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Index / Languages / Semitic / Arabic /
Arabic dialects
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Arabic dialects
Figures in 1000.
Percent of all Arabic speakers.
Levantine, North
17,480 6.1%
Levantine, South
9,750 3.5%
Levantine Bedouin
2,070 0.7%
Mesopotamian
19,240 6.7%
Mesopotamian, North
7750 2.7%
Gulf
5,250 1.8%
Shihi
33 <0.1%
Baharna
420 0.2%
Omani
1,700 0.6%
Najdi
14,900 5.2%
Hijazi
9,300 3.2%
Dhofari
150 0.1%
Sanaani
11,500 4.2%
Ta'izzi-Adeni
10,200 3.8%
Hadrami
450 0.2%
Egyptian
56,300 19.5%
Saidi
26,200 9.1%
Western Bedouin
400 0.1%
Sudanese
27,400 9.5%
Sudanese Creole
20 <0.1%
Judeo
400 0.1%
Libyan
4,400 1.5%
Tunisian
10,200 3.5%
Algerian
26,000 9.0%
Jijel
300 0.1%
Algerian Saharan
120 <0.1%
Moroccan
22,850 7.9%
Hassaniya
3,100 1.1%

Variantions in spoken Arabic, and to some degree also written, can be so immense that considering Arabic as one language seems quite wrong. Should an Arabic speaker in the west of North Africa talk with one from the east on the Arabian peninsula, they could experience great difficulties in understanding each other. Scholars operate with the following flora of Arabic dialects.

North Levantine
This is the dialect of most Syrians, and all Lebanese.

South Levantine
The dialect dominating in Jordan, Palestine and among Arabic-speaking Israelis.

Levantine Bedouin
Spoken mainly in Jordan, but also in Syria, Palestine. It is widely used in eastern Egypt, where it is called Eastern Egyptian Bedouin.

North Mesopotamian
Native to Iraq, although second in size to Mesopotamian, continues into Syria and Jordan, and is also the dialect spoken among Turkey's Arabic minority.

Mesopotamian
One of two Iraqi dialects, a language zone that continues well into Syria and Jordan.

Gulf
Spoken in Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates where it dominates, but is also the dialect of substantial minorities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. A small part of the Iraqi population also belongs to this language group. 1/3 of the population in Oman also speak Gulf Arabic.
Gulf Arabic has fewer Persian words than other neighbouring Arabic dialects.
Among its characteristics, are certain changes in pronunciation:

'k' as 'ch'
'q' as 'g'
'j' as 'y'

Shihi
Spoken in United Arab Emirates and Oman, it is a variant with much influence from Persian.

Baharna
Native to Bahrain, but also spoken in Saudi Arabia in the region of Qatif, and in Oman.
Baharna Arabic has absorbed vocabulary from Persian, Hindi and to some extent, English.
Among its characteristics, are certain changes in pronunciation:

'q' as 'g'
'th' as 'f'
'dh' as 'd'
'k' sometimes as 'kh'
the feminine ending '-a' in some cases as '-e'

Omani
This is the dialect associated with Oman, slightly more than half the population use it. It is also used in United Arab Emirates.

Najdi
Originating in Saudi Arabia, where half the population speak it. The Najdi reigon stretches into Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait.

Hijazi
The second dialect originating in Saudi Arabia, but somewhat smaller and not extending into other countries.

Dhofari
This dialect is only used in Oman.

Sanaani
Spoken by half the population of Yemen.

Ta'izzi-Adeni
Spoken by almost half the population of Yemen.

Hadrami
Spoken by a few percent of the population of Yemen, but the dominant dialect in the Hadramawt region.

Egyptian
This dialect is the largest Arabic dialect, spoken in northern Egypt. It often referred to as the Cairo dialect. It has has spread through emigration, but figures for foreign countries is questionable, since many Egyptian emigrants are Saidi-speakers. Now there are sizebale communities in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and marginally in Jordan and Kuwait.

Saidi
This is the other Egyptian dialect, and although with half the many speakers as Egyptian Arabic, it is among the largest dialects. Its presence in other countries has not become estimated, due to inaccuracies from scholars, who count all Egyptian emigrants to other countries as Egyptian-speakers, but this is clearly not correct.

Western Bedouin
Spoken in Egypt, very close to Libyan Arabic.

Sudanese
All Arabic-speakers of Sudan are classified to this dialect. By immigration, it is also spoken in Saudi Arabia.

Sudanese Creole
This is a variant that often comes classified as Creole, Arabic based. It is a small dialect, native to Sudan only, spoken in the border region between Arabic and Nilo-Saharan languages.

Judeo
There are several Judeo Arabic variants, they virtually all now belong to Israel, following the emigration wave of the second half of the 20th century. A tiny, but dwindling, community in Morocco still use this dialect of Arabic.

Libyan
Libyan dialect is native to Libya, but with its three sub-dialects it connects both to Egypt and Tunisia. Western Bedouin of Egypt can be classified as a Libyan sub-dialect. The two southern sub-dialects of Tunisian are close to Tripolitanian Libyan.

Tunisian
Dialect native to Tunisia, classified to six sub-dialects. The northwestern dialect comes close to Algerian, the southern dialects comes close to Libyan.
It is distinguished for being one of the dialects where the letter "q" is pronounced similar to standard Arabic, but where the strong "d" is pronounced as soft "dh". The word "inti", meaning singular "you", is used for both men and women. Future tense is created by putting "besh" before the verb in present tense. The term for "hello" is "asslema", and for "goodbye", Tunisians use "bislema".
Tunisian Arabic has a large part of its vocabulary from Italian, Spanish, French, Punic, Berber and Turkish.

Algerian
Close to being the only Arabic dialect of Algeria. Its eastern sub-dialects are close to Tunisian Arabic.

Jijel
This dialect, native to the Jijel province, is often left out of the categories of Arabic dialects. It is noted for among other things pronouncing the "q" as "k".

Algerian Saharan
Representing a smaller part of the Arabic-speakers, this dialect belongs to the less inhabited regions near, or in, the Sahara, stretching from south of Algiers on to the border of Morocco.

Moroccan
Nearly all Arabic-speakers in Morocco use this dialect.

Hassaniya
This is the dialect native to Mauritania, touching Morocco.




By Tore Kjeilen