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Dossier no. 14 – The Amazigh language within Morocco’s language policy


The present paper intends to provide, in the first section, a socio-linguistic description of the Amazigh language in Morocco, taking into account its linguistic aspects, the ethnicity of its speakers, its usage and functions within society, its ideological-institutional aspects, and, at last, its future perspectives.
Based on a macro-linguistic perspective, in the second section we will introduce the language policy model that is being implemented for each language, focusing on Amazigh. Then, we will confirm that the existing imbalance in the status is mainly due to a monolingual-type language policy, which does not take into account the wide use of the other languages, but solely classical Arabic.
Finally, we will discuss the educational policy carried out since Moroccan independence up to the present time, giving a particular emphasis to the current language policy implemented by the Ministry of Education.

1. Socio-linguistic description of the Amazigh language

1.1. About the concept of “Berber”
There has always been a bit of confusion when designating the languages spoken by some North African and Sub-Saharan peoples, as well as by other peoples in Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. These are mainly known as “Berber languages”.
The term “Berber” is actually of Greek origin (barbaros, -on) and was used by the Greeks to designate the foreign peoples speaking languages other than the so-called classical Greek, i.e. foreign languages to them. Later on, this same term (barna[ic]us,-a, -un, from which the term “Berberisc” also arises) was used by the Romans to designate the peoples in North Africa who did not speak Latin. Thus, this area would start to be later on known as Berberia. When the Arabs arrived (670-800 A.D.) in the north of Africa, they kept the same name, adapting it to their language; in fact, they started using the word “Al barbar” or “Al barbari” –its singular form– to designate the peoples, and “Al barbaria” to refer to their language.
On the other hand, Moroccan Amazigh-speakers use their own term “amazighen”, a masculine noun meaning “the free men”, although the most widely used term is its feminine form –“tamazight”–, a term used by Amazigh-speakers to designate their language. Nowadays, the word “Berber” is used by foreigners to refer to the inhabitants of the areas where the Amazigh language is spoken; needless to say, Amazigh-speakers do not use the term “Berber” to designate neither their people or their language, but it is a foreign imposition that they consider to a certain extent as inappropriate, as it causes confusion.
It may also be pointed out that the concept of “Berber language” is essentially political: as a matter of fact, it does not correspond to a homogeneous socio-linguistic reality in the minds of the speakers of this language.

1.2. The linguistic aspects
As regards the origin of the Amazigh language, several efforts have been made to find out its exact source and its subsequent expansion, but in the end the most widely accepted theory among specialists is the one that suggests an Afro-Asiatic origin, a family in which languages like old Egyptian, Cushitic, or Chadic are found. [2]
The varieties of the Amazigh language –from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso– are a reflection of its linguistic evolution depending on the specific geographical, economic and political conditions of each group. However, among the different varieties of the Amazigh language –divided in three main groups: Amazigh from Morocco (including three varieties: Tarifit, Tachelhit and Tamazight), Amazigh from Kabyle (Algeria), and Tuareg– there are few differences in terms of vocabulary and grammar, and therefore Amazigh-speakers can understand and communicate with each other [3]. Here are some examples that illustrate the variation among the three groups that make up the Amazigh language:

Amazigh from Morocco
Amazigh from
One yan yiwen isen
To go ddu ruh eyel
Tolerance iggigen rreud éggag

Moreover, it is also noteworthy the fact that, due to the contact there has been and still is between Amazigh and Arabic (both classical and spoken), Amazigh has taken a number of words from Arabic, such as:

Religon addin eddin
Mother umm ymma
Blood adamu idamen
Book alkitab taktabt (en la Cabilia)
lektab (en Marruecos y en tuareg)

