Hadhrami Arabic

Hadhrami Arabic

Infobox Language
name=Hadrami Arabic
states=Yemen, Eritrea, Kenya
fam3=West Semitic
fam4=Central Semitic
fam5=South Central Semitic
script=Arabic alphabet

Hadhrami Arabic (also known as Hadrami Arabic [ISO-639-3] ) is a variety of Arabic spoken by the people living in the Unicode|Ḥaḍramawt region of Yemen. It is also spoken by many Yemenī emigrants who migrated from Unicode|Ḥaḍramawt to East Africa (Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania), South-east Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore) and, recently, to the Arabian Peninsula. Below is a brief account of the different linguistic levels of the dialect.


The dialect in many towns and villages in the Wādī (valley) and the coastal region is characterised by its ج -yodization, i.e. changing Classical Arabic reflex to the approximant ي [y] (IPA [j] ). In this it resembles some Eastern Arabian and Gulf dialects including the dialects of Basra in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the dialects of the other Arab Emirates. In educated speech, is realised as a voiced palatal plosive or affricate in some lexical items which are marked [+ religious] or [+ educated] (see ق below).

The ق reflex is pronounced as a voiced velar [g] in all lexical items throughout the dialect. In some other Arabic dialects, is realised as a voiceless uvular plosive in certain lexemes which are marked [+ religious] , [+ educational] etc., e.g. /qur’ān/ “Qur’an”. With the spread of literacy and contact with speakers of other Arabic dialects, future sociolinguistic research may reveal whether HA is going to witness innovation like using the uvular in certain lexemes while retaining the velar /g/ for others.

Wādī HA makes ث / ت and ذ / د distinction but ض <Unicode|ḍ> and ظ <unicode|đ̣> are both pronounced ظ (IPA [IPA|ðˤ] ) where as Coastal HA merges all these pairs into the stops د , ت and ض (IPA [t] , [d] and [IPA|dˤ] ) respectively.

In non-emphatic environments, /ā/ is realised open front (slightly raised) unrounded. Thus/θānī/ “second; psn. name” which is normally realised with an [IPA|ɑ:] -like quality in the Gulf dialects is realised with an [IPA|æ:] in HA.

This dialect is characterised by not allowing final consonant clusters to occur in final position. Thus Classical Arabic /bint/ “girl” is realised as /binit/. In initial positions, there is a difference between the Wādī and the coastal varieties of HA. Coastal HA has initial clusters in /bġā/ “he wants”, /Unicode|bṣal/ “onions” and /brīd/ “mail (n.)” while Wādī HA realises the second and third words as /Unicode|baṣal/ and /barīd/ respectively.

= Morphology =

When the first person singular comes as an independent subject pronoun, it is marked for gender, thus "unicode|anā" for masculine and "unicode|anī" for feminine. As an object pronoun, it comes as a bound morpheme, thus "unicode|–nā" for masculine and "unicode|–nī" for feminine. The first person subject plural is "Unicode|naḥnā".

The first person direct object plural is "Unicode|naḥnā" rather than "unicode|–nā" which is the case in many dialects. Thus, the cognate of the Classical Arabic "Unicode|ḍarabanā" “he hit us” is "Unicode|đ̣arab naḥnā" in HA.

Stem VI, "tC1āC2aC3", can be umlauted to "tC1ēC2aC3", thus changing the pattern vowel "unicode|ā" to "unicode|ē". This leads to a semantic change as in "unicode|tšāradaw" “they ran away suddenly” and "unicode|tšēradaw" “they shirk, try to escape”

Intensive and frequentative verbs are common in the dialect. Thus "kasar" “to break” is intensified to |kawsar| as in "Unicode|kōsar fi l-l‘ib" “he played rough”. It can be metathesized to become frequentative as "Unicode|kaswar min iđ̣-đ̣aḥkāt" “he made a series (lit. breaks) of giggles or laughs”.


The syntax of HA has many similarities to other Peninsular Arabic dialects. However, the dialect contains a number of unique particles used for coordination, negation and other sentence types. Examples in coordination include /kann, lākan/ “but; nevertheless, though”, /mā/ (Classical Arabic /ammā/) “as for…” and /walla/ “or”.

Like many other dialects, apophonic or ablaut passive (as in /kutib/ "it was written") is not very common in HA and perhaps is confined to clichés and proverbs from other dialects including Classical Arabic.

The particle /qad/ developed semantically in HA into /kuð/ or /guð / “yet, already, almost, nearly” and /gad/ or /gid/ “maybe, perhaps”.


There are a few lexical items that are shared with Modern South Arabian languages, which perhaps distinguish this dialect from other neighbouring Peninsular dialects. The effect of Hadrami migration to South-East Asia (see Arab Singaporean), the Indian sub-continent and East Africa on HA is clear in the vocabulary especially in certain registers like types of food and dress, e.g. /Unicode|ṣārūn/ "sarong". Many loan words were listed in al-Saqqaf (2006):http://www.multilingual-matters.net/beb/009/beb0090075.htm


* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ayh Ethnologue entry for Hadrami Arabic]
* A. Al-Saqqaf (2006) "Co-referential devices in Hadramî Arabic, pp 75-93" "Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik" (ZAL) http://semitistik.uni-hd.de/zal/zal46.htm


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