Noun genders in Tachelhit are very straightforward, and much easier to cope with as a student than any European language I’ve studied.
As in most languages, a noun’s gender can often seem completely arbitrary. But unlike in, for example, German, where a student has to learn the gender of each noun as he goes along, nouns in Tachelhit are kind enough to tell you what gender they are (99% of the time).
We’ve already looked at this, but just to recap:
Nouns beginning with a vowel are almost always masculine.
Examples: argaz (man), afrux (boy), igr (field), aduwwar (village), anzar (rain)
Nouns beginning (and usually ending) with T are always feminine.
Examples: tamghart (woman), tafruxt (girl), tigmmi (house), taqr3it (bottle), tafukt (sun)
In many cases, the base root of a noun can take either gender by adding or dropping the feminine marker:
afrux (boy) –> tafruxt (girl)
afullus (rooster) –> tafullust (hen)
asli (groom) –> taslit (bride)
axddam (male worker) –> taxddamt (female worker)
achelhi (male Berber) –> tachelhit (female Berber)
N.B. this is not always true. Some examples of nouns where the female form does not resemble the male:
argaz (man), tamghart (woman)
azgr (bull), tafunast (cow)
izimmr (ram), tili (ewe)
gwma (my brother), ultma (my sister)
iwi (my son), illi (my daughter)
Another use of the feminine marker t-t is to form the diminutive of an object (similar to how in Spanish burro ‘donkey’ can become burrito ‘little donkey’ just by changing the form of the word).
This rule was explained to me by a native Tachelhit speaker, and the example he used was:
agayyu (head) –> tagayyut (cute little headsy-weadsy)
That’s the example he gave me, OK?
Often two similar or related things can have the same noun root, but different genders:
aggu (smoke), taggut (mist)
achelhi (Berber man), tachelhit (Berber language)
ayyur (moon), tamayyurt (full moon)
I find learning these words in pairs helps with memorization.
A significant percentage of spoken Tachelhit includes Arabic loanwords. These fall into two categories: those that have been absorbed into Tachelhit, and those that have kept their Arabic form.
Here are some Arabic nouns that behave as Tachelhit words:
a3skri – soldier
anjjar – carpenter
aHddad/s-sudur – welder
tashttabt – broom
tal3rst – garden
talxnsht – bag
taqr3it – bottle
And here are some Arabic nouns which keep their Arabic form:
l-kas – glass
s-suq – market
l-bab – door, gate
s-snduq – box
d-dunit – world, everything
l-mdrasa – school
l-bit – room
t-tumubil – car