On the phenomenon of the borrowings, Chaker Salem (1991: 226) states that:
“En Kabyle et en Chleuh [Chleuh are the varieties of Amazigh from Morocco] les emprunts se répartissent de façon égale entre les verbes et les substantifs: Kabyle: 38% d’emprunt parmi les verbes, taux global 38%, Chleuh: 24% d’emprunts parmi les verbes, taux global 25%, seul le Touareg accuse un certain déséquilibre de ce point de vue, puisqu’il y a prés de deux fois plus d’emprunts parmi les substantifs que parmi les verbes. La situation touarégue paraît tout fait normale, car les verbes s’empruntent plus difficilement que les noms et il faut atteindre un niveau de contacts très prégnant pour les verbes étrangères sont aussi bien représentés que les substantifs.”
Nonetheless, the present situation of Amazigh lexicography does not allow us to get a much deeper insight, so that the few examples we have provided should suffice to approximately prove our point.
On the other hand, it would be impossible to make a syntactical description of the Amazigh language in just a few lines, so we will instead provide a list with the most significant works, those considered to be of useful reference, at the end of the present paper.
As for the alphabet of the Amazigh language, up to now 23 phonemes have been registered, although it is not certain whether there existed more in earlier times. Furthermore, even though nowadays Amazigh is just a spoken language, there is also a graphical representation for it, with 41 letters, known as tifinag. So far, more than 1,200 pre-islamic inscriptions have been found, plus other inscriptions and drawings carved on stones in Berber Sahara and on the Canary Islands. Such inscriptions show the existence of an Amazigh writing, which probably derived from the Libyan alphabet. However, nowadays its written form is going through a static phase, due to a lack of usage or, as Salem Chake
r (1999: 25) states, “partout l’écrit reste un épiphénomène sans ancrage profond pour l’instant.”

1.3. The distribution of speakers on the territory
The varieties of Amazigh extend along the Mediterranean coast, from Morocco (including the Canary Islands) to Egypt, and towards the south, from the Mediterranean coast to the Niger River. Their most outstanding feature is the great distance that exists between the countries where Amazigh is spoken, which hinders the processes of language exchange and planning among them. This situation causes the existence of greater differences and more heterogeneity among the varieties of Amazigh.
In Morocco the Amazigh language is divided in three varieties, depending on the area and the communities:
1-Tamazight, spoken in the mountains of the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas.
2-Tarifit, spoken in the Riff Mountains, in the north of the country.
3-Tachelhit, spoken in the Anti-Atlas and in the Sus Mountains, in the south.

According to official statistics compiled in 1994, Morocco has 28 million inhabitants, of which 90% speak Moroccan Arabic, while the three varieties of Amazigh are spoken by 30% of the population. As regards the Amazigh varieties, there are 2,5 million Tachelhit-speakers in the south of Morocco –known as Sus–, 3 million Tamazight-speakers in the Atlas Mountains, and about 1,7 million Tarifit-speakers in the Riff [4]. However, these data do not correspond to those reported by some associations of defence of the Amazigh language. These, such as Congrès International de la Langue Amazigh, Association Marocaine de Recherche et d’Èchanges Culturels and Association Kabyle International-France, assert that more than 50% of the population speak Amazigh and are of Amazigh origin on their father’s or mother’s side. One should not forget the speakers of an origin other than Amazigh, but who speak one of the varieties of Amazigh, so that this figure could be raised up to an 80% of Amazigh-speakers.[5]
The amount of Moroccan Amazigh-speakers living in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla must also be added to these figures, although most of them have a Spanish passport. However, in these two cities the Amazigh language has no official status, therefore, for the time being it is a minoritised language.

