4 Pages

Scratch a Moroccan, Find a Berber

Until the recent rise of the Berber linguistic and cultural movement in both Algeria and Morocco (in the former as of 1980 and in the latter as of only 1991) - a movement which has been given only the scantiest recognition, if that, by the governments of both countries, leery as they are of its possible political implications - it had been generally assumed by most observers, including the present writer, that the major criterion for defining the term ' Berber' was the linguistic one, and that Berber remains essentially an unwritten language. On this basis Berber-speakers in the Maghrib (i.e . those who speak one of several Berber dialects rather than Arabic, which is the national language of both countries, as their natal tongues) were held to have constituted about 30 per cent of the population of Algeria and about 40-45 per cent of that of Morocco.