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Algerian Arabic
Jzâ’iri جزائري
Spoken in Algeria
Total speakers 35,000,000
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Official status
Official language in none
Regulated by none
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 none
ISO 639-3 arq

Algerian Arabic is the variety or varieties of Arabic spoken in Algeria. In Algeria, as elsewhere, spoken Arabic differs from written Arabic; Algerian Arabic has a Berber component, a vocabulary with many new words and loanwords from Berber, Turkish, Spanish, and French, and like all Arabic dialects, has dropped the case endings of the written language. In Algeria, Algerian Arabic or Darija isn't used in schools, television or newspapers, which usually use Standard Arabic or French, but is more likely heard in music like Raï if not just heard in Algerian homes and on the street. Algerian Arabic is spoken daily by the vast majority of Algerians, a minority of Amazigh/Berber Algerians use Tamazight in their daily life.

Contents

Variations within Algerian Darija

Within Algerian Arabic itself, there are significant local variations. Algerian Arabic changes from place to place and town to town. Even two towns near one another may not speak the same dialect or accent. It gets more extreme as you head towards the Moroccan and Tunisan borders. These are the major local variations of Algerian Darija:

  • West Algerian dialects, for instance, are particular in pronouncing the third singular masculine objective pronoun as h,

example, /ʃʊfteh/ شُفتـَه, I saw him that would be /ʃʊftʊ/ in the other dialects.

  • Tlemcen is noticeable for more than two dialects, mainly

/qʊlt/ قلت dialect and /ʔʊlt/ ألت dialect, q is pronounced as a hamza, glottal stop.

  • Jijel Arabic, in particular, is noteworthy for its pronunciation of qaf as kaf and its profusion of Berber loanwords.

Certain ports' dialects show influence from Andalusi Arabic brought by refugees from al-Andalus. Algerian Arabic is part of the Maghrebi Arabic dialect continuum, and fades into Moroccan Arabic and Tunisian Arabic along the respective borders.

Algerian Arabic vocabulary is pretty much similar throughout Algeria, although the Easterners sound closer to Tunisians while the Westerners speak an Arabic closer to that of the Moroccans.

The Berber languages (Tamazight) are also used in and nearby countries.

Phonology

List of phonemes as transliterated in this article: 24 consonants:

b t j g ε d p r z s š γ f q k l m n h x w y
ب ت ج g ح ع د p ر ش ص ض ط غ ف ق ك ل م ن خ و

Some pronounce the consonant q differently : g, k, or ' (hamza).

vowels [1]

long vowels:

  • /a/ (as in "man") [æ]eg. سامح /sæməħ/ forgave

/aː/ /sˁɑːħəb/ friend

  • /iː/ (as in "ski") eg. قريت /qriːt/ I read, in the past
  • /uː/ (as in "flu") eg. تِلِفون /tilifuːn/

and short vowels, esp in initial position

  • /e/ (as in "men") eg. قَهوَة, or a shorter version of a as in father [ɑ]

eg, rɑbːi my God

  • /i/ (as in sit) eg. هِيَ /hijːɑ/ she
  • /u/ (as in foot) eg. قُبَّة /qʊbːɑ/ dome

plus the schwa which replaces /e/ in some positions eg. انتَ /ənte/

Arguably one of the most notable features of Maghrebi Arabic dialects, including Algerian Arabic, is the collapse of short vowels in some positions. Standard Arabic كِتاب kitab (book) is /ktæb/

kalam كَلام (speech) is /klæm/

This feature is also present in Levantine Arabic to a lesser extent. Standard Arabic words containing three syllables are simplified

/ħɑdʒɑrɑ/ حَجَرة is /ħɑdʒrɑ/.

Note that Algerian Arabic is particularly rich in uvular, pharyngeal, and pharyngealized ("emphatic") sounds. The emphatic sounds are generally considered to be , , and .

Non-emphatic /r/ and emphatic /rˁ/ are two entirely separate phonemes, almost never contrasting in related forms of a word.

eg. /ərRɑmle/ الرَّملة (sand), as in arrive
/jədʒri/ يجري (he runs), as in free

Original /q/ splits lexically into /q/ and /g/; for some words, both alternatives exist.

