North Syrian Arabic: Wikis

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North Syrian Arabic
Spoken in Syria
Total speakers over 5 million
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system not written
Official status
Official language in none
Regulated by none
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 ?

North Syrian Arabic (Arabic: اللهجة السورية الشمالية‎) is a variety of Arabic spoken in Northern Syria. The dialect is spoken in a region extending from the city of Aleppo westward into the Idlib Governorate. It is a variant of Levantine Arabic.

Contents

Features

North Syrian Arabic is similar to general Syrian or North Levantine Arabic with few distinctions in phonology and morphology. Like other dialects of Arabic, North Syrian Arabic exhibits marked regional variation, socioeconomic variation, and community-based variation. For example, the word for "O father" is yāb in Idlib but yōb in Aleppo (yābī in Damascus, ʔabī in Classical Arabic). The word for "he defends" is ydāfeʕ in "fancy" Aleppine talk but ydēfeʕ in "popular" talk. The word for "head" is pronounced rās by the Muslims in Aleppo but rˠāsˠ by the Christians. The differences can also be lexical (e.g. "popular Aleppine" ḥakīm vs. "fancy Aleppine" dəktōr for "physician").

One characteristic of North Syrian phonology is the presence of imāla. This has led many Western scholars to classify the dialect with the North Mesopotamian dialect group (the so called qeltu dialects). The better view would seem to be that imāla is a "wave" phenomenon as described by Schmidt, whereby a phonetic change can radiate from a given geographical point and equally affect languages that otherwise belong to different families.

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Phonology

The phonology of Aleppine Arabic is generally identical to that of Damascene Arabic with few distinctions that are fading today as people are more inclined towards imitating the prevalent dialect of Damascus. These include the following:

Consonants

  • ج is realized more as /dʒ/ than /ʒ/ in the classical dialect of Aleppo.
  • ق is pronounced /ʔ/ but is more backed than the southern Levantine variant.
  • س is pronounced /ʃ/ in a few words (e.g. ʃatˠtˠaḥ vs. Damascene satˠtˠaḥ for "he laid down"). This occurs only in words that are common with Aramaic and is probably part of the Aramaic substratum but not a phonological innovation.
  • ش is pronounced /tʃ/ in few words of the old fashioned or "popular" talk.

Vowels

The major difference between Damascus and Aleppo is the presence of the classical Najdi shift of /aː/ to /eː/ (imāla) in Aleppine Arabic. The rules of imāla in Aleppine Arabic are complicated and they are not equally operative in all the varieties. Generally speaking, where the "popular" variety of Aleppine possesses /e/, the "fancy" variety often tends to have /æ/. Other contrasts between the two varieties pertain to vowel elision (e.g. "popular" sˠnēdīʔ vs. "fancy" sˠanādīʔ for "boxes").

Example Damascus Aleppo
Story ħkāye ħkēye
Mirror mrāye mrēye
Chicken jāje jēje
Mosque jāmeʕ jēmeʕ
Tongue lsān lsēn
Scale mīzān mīzēn
High ʕālī ʕēlī
Last ākher ēkher
Yesterday mbārħa mbērħa
Men rjāl rjēl
Mountains jbāl jbēl
Ropes ħbāl ħbēl
Dogs klāb klēb
Days iyyām iyyēm
Keys mafātīħ mfētīħ
Windows shabābīk shbēbīk
Internal jəwwānī jəwwēnī
External barrānī bərrēnī
Frontal əddāmī əddēmī
Posterior warrānī wərrēnī
Doing ʕāmel ʕēmel
Writing kāteb kēteb
Sleeping nāyem nēyem
(He) fights yʔātel yʔētel
(He) defends ydāfeʕ ydēfeʕ
(He) travels ysāfer ysēfer
(He) fought tʔātal tʔētal
(He) handled nāwal nēwal
(He) consulted shāwar shēwar
(He) lazed tkāsal tkēsal
Fighting ʔtāl ʔtēl
Farming flālħa flēħa
Swimming sbāħa sbēħa

Imāla in North Syrian pronouns:

Example Palestine/Lebanon Damascus Aleppo
Thou (masc.) inta ənte ənte
We (n)iħnā nəħnā nəħnē

Another phonological contrast between Aleppine and Damascene Arabic is the backing of vowels around the gutturals and the letter "r" in Aleppine Arabic. Also, vowels are rounded around "w". The backing effect of the non-guttural emphatics is less important.

