Sanʽani Arabic

Sanʽani Arabic
Native toYemen
Native speakers
11.1 million (2015)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3ayn
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Sanʽani Arabic is an Arabic dialect spoken in Yemen.


The Sanaani dialect is distinguished among Yemeni dialects by its use of the [ɡ] sound in the place of the classical Arabic /q/ (ق qāf ), as well as its preservation of the classical Arabic palatal pronunciation of /ɟ/ (ج ǧim).

Sanʽani dialect personal pronouns[2]:52
Person Number Case
Subject Object
First Singular Anǝ -nǝ; -nee
Plural Eħnǝ -na; Eħnǝ
Second Singular ant (m.); Anti (f.) ant, anti; -ak (m.); -eʃ (f.)
Plural Anto Anto; -ʊ
Third Singular Huː (m.), Hiː (f.) Ho/-uː (m.), Hiː/ -iː (f.)
Plural Hom/Om(m.) ; Hen/en(f.) Hom/Om (m.) ; Hen/en (f.)


Along with these phonological similarities to other dialects, Sanʽani Arabic also has several unique features. It uses the classical in the meaning of "what", as well as in negations. Unlike the classical usage, this is used without distinction in verbal and nominal sentences alike. Sanʽani Arabic represents the future aspect with a complex array of prefixes, depending on the person of the verb. For first-person verbs the prefix (ša-) or (‘ad) is used. The derivation of (ša-) is apparently related to the classical (sa-), and (‘ad) is likely an abbreviation of (ba‘d), meaning "after". For all other persons in Sanʽa proper the simple prefix (‘a-) is used, although many of the villages around Sanʽa extend the use of (ša-) for all persons.


Sanʽani syntax differs from other Arabic dialects in a number of ways. It is one of few remaining Arabic dialects to retain the mā af‘al exclamatory sentence type with the meaning "how (adjective)". For instance, mā ajmal, is used to mean "how beautiful", from the adjective jamīl, meaning "beautiful"; a construction it shares with Libyan Arabic and Levantine Arabic.


The Sanʽani vocabulary is also very distinct and conservative. The classical verb sāra, yasīr is retained with the meaning of "to go" (similar to Moroccan). Shalla, yashill is used to mean "to take/get".[3]

As an example of its distinctiveness, during an appearance of the would-be parliament speaker of Yemen, Abdullah Alahmar, on Al-Jazeera TV some years ago, viewers and the TV host needed a translation of his Yemeni dialect into Standard Arabic in order to understand what he said.


Ṣanʿānī Arabic Translation Etymology Modern Standard Arabic equivalent
demmeh domestic cat Tigrinya: ድሙ dəmmu

Amharic: ድመት dəmät id.

قطة qiṭṭah
bardag; galaṣ glass (cup) Turkish: bardak; English كأس kaʾs
edarapp to drop English قطرة qutra
dappeh bottle Hindi: डिब्बा "container" قارورة qarorah
eskeh Allow me (informal) እስኪ əskī "please" اسمح لي ismaḥ lī
nahi OK Arabic: نهى‎ "done" حسناً ḥasanan
dēmeh Kitchen ديمة "cottage"[4] مطبخ maṭbax
saykal Bicycle Hindi: साइकिल sāikil دراجة darrājah

See also


  1. ^ Sanʽani Arabic at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. ^ Börjars, Kersti; Burridge, Kate (2010). Introducing English grammar (2nd ed.). London: Hodder Education. ISBN 978-1444109870.
  3. ^ Janet C. E. Watson, Sbahtu! A Course in Sanʽani Arabic. Semitica Viva: Series Didactica, 3. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1996. xxvii, 324 pp., glossary, index ISBN 3-447-03755-5
  4. ^ Piamenta, Moshe (1990). A Dictionary of Post Classical Yemeni Arabic, Volume 1: A - Š. Leiden [u.a.]: Brill. p. 163. ISBN 978-9004092617.

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