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definition - Palestinian_Arabic

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Palestinian Arabic

Palestinian Arabic
Spoken in Palestine, Israel
Language family
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Palestinian Arabic is a Levantine Arabic dialect subgroup spoken by Palestinians and the majority of Arab-Israelis.Palestinian Arabic exhibits a vocabulary strata that includes word borrowings from Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Syriac, and Persian..Rural varieties of this dialect exhibit several distinctive features; particularly the pronunciation of qaf as kaf, which distinguish them from other Arabic varieties. Palestinian urban dialects more closely resemble northern Levantine Arabic dialects, that is, the colloquial variants of Syria and Lebanon.


  Differences from other forms of Levantine Arabic

Until relatively recently the Arabic spoken in the Ottoman sanjak of Syria was considered a single Syrian dialect, as for example advised by F. E. Crow in his 1901 Arabic manual: a colloquial handbook in the Syrian dialect, for the use of visitors to Syria and Palestine, containing a simplified grammar, a comprehensive English and Arabic vocabulary and dialogues. printed in London by Luzac & co.

There are noticeable differences between Palestinian Arabic and other forms of Levantine Arabic such as Syrian Arabic and Lebanese Arabic. However, none of these is invariable, given the differences of dialect within Palestinian Arabic itself.

One typical feature of Palestinian dialects is the pronunciation of hamzated verbs with an 'o'-like vowel in the imperfect. For example, in Fuṣḥa the imperfect of اكل akala 'eat' is آكل 'ākulu: the common equivalent in Palestinian dialect is بوكل bōkel. (The b prefix marks a present indicative meaning.) Thus, in the Galilee, the colloquial for the verbal expression, "I am eating" or "I eat" is ana bōkel, rather than ana bākul used in Syrian dialect. However, ana bākul is used by the Bedouin in the south.

Palestinian Arabic also shares some features with Egyptian, distinguishing it from the northern Levantine dialects:

  • In vocabulary: 'like' (prep.) is زي zayy for some regions in the Palestinian Territories as it is in Egypt. However, مثل mitl, as found in Syrian and Lebanese Arabic, is also used by Palestinians in other regions.
  • In grammar: the Palestinian dialects (except for the dialect of Palestinian Bedouins), like Egyptian, typically suffix (ش -sh, IPA: /ʃ/) to form the negative of verbs and pseudo-verbal prepositional pronouns.
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  Sub-dialects of Palestinian Arabic

Palestinian Arabic falls into three groups:

  • Urban Palestinian,
  • Rural Palestinian
  • Bedouin Palestinian.

Of these, the urban dialect is the closest to northern Levantine Arabic of Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile, the Bedouin dialect is nearer to varieties of Arabic spoken in Arabia itself, the Bedouins being more certainly known to be Arabs not only in culture, language and customs but also by descent traceable outside Palestine/Israel (as opposed to being locals whose ethnic identity - Aramaic, Jewish, Greek - had shifted to an Arab ethnic identity following the process of cultural and linguistic Arabization over the centuries).

Notable differences in the varieties of Palestinian Arabic are as follows:

  • The pronunciation of qāf serves as a shibboleth to distinguish the three main Palestinian dialects: it becomes a glottal stop in most cities, a pharyngealized k in smaller villages and the countryside, in some areas a (non-pharyngealized) k, and g in the far south and among Bedouin speakers. In a number of villages in the Galilee (e.g. Maghār), especially but not only among the Druze, the qāf is actually pronounced qāf as in Classical Arabic and other previous semitic languages of the area.
  • In dialects where qāf is pronounced as k, a true kāf is often pronounced /tʃ/, as in some dialects of Gulf Arabic. This is generally a feature of more conservative idiolects. This pronunciation of kāf also happens in the northern West Bank and adjacent Palestinian populated areas in Israel, known as "the triangle". This pronunciation is often stigmatised by urban Palestinians and some villagers who refrain from that pronunciation.
  • In addition, a feminine suffix -a rather than the more common Levantine -i or is fairly widespread, particularly in the south of the area. However, the "-i" or something approximating it is in use in the "triangle" while the Westbank and the Galilee mostly use .
  • Another interesting sub-dialectical marker is the word used for the preposition "here". The urban dialect favours "hōn". The Negev Bedouin, on the other hand, tend to use "hiniyye" or even "hiniyante".
  • In the Negev, the -sh form is not used in negating the past or present. Instead, the Bedouin dialect uses only the "mā" particle to negate.

