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Any member of a community native to the Maghrib who speaks one of various Berber languages, including Tamazight, Tashahit, and Tarifit. Berber-speakers were the original inhabitants of North Africa, though many regions succumbed to colonization by the Roman Republic and Empire and later (from the 7th century AD) to conquest by the Arabs. Berbers gradually accepted Islam, and many switched to Arabic or became bilingual. Berber languages are still spoken in some rural and mountain areas of Morocco and Algeria and by some inhabitants of Tunisia and Libya. Since the 1990s Berber intellectuals have sought to revive interest in the language. The Berber-speaking Almoravid and Almohad dynasties built empires in North Africa and Spain in the 11th–13th centuries. See alsoAbd el-Krim; Kabyle; Rif.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Berber, visit Britannica.com.