Grammar

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Nouns and adjectives

English Pronunciation Algerian Arabic
drink shreb شرب
sky sma' سما
water mâ' ما
woman, women mra (مرا) (مرأة)
fire nâr; 3âfya عافية، نار
big kbir كبير
man, men rajel \ rajal (راجل)(رجل)
day nhâr, yom نهار، يوم
moon lekmar قمر
night lila, lil ليل
bread khoubz خبز
small ṣghir صغير
sand remla, rmel رملة،رمل
winter, rain sheta \ nu (rain) شتا، شتة \ نو
ball balu بالو
napkin serbita سربيتة
toilet, bathroom twalit; beit el ma'; beit er-râHa بيت الماء، بيت الراحة

Conjunctions & Prepositions

Conjunctions in Algerian Darija are used almost like conjunctions in English are used, but they have more tricks to them.

English Conjunctions Algerian Arabic Notes of Usage
But beṣṣeh بالصح Also used is ولكن
If ila, lakan لاكان ،إيلا، كون Used for impossible conditions and comes just before the verb
If loukan لوكان For possible conditions, Also used is لو ,لاكون and إذا
So that, that bash باش
That beli باللي
As if shgol شغل Also used is كي اللي
Because ala khatach, ala khatr على خاطر ,على خاطش Also used is على جال
When ki كي Comes before a verb
Before gbel ma قبل ما Used before verbs
Without bla ma بلا ما Used before verbs
Whether kash ma كاش ما Used before verbs

Prepositions act just like any other noun or just like English prepositions.

English Conjunctions Algerian Arabic Notes of Usage
under teht تحت
over, on top of fuq فوق
after beεd بعد
before jbel قبل Used only for time
next to, beside godam قدام
at εend عند
with ma' مع
among, between been, beenat (plural) بين، بينات
same as, as much as ged قد amount
oh, oh so much ya, ah يا، آه

Some of them can be attached to the noun, just like other Arabic dialects. The word for in "fee" can be attached to a definite noun. For example the word for house's definite form is "eddar" (الدار) with "fee" (في) becomes "feddar" (فإلدار). The same with behind the door is (مورالباب) or just (مور الباب) Murr-elbab.

Gender

Algerian Arabic has two genders, Masculine and Feminine. masculine nouns and adjectives generally end with a consonant, while the feminine nouns generally end with an a (there are some exceptions, however such as; Ibtissam, Nawal, etc...). Note that most feminine nouns are in fact feminized versions of masculine nouns, such as Rafiq/Rafiqa, Faiz/Faiza.

Examples:

  • ħmɑr "a donkey", ħmɑrɑ "a female donkey".
  • tˤfʊl "a little boy", tˤʊflɑ "a little girl".

Pluralization

Similar to Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic uses broken plural for many masculine words

classical Arabic; radjul → ridjal / Alg. Arabic; radjel → rdjel "men"

Regular plural is used too, but like all other Arabic dialects, suffix un used for the nominative in Classical Arabic is no longer in use. Suffix in used in Classical Arabic for the accusative and the genitive is used for all cases

mumen مومن(believer) → mumnin مومنين
3aqel عاقل(wise) →3aqlin عاقلين

For feminine nouns, the plural is mostly regular ie, obtained by psotfixing "-at",

Classical Arabic; bint(girl)→ banat/ Alg. Arabic; Bent → Bnat

broken plural is used for some words;

ṬablaṬwabel "Table" [Broken plural].

Article

The article el is indeclinable and expresses definite state of a noun of any gender and number. It is also prefixed to each of that noun's modifying adjectives.

It follows the the solar lettersand lunar letters rules of Classical Arabic, ie: if the word starts with one of these consonants, el is assimilated and replaced by the first consonant :

t, d, r, z, s, š, , , , l, n.

