Guanche is an extinct language thought to belong to the Berber language
family which was spoken in the Canary Islands until the 16th or 17th century.
The language is also known as Insular Tamazight, Ancient Canarian Language
Although the origins of Berber settlement in the Canaries are obscure and
still unknown, the first material evidence could be traced back to 1000 BC.
More modern migrations from North Africa are also known to have ocurred,
possibly with Punic and Roman expeditions.
The genetic affiliation of this language is unclear due to the diverse
admixture of different dialectal influences found in the archipelago, and
the important dialectalization of each island's local speech. But there
is a common substate, possibly the oldest Berber influx, related to Tamajeq
dialects, mostly identifiable in the vocabulary.
The word Guanche is used to refer only to the native people of the
island of Tenerife. The equivalent in Guanche language is wa-n Shen(shen),
which means "the one of Ashenshen" In later times this word became used to
refer to the whole archipelago's natives.
Although the conquest and subsequent Spanish (Castillian)
colonization resulted in a violent supression and acculturation, which lead
to the total extintion of the language, many Guanche traits can still
be found today in Canarian culture and local vocabulary (gofio,
perenquén, tajinaste, jaira, tabaiba ...).
Moreover, in recent years there has been an important revival of Guanche
identity, with research and reconstruction of the Insular Tamazight
as one of its main parts.
Today Guanche elements can be found extensively in toponyms (Gomera,
Tacoronte, Tindaya, Adeje, Orotava ...) and even in given names or surnames
(Cathaysa, Ayoze, Tanausú, Bencomo...), as well as contemporaneous anotations
from chroniclers, recent inscription decipherments and oral tradition. Through
comparative linguistics, as with Proto-Indoeuropean and other attempts to
revive extint languages, Insular Tamazight phonetics can be recovered and
used to study its relationship to continental Berber languages.
Many Tifinagh inscriptions have been found in the Canary Islands, which
makes it easier to identify a genetic relationship with the continental
linguistic varieties, with a clear predominance of Proto-Tuareg substrate.
Tifinagh inscription from Barranco de la Angostura in Gran Canaria