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Maghrebi Arabic or Darija is a cover term for the varieties of Arabic spoken in the Maghreb, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. In Algeria, colloquial Maghrebi Arabic was taught as a separate subject under French colonization, and some textbooks exist. Speakers of Maghrebi Arabic call their language Derija or Darija, which means "dialect." It is primarily used as a spoken language; written communication is primarily done in Modern Standard Arabic, along with news broadcasting. Derija is used for almost all spoken communication, as well as in TV dramas and on advertising boards in Morocco and Tunisia. Derija is characterized by many borrowings from the languages of the colonizers of North Africa, including France and Spain, as well as independent developments, much of which are probably due to a Berber substratum. Maghrebi dialects all use n- as the first person singular prefix on verbs, distinguishing them from Middle Eastern dialects and Standard Arabic. They frequently borrow words from French (in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), Spanish (in Morocco) and Italian (in Libya and to a lesser extent Tunisia) and conjugate them according to the rules of Arabic. Since it is rarely written, there is no standard and it is free to change quickly and to pick up new vocabulary from neighboring languages. This is somewhat similar to what happened to Middle English after the Norman conquest.

For several centuries after the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb, Arabic was spoken only in cities there. It was only hundreds of years later that it entered the countryside and nomadic areas at the expense of the Berber languages, but these languages coexist to this day.

Linguistically, Andalusian Arabic and Siculo-Arabic—and therefore its descendant Maltese—are considered Maghrebi Arabic, but when discussing modern language the word is often given a geographic definition and limited to North Africa.

See also

Further reading

  • Singer, Hans-Rudolf (1980) “Das Westarabische oder Maghribinische” in Wolfdietrich Fischer and Otto Jastrow (eds.) Handbuch der arabischen Dialekte. Otto Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden. 249-76.
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