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Hejazi Arabic
Spoken in Hejaz region, Saudi Arabia
Total speakers 6,000,000
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
ISO 639-3 acw

Hejazi Arabic (also known as Hijazi Arabic [ISO 639-3], West Arabian Arabic) is a variety of the Arabic language spoken in the western region of Saudi Arabia. Although, strictly speaking, there are two distinct dialects spoken in the Hejaz region, one by the bedouin and rural tribes, and another by the urban population, the term most often applies to the urban variety, spoken in cities such as Jeddah, Mecca, Ta'if, Rabigh, Yanbu, and Medina. Outside of Arabia, Urban Hejazi appears to be most closely related to the Arabic dialects of Khartoum in northern Sudan and of Upper Egypt (Ingham 1971).


Urban Hejazi Dialect

Also referred to as the sedentary Hejazi dialect, this is the form most commonly associated with the term "Hejazi Arabic", and is spoken in the urban centers of the region, such as Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina. With respect to the axis of bedouin versus sedentary dialects of the Arabic language, this dialect group exhibits features of both.[citation needed]


Bedouin Features

The most prominent of these are the following[citation needed]:

  1. The qaaf (ق) of Standard Arabic is voiced and pronounced /ɡ/ (as in the English word "get").
  2. Hejazi Arabic does not employ double negation, nor does it append the negation particles -sh to negate verbs (Hejazi Ma A'rif, as opposed to Egyptian Ma'rafsh and Palestinian Bi'rafish, meaning "I don't know")
  3. The prohibitive mood of Classical Arabic is preserved in the imperative (la taruuh "don't go").
  4. The possessive suffixes are generally preserved in their Classical forms. For example, beitakum ("your house").

Sedentary Features

Like other sedentary dialects, the urban Hejazi dialect is less conservative than the bedouin varieties and has therefore shed many Classical forms and features that are still present in many bedouin dialects. These include the internal passive form (which in Hejazi, is replaced by the pattern anfa'al"/"yinfa'il), the marker for indefiniteness (tanwin), gender-number disagreement, and the feminine marker -n (see Varieties of Arabic). Features that mark Hejazi Arabic as a sedentary dialect include:

  1. The present progressive tense is marked by /ʕamman/ or the prefix bi- (ʕamman iktub or biyudrus, "he is studying").
  2. The interdental /θ/ ث (as in English "three") is mostly rendered "t", while the interdental /ð/ ذ (as in English "this") is mostly rendered "d" and sometimes "z" like in the word ("kazaba"). They remain interdental in the countryside.
  3. In contrast to bedouin dialects, the distinction between the emphatic sounds /dˤ/ ض and /ðˤ/ ظ is generally preserved.
  4. The final -n in present tense plural verb forms is no longer employed (e.g. yirkabu instead of yirkabun)
  5. The dominant case ending before the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is -u, rather than the -a that is prevalent in bedouin dialects. For example, beituh ("his house"), 'induh ("with him"), 'arafuh ("he knew him").
  6. Possessive pronouns for the 2nd person are -ak (masculine) and -ik (feminine). In Standard Arabic, these are -ka and -ki, respectively, while in bedouin dialects they are -ik and -its or some variation thereof.[citation needed]

Other Features

Other features of Hejazi Arabic are:

  1. Compared to neighboring dialects, urban Hejazi retains more of the short vowels of Standard Arabic[citation needed], for example:
samaka ("fish"), as opposed to bedouin smika, and Syrian samake
darabatu ضربَتو ("she hit him"), as opposed to bedouin dribtah
uktub ("write", instructive case), as opposed to bedouin iktib, and Syrian ktoub
'indakum عندَكُم ("in your [plural] possession"), as opposed to bedouin 'indikom, Egyptian 'andoko, and Lebanese 'andkun
  1. The plural first person pronoun is nihna (نحنا), as opposed to the more common ihna (إحنا) or the bedouin hinna (حنّا) and inna (إنّا).[citation needed]
  2. When used to indicate location, the preposition fee في is preferred to b بـ (fee Makkah, meaning "in Mecca"). In bedouin dialects, the preference differs by region.
  3. Less restriction on the distribution of /i/ and /u/.
  4. /a/ is more retracted.
  5. The glottal stop can be added to final syllables ending in a vowel as a way of emphasising.
  6. The first person suffix pronoun is -ni.


The urban Hejazi vocabulary differs in some respect from that of other dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. For example, there are fewer specialized terms related to desert life, and more terms related to seafaring and fishing. Due to the diverse origins of the inhabitants of Hijazi cities, many borrowings from the dialects of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen exist. Five centuries of Turkish rule have also had their influence. Due to this, the Hijazi dialect is considered to be of "mixed affinities" (Ingham 1971).

Certain distinctive particles and vocabulary in Hijazi are /gi:d/ "already", /daħħin/ "now", and /baɣa/ "he wanted".

Bedouin Hejazi Dialects

The varieties of Arabic spoken by the bedouin tribes of the Hejaz region are relatively under-studied. However, the speech of some tribes shows much closer affinity to other bedouin dialects, particularly those of neighboring Nejd, than to those of the Hejazi cities. The dialects of northern Hejazi tribes merge into those of Jordan and Sinai, while the dialects in the south merge with those of 'Asir and Nejd. It is also worth noting that many large tribal confederations in Nejd and eastern Arabia are recent migrants from the Hejaz, including the tribes of Utaybah, Mutayr, Harb, and Bani Khalid. In earlier times, many other Arab tribes also came from the Hejaz, including Kinana, Juhayna, Banu Sulaym, and Ghatafan. Also, not all speakers of these bedouin dialects are literally nomadic bedouins; some are simply sedentary tribal sections that live in rural areas, and thus speak dialects similar to those of their bedouin neighbors.


  • Ethnologue entry for Hijazi Arabic
  • Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language, NITLE Arab World Project, by the permission of Edinburgh University Press, [1]
  • Bruce Ingham, "Some Characteristics of Meccan Speech", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 34, No. 2. (1971), pp. 273–297. [2]
  • Margaret K. Omar, Saudi Arabic: Urban Hijazi Dialect, Basic Course , ISBN 0884327396



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