɁ pl *iɁd (see Section 2), one may assume that this series included a glottal stop. Therefore, we may conclude that proto-Berber had a deictic series that was something like sg *‑eɁ(n) pl *‑iɁd, in addition to other deictic series. Parallel to one of the reconstructions of the proximal, one could also posit that proto-Berber had forms with and without a glottal stop in this series. As the difference between */i/, */e/, on the one hand, and *//, *// on the other has not been maintained anywhere but in Zenaga, there is no way to prove or disprove this.

103It should be noted that Reesink (1979: II, 297) provides a different interpretation of the history of the Kabyle [al] demonstratives:

  • 33 ‘One remarkable feature in Kabyle is the lack of parallelism [between the adnominal deictics and t (...)

Ce qui frappe en kabyle, est le manque de parallélisme [between the adnominal deictics and the demonstratives, and the singular and the plural. MK] (…). [A]insi les pluriels wihidən, widak ne correspondent pas, morphologiquement, aux sing. wahin(na) et winna : ils semblent, historiquement, dérivés d’un ancien pronom *wad, plur. *wid-, augmentés d’une particule déictique (-ak) ou d’orientation (-n).33

104The status of Reesink’s reconstructed pronoun *wad, *wid remains unclear. According to Reesink’s own analyses, the proximal (adnominal) deictic -a goes back to -ad, and includes a cognate to the directional deictic dd. It is difficult to see how the proximal pronoun would include the proximal deictic d and then get augmented by a distal deictic element n, as in sg wahin, which, if I understand Reesink correctly, would go back to something like *wad-hi-n. More importantly, forms like wihidən show that the element d is not adjacent to the element wi. Therefore, positing a pronominal element wid does not solve the morphological problem.

105In Berber studies, demonstratives are analyzed as a complex of several elements: a gender-marking pronominal element w/t, an element consisting of a vowel, and a specifically deictic part, which clarifies what kind of deixis is meant. The gender-marking pronominal element is absent in adnominal deixis, while the vowel element and the deictic part occur both in adnominal deixis and in demonstrative pronouns. Thus, forms like ad and ann in Tashelhiyt [ma] (argaz-ad ‘this man’, argaz-ann ‘that man’) are interpreted as containing a vowel element a and the explicit deictic markers d, resp. nn.

  • 34 Independent from Galand, Prasse (1972: 193) proposes a similar history for the Ahaggar Tuareg [al- (...)

106In an analysis proposed by Galand (Galand 2002 [1969]; 1988: 231, etc.), but already implicit in Basset & Picard (1948), the vowel part is identified with certain more independent pronominal elements that may constitute the head of a modified or determined NP (“support de détermination”).34 This looks relatively straightforward in the case of the vowel element a, which has a clear counterpart in the support de détermination system. It should be stressed, however, that within the class of supports de détermination and forms possibly derived from them, the existence of number marking by means of a/i is unique to the deictic system. Galand notes this (2010: 99–101) without presenting an explanation.

107Things are more complicated if one wants to include the second deictic series represented by Ghadames [li] -e/-id in this analysis. Indeed, there exist supports de détermination based on i (also e, cf. Prasse et al. 2003: 147), which express that the referent is explicitly indefinite (Galand 1974). This is found, for example in the Iwellemmeden Tuareg [ni-t] phrase in (30), where the indefinite support de détermination i is modified by a relative clause:

(30) Iwellemmeden Tuareg [NI-T] (Prasse et al. 2003: 964)
gámmăy-ăɣ i dəy i-llíl-ăn
look:ipv-1sg indef:m 1sg:io ptc-help:pv2-ptc
‘I am looking for somebody (i) to help me’
  • 35 In some varieties, wi ‘whoever’ is also used as an interrogative ‘who’. Note that in varieties lik (...)

108As has often been observed, this pronoun is related to a large range of different constructions elsewhere (e.g., Basset & Picard 1948: 185–187), among others the wide-spread indefinite pronoun wi ‘whoever’,35 as in (31) and (32).

(31) Kabyle [AL] (Reesink 1979: II, 302)
wi t-ufi-, awy i t i
whoever 2sg-find: pv-2sg carry:ao:ipt:sg 1sg:io 3sg:m:do hither
‘whoever (wi) you find, bring him to me’
(32) Figuig [MA-Z] (Kossmann 1997: 201)
wi xəf dd y-us a ss awy-əx
whoever on hither 3sg:m-come:pv irrealis 3sg:m:do carry:ao-1sg
‘whoever (wi) it fits, I will marry her’
  • 36 Basset & Picard (1948: 182) speak of “traces d’une opposition entre défini et indéfini”. Chaker (1 (...)