Examples:

rajel → errajel "man" (assimilation)
qmar → elqmar "moon" (no assimilation)

Conjugations and Verbs

Conjugation is done by adding affixes (prefixes, postfixes, both or none), these suffixes change according to the tense:

Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st - t - na n - n(e) - u
2nd (m) - t - tu t - t - u
2nd (f) - ti - tu t - i t - u
3rd (m) - - u i/y(e) - i/y(e) - u
3rd (f) - t - u t(e) - i/y(e) - u
  • Example with the verb kteb "To write":
Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu
2nd (m) ketbet ktebtu tekteb tekketbu
2nd (f) ktebti ktebtu tekketbi tekketbu
3rd (m) kteb ketbu yekteb yekketbu
3rd (f) ketbet ketbu tekteb yekketbu
Person Past Present Future Present continuous
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) كتبت كتبنا نكتب نكتبوا غنكتب غنكتبوا راني نكنب رانا نكتبوا
2nd (m) كتبت كتبتوا تكتب تكتبوا غتكتب غتكتبوا راك تكتب راكم تكتبوا
2nd (f) كتبتي كتبتوا تكتبي تكتبوا غتكتبي غتكتبوا راكي تكتبي راكن تكتبوا
3rd (m) كنب كتبوا يكتب يكتبوا غيكتب غيكتبوا راهو يكتب راهم يكتبوا
3rd (f) كنبت كتبوا تكتب يكتبوا غتكتب غيكتبوا راهي تكتب رامن تكتبوا

Future Tense

In Algeria most of the time they don't use the future tense as you see above. They'll rather just use the present tense or Present continuous. The future tense gh+verb, as you see above, is used more in the west as you get closer to Morocco the same goes with ghadi or just ghad for a future tense.

To add going to... just add (رايح) between the pronoun that makes the verb for example I'm writing become by adding this behind "I'm" or "راني" and before "I write" or "نكتب" I'm going to write. The plural form is done as (رايحين). This could be used for past tense as well.

Also, as is used in all of the other Arabic dialects there is another way of showing active tense. This form changes the root verb into an adjective. For example "kteb" he wrote will become "kateb" writing, كتب became كاتب.

Negation

Like all North African Arabic varieties (including Egyptian Arabic) along with some Levantine Arabic varieties, verbal expressions are negated by enclosing the verb with all its affixes, along with any adjacent pronoun-suffixed preposition, within the circumfix ma... š (/ʃ/):

  • « lεebt » ("I played") → « ma lεebtš /ʃ/  » ما لعبتش ("I didn't play")
  • « ma tţabbaεniiš » ("Don't push me")
  • « ma yšaddu-lekš haaðu l-qraε » ("Those bottles won't last you long")
  • « ma şaħħeet-liiš plaaşa » ("I couldn't get a seat / parking place")
Person Past Present Future
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ماكتبتش ماكتبناش مانكتبش مانكتبواش ماغنكتبش ماغنكتبواش
2nd (m) ماكتبتش ماكتبتواش ماتكتبش ماتكتبواش ماغتكتبش ماغتكتبواش
2nd (f) ماكتبتيش ماكتبتواش ماتكتبيش ماتكتبواش ماغتكتبيش ماغتكتبواش
3rd (m) ماكنبش ماكتبواش مايكتبش مايكتبواش ماغيكتبش ماغيكتبواش
3rd (f) ماكنبتش ماكتبواش ماتكتبش مايكتبواش ماغتكتبش ماغيكتبواش

Other negative words (walu...etc.) are used in combination with ma to express more complex types of negation. ʃ is not used when other negative words are used

  • ma qult walu ماقلت والو ("I didn't say anything")
  • ma šuft ħetta waħed ما شفت حتى واحد ("I didn't see anyone")

or when two verbs are consecutively in the negative

  • ma šuft ma smeεt ما شفت ما سمعت ("I neither saw nor did I hear")

Verb derivation

Verb derivation is done by adding suffixes or by doubling consonants, there are two types of derivation forms : Causative, Passive.

  • Causative: is obtained by doubling consonants :
khrej "to go out" → kherrej "to make to go out"
dkhel "to enter" → dekhkhel "to make to enter, to introduce"
  • Passive: This derivation is similar to Berber and does not exist in Classical Arabic (the passive voice in classical Arabic uses vowel changes and not verb derivation), it is obtained by prefixing the verb with t- / tt- / tn- / n- :
qtel "to kill" → tneqtel "to be killed"
šreb "to drink" → ttešreb "to be drunk".

Pronoun

Personal pronouns

Person Singular Plural
1st ana / anaya ḥna / ḥnaya
2nd (m) nta / ntaya ntuma
2nd (f) nti / ntiyya ntuma
3rd (m) huwa huma
3rd (f) hiya huma

Example : « Ana tani. » — "Me too."

