|Native to||Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey (Hatay and Mersin), Egypt (Arish only)|
|Region||Levant / Greater Syria|
|38 million (2021)|
|Arabic alphabet, Latin script (Arabizi), Hebrew alphabet (in Israel)|
Levantine Arabic also called Shami (autonym: شامي šāmi, or Arabic: اللَّهْجَةُ الشَّامِيَّة, il-lahje š-šāmiyye), or simply Levantine is a sprachbund of vernacular Arabic indigenous in the Levant, that is, in present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Turkey (provinces of Mersin and Hatay), and Egypt (Arish only). It is also spoken by members of the Arab diaspora coming from this region, most significantly among the Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian diasporas.
With numerous dialects and over 38 million speakers worldwide, Levantine has been described as one of the two "dominant (prestigeful) dialect centres of gravity for Spoken Arabic", together with Egyptian Arabic. Levantine and Egyptian are considered the most widely understood varieties of Arabic, and they are the most commonly taught varieties to foreign students.
In the frame of the general diglossia status of the Arab world, Levantine is used for daily spoken use, while most of the written and official documents and media use the more formal Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is nobody's native language and is only acquired from education. With about 50% of common words, Palestinian-Levantine dialect is the closest vernacular variety to MSA. Still, Levantine and MSA are drastically different and not mutually intelligible. Levantine speakers therefore often call their language Amiya[a], which means "slang", "dialect", or "colloquial" in MSA (العامية, al-ʿāmmiyya). However, with the emergence of social media, attitudes toward Levantine have improved and the amount of written Levantine has significantly increased.
Scholars use the term "Levantine Arabic" to described the continuum of mutually intelligible dialects spoken across the Levant. Other terms include "Syro-Palestinian", "Eastern Arabic",[b] "Syro-Lebanese" (as a broad term covering Jordan and Palestine as well),, "Greater Syrian", or simply "Syrian Arabic" (in a broad meaning, referring to all the dialects of Greater Syria, which corresponds to the Levant). Most authors only include sedentary dialects, excluding Bedouin dialects of the Syrian Desert and the Negev which belong to Peninsular Arabic. Mesopotamian dialects from north-east Syria are also excluded. Brustad & Zuniga note that the term "Levantine Arabic" is not indigenous and that "it is likely that many speakers would resist the grouping on the basis that the rich phonological, morphological and lexical variation within the Levant carries important social meanings and distinctions."
Indeed, Levantine speakers often call their language Amiya,[a] which means "slang", "dialect", or "colloquial" in MSA (العامية, al-ʿāmmiyya) to when they compare their vernacular to Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic (الفصحى, al-fuṣḥā, meaning "the eloquent").[c]  Alternatively, they may identify their language by the name of their country, for instance Jordanian (أردني, Urduni), Syrian (شامي, Shami), or Lebanese. In Lebanon, Said Akl led a movement to recognize the "Lebanese language" as a distinct prestigious language and oppose it to Standard Arabic, which he considered a "dead language". Akl's idea was relatively successly among the Lebanese diaspora.
Levantine is a variety of Arabic, a Semitic language. Semitic languages belong to Afroasiatic languages. The genealogical position of Arabic within the group of the Semitic languages has long been a problem.
Indeed, Semitic languages were confined in a relatively small geographic area (Greater Syria, Mesopotamia and the Arabian desert) and often spoken in contiguous regions. Permanent contacts between the speakers of these languages facilitated borrowing between them. Borrowing disrupts historical processes of change and makes it difficult to reconstruct the genealogy of languages.
|Traditional classification of the Semitic languages|
Today, most scholars reject the South-west Semitic subgrouping because it is not supported by any innovations and because shared features with South Arabian and Ethiopian were only due to areal diffusion.
|The genealogy of the Semitic languages (Hetzron 1974, 1976)|
|Huehnergard & Pat-El's classification of Semitic languages|
However, several scholars, such as Giovanni Garbini, consider that the historical–genetic interpretation is not a satisfactory way of representing the development of the Semitic languages (contrary to Indo-European languages, which spread over a wide area and were usually isolated from each other). Edward Ullendorff even thinks it is impossible to establish any genetic hierarchy between Semitic languages. These scholars prefer a purely typological–geographical approach without any claim to a historical derivation.