1.4. Usage and functions
When discussing the usage of a language, reference is made to the amount of speakers and the status it enjoys within society. If we apply the data provided above to the Amazigh language in Morocco, we may say that its usage is restricted to family circles, since not all Moroccan citizens speak the language. However, from the point of view of the territorial distribution of the language, we can also say that in the areas where Amazigh is spoken, its usage is more extended, as, in fact, it is present in everyday life and, in some occasions, in the public administration as well, only when the staff are Amazigh-speakers. On the other hand, it is an exclusively oral-type usage, never written.
In regard to the use of these varieties in the mass media, there is a state radio station, which broadcasts daily and devotes some time to each variety. Moreover, for the last few years, the first state television channel has been broadcasting a news programme in Amazigh. In the written press, as the so-called “Amazigh cause” has recently gained significance, there is some tolerance for the publication of magazines which cover exclusively linguistic, anthropological and historical topics regarding the Amazigh language and culture, such as Imazhegen, Tifinagh: revue mensuelle de culture et de civilisations ”maghrébine” or Tasafut. All three were quite famous and prestigious, but are not published any more. Today, a few weekly and monthly magazines are published, such as Le Monde Amazigh, Akraou Amazigh or Tawiza.
So there is no doubt that the Amazigh language still has a significant weight within the Moroccan society, given its dynamism. Furthermore, a more relevant aspect may be pointed out, namely the capacity of a language to reflect identity features of an ethno-linguistic group within another group –that of the Arabic-speakers– in all aspects. Thus, the Amazigh language, besides being a communication tool, is able to transmit the particularities and characteristics of a deep-rooted culture within the Moroccan society.
In the field of education, we may state that the teaching of Amazigh is scarce in comparison with classical Arabic, French, English, and Spanish, since it is not taught in school, in spite of the royal decrees (dahirs) that introduced educational programmes –mainly the Royal Decree no. 1-01-299, of October 17, 2001 (29 rajab al khaïr 1422)–, but they still have not been implemented. By contrast, there are some educational programmes, although very few, in establishments of non-formal education, such as the Amazigh language and culture teaching programme of the French Institute of Agadir, and other classes given in some associations or NGOs working on the dissemination and protection of this language, both in Morocco and in other countries.

1.5. The ideological-institutional aspects of the Amazigh language
As above mentioned, Amazigh is a dominated language: although it is widely spoken, it is in fact a minoritised language, since it is not acknowledged by institutions.
On the other hand, politicians and linguists usually present it as a series of tongues, stressing its mainly oral character. These language varieties have been given many different designations: dialects, varieties, wild tongues, indigenous languages, etc., so they have never been fully acknowledged as a language, as linguists have done, especially in language atlases.
In Moroccan official texts like the Mudawana (the civil code) and, in particular, the Constitution no reference is made to Amazigh; as a matter of fact, it has no institutional status. This is also the case of official political speeches and all institutional texts, which systematically avoid any mention to the term “Amazigh”. The situation is the same in the rest of countries where Amazigh is spoken, except in Mali and Niger, where the varieties of the Amazigh language are considered as national languages.
As for the status of Amazigh in Morocco, one of the aspects that have to be stressed out is the role France played in the elimination of the Moroccan national identity, by using the Amazigh people as a tool. On the one side, France strove to present the countries with a significant portion of Amazigh-speakers as a mosaic of hostile ethnic groups, and, on the other hand, it tried to evangelise the Amazigh people, thus provoking a feeling of rejection against their Arabic-speaking fellow countrymen; they even intended to leave aside the religious bonds shared by the Arabs and the Amazigh people.
The adoption of the Addahir albarbari (Berber Decree) in 1931 proves this strategy. This decree tried to create some kind of separation between the Amazigh-speaking population and the Arabic-speaking population, as it aimed at promoting the linguistic, religious and territorial independence of Moroccan Amazigh-speakers from Moroccan Arabic-speakers. However, this decree was rejected by both parties, which were engaged in their resistance against French colonialism.
Given its authority and dominant position, France could have taken many different initiatives: it had the chance to promote an Amazigh-language education –especially in Algeria, where it stayed the longest– and, among other things, to create Amazigh-language institutions, press and mass media. The only action that France carried out was the creation of a Centre of Berber Studies in Azrou, close to Meknès, an area with a high portion of Amazigh-speakers; however, later on this centre was closed.
In short, the language policy on the Amazigh language in the French colonisation period, as pointed out by Chaker Salem (1999:12):
“n’était q’une illustration particulière d’options générales, déjà mises en oeuvre au sein du territoire Français: la centralisation absolue et la liquidation des particularismes régionaux. Au delà de la phraséologie, l’État Français ne pouvait avoir que mépris pour les dialectes berbères sans tradition écrite et diversifiés á l’extrême. La seule perspective qu’il pouvait concevoir á leur sujet était leur lente disparition.”

