) is a variety of Arabic
spoken mainly in Libya
, and neighboring countries. It can be divided into two major dialect areas; the eastern centred in Benghazi
, and the western centred in Tripoli
. The Eastern variety extends beyond the borders to the east and share the same dialect with far Western Egypt
. A distinctive southern variety, centered on Sabha
, also exists and is more akin to the western variety. Another Southern dialect is also shared along the borders with Niger
Note on transcription notation
On the other hand, Modern Standard Arabic transcription schemes, while providing good support for representing Arabic sounds that are not normally represented by the Latin script, do not list symbols for other sounds found in Libyan Arabic.
Therefore, to make this article more legible, DIN 31635
is used with a few additions to render phonemes
particular to Libyan Arabic. These additions are as follow:
Domains of use
The Libyan dialect is used predominantly in spoken communication in Libya
. It is also used in Libyan folk poetry, TV dramas and comedies, songs, as well as in cartoons. Libyan Arabic is also used as a lingua franca
by non-Arab Libyans whose mother tongue is not Arabic. Libyan Arabic is not normally written, as the written register
is normally Modern Standard Arabic
, but Libyan Arabic is the main language for cartoonists, and the only suitable language for writing Libyan folk poetry. It is also written in internet forums, emails and in instant messaging applications.
As is the case with all Bedouin
dialects and some Urban dialects, the /q
/ sound of Modern Standard Arabic is realized as a [ɡ
], except sometimes in words recently borrowed from literary Arabic.
The following table shows the consonants used in Libyan Arabic. Note: some sounds occur in certain regional varieties
while being completely absent in others.
Libyan Arabic consonant phonemes
In western dialects, the interdental fricatives /θ ð ðˤ/ have merged with the corresponding dental stops /t d dˤ/. Eastern dialects generally still distinguish the two sets, but there is a tendency to replace /dˤ/ with /ðˤ/.
The e and o vowels exist only in long form. This can be explained by the fact that these vowels were originally diphthongs
in Classical Arabic with /eː/ replacing /ai/ and /oː/ replacing /au/. In some eastern varieties, however, the classical /ai/ has changed to /ei/ and /au/ to /ou/.
Libyan Arabic has at least three clicks
, which are used interjectionally
, a trait shared with the Bedouin
dialects of central Arabia
. The first is used for affirmative responses and is generally considered very casual and sometimes associated with low social status. The second is a dental click
and used for negative responses and is similar to the English 'tut'. The third is a palatal click
used exclusively by women having a meaning close to that of the English word 'alas'.
(C = consonant, V = vowel, optional components are in parentheses.)
[ə] is inserted between C3
to ease pronunciation, changing the structure above into the following.
On the other hand, Eastern Libyan always has an anaptyctic
ə between C1
in the following manner.
Most of the vocabulary in Libyan Arabic is of Old Arabic origin, usually with a modified interconsonantal vowel structure. Many Italian loanwords
also exist, in addition to Turkish
, and English
Relation to Classical Arabic vocabulary
The bulk of vocabulary in Libyan Arabic has the same meaning as in Classical Arabic. However, many words have different but related meanings to those of Classical Arabic
. The following table serves to illustrate this relation. The past tense
is used in the case of verbs as it is more distinctive and has been traditionally used in Arabic lexicons
. Canonically, these verbs are pronounced with the final 'a' (marker of the past tense in Classical Arabic). This notation is preserved the table below. However, the relation between Libyan and Classical Arabic verbs can be better understood if the final 'a' is dropped, in accordance with the elision
rule of pre-pause vowels of Classical Arabic.
Comparison of meanings between Libyan Arabic words and Classical Arabic words
1. Western Libyan pronunciation is used in the above table.
Italian loanwords exist mainly, but not exclusively, as a technical jargon. For example, machinery parts, workshop tools, electrical supplies, names of fish species, etc.
words were borrowed during the Ottoman
era of Libya. Words of Turkish origin are not as common as Italian ones.
Before the mass Arabization
of what corresponds to modern-day Libya, Berber
was the native language for most people. This led to the borrowing of a number of Berber words in Libyan Arabic. Many Berber
-speaking people continue to live in Libya today but it is not clear to what extent Berber language continues to influence Libyan Arabic. Some examples of the Berber words in Libyan Arabic are Sardouk, fallous, kusha, garjuta, shlama, karmous, zemmita, bazin, kusksi, and zukra.
Nouns in Libyan Arabic are marked for two grammatical genders
, termed masculine and feminine, and three grammatical numbers
, singular, dual and plural. Paucal
number also exists for some nouns. The diminutive
is also still widely used productively
(especially by women) to add an endearing or an empathetic connotation to the original noun. As in Classical Arabic, rules for the diminutive formation are based on vowel apophony
- For nouns beginning with "moon" letters, the definite article is pronounced either [l], for words with an initial single consonant onset, or [lə], for words with a double consonant onset. Except for the letter j /ʒ/, moon letters in Libyan Arabic are the same as in Classical Arabic even for letters that have become different phonemes such as q changing to g. The letter j/ʒ/, which corresponds to the Modern Standard Arabic phoneme /dʒ/, has changed from a moon letter to a sun letter.
- For nouns beginning with sun letters, which, in Libyan Arabic, include the letter j /ʒ/, the definite article is pronounced [ə], with the first consonant geminated.
While marking verbs for the dual number has been lost completely in Libyan Arabic as in other Arabic varieties, nouns have a specialized dual number form. However, in Eastern Libyan it tends to be more widespread.
Various sets of demonstratives exist in Libyan Arabic. Following is a list of some of these. Note that the grouping in columns does not necessarily reflect grouping in reality:
Similar to Classical Arabic stem formation is an important morphological aspect of Libyan Arabic. However, stems III and X are unproductive whereas stems IV and IX do not exist. The following table shows Classical Arabic stems and their Libyan Arabic counterparts.