109Basset & Picard (1948: 182) consider the a vowel forms in Kabyle [al] deictics – that is, proximals – to be “défini” or “précis”, and the i vowel forms – that is, non-proximals – to be (originally) “indéfini” or “imprécis”.36 This seems be based on a historical derivation from the indefinite i supports de détermination mentioned above. I find it difficult to see how an inherently indefinite or imprecise form would have been the basis for distal or anaphoric deixis, neither of which are inherently imprecise or indefinite (cf. Naumann 2001 for a similar point).

110Therefore, I think one should remain cautious in conflating the supports de détermination related to (in)definiteness with the forms found in the deictic system. While the two categories may have been somehow related originally, this seems to be something that precedes the oldest reconstructible stage of Berber. In any case, whatever the final verdict on the relation between supports de détermination and deictics, such an analysis should include the *‑eɁ(n)/*‑iɁd series.

6. Conclusions

111On the basis of the foregoing discussion, one can conclude that adnominal deictics and demonstratives in Berber originally had a number of highly different series.

112Proximal deictics are characterized by an element sg a, pl i. This element can be followed by a further proximal extension. Depending on the variety, this is d or (possibly) *Ɂ. As a result, two or three major types of proximal marking are reconstructed:

a. a/i without a further marker

b. a/i + d

c. a/i + Ɂ (possibly; depending on the reconstruction)

113No doubt there were meaning differences between these forms, but they can no more be determined.

114In addition, there was a set of non-proximal deictics consisting of an element sg *eɁ(n) pl *iɁd. The reconstruction of the singular is uncertain. This set of deictics can be combined with further specifications of deixis, such as the element ihi.

115There were also further deictics, such as those based on a non-proximal element n(n). These have not been studied here, but as they are found almost everywhere in Berber, they are undoubtedly ancient.

116Most modern varieties have done away with the *eɁ(n)/*iɁd set of deictics. The reason behind this is obvious in many cases. If a variety has ad and id as proximals, where d functions as a gender-neutral proximal marker, there is strong analogical pressure against having a different element id in the non-proximal, dedicated to the expression of number. In varieties that lack final d in the proximal, the pressure is less strong, and it is especially here that we find remnants of the second series.


117I wish to thank Marijn van Putten and Lameen Souag for their discussions of, and comments on, an earlier draft of this article. I also wish to thank the reviewers and the editor of the volume for their pertinent and very helpful comments. Of course all errors and flaws in the argument are entirely my fault.

Abbreviations and transcription

118The following abbreviations are used:

adnom Adnominal
ana Anaphoric
ao Aorist
dem Demonstrative
dist Distal
do Direct Object
ext Extended
f Feminine
indef Indefinite
io Indirect Object
ipt Imperative
ipv Imperfective
m Masculine
med Medial
pl Plural
prx Proximal
ptc Participle (= subject relative form)
pv Perfective
pv2 Long Perfective
sg Singular

119The following codes are used to refer to the countries where the cited varieties are spoken:

[AL] Algeria
[AL-T] Algeria (Tuareg)
[AL-Z] Algeria (Zenatic)
[EG] Egypt
[LI] Libya
[LI-Z] Libya (Zenatic)
[MA] Morocco
[MA-Z] Morocco (Zenatic)
[MT] Mauritania
[NI] Niger
[NI-T] Niger (Tuareg)

120Transcriptions of northern Berber forms have been adopted to the Kabyle standard as used in Dallet (1982). The most important characteristic of this standard is that the mostly phonetic lenition of non-geminated plosives is not written, while the rare remaining non-geminated plosives are written by means of a dot above the letter. Thus <ġ> stands for [g], <k̇> for [k], <ṫ> for <t>, and <ḋ> stands for [d]. Different from Kabyle orthography, schwa will be written <ə>. Some sources do not write schwa; in that case it has not been added. The transcriptions of Tuareg and Ghadames follow the conventions used, among others, in Kossmann (2011) and Kossmann (2013b), respectively. Zenaga transcriptions follow the transcription system used by Catherine Taine-Cheikh. In direct quotations, the transcriptions are as in the original.

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1 I use “variety” as a neutral term to refer to the different geographically defined lects that Berber encompasses. While some of these could easily be considered different languages, in many cases, the differentiation between “language” and “dialect” – problematic in itself – is impossible. There is no generally accepted sub-classification of Berber. I will use the term “Zenatic” for a group of strongly related varieties in eastern Morocco and Algeria, see Kossmann (1999: 31–32) for a list and arguments, and Souag (2013: 20–26) for further discussion. The names of the varieties will be followed by an abbreviation of the country where they are spoken, adding -Z for Zenatic, and -T for Tuareg. A list of abbreviations can be found at the end of the article.

2 Constructions with a demonstrative following a noun are not unknown in other varieties either. Thus Tarifiyt [MA-Z] allows constructions where a form with a proximal deictic is followed by the extended form of the proximal demonstrative -ania, like nəcc iɛəjb ayi lməwḍuɛ-a wania (<nech i3ajbayi al mawdo3a wanita>) ‘as for me, I like this subject (lit. this subject pleases me)’, including the Noun Phrase lməwḍuɛ-a wania ‘subject-prx dem:m:sg:prx’. Cited from a reader’s comment to a post on from March 26, 2010. On the development of pre-nominal deixis, as found in Zwara [LI-Z] and Figuig [MA-Z], see Kossmann (2013a: 321–324).

3 ‘Originally the construction simply involved the recapitulation of the noun (or nominal element) by a pronoun, as in Tuareg (Ahaggar): aləs wa-rəġ “man this one” = “this man”. But, commonly, this origin has become out of sight, and the pronoun is reduced to the state of an invariable element, which simply functions as a marker accompanying the noun: Tashelhiyt argaz-ad, Kabyle argaz-agi, Nefusi atəRas-uh “this man”.’

4 The most detailed semantic/pragmatic studies of deixis outside of Kabylia [AL] that I am aware of are Schiattarella (2015) on Siwa [EG] and Mauri (2020) on Ayt Atta [MA] (south-eastern Morocco). Kossmann (2015) on Figuig [MA-Z] is entirely based on narrative texts, and therefore only provides a partial picture.

5 According to Lanfry (1968: 354), this form marks greater proximity than -o alone.

6 The deictic element d has been recognized in a number of other grammatical elements, see Taine-Cheikh (2010) for an overview with references.

7 See also Prasse (1972: 193, fn. 142). An exception is Ayt Iznasen [MA-Z], which has proximal u, but verb forms ending in a. This may be a case of dialect mixing: dialects to the west of Ayt Iznasen have a under both conditions, while dialects to its south, such as Ayt Buzeggu [MA-Z], have u under both conditions (cf. Lafkioui 2007: 154 and 178).

8 Note that Zenaga demonstrative pronouns lack the initial masculine marker w-, commonly found elsewhere in Berber. Plural demonstratives are based on a gender marker (m: ø, f: t) followed by a plural element əđn, followed by the plural form of the adnominal deictic: dem:m:pl:prx əđniđ, dem:m:pl:med əđniɁđ, dem:m:pl:dist əđnān, and corresponding feminine forms with initial t-. The origin of the pluralizing element əđn lies beyond the scope of this article.

9 Note that in present-day Zenaga underlying word-final VɁ# is pronounced without the following glottal stop (cf. Taine-Cheikh 2004), while – in my analysis –, underlying word-final V# is pronounced with an offglide h (Kossmann 2001). In this reconstruction, these underlying forms are mapped on the predecessor of Zenaga.

10 Note that, in Ghadames, o also spread to the distal system, where adnominal deictics attached to feminine nouns, and feminine demonstratives show variation between -ănn, -ănnăt and ‑onn, ‑onnăt (Lanfry 1968: 255).

11 The neutral pronominal basis is used for vague reference, and does not have a gender or number opposition. In the literature, it is known under different names, such as “indefinite” (Chaker 1983) and “collective” (Prasse 1972).

12 Note that the morpheme boundaries are unclear. One could also assume, for instance, gender marking wi/ti, followed by deictic h, followed by number marking in/id.

13 Cases where adnominal deixis is expressed by means of a demonstrative or a construction clearly derived from a demonstrative, like in Siwa [EG] and Ayer Tuareg [NI], will be left out of the discussion.

14 The distal form is -dden without number agreement. One might speculate that El-Fogaha integrated locative adverbs, something like da ‘here’ and den ‘there’, into the deictic system, and then transposed the old number marking to the final vowel of -dda (cf. also Souag 2014a: 542). The locative adverbs that Paradisi presents for El-Fogaha seem to be composed of a presentative element and the locative elements da ‘here’ and den ‘there’, well attested elsewhere in Berber: akkada (= akka-da?) ‘here’; denhak (= den-hak?) ‘there’. For a more elaborate analysis, also involving nearby Sokna, see Souag (2014a: 542–547).

15 Gutova (2021) also mentions a rare medial form -da without number distinction. This seems to be restricted to a few speakers (Gutova p.c.). I am very grateful to Evgeniya Gutova for additional information about these forms.

16 According to Lanfry (1968: 355), the variant -onn and its extended form ‑onnăt are only used with feminine nouns.

17 In view of the common development *a > i in Awjila, this could also come from *idanan.

18 Irjen data from Basset & Picard (1948); Ayt Iraten from Chaker (1983: 201); At Mangellat from Dallet (1982) and Vincennes & Dallet (1960); Iɛemṛanen from Aoumer (2013).

19 According to several sources, forms in -a and forms in -aġi do not have exactly the same meanings. For example, Basset & Picard (1948: 182–184) describe the demonstrative w-a as “precise”, but not inherently proximal, while aġi is described as proximal. As the tables aim at giving a morphological analysis, and -aġi is evidently an extended form of -a, I have chosen to treat them together.

20 Corrected from m:pl tiġini in Chaker (1983: 155), which is obviously a typographical error.

21 Aoumer labels the forms corresponding to “distal” elsewhere as “là2” and those corresponding to “anaphoric” as “là1”. She cites five further forms: wayinni, winna, widaka(yi), widaknni, widakihin(n)a, but does not explain which forms belong to which series and number (Aoumer 2013: 102).

22 Demonstrative forms involving k are also found in other varieties. For an analysis, see Souag (2014a: 542–549). As the forms analyzed by Souag are unrelated to number expression, they may have a different origin from the ones in Kabyle [al].

23 Rabhi (1994: 49, fn. 1) points to the neighboring dialects of Ayt Smaal, that have -nninhi in the plural, similar to Ayt Mbarek.

24 Collective demonstratives have been left out of the discussion.

25 In this series, Berkai consistently gives forms with n instead of nn.

26 For Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ, a, ay, ayi, ayyi, yayyi, -aǧi, and ayini are noted; for Ayṯ Mesɛud, ay, yayyi; for Ayṯ Miṣra: aya, ayin, iyu, and for Ayṯ Mnaṣir: u. The Ayṯ Mnaṣir form is akin to certain Zenatic forms of the proximal deictic.

27 This is probably a form used when nouns end in a vowel, as in the example provided by El Arifi (2016: 133, 641) abučči-yayyi iqbaḥ ‘ce garçon est turbulent’.

28 (w)inubbʷa is typical for the dialect of Ayṯ Mesɛud, while (w)inuwwa belongs to the Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ variety. bbʷ is the regular outcome of *ww in many Kabyle varieties.

29 From the presentation of the examples in El Arifi (2016: 134), this may be a form used in Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ only. -iyin is cited both for Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ and Ayṯ Mesɛud.

30 In the singular, wa and wada are indicated as Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ (El Arifi 2016: 136); wadda is indicated as used both in Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ and Ayṯ Miṣra. For watta no indication of dialect provenance is provided. In the plural, widi, widdi, and widda are indicated as Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ, while waddi is indicated as Ayṯ Miṣra.

31 Among these forms, the following are used in Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ: win, winuwwa, winubbʷa, wadin, waḋin, winni, winna. The following forms are (also) marked as Ayṯ Miṣra: win, wadi, waḋi, wadin, waḋin. The following forms are (also) marked as Ayṯ Mesɛud: waḋin, winubbʷa. The masculine plural forms are only marked for Ayṯ Ṣaleḥ.

32 The latter is only given for Ayṯ Miṣra (El Arifi 2016: 335), but one can easily imagine that it also existed at some point in time in neighboring dialects.

33 ‘One remarkable feature in Kabyle is the lack of parallelism [between the adnominal deictics and the demonstratives, and the singular and the plural. MK] (…). Thus, the plurals wihidən, widak, do not correspond, in their morphology, to singular wahin(na) and winna: they seem to be derived historically from an ancient pronoun *wad, plur. *wid-, which was augmented by a deictic particle (-ak) or by an orientational particle (-n).’

34 Independent from Galand, Prasse (1972: 193) proposes a similar history for the Ahaggar Tuareg [al-t] deictic ‑a.

35 In some varieties, wi ‘whoever’ is also used as an interrogative ‘who’. Note that in varieties like Kabyle [al] and Figuig [ma-z], wi is neutral as to gender and number. In agreement, it is interpreted as a masculine singular pronoun, as shown by the masculine Direct Object clitic ss in the Figuig example, which in this passage refers to a woman.

36 Basset & Picard (1948: 182) speak of “traces d’une opposition entre défini et indéfini”. Chaker (1983: 156) seems to consider the opposition relevant to the synchronic state of the language, even though he puts the terms “défini” and “indéfini” in quotation marks – a convention that is often chosen by this author, the meaning of which is not always entirely clear.

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Maarten Kossmann, « A partial reconstruction of Berber (Amazigh) deictics »Linguistique et langues africaines [En ligne], 9(2) | 2023, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2023, consulté le 14 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Maarten Kossmann

LUCL, Universiteit Leiden

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