As a consequence, when independence was gained, Moroccan language policy was re-defined in an irreversible manner: since then, classical Arabic has been and still is the official language.
It must also be pointed out that, both before and after independence was gained, the three varieties of Amazigh of Morocco have not undergone a process of codification and normalisation; as a matter of fact, no grammar with the common rules of the whole Amazigh language has been written. Moreover, the teaching processes of the Amazigh language have been very scarce and poor throughout history.
Given the definition of a vernacular language provided by UNESCO –“the mother tongue of a minority group being socially dominated by another group which speaks another language” (from Ninyoles, 1972:181)–, we may say that Amazigh has the status of a vernacular language, since in Morocco, according to the perception that the majority of Moroccan citizens have of it and to its social practice, it is a domestic and family language.

1.6. Future perspectives
EnIn regard to the perspectives of the Amazigh language, in the last ten years an “Amazigh” defence movement has arisen[6]; this movement is composed by a number of associations which organise cultural activities, in order to disseminate the intellectual thought of university students, politicians involved in the Amazigh issue and other socio-political agents. As a starting point for their claims, in 1991 several cultural associations wrote the Charte d’Agadir relative aux droits linguistiques et culturels [7], which intended to contribute to the overall project of building a national democratic culture. Moreover, on March 1, 2000, after two years of intense debate, 229 intellectuals signed a manifesto –Le Manifeste Berbère [8]– considered up to now as a very relevant document of the Amazigh movement in Morocco.
As a consequence of the rise of this movement, the State policy concerning the Amazigh issue has changed: in October 1999 the Charte Nationale d’Éducation et de Formation (National Charter for Education and Training) was adopted and on October 17, 2001, the Royal Decree establishing the creation of the IRCAM (Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe – Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture). Both texts claim the need to establish the teaching of Amazigh and the presence of the Amazigh culture in the educational system. Thus, we may say that the future perspectives are in some ways positive in comparison with previous times, as for instance in the 60’s, the 70’s or the 80’s, when the Amazigh language suffered repression. Even the institutional position, and especially that of the King, is showing more respect for the language, considering, for example, the recent creation of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, in October 2001.
The most relevant aspect of the rise of the Amazigh movement is the impulse with which it has extended beyond the intellectual and university circles, presenting the Amazigh issue as a responsibility for all Moroccan citizens. During the last years, the public opinion is more aware of the Amazigh language issue; a proof for this is the great number of active pro-Amazigh associations in Morocco, which have increased in the last two years.
It would be worthwhile investigating whether those responsible for the State consider it as a separatist movement which is endangering the country’s unity. If this were the case, the socio-political status of the Amazigh language and culture within Moroccan everyday life could change. [9]