Person Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
I am راني rani
You are (m) راك rak
You are (f) راكي raki
He is راهو rahu
She is راهي rahi
We are رانا rana
You or Y'all are راكُ raku
You or Y'all are راكم \ راكن rakum (m) \ rakun (f)
They are راهم \ راهن rahum (m) \ rahun (f)

Example : « Rani hna. » — "I'm here." and « Ki raki. » (western and Moroccan dialect) or « Wech raki. » — "How are you." to a woman.

Possessive pronouns

Dar (دار) is the word for house

Person Singular Plural
1st i, ya (داري, داريا) na (دارنا)
2nd (e)k (دارك) kum (داركم)
3rd (m) u (داره, دارو) hum (دارهم)
3rd (f) ha (دارها) hum (دارهم)

Example : « dar-na. » — "Our house." (House-our), these possessive are frequently combined with « nteε or teε (تاع)» "of" and « dial » "property" : « dar nteε-na » — "Our house.", « dar dial-kum » ...etc.

SINGULAR تاعي = my or mine (pronounced ta'ee) تاعك = your or yours (m) (pronounced ta'ak) تاعكِ = your or yours (m) (pronounced ta'ik) تاعه = his (pronounced ta'u) تاعها = hers (pronounced ta'ha) PLURAL تاعنا = our or ours (pronounced ta'na) تاعكم = your or yours (m) (pronounced ta'kum) تاعكن = your or yours (f) (pronounced ta'kun) تاعكُ = your or yours (pronounced ta'ku) تاعهم = their or theirs (m) (pronounced ta'hum) تاعهن = their or theirs (f) (pronounced ta'hun)

Our house can be "Darna" (دارنا) or "Dar ta'na" (دار تاعنا) which is more like saying 'house of ours'. Ta' can be used in other ways just like of is used in English or more like in Spanish. You can say "Dar ta' khuya" (دار تاع خويا) which means 'house of my brother' or 'my brother's house'.

Interrogatives

Interogatives Other ways of saying it Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
What? اش، شنو، واشنو واش wash
When? وقتاه، فاين، إمتى وقتاش wagtash
Why? علاه، وعلاش، لاه، ليه, علاش alash
Which? اشمن أمي ami
Where? فين وين ween or wein
Who? أشكون شكون shakoon
How? كيفاه، كي كيفاش kifash
How many? أشحال، قداش، قداه شحال shaHal
Whose? ديالمين تاعمين ta'meen

Pronouns of the verb

Person Singular Plural
1st ni na
2nd (m) (e)k kum
3rd (m) u (after a consonant) / h (after a vowel)
/ hu (before an indirect object pronoun)
hum
3rd (m) ha hum

Examples:

« šeft-ni. » — "You saw me." (You.saw-me)
« qetl-u. » — "He killed him." (He.killed-him)
« kla-h. » — "He ate it." (He.ate-it)

Demonstratives

These are pretty much all of the demonstratives used in Algerian Arabic. The demonstrative (hadi) is also used for "It is".

Interogatives Emphasized Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
This هذا (m), هذه (f), هاديا هاد (m), هادي (f) had (m), hadi (f)
That هداك (m), هديك (f) داك (m), ديك (f) dak (m), dik (f)
These هدوما هدو hadu
Those هدوك دوك duk

Sample text

The text below was translated from Kabyle, In. MOULIERAS (Auguste), les fourberies de si Djeh'a.

Buzelluf Sheep Head
Waed nnhar, jeḥḥa med-lu baba-h frank, baš yešri buzelluf. šra-h, kla geε lem-u. bqa γir leεam, jab-u l baba-h. ki šaf-u qal-lu: "wešnu hada?" qal-lu: "buzelluf".

-A ššmata, win rahum wedni-h?

-Kan reš.

-Win rahum εini-h?

-Kan εwer.

-Win rah lsan-u?

-Kan εeggun.

-U jeldet ras-u, win rahi?

-Kan feras.
One day, Jehha's father gave him one cent, so that he buys a sheep head. He bought it, and ate all of its meat. Only an empty carcass was left, he brought it to his father. Then, when he saw it he said: "what is that?" Jehha said: "a sheep head".

-You vile, where are its (sheep) ears?

-It was deaf.

-Where are its eyes?

-It was blind.

-Where is its tongue?

-It was dumb.

-And the skin of its head, where is it?

-It was bald.

See also


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