Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ברברים ושליו ודגים

I find the Berber languages fascinating, and would love to learn more about them. One unfortunate semi-coincidence is that the Hebrew word for 'Berber', בֶּרְבֶּרִי, is spelled exactly the same as the word for 'barbarian', בַּרְבָּרִי.

I say 'semi-coincidence' because in fact the words are likely etymologically related. Many Berbers prefer to use the native term Amazigh (pl Imazighen) for the people and Tamazight for the language, to avoid any pejorative connotation. However this has its own problems, as there is also a dialect of the Berber language which itself is called Tamazight and whose speakers are Imazighen, to the exclusion of other Berber dialects.

To be precise, words like ברברי/ברברי with different pronunciations and meanings are called heteronyms. Here is a nice Venn diagram illustrating the differences between synonyms, homonyms, homographs, homophones, heteronyms, and heterographs.

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