In general, the rural dialects are somewhat stigmatised and urban pronunciations are gaining ground, as is the case in other Arabic dialect groups. In contrast, Bedouin dialect use remains quite common, even among university educated Bedouins. While stigmatized by other Arab Israelis, the basic characteristics of the Bedouin dialect (e.g. the qāf pronounced as a g) are used very widely in all informal contexts by Bedouin speakers, including those who are university-educated. Thus, a phenomenon similar to the disappearance of the /tʃ/ for the kāf - as seen in the "triangle" - has yet to be witnessed in the Negev. This is not the case, however, with Bedouin from the Negev who moved to Lod and Ramle in the 1960s and show more of a tendency to adopt a standard urban dialect.

  Other Differences from Modern Standard/Classical Arabic

  Restrictive Clause

As in most forms of colloquial Arabic, the clause markers of MSA الذي، التي، اللذان، اللتان، الذين and اللاتي are replaced by the single form إللي /ʔilːi/

  Marking Indirect Object

The particle li- has fused with the preceding stem as an indicator of an indirect object. Thus MSA qultu lahû /qultu lahuː/ is expressed as 'ultillo /ʔultilˈlo/, qultillo /qultilˈlo/ or kultillo /kultilˈlo/ and MSA Katabtu lahâ /katabtu lahaː/ is translated in Palestinian Arabic as Katabtilha /katabtilˈha/.


MSA Palestinian Arabic Translation
لماذا Limāðā ليش /ˈleʃ/ Why
ماذا māðā ايش /ˈʔeʃ/ or شو /ˈʃu/ What
كيف Kayfa كيف Kīf /ˈkif ~ ˈkef/ How
متى matā إيمتى ēmtā /ˈʔemta ~ ˈʔɛmta/ or وينتى /ˈwenta/ When
اين ayna وين /ˈwen/ Where
من man مين /ˈmin/ Who

  Influence of other languages

The variations between dialects reflect the different historical steps of arabization of the Palestinian, and the variety of localities from Palestinian had come. Until the 7th Century, the area used to speak predominantly Aramaic (as witnessed e.g. in the Palestinian Jewish Aramaic and Palestinian Christian Aramaic literature), as well as Greek (probably in upper or trader social classes) and probably some traces of Hebrew. At that time, Arabic speaking people living in the Jordan desert beyond Zarqa, Amman or Karak had no significant influence - on the contrary they tended to adopt Aramaic as a written language as shown in Nabatean texts of Petra or Palmyrenian documents of Tadmor.

Arabization of the population occurred most probably in several waves. After the Arabs took control of the area, so as to maintain their regular activity, the upper classes had quickly to get fluency in the language of the new masters who most probably were only few. The main phenomenon could have been the slow shift of Aramaic-speaking villages to Arabic under the influence of Arabicized elites.

This scenario is consistent with several facts.

  • The rural forms can be correlated with features also observed in the few Syrian villages where use of Aramaic has been retained up to this day. Palatalization of /k/, pronunciation [kˤ] of /q/ for instance. Note that the first also exists in Najdi and Gulf Arabic, but limited to palatal contexts (k followed by i or e). Moreover those eastern dialects have [g] or [dʒ] for /q/.
  • The less-evolutive urban forms can be explained by a limitation owed to the contacts urban trader classes had to maintain with Arabic speakers of other towns in Syria or Egypt.
  • The Bedouins dialect shares a number of features with Hijazi dialects.

This scenario may also be consistent with the fact that the rural dialects of Palestinian Arabic contain features that appear to resemble their classical Hebrew counterparts.

  • The clearest example is the second and third person plural pronouns. hemme (they masc.) and henne (they fem.) resembles Hebrew hēm / hēn as against Classical Arabic hum/hunna, Aramaic hennōn/hennēn and general Levantine Arabic hunne. Similarly the suffixes -kem (you or your, masc.) and -ken observed in Bīr-Zēt resembles Hebrew -khem / -khen as against Classical Arabic -kum and -kunna and Aramaic -kōn / -kēn and northern Levantine Arabic -kon.
  • A less clear example is the transformation of glottal stop followed by long alif (alif madda) into an "o" sound, as in the form Ana bokel (أنا بوكل) noted above. This certainly occurs in the future forms of Hebrew verbs with an aleph as the first consonant of their root. However, it is equally characteristic of Aramaic.