2. Language policy and normalisation processes

2.1. The language policy model
When many of the Maghreb countries gained independence, including Morocco, most of them faced a complex linguistic situation: multilingualism, with a clear prevalence of the colonial language. For ideological reasons, the language policy that was implemented –the imposition of Arabic as the only official language– created a situation of imbalance in the status of the other languages and, therefore, there was a situation of diglossia. Furthermore, efforts were made to hide the language conflict that could arise as a consequence of such language policy. These ideological-type criteria, which lead to on which the implemented language policy was based are related with a general policy based on the grounds of the State-nation.
As regards the case of Morocco, its language policy has always been utterly monolingual, as it has followed a mono-modal pattern, characterised by the official status of the language of the dominant group, in this case Arabic, and at the same time the maintenance of the colonisation language, due to the requirements of the new State-nation. Nevertheless, the situation is exceptional, for different reasons, as the reality is multilingual. The first reason is that no large-scale scientific or social actions have been carried out in order to modify the diglossic relationship between the languages and to improve the status of the minoritised languages. On the other hand, it is necessary to point out that the Moroccan situation, if not the same, is very similar to the one in other Maghreb countries, for instance Algeria or Tunisia, where there is a situation of multilingualism and where the Amazigh language is present. However, none of the language policies that have been implemented have yet been able to change the situation of minoritisation and status imbalance between the different languages.
The second reason is that, in the case of Morocco, and as far as the Amazigh language is concerned, in spite of the lack of a language planning of the three varieties, they are spoken by at least a third of the population –over 10 million people–, and its common and everyday usage has been kept, although with a great imbalance concerning its political and social status. Thus, language policy in Morocco may be considered as the cause of the status imbalance of the Amazigh language, and it then seems to create the imbalance in its social use functions.
This imbalance or inequality between the status, the usage and the perception of languages is still present in other colonised countries. Algeria and Tunisia are examples of this, as above mentioned, as their situation is similar to that of the current diglossic situation in Morocco.
In 1962, the year Algeria gained independence, it was a totally frenchified country; today it is a widely arabised country and its language policy is designed to maintain this situation. In the Maghreb, and particularly in Algeria, arabisation (restitution of Arabic) has taken place because the mother tongues of the population groups in Algeria –Algerian Arabic and Kabyle, depending on the region– are two non-graphical variants of classical Arabic and Amazigh, respectively. On the other hand, Arabic, classical or literary, which was introduced with the arrival of Islam in the 7th century, was the only written language before colonisation imposed French –written and spoken– and took an official status.
Nonetheless, as Grandguillome (1997: 3) points out:
"La politique linguistique des autorités algériennes aurait pu aboutir, pour les parlers arabes, à une solution «à l'égyptienne»: un mélange subtil d'arabe classique et de langues locales. Mais les parlers berbères? Leur vice premier, c'est qu'ils témoignent d'une Algérie antérieure à la conquête arabe. De surcroît, il n'y a pas d'intercompréhension avec les parlers arabes. Leur disparition était donc programmée par la logique même de l'arabisation, mais aussi du fait des pratiques du pouvoir. Avec un résultat redoutable: des fractions importantes de la population, pour lesquelles les langues locales représentent un support identitaire, se sentent exclues de la nouvelle construction nationale"
On the other hand, the political thought of traditional arabists presents arabisation as a language struggle between Arabic and French, which is true inasmuch as the first took the position of French and is, so far, the national and official language. Furthermore, the most conservative sectors perceive this as a conflict with France, even with Algerians who use French in their everyday activities, who are called «hizb de Fransa», i.e. those who sustain the French model.
It is noteworthy that the arabisation process in the other Maghreb countries, at least Algeria, has had the same consequences as in Morocco, especially regarding the relationship among languages and their political status.

2.2. The status of languages
Given the current situation and depending on the individual circumstances of each language and the number of speakers, Morocco can be said to have minority and majority languages. Two other concepts can also be used, in terms of the type of language policy carried out by the State: languages which are protected by the dominant political powers and unprotected languages. Henri Boyer (1997: 13, 14) states that:
“l’histoire nous enseigne cependant que la langue dominante (pour des raisons évidemment peu linguistiques) finit par marginaliser la / les langue(s) dominée(s) et par se substituer purement et simplement á elle(s). La sociolinguistique périphérique soutient que la diglossie instaure une hiérarchie et donc une distribution inégalitaire des usages des langues en présence, une subordination sociolinguistique (Lamuela 1987 et 1994), un déséquilibre et, en définitive, une instabilité (Gardy et Lafont 1981, Lafont 1979 et 1989, Jardel 1982, Boyer 1991, Kremnitz 1987 et 1991.)".