Morphology

Verb conjugation

The only notable difference between Aleppo and Damascus is the first person singular prefix of the imperfective.

Example Damascus Aleppo Rural North Syrian, Idlib
(I) write indicative bəktob baktob bəktob
subjunctive əktob aktob əktob
(I) go indicative brūħ barūħ brūħ
subjunctive rūħ arūħ rūħ

Interrogative pronouns

  • The pronoun shū (what) retains more primitive forms in north Syrian.
Damascus Aleppo Rural North Syrian, Idlib
shū masc. əsh(shu) ashu
fem. əsh(shi)

Etymology: أيّ شيء هو/هي ؟

  • The pronoun ēmta (when) is not used in north Syrian; rather the Aramaic equivalent ēmat is used. North Syrian in general uses more Aramaic vocabulary than elsewhere in Levant.
  • The Aramaic pronoun ēna (which) is used in north Syrian instead of ayya.
  • The pronoun addēsh (how many/much) often becomes shʔad in North Syrian.

Nominal negation

Negation of nominal sentences in Damascus is by , which comes from mā huw(a) and means "not." In Aleppo, alone is used (this is also found in the conservative Sudanese Arabic), or one of the following particles:

not sing. masc. maw
sing. fem. may
plu. man

The pronoun "her"

The pronoun her has two alternative forms in Damascus: a & ha. In rural north Syrian, the version ha is never used. In Aleppo, the ha version is used in only one case which is when attached to the preposition ʕalā or to a verb ending with .

Example Damascus Aleppo Rural North Syrian
(He) loved her ħabha, ħabba ħabba ħabba
(He) forgot her nsīha, nsiyya nsiyya nsiyya
(He) saw her shāfha, shāfa shāfa shēfa
(He) forgets her byənsāha byənsāha byənsiyya
On her ʕalēha ʕalēha, ʕalayya ʕalayya

The demonstrative "ecce"

Although share a common etymology, the demonstratives of "here is/are" are different between Aleppo and Damascus.

Damascus Aleppo
Near Far
Here is/are lēk --- ---
Here I am lēknī --- ---
Here he is lēko ko(hne) kohāk(e)
Here she is lēka ke(hne) kehāk(e)
Here we are lēknā --- ---
Here they are lēkon kehnen kehāken

Etymology: إليك هو هنا/هناك

Grammar

Pronouns

North Syrian pronouns show clear influence from Syriac in addition to the slanting feature.

Subject Pronouns

Urban Rural
I anā anē
Thou (masc.) ənte inti, init
Thou (fem.) ənti inti, inte
He həwwe huwwi
She həyye hiyyi
We nəħnē niħnī
You əntū intū, intō
They hənnen hinnin

Object Pronouns

Urban Rural
Me (n)ī (n)ī, (n)ē
Thee (masc.) ak ak
Thee (fem.) ek ik
Him o o, u
Her a a
Us
You kon kun
Them on un

Demonstratives

Near Far
Singular masc. hād(a) hadāk(e)
fem. hay(ye) hadīk(e)
Plural hadōl(e) hadōlīk(e)

Place demonstratives

Near Far
hōn(e) h(u)nīk(e)

Interrogative pronouns

what sing. masc. əsh(shu)
sing. fem. əsh(shi)
plu. əsh(nen)
who mīn
when ēmat
where wēn
how kīf
how much/many shʔad
which ēna
why lēsh

Numbers

Urban Rural
One wāħed wēħid
Two tnēn tnayn
Three tlāte, tlēte tlēti
Four arbʕa arbʕa
Five khamse khamsi
Six sətte sitti
Seven sabʕa sabʕa
Eight tmēne tmēni
Nine təsʕa tisʕa
Ten "ashra "ashra
Twenty "əshrīn "ishrīn
Thirty tlētīn tlētīn
Forty arbʕīn arbʕīn
Fifty khamsīn khamsīn
Sixty səttīn sittīn
Seventy sabʕīn sabʕīn
Eighty tmēnīn tmēnīn
Ninety təsʕīn tisʕīn
Hundred məyye miyyi

See also


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