Tripoli dialect is used in the table above
Like Classical Arabic and other Arabic dialects, Libyan Arabic distinguishes between two main categories of roots: strong roots (those that do not have vowels or hamza
) and weak roots
Conjugation of strong roots
Strong roots follow more predictable rules of conjugation, and they can be classified into three categories for Stem I
in Western Libyan Arabic:
- i-verbs (e.g. k-t-b to write) follow an interconsonantal vowel structure that is predominated by an i (normally pronounced [ə])
- a-verbs (e.g. r-k-b to mount, to ascend) follow an interconsonantal vowel structure that is predominated by an a
- u-verbs (e.g. r-g-ṣ to dance) follow an interconsonantal vowel structure that is predominated by an u
Note that this classification is not always strictly followed. For example, the third person feminine past of the root r-g-d, which is a u-verb, is usually pronounced [rəɡdət], instead of [ruɡdət]. Also, a-verbs and u-verbs follow the same rules in the past conjugation.
Libyan Arabic triliteral
morphology for the root k-t-b (to write) Stem I
1. The i
in an i-verb is usually pronounced [ə].
2. In roots with initial uvular
phonemes (χ ħ h ʁ ʕ ʔ
but not q
in the present and imperative is pronounced [e]. For example, the root ʁ-l-b (to overcome) is conjugated as jeʁləb, teʁləb, etc.
Libyan Arabic triliteral
morphology for the root r-k-b (to mount, to ascend) Stem I
1.Realized variously as a and ɑ depending on the consonant structure of the word.
Libyan Arabic triliteral
morphology for the root r-g-ṣ
(to dance) Stem I
1. In roots with initial uvular
phonemes (χ ħ h ʁ ʕ ʔ
but not q
, in the present and the imperative, is realised by o
. For example, the root ʁ-r-f (to scoop up) is conjugated as joʁrəf, toʁrəf, etc.
Conjugation in the Eastern Libyan Arabic is more fine grained, yielding a richer structure.
Future in Libyan Arabic is formed by prefixing an initial bi, usually contracted to b, to the present tense conjugation. Thus, 'tiktəb' (she writes) becomes 'btiktəb' (she will write). It should not be confused with the indicative
marker common in some Eastern Arabic varieties.
Intelligibility with other varieties of Arabic
Libyan Arabic is highly intelligible to Tunisians and to a good extent to eastern Algerians. However, for middle eastern and Egyptian Arabic speakers, Libyan can be extremely difficult to understand as it is a maghrebi dialect which is highly influenced by amazigh, Italian and Turkish words.
Libyans usually have to substitute some Libyan Arabic words to make themselves understood to other Arabic speakers, especially Middle Easterners
. Substitute words are usually borrowed from Modern Standard or Egyptian Arabic
. The following table shows some of the commonly replaced words:
Generally, all Italian and to some extent Turkish loanwords are substituted.
If a word is replaced, it does not mean that it is exclusively Libyan. The situation sometimes arises because the speaker mistakenly guesses that the word does not exist in the hearer's dialect. For example, the word zarda (feast, picnic) has close variants in other Maghrebi dialects but is usually substituted in Maghrebi contexts because most speakers do not know that such variants exist.
Pidgin Libyan Arabic
Libyan exists in Libya as a contact language
used by non-Arabs, mostly Saharan and sub-Saharan Africans living in Libya
Like other pidgins, it has a simplified structure and limited expressive power.
- ^ Libyan Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- ^ Dialects of Arabic: Maghreb dialects, dans: The Arabic Language, Edinburgh University Press (2001), p. 164–169 Archived 29 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Martin Haspelmath; Uri Tadmor (22 December 2009). Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. p. 195. ISBN 978-3-11-021844-2.
- ^ Madghis Madi (2017-05-09), أثر الأمازيغية والعربية في اللهجة العامية الليبية, retrieved 2018-10-10
- Roger Chambard, Proverbes libyens recueillis par R. Ch., ed. by Gilda Nataf & Barbara Graille, Paris, GELLAS-Karthala, 2002 [pp. 465–580: index arabe-français/français-arabe]- ISBN 2-84586-289-X
- Eugenio Griffini, L'arabo parlato della Libia – Cenni grammaticali e repertorio di oltre 10.000 vocaboli, frasi e modi di dire raccolti in Tripolitania, Milano: Hoepli, 1913 (reprint Milano: Cisalpino-Goliardica, 1985)
- Christophe Pereira, Le parler arabe de Tripoli (Libye), Zaragoza: Instituto de Estudios Ilamicós y del oriente próximo, 2010
- Abdulgialil M. Harrama. 1993. "Libyan Arabic morphology: Al-Jabal dialect", University of Arizona PhD dissertation
- Jonathan Owens, "Libyan Arabic Dialects", Orbis 32.1–2 (1983) [actually 1987], p. 97–117
- Jonathan Owens, A Short Reference Grammar of Eastern Libyan Arabic, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1984. ISBN 3-447-02466-6.
- Ester Panetta, "Vocabolario e fraseologia dell’arabo parlato a Bengasi" – (Letter A): Annali Lateranensi 22 (1958) 318–369; Annali Lateranensi 26 (1962) 257–290 – (B) in: A Francesco Gabrieli. Studi orientalistici offerti nel sessantesimo compleanno dai suoi colleghi e discepoli, Roma 1964, 195–216 – (C) : AION n.s. 13.1 (1964), 27–91 – (D) : AION n.s. 14.1 (1964), 389–413 – (E) : Oriente Moderno 60.1–6 (1980), 197–213
Last edited on 23 April 2021, at 08:08
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