Based on the current relationship among the languages in Morocco and their social function, the situation is the following:
There are two groups of languages, in terms of their usage sphere: 1) institutional languages, and 2) communication languages. The first group includes those languages with a majority-type usage, i.e. classical Arabic and French, while the group of communication languages (mother languages, which are commonly used) encompasses two sub-groups, that of majority languages used on an everyday basis, i.e. Amazigh and Moroccan Arabic, and that of minority languages, that is French, classical Arabic and, sometimes, Spanish.
As above mentioned, French and classical Arabic are the only two languages allowed in the institutional sphere, which is due, among other things, to the fact that both undergo a strict normalisation process, as there is only one type of normative French, the one proposed and defended by the Académie Française, and the same goes for classical Arabic, whose normalisation and evolution is followed up by the Arabisation Coordination Bureau. However, it must be emphasised that, even though there is a conflict of prestige and power between these two languages, Arabic has incorporated many terms of French origin in order to make up for its scientific and communicative needs, which is a normal phenomenon, given that both languages are in contact. But then, can we admit that both languages seem to be socio-politically protected? On this issue Youssi (1983: 77) believes that: “L’arabe classique et le français sont acquis à l’école, c’est-á-dire par l’instruction formelle. Cependant, si l’AC est la langue de «prestige» lue et écrite, le français est la langue de pouvoir, qui est parlée, lue et écrite.»
And what about Moroccan Arabic and Amazigh? It is known that their everyday use is much wider than that of classical Arabic, French or Spanish; as a matter of fact, their evolution has been very spontaneous and fast because they are not subject to a written tradition or a spelling or grammatical normalisation; they have an oral tradition. On the other hand, according to those who defend classical Arabic, they both lack a great deal of technical, philosophical and abstract terms, and, in their opinion, they cannot be compared to classical Arabic. [10]
Concerning the status of languages in Morocco, Castellanos i Llorenç (1997: 10.3.2) points out that:
“Les diferències d'estatus lingüístic i d'ús de les diferents varietats lingüístiques utilitzades al Marroc estableixen unes relacions de tipus jeràrquic […] l'àrab estàndard és l'única varietat lingüística que té l'estatus jurídic de llengua nacional tot i que és una varietat que posseeix un nombre reduït d'usuaris reals (avaluat entre un 10 i un 15% de la població). Amb un nombre d'usuaris més reduït encara, la llengua francesa posseeix "un paper privilegiat" en el sistema educatiu. L'àrab dialectal és la llengua materna dels marroquins no-amazighòfons i funciona de facto com la llengua vehicular dels marroquins, i també com a llengua franca ja que és utilitzada entre els arabòfons i entre aquells amazighòfons que utilitzen parlars allunyats”.

In such circumstances, when different languages are in contact, the oral ones are usually treated in a pejorative and discriminative way, they are politically and socially disdained, as those who defend the use of classical Arabic have held and still hold political power and take part in all language policy processes.
Taking into account the way in which some languages are unequally treated, the situation of the Amazigh language may be even more difficult, because it is ignored by the current language planning and, therefore, it is minoritised by classical Arabic and Moroccan Arabic, whose dialectal status is somehow accepted, while Amazigh is dealt with as a simple folklore element of Moroccan culture. Aït Lamkedem (1999: 31) points out that: “la culture berbère intervient épisodiquement dans les médias télévisuels comme une composante folklorique nationale de divertissement.” [11]
Considering this general approach towards the Amazigh language, without doubt those who defend the Arabic language see Amazigh as a “wild”, totally useless language, which is to be assimilated by the other languages, as Aït Lamkedem (1999: 32) points out: “plus les instances gouvernementales renforcent les idées impliquant de grandes différences entre ces variantes [i.e. of the Amazigh language], alors perçus comme autant de dialectes sauvages non structurés et non opérationnels”.
In Morocco, the State’s language policy has created a situation of imbalance among languages, which will most likely evolve later on into a language conflict. Needless to say, in Morocco today, with the creation of the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Cultu [12], a new Amazigh language planning and normalisation policy has been launched, so that this language can be introduced not only into the educational system, but into the different spheres of everyday life.
Moreover, since Mohammed VI came to the throne, the official position concerning Morocco’s language policy and the situation of its languages has been altered, as the country’s existing multilingualism has been explicitly acknowledged. In this line, in a speech given by King Mohammed VI on July 31, 2001 in Khenifra, direct reference was made not only to Morocco’s Arabian character, but also to its Amazigh character. This speech is crucial within the history of the country’s language policy, because not only did it acknowledge the Amazigh identity of a majority of Moroccan citizens, but it also established the creation of the new Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), by virtue of the Royal Decree no. 1-01-299, of October 17, 2001 (29 rajab al khaïr 1422).
Thus, with this new language policy a new period for the Amazigh language has started in Morocco and, as a consequence, much hope is given to more than 10 million speakers of Amazigh, as one of the main functions of this institution is to promote the Amazigh language in all fields, especially in the educational system.

