Northwest Arabian Arabic

Northwest Arabian Arabic
Árabe bedawi.PNG
Native toEgypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia
Native speakers
2.24 million (2015-2016)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3avl

Northwest Arabian Arabic is a proposed[2] subfamily of Arabic encompassing the traditional dialects of the Sinai Peninsula, the Eastern Desert, the Negev, southern Jordan, and the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia.[3]

In the Sinai Peninsula; the eastern desert of Egypt, the dialect of the Maʿāzah borders the dialect of the ʿAbābdah, who speak a dialect more closely related to Sudanese Arabic.[4]

In Saudi Arabia, the dialects of the eastern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, the Hisma, and the Harrat al-Riha belong to the Northwest Arabian type, but the dialect of the Bili to the south is not closely related.[5]


The Northwest Arabian Arabic dialects display several innovations from Proto-Arabic:[2]

  1. The voiced reflex of *q ([g])
  2. The gaháwah syndrome: insertion of /a/ after X in (C)aXC(V) sequences where X is /h/, /ʿ/, /ḥ/, /ġ/, or /ḫ/, e.g. gahwa(h) > gaháwa(h) "coffee", baġl > baġal "mule".
  3. The definite article al- and the relative pronoun alli are stressable as an integral part of the word, e.g. álwalad, áljabal. The initial /a/ is stable enough to be preserved after -ī (-iy), which is dropped: f-albēt, rāʿ-álġanam.
  4. A number of typical Bedouin lexical items (gōṭar "to go", sōlaf "to tell, narrate", ṭabb "to arrive", nišad ~ nišád "to ask").
  5. Absence of tanwīn and its residues.
  6. Absence of final /n/ in the imperfect, 2nd person feminine singular, 2nd person masculine plural, and 3rd person masculine plural.
  7. The pronominal suffix of the 2nd person masculine plural is -ku (-kuw).
  8. Stressed variants -ī and - of the pronominal suffix in the 1st person singular.
  9. Plural comm. forms haḏalla, haḏallāk, etc.
  10. Initial /a/ in Forms VII, VIII, and X in the perfect, and stressed when in stressable position.
  11. Initial /a/ in a number of irregular nouns (amm, aḫt, aḫwan, adēn, afám).

Dialects, accents, and varieties

There are several differences between the western and eastern branches of Northwest Arabian Arabic:[2]

  1. In the eastern branch, the b- imperfect does not occur in plain colloquial, while in the entire western branch it is in regular use.
  2. The western branch makes use of an analytic genitive, šuġl, šuġlah, šuġlīn, šuġlāt as genitive markers.
  3. The western branch dialects have vowel harmony in the performative of the active imperfect of Form I, whereas in the eastern branch the vowel is mainly generalized /a/.
  4. In the dialects of the eastern branch and southern Sinai, the reflexes of *aw and *ay are well-established monophthongs /ō/ and /ē/, usually after back consonants and emphatics as well. In most dialects of the western branch, *aw and *ay have been partially monophthongized, but the new monophthongs fluctuate with long phonemes /ō/ ~ /ū/, /ē/ ~/ī/.
  5. The eastern branch dialects tend to (but not strictly) drop the initial /a/ in gaháwah forms: ghawa ~ gaháwa, nḫala, etc. In Sinai and Negev, the /a/ of the initial syllable is preserved.
  6. The imperfect of the I-w verbs in the western branch are of the type yawṣal, yōṣal, whereas in the eastern branch they are of the type yāṣal.
  7. 3rd person singular feminine object suffix: -ha/-hiy in Negev, -ha everywhere else.
  8. 3rd person singular masculine object suffix: C-ah in the eastern branch, phonetically conditioned C-ih/-ah in the western branch, C-u(h) in southern Sinai.
  9. 1st person plural common subject pronoun: ḥinna, iḥna in the eastern branch; iḥna, aḥna in the western branch.
  10. In the eastern branch and parts of Sinai, -a is the main reflex of -ā(ʾ) in neutral environments. In Negev and the eastern part of the northern Sinai littoral, it is -iy, in back environments -a.


The following are some archaic features retained from Proto-Arabic:[2]

  1. Gender distinction in the 2nd and 3rd person plural pronouns, pronominal suffixes, and finite verbal forms.
  2. Productivity of Form IV (aC1C2aC3, yiC1C2iC3).
  3. The initial /a/ in the definite article al- and the relative pronoun alli.
  4. Frequent and productive use of diminutives (glayyil "a little", ḫbayz "bread").
  5. Absence of affricated variants of /g/ (< */q/) and /k/.
  6. The use of the locative preposition fi (fiy).
  7. The invariable pronominal suffix -ki of the 2nd person feminine singular.

See also


  1. ^ "Arabic, Eastern Egyptian (Sinai Peninsula) Bedawi Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  2. ^ a b c d Palva, Heikki. ""Northwest Arabian Arabic." Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics. Vol. III. Leiden – Boston: Brill 2008, pp. 400-408". Cite journal requires |journal=
  3. ^ Palva, Heikki. ""Northwest Arabian Arabic." Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics. Vol. III. Leiden – Boston: Brill 2008, pp. 400-408". Cite journal requires |journal=
  4. ^ Jong, Rudolf Erik De (2011-04-11). A Grammar of the Bedouin Dialects of Central and Southern Sinai. BRILL. ISBN 978-9004201019.
  5. ^ Palva, Heikki. ""Remarks on the Arabic Dialect of the Huweitat Tribe". Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 29 (2004), pp. 195-209. Studies in Honour of Moshe Piamenta". Cite journal requires |journal=


  • Gordon, Raymond G.. Jr., ed. (2005), "Bedawi Arabic", Ethnologue: Languages of the World (15th ed.), Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics
  • Haim Blanc. 1970. "The Arabic Dialect of the Negev Bedouins," Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities 4/7:112-150.
  • Rudolf E. de Jong. 2000. A Grammar of the Bedouin Dialects of the Northern Sinai Littoral: Bridging the Linguistic Gap between the Eastern and Western Arab World. Leiden: Brill.
  • Judith Rosenhouse. 1984. The Bedouin Arabic Dialects: General Problems and Close Analysis of North Israel Bedouin Dialects. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

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