Levantine Arabic


Levantine Arabic
Levantine Arabic
لهجات شامية
Spoken in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan
Native speakers 35,000,000
Language family
Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 either:
apc – North Levantine Arabic
ajp – South Levantine Arabic
LevantineWikipedia.png
Regions where Levantine Arabic is spoken

Levantine Arabic (Arabic: شامي (Shami) and sometimes called Eastern Arabic) is a broad variety of Arabic spoken in the 100 to 200 km-wide Eastern Mediterranean coastal strip [1]. It is considered one of the five major varieties of Arabic [2]

Contents

Location

Levantine Arabic is spoken in the fertile strip on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. To the East, in the Desert, one finds North Arabian Bedouin varieties. The transition to Egyptian Arabic in the South via the Sinai desert where Bedouin varieties are spoken, was proposed by de Jong in 1999.[3]. In the North, between Aleppo and Euphrates valley, there may be a transition zone towards North Mesopotamian qeltu varieties (to be confirmed, since the Raqqah variety in the Syrian Euphrates valley still seems to be quite close to South Iraqi and Bedouin varieties.).

Main features

The most distinctive feature of Levantine Arabic is probably its stress pattern, which remains closest to the classical Arabic among all varieties. It ignores the gahawa syndrome ('qahwa > ga'hawa) typical of the Mesopotamian and Peninsula Arabic, it does not limit stress to penultimate syllable as Egyptian Arabic (['madrasa] > [mad'rasa]) and is foreign to North-African stress shift to last syllable ([baħr] > [bħar], ['intu] > [in'tu]).

As in most Arabic speaking areas, the spoken language differs significantly between urban, rural and nomad populations.

  • In the Levant, nomads trace to various Peninsula tribes, and their dialect is consequently close to peninsula Arabic (Najdi). Note that although claiming a Bedouin ancestry sounds prestigious in the Levant, the Bedouin influence on the area should not be overestimated.
  • The rural language is the one that changes more, and as in every old sedentary area, the changes are gradual, with more marked forms in extremal or isolated areas (e.g. general shift of /k/ to [tʃ] in rural Palestinian, or conservation of [aɪ] and [aʊ] diphthongs in the Lebanese mountains).
  • The urban language spoken in the major cities is remarkably homogeneous, with a few markers only to distinguish the various cities (e.g. the way to translate "now", or the 3rd person imperfect conjugation). This homogeneity was probably due to the trading network among cities in the Ottoman Empire. There is a current trend to diverge from this unity, the language of the cities taking on some of the features of their neighboring villages (e.g. Jerusalem used to say as Damascus ['nɪħna] (we) and ['hʊnne] (they) at the beginning of the 20th century, and this has moved to the more rural ['ɪħna] and ['hʊmme] nowadays.) [4]

It should be noted that Levantine Arabic is commonly understood to be the urban sub-variety. Teaching manuals for foreigners introduce systematically to this sub-variety, as it would sound very strange for a for a foreigner to speak a marked rural dialect, raising immediately questions on unexpected family links for instance [5].

Origin

The area where Levantine Arabic is spoken used to speak Canaanite languages (Eblaite, Ugaritic, and then Hebrew-Phoenician, characterized by shift of semitic /ā/ to ō and /th/ to /sh/). It had then adopted the more eastern Aramaic in the middle of th 1st millennium BC, generalized as official language by the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great conquered the area, which was then taken by the Romans. Just before arabization,the region certainly counted a significant number of Greek speakers as a part of the Byzantine empire.

Since Roman times, Arabic was a neighbor language, spoken in the desert immediately east of this area (Nabataeans in Petra). The Ghassanid kingdom established in the first centuries AD in the Hauran mountains was the first (Christian) Arab authority on the sedentary area. In the first years of the Islamic conquest, the Levant was taken to the Byzantine empire, and the first Caliphate established in Damascus. Arabic entered deeper in the population by then. It should be however considered that the language was adopted gradually (as well as Islam, that the new rulers would have kept as an elite religion in the first place, so as to maximize the amount of taxes on non-muslim "dhimmis"). The persistence of a spoken Aramaic dialect in a few villages in the north of Damascus is the last trace of this slow conversion. It is interesting to note that this Aramaic dialect share feature with rural Palestinian Arabic (e.g. /q/ > k).