  Palestinian-Hebrew Arabic

Israeli Arabs have adopted Hebrew loanwords, like yesh יֶשׁ ("we did it!" - used as sports cheer) which cannot be translated literally into Arabic. According to social linguist Dr. David Mendelson from Givat Haviva's Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, there is an adoption of words from Hebrew in Arabic spoken in Israel which contain alternative native terms. According to linguist Mohammed Omara, of Bar-Ilan University some researchers call the Arabic spoken by Israeli Arabs Arabrew. The list of words adopted contain:

  • ramzor רַמְזוֹר (traffic light)
  • shamenet שַׁמֶּנֶת (sour cream)
  • beseder בְּסֵדֶר (O.K, alright)
  • kohavit כּוֹכָבִית (asterisk)

Palestinians in the Palestinian territories refer to their brethren in Israel with epithet "the b'seder Arabs" because of their adoption of the Hebrew word for O.K, However words like ramzor רַמְזוֹר (traffic light) and maḥsom מַחְסוֹם (roadblock) became a part of Palestinian vernacular. Such borrowings are often "Arabized" to reflect not only Arabic phonology but the phonology of Hebrew as spoken by Arabs.[1]

The 2009 film Ajami is mostly spoken in Palestinian-Hebrew Arabic.

  See also


  Recommended readings

  • P. Behnstedt, Wolfdietrich Fischer and Otto Jastrow, Handbuch der Arabischen Dialekte. 2nd ed. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1980 (ISBN 3-447-02039-3)
  • Haim Blanc, Studies in North Palestinian Arabic: linguistic inquiries among the Druzes of Western Galilee and Mt. Carmel. Oriental notes and studies, no. 4. Jerusalem: Typ. Central Press 1953.
  • J. Blau, "Syntax des palästinensischen Bauerndialektes von Bir-Zet: auf Grund der Volkserzahlungen aus Palastina von Hans Schmidt und Paul kahle". Walldorf-Hessen: Verlag fur Orientkunde H. Vorndran 1960.
  • J. Cantineau, "Remarques sur les parlés de sédentaires syro-libano-palestiniens", in: Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris 40 (1938), pp. 80–89.
  • R. L. Cleveland, "Notes on an Arabic Dialect of Southern Palestine", in: Bulletin of the American Society of Oriental Research 185 (1967), pp. 43–57.
  • Olivier Durand, Grammatica di arabo palestinese: il dialetto di Gerusalemme, Rome: Università di Roma La Sapienza 1996.
  • Yohanan Elihai, Dictionnaire de l’arabe parle palestinien: francais-arabe. Jerusalem: Typ. Yanetz 1973.
  • Yohanan Elihai, The olive tree dictionary: a transliterated dictionary of conversational Eastern Arabic (Palestinian). Washington, DC: Kidron Pub. 2004 (ISBN 0-9759726-0-X)
  • Elias N. Haddad, "Manual of Palestinian Arabic". Jerusalem: Syrisches Weisenhaus 1909.
  • Moin Halloun, A Practical Dictionary of the Standard Dialect Spoken in Palestine. Bethlehem University 2000.
  • Moin Halloun, Spoken Arabic for Foreigners. An Introduction to the Palestinian Dialect. Vol. 1 & 2. Jerusalem 2003.
  • Arye Levin, A Grammar of the Arabic Dialect of Jerusalem [in Hebrew]. Jerusalem: Magnes Press 1994 (ISBN 965-223-878-3)
  • M. Piamenta, Studies in the Syntax of Palestinian Arabic. Jerusalem 1966.
  • Frank A. Rice and Majed F. Sa'ed, Eastern Arabic: an introduction to the spoken Arabic of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. Beirut: Khayat's 1960.
  • Frank A. Rice, Eastern Arabic-English, English-Eastern Arabic: dictionary and phrasebook for the spoken Arabic of Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel and Syria. New York: Hippocrene Books 1998 (ISBN 0-7818-0685-2)
  • H. Schmidt & P. E. Kahle, "Volkserzählungen aus Palaestina, gesammelt bei den Bauern von Bir-Zet". Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1918.
  • Kimary N. Shahin, Palestinian Rural Arabic (Abu Shusha dialect). 2nd ed. University of British Columbia. LINCOM Europa, 2000 (ISBN 3-89586-960-0)

  External links



All translations of Palestinian_Arabic

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