For instance, in Garbini's view, the Syrian Desert was the core area of the Semitic languages where innovations came from. This region had contacts between sedentary settlements—on the desert fringe—and nomads from the desert. Some nomads joined settlements, while some settlers became isolated nomads ("Bedouinisation"). According to Garbini, this constant alternation explains how innovations spread from Syria into other areas. Isolated nomads progressively spread southwards and reached South Arabia, where the South Arabian language was spoken. They established linguistic contacts back and forth between Syria and South Arabia and their languages. That's why Garbini considers that Arabic doesn't belong exclusively to either the Northwest Semitic languages (Aramaic, Phoenician, Hebrew, etc.) or the South Semitic languages (Modern South Arabian, Geʽez, etc.) but that it was affected by innovations in both groups.
Today, there is still no consensus regarding the exact position of Arabic within Semitic languages. The only consensus among scholars is that Arabic varieties exhibit common features with both the South (South Arabian, Ethiopic) and the North (Canaanite, Aramaic) Semitic languages, and that it also contains unique innovations.
The position of Levantine and other Arabic vernaculars in the Arabic macrolanguage family has also been contested. According to the Arabic linguistic and intellectual tradition, Classical Arabic was the spoken language of the pre- and Early Islamic period and remained stable to today's Modern Standard Arabic. In this view, Classical Arabic is the ancestor of all other Arabic vernaculars, including Levantine, which were corrupted by contacts with other languages. However, many varieties of Arabic preserve features lost in Classical Arabic and are closer to other Semitic languages. This shows that these varieties of Arabic cannot have developed from Classical Arabic. It is therefore now considered among most Western scholars that Arabic vernaculars represent a different type of Arabic, rather than just a modified version of the Classical language, and that Classical Arabic is a sister language to other varieties of Arabic rather than their direct ancestor. In the above models, Classical Arabic and all of the other varieties, including Levantine, are seen as developing from an unattested common ancestor conventionally called Proto-Arabic. Versteegh calls it Ancient North Arabian to distinguish it from Early Arabic, the language the early Islamic papyri.
There is no consensus among scholars whether Arabic diglossia (between Classical Arabic, also called "Old Arabic" and Arabic vernaculars, also called "New Arabic" or "Neo-Arabic") was the result the result of the Islamic conquests and due to the influence of non-Arabic languages or whether is was already the natural state in 7th-century Arabia (which means that both types coexisted in the pre-Islamic period).
Sedentary vernaculars (also called dialects) are then traditionally classified in 5 groups according to shared features:
In the pre-Islamic period, all Arabs were able to communicate easily. Today, it is for instance extremely difficult for Moroccans and Iraqis, each speaking their own variety, to understand each other. The linguistic distance between Arabic vernaculars (including Levantine) is as large as that between the Germanic languages and the Romance languages (including Romanian), if not larger. However, in practice, research by Trentman & Shiri indicates that native speakers of Arabic languages are able, thanks to previous exposure to their non-native dialects through media or personal contacts and through various strategies (contextual clues, predicting phonological differences, using knowledge of the root system to guess meaning, and recognizing affixes), to reach a high degree of mutual intelligibility in interactional situations.
Geographical distribution and varieties
Levantine is spoken in the fertile strip on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The degree of similarity among Levantine dialects is not necessarily determined by geographical location or political boundaries. The urban dialects of the main cities (such as Damascus, Beirut, and Jerusalem) have much more in common with each other than they do with the rural dialects of their respective countries. The sociolects of two different social or religious groups within the same country may also show more points of dissimilarity in relation to each other than when compared with their counterparts in another country.
Although Levantine dialects have remained notably stable over the past two centuries, in cities such as Damascus and Amman, a rapid standardization of the spoken language is taking place through variant reduction (koineization) and linguistic homogenization among the various religious groups and neighborhoods. Rapid urbanization and the increasing proportion of youth[d] constitute the common causes of dialect change.
The process of koineization within each country of the Levant makes a classification of dialects by country more relevant today. The ISO 639-3 standard divides Levantine into two groups: North Levantine (ISO 639-3 code: apc) and South Levantine (ISO 639-3