What is Tamajaq?

Tamajaq Language Region
Tamajaq (ttq) language is spoken here.

First, foremost, and most simply Tamajaq is a word! As a word, it is subject to various uses by various people to refer to various subjects.

The two primary ways in which the word Tamajaq is used are:

  1. Tamajaq is a word in the English language used by linguists to name the language referred to by the code ttq in the ISO 639-3 language coding standard. The French, Russian, and Chinese languages also have technical words to name this language. They are tamacheq, тамашек, and 塔马舍克语 , respectively.

To a linguist who has studied the subgroup of Berber languages spoken by the Tuareg people of the Southern Sahara, the word Tamajaq is a technical term used to name a language spoken by many people in Western Niger, Southeastern Mali, and Northeastern Burkina Faso. In this technical sense the word Tamajaq is synonymous with the word Tawallammat. The language is grouped with three other ISO 639-3 languages (Tamahaq, Tamasheq, and Tamajeq) in the macrolanguage specified by ISO 639-3 and ISO 639-2 Code: tmh (Tamashek).

  1. Tamajaq is a word in the Tamajaq language, used by native Tamajaq speakers in Western Niger, Southeastern Mali, and Northeastern Burkina Faso to refer to the broader language they share with other “Tamajaq” speakers throughout Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Algeria. In this primary indigenous usage, the word Tamajaq is not synonymous with the word Tawallammat. From the perspective of a native Tamajaq speaker the word Tamajaq encompasses four major dialects of Tamajaq:Tahaggart (literally the Tamajaq of the Ahaggar Mountain region of Algeria), Tamashek (the Tamajaq of the Kidal region of Mali), Tayart (literally the Tamajaq of the Aïr Mountain region in Niger), and their own dialect, Tawallammat (literally the Tamajaq of Ioullemmeden peoples).

In this broader indigenous usage, the word Tamajaq translates the words TamahaqTamasheq, and Tamajeq from their respective dialects into the Tawallammat dialect.

However, it should be noted that Tamajaq speakers have a totum pro parte usage. In this usage, by synecdoche, the word Tamajaq is synonymous with the word Tawallammat.

In summary, linguists have created the word Tamshek to name the larger macrolanguage. They use the words Tamajaq and Tawallammat synonymously to refer to only a smaller language within the macrolanguage. In contrast native Tamajaq speakers primarily use the word Tamajaq to refer to the language of the larger group, and specify the language of their own smaller grouping with the word Tawallammat.