3. Educational policy in Morocco
In the field of education, it should be noted that until 1958, two years after Morocco gained independence, education was in French. Afterwards, i.e. since 1965, Morocco started its arabisation policy, which was described as being horizontal, since it was gradually introduced. Thus, the arabisation of the primary education lasted three years and the secondary education was arabised within the following seven years. By carrying on this policy, by 1980 Morocco had fully arabised the first four levels of primary education, while in secondary education 25% to 50% of the subjects were taught only in Arabic. It was not until 1990 that primary and secondary education were totally arabised. As for universities, up to now some studies are bilingual, for instance the studies of law and economics; by contrast, science studies and higher education colleges and institutes still use French.
Nonetheless, the cultural and linguistic context of Morocco is characterised by the significance of Arabic as well as by the presence of Amazigh, French and Spanish, which is a proof of the country’s existing multilingualism. Moreover, the presence of Islam, which constitutes a fundamental value associated with the Monarchy, must also be taken into account, as it represents a symbol of unity within this context of plurality and linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity. Based on these factors, Morocco first established its Constitution and its Mudawana (the civil code), by virtue of which the Islamic law, which was based on the Koran and the Sunna –the actions and sayings of the Prophet–, was given preference, and, then, Arabic became the official language. As regards the field of education, although a great proportion of the Moroccan population has one of the three Amazigh varieties as their mother tongue, it has never been carried out in Amazigh, since the educational and language policy has always been monolingual (first in French and then in Arabic).

The new educational policy of Morocco was initiated after a speech given by the former king of Morocco, Hassan II, in March 1999, in which he made reference to the need to reform the Moroccan educational system and establish a new language policy in this field. Shortly afterwards, during the 1999-2000 school year, the National Charter for Education and Training was adopted; as the aim of such a Charter was to restructure the Moroccan educational system, it included a series of articles which are related with the future language policy that is to be implemented in the educational system.
Today, with the adoption of this act, the presence of the other languages has been acknowledged, on the one hand; it even mentions the need to have an open approach towards the Amazigh language. On the other hand, it makes reference to the importance of improving the educational system and the teaching of foreign languages, and even to the need to have a good command of them and use them in class.
Finally, it should be found out whether the type of language policy set out by the Charter is compatible with the country’s socio-linguistic reality and with the educational practice carried out. Moreover, it would be most interesting to investigate to what extent the situation of multilingualism can be a source of conflict among languages, especially between classical Arabic and foreign languages.


[1] The author, Adil Moustaoui, is a PhD student at the Faculty of Arts of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Department of Linguistics, Modern Languages, Logics, Philosophy of Science, Literary Theory and Comparative Literature).
[2] OUAKRIM, O. Fonética y fonología del Bereber. Servei de Publications de Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 1995.
[3] See CHAKER, S. Manuel de linguistique Berbére I. Alger: Editions Bouchéne, 1991.
[4] Up to now, in Morocco no statistical survey has been carried out on the number of speakers of each of the three varieties of Amazigh; the data provided are just estimations.
[5] This information was published in a dossier of the magazine Tel quel (no. 3, November 2001), which had a great impact in Morocco.
[6] See OUAZI, E. H. [The Birth of the Amazigh Cultural Movement in Morocco]. Rabat: Imprimerie Al Maarif Al jadida, 2000. [in Arabic]
[7] The text of the Charte d’Agadir is available at
[8] The text of Le Manifeste Berbère is available, among others, at
[9] See KRATOCHWIL, G. “Les associations culturelles Amazighes au Maroc. Bilans et perspectives”. IN: Prologues: revue maghrébine du livre, no. 17. Casablanca, 1999.
[10] For further research, see EL JABRI, M. A. Le Maroc moderne. La spécificité, l’identité et le développement. Casablanca: Éd. Banchera, 1998. By the same author, Projet d’une vision progressiste sur quelques problèmes pédagogiques et culturels. Casablanca, 1972. See also SAAF, A. “L’idée de l’unité arabe dans le discours politique maghrébin”. IN: Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord. Paris: CNRS, 1985.
[11] See BOUKOUS, A. “ La langue berbère et la culture amazighes. Entre la plénitude du fait et la vacuité du droit”. IN: Prologues: revue maghrébine du livre, no. 17. Casablanca, 1999. p. 22-29, or EL QUADÉRY, M. “Les berbères entre le mythe colonial et la négation national. Le cas du Maroc”. IN: Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, no. 45, Vol 2. Montpellier, 1998.
[12] The Royal Decree adopted in October 2001, establishing the creation of the IRCAM, was published in Arabic and French. Excerpts of the French version and their English translation are included in the present dossier.