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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 or Ínsuloamaziq.

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

Sample Tifinagh inscription from Barranco de la Angostura in Gran Canaria


ZMRW YZMWKR GTW - *Za əmirəw: əyyu zam, awa akkar igət wa


Regarding obedience: abandon the water reserve, it is stealing the (real) abundance.

Tifinagh inscription from San Miguel de Abona in Tenerife

Sample Tifinagh inscription from San Miguel de Abona in Tenerife


DJYNWLT / FWṢ TS <ŠQS> - *Idi ijjây-in Walăt. Afa iwâṣ tăsa


Sirius converges there with Canopus. The light excites the heart*.

The “ŠQS”, written over the previous verb “excites”, could be a post-conquest Christian rejection of the old beliefs expressed in this phrase.

Sample texts in Guanche

Alzanxiquian abcanahac xerax -*Als-ânɣ ikiyan abẓ/q a-nn ahaẓ Ahɣeraɣ

Guaxate hequei adei acharan afaro yafana haxaran -*Wassksaḍ, ḥăkku əy addăy ačaran, afaro y afanan; ha əkkəs aran

Tanaga Guayoch Archimenseu Nahaya Dir hanido Sahet chunga pelut -*Tanaqqa wayyaw wš, menzu nahağğa dir ɣandaw saɣet, šunga bel-wt


Retake for us the origin (of the) assembly (which is) where the kin of the Great (God) is.

Lord, give fullness to what is below, the grain for the germination; push away, then, the illness.

A fatal sorrow (grief) afflicts the subject, the successor continues the roots (tradition) and the orphan(s) exhale lamentations.

Information provided by Joshua Adonai Pérez Cawkill


Information about the Guanche language

Berber languages

Ancient Berber, Guanche, Kabyle, Tamazight, Tuareg