It may thus be considered that Levantine Arabic results of the adoption of Arabic by speakers with a marked Aramaic substrate. It is likely that the Arabic they adopted is a Hijazi (as opposed to Najdi spoken by Bedouins) variety of Arabic (as shows e.g. the treatment of internal hamza as semi vowels).

Sub dialects

It can be divided into six "mutually intelligible" sub-dialects[6]

Sub dialects can be distinguished by the following features:

  • Product of /aː/, which may remain, or change in palatal (a: > e:, a phenomenon called imala) or velar (a: > o:, a phenomenon called tafkhim)
  • Products of diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/, which are often simplified in o: and e: or kept
  • Realizations of feminine ending -/ah/, which tend to be uttered -e after front consonants, but not everywhere.
  • Realizations of ﻙ (/k/) as [k] or []
  • Realizations of ﻕ (/q/) as [q], [k], [ʔ] or [g]
  • Realizations of ﺝ (/j/) as [/ʤ/] or [/ʒ/].
  • Conservation of inter dentals ﺙ (/θ/), ﺫ (/ð/), and ﻅ (/ðˁ/);
  • Vocalism and consonnatism of the plural suffix pronouns, -kum and -kunna (your m./f.)
  • The form of the plural independent pronouns, hum and hunna (they m./f.)

The table below shows how the variants are distributed.

Dialect /aː/ /aj/ /aw/ /k/ /q/ /dʒ/ /θ/ /ð/ /ðˁ/ -ah -kum -kunna hum hunna
Lebanese /eː/, /oː/ in Tripoli /ej/,/e:/ /aw/,/o:/ /k/ /q/, /ʔ/ /ʒ/, /t/ /d/ /dˁ/ or /zˁ/ -e/a -kon -kon henne henne
Central Syrian /aː/, /eː/ word-terminally /eː/ /oː/ /k/ /ʔ/ /ʒ/ /t/ /d/ /dˁ/ or /zˁ/ -e/a -kon -kon henne henne
North Syrian /eː/ /eː/ /oː/ /k/ /ʔ/ /ʤ/ /t/ /d/ /dˁ/ or /zˁ/ -e/a -kon -kon henne henne
Rural Central Palestinian /aː/ /eː/ /oː/ /ʧ/ /k/ /ʤ/ /θ/ /ð/ /ðˁ/ -a -ʧem -ʧen hemme henne
Urban Palestinian /aː/ /eː/ /oː/ /k/ /ʔ/ /ʒ/, in Hebron /ʤ/ /t/ /d/ /dˁ/ or /zˁ/ -e -kom, -ku in Hebron and Galilee -kom, -ku in Hebron and Galilee homme, henne in Galilee homme, henne in Galilee
Bedouin Palestinian /aː/ /eː/ /oː/ /ʧ/ before palatals or /k/ before velars /ɡ/ /ʤ/ /θ/ /ð/ /ðˁ/ -a -kom -ʧen homme henne

See more

For more information, see

References

  1. ^ Versteegh, Kees, The Arabic language, Edinburgh University Press, 2001, p.170
  2. ^ Bassiouney, Reem, Arabic sociolinguistics, Edinburgh University Press, 2009, p.20
  3. ^ Rudolf de Jong, Characteristics of Bedouin dialects in southern Sinai: preliminary observations, in, Manfred Woidich, Martine Haak, Rudolf Erik de Jong,, eds., Approaches to Arabic dialects: a collection of articles presented to Manfred Woidich on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, BRILL, 2004, pp.151-176
  4. ^ U. Seeger, Mediterranean Language Review 10 (1998), pp. 89-145.
  5. ^ See e.g. Yohanan Elihai, The olive tree dictionary: a transliterated dictionary of conversational Eastern Arabic (Palestinian). Washington, DC: Kidron Pub. 2004 (ISBN 0-9759726-0-X)
  6. ^ Handbuch der arabische Dialekte - Jastrow et. al - Harrassowitz verlag

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