Arabized Berber

Arabized Berber is a term used to denote an inhabitant of the North African Maghreb of Berber origin whose native language is a dialect of Arabic.

The notion of "Arabized Berbers" is held primarily by Berberists, many scholars, and most recently also by geneticists based on results of some genetic research. They maintains that North Africa, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, is mainly Berber from a sociological, historical and more importantly, geneaological standpoint, despite the almost universal language shift from Berber to Arabic and an accompanying shift from a Berber ethnic identity to an Arab ethnic identity.

Historical perspective

Medieval Arabic sources frequently refer to North Africa (excluding Egypt) as Bilad Al Barbar or 'Land of the Berbers' (Arabic: بلاد البربر). This designation may have given rise to the term Barbary Coast which was used by Europeans until the 19th century to refer to coastal Northwest Africa. The Arabic term Maghreb is also widely used locally, while Berber activists often reference the area as Tamazgha.


According to some Berber nationalists, even though a North African inhabitant may only speak Maghrebi Arabic as opposed to one of the Berber languages, this person remains essentially a Berber. It is a response from Berber activists to Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians and Libyans who self-identify as "Arab" because of their Arabic tongue. North Africa was gradually arabized by Arab Muslim conquerors in the 7th century AD, but the identity of western North Africa remained Berber for a long time thereafter. Additionally, even though the process of Arabization began with these early invasions, some parts of North Africa were only recently arabized (e.g., the Aurès mountains in the 19th and 20th centuries), though the mainland of North Africa seems to have been arabized in the 11th century with the arrival of the Banu Hilal tribe from Arabia.

DNA evidence

Different genetic studies along with historians such as Gabriel Camps and Charles-André Julien lend support to the idea that the bulk of modern Northwest Africans irrespective of language are descended from Berbers. The medieval Arabic historian Ibn Khaldun also expressed this understanding in his writings. Furthermore, the Arabic dialects spoken in Algeria (especially in some parts of the Petite Kabylie like El Milia, Jijel and Setif) and the Maghreb countries in general contain a large number of Berber words, idioms and other linguistic features.

See also

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