We are proud to announce that Amara supports the Tedaga language!

Supporting new languages on Amara helps strengthen their status on the global stage, and encourages its speakers to translate media into their language for local language communities to enjoy. We encourage members of our community to suggest additional languages to further our efforts. If you cannot find your language in the Amara language dropdown list, send us a ticket through our support site with information about the language.

Tedaga language in subtitle language dropdown menu

The Teda people

Tedaga is spoken by the Teda (or Tedda) people who are part of the wider Toubou community located near Chad, Niger, and Libya. The suffix “-ga” identifies Tedaga as the language of the Teda people. Similarly, the Daza (or Dassa) people, the other subgroup that makes up the Toubou community, speak Dazaga. 

The Teda people are the northern subgroup of the Toubou people that inhabits southern Libya, eastern Niger, and northern Chad around the Tibesti mountains.  The word Toubou roughly translates to “people of the mountains.” 

Image credit: Wikipedia user ArnoldPlaton, CC BY-SA 3.0

Teda society is mostly made up of herders, Trans-Saharan traders, and farmers. The Teda people herd dromedaries, goats, cattle, donkeys and sheep and they farm dates, grains, and legumes on the scattered oases in their area. Many Teda people circulate between countries. So depending on the country, they may also speak French, English, or Arabic as their second languages. 

History of the Toubou people

Over the decades, the Toubou people have called for more representation in their government and more aid for infrastructure in underdeveloped regions, as documented by the Society for Threatened Peoples

In 1996, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi issued Decree No. 13 (1485), declaring that all those holding identification issued in Aouzou would be considered foreigners. In 2007, the Gaddafi government stripped the Toubou people of their Libyan citizenship. This move cited that any past Toubou loyalty with Chad justified stripping the Toubou of their Libyan identity cards and denying them access to health and education facilities in their own country. Continued persecution of the Toubou escalated in 2009 with evictions and forced displacement from their home territory.

Home Team History video on the Toubou people’s struggles in Libya

In post-Gaddafi Libya, there are signs of healing and growth through literacy classes in the Tedaga language and beyond. The cultural center in Murzuq, the magazine Labara Zalaa, and the newspaper Sodur Zalaa have opened a path for the Teda people to experience a cultural awakening in their mother tongue after years of language suppression and assimilation campaigns. And in the heart of the Tibesti mountains, the cultural center library of Bardai also gave Teda people the opportunity to learn the building blocks of their written language, children and adults alike. By today, the language is making remarkable progress across Libya, Chad, and Niger through books, cartoons, and a dictionary app

Video of Tedaga alphabet

The Tedaga language

Tedaga is written left-to-right with a Latin alphabet. We want to thank user Simon Neuhaus for suggesting the addition of the Tedaga to the list of Amara’s supported languages. It is classified as a threatened language according to the Agglomerated Endangerment Scale.

Tedaga is part of the proposed “Nilo-Saharan” language family.  A language family is a group of languages usually related through descent from a common ancestral language, called the proto-language. According to Ethnologue there are 7,117 living human languages distributed in 142 different language families. The term “family” reflects the historical use of the tree model in language classification which is similar to the model used in biology to identify common ancestors of different species.

The Nilo-Saharan language family, to which Teda belongs, spans 17 nations in the northern half of Africa and has been contested by language specialists for decades. Unlike most accepted language families, there is no reconstructed proto-language for this family. The Nilo-Saharan macro-family is a group of over 200 otherwise unaffiliated non-click languages of northern Africa. Let’s take a look at the origins of this contested language family.

Origins of the Nilo-Saharan classification

In 1963, the American linguist Joseph Greenberg published his book The Languages of Africa in which he grouped hundreds of African languages into four groups: Afroasiatic, Khoisan Niger–Congo, and Nilo-Saharan.  Both Afroasiatic and Nilo-Saharan are considered by many to be “macrofamilies.” A macrofamily is a language family that has not been proven to be related in the linguistic sense by most acceptable standards. For example, Glottolog, a publication of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, does not currently accept the proposed unity of the Nilo-Saharan language family. The most common objection is based on the methodology used to group these languages. Specifically, the use of mass comparison is still seen to be unreliable.

What is mass comparison of languages?

Mass comparison of languages is an extension of the more accepted comparative method language classification. A linguist using the comparative method compares two languages at a time, identifies common traits, and concludes the level of relatedness between the languages before moving onto others. Mass comparison, however, allows a linguist to compare many languages at once. The issue comes in through geography. Languages in the same geographical area or “sprachbund,” will inevitably begin to borrow words from each other over years of trade and other interactions. But this does not necessarily prove a common language ancestor.

Language is key to accessibility

It is exciting to imagine how our understanding of language families will change as languages around the world become more accessible. As more media is shared and translated, there are more opportunities to learn about how language is shaped by its community and history. 

There is warmth and welcome in the word family. We are born into families. And, in a way, so are our languages. But we also find a sense of family outside of direct genetic lines. Through common dreams, goals, and interests; we find pieces of ourselves that we recognize in our friends, our coworkers, our partners in life. Through language and culture, we can reach across borders and find each other. And we hope that the Tedaga language finds a welcome home among the Amara family.

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