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Themes and actions

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Berber languages and Berber peoples: genetic and linguistic diversity

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Scientific framework and objectives

This project takes part in the general and interdisciplinary framework gathering languages and genes, following the path opened by the pioneering work by L. Cavalli-Sforza. The baseline of this research trend is that the joint study of the language and genetic structure of a population allows a better investigation of the historical contingencies it has experienced in the past, and also of the contacts it had with related or unrelated neighbouring populations.


North Africa occupies a strategic position as regards the dispersal and evolution of human populations. Archaeological data suggest that the region continued to act as a link between Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe down to the very recent past. The contrast between the genetic affinities of Berber peoples which indicate a northern Mediterranean origin and their linguistic affinities which suggest an eastern African origin requires the pluridisciplinary investigation of this area.
We have thus set up joint missions of both geneticists and linguists, numbering four up to now: two in Morocco (Asni and Tafoghalt) and two in Egypt (Siwa oasis). Two more missions are in preparation: one in southern Tunisia and a new mission to Siwa, to check on data collected so far. A further mission to Libya is currently being negotiated.

  Financial support
  • OMLL

  • OHLL


  • Louali, N., Philippson, G., 2005, "Deux Systèmes accentuels berbères : le Siwi et le touareg", Faits de langues, 26:1, pp. 11-22
  • Louali, N., 2003, "L'accent en berbère : catégorie grammaticale et démarcation syntaxique.", proc. of Etudes berbères 2ème Bayreuth Frankfurter Kolloquium zur Berberologie, Franckfort, Allemagne, 9-13 Juillet 2002, Berber Studies, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag
  • Louali, N., Philippson, G., 2003, "Les Protoméditerranéens Capsiens sont-ils des protoberbères ? Interrogations de linguiste.", GALF (Groupement des Anthropologues de Langue Française), Marrakech,, 22-25 septembre 2003.
  • Louali, N., Philippson, G., 2002, "Empty nuclei and syllabification in Siwi Berber", Workshop on the Phonology of African Languages (WOPAL), Vienne (Autriche), 1-3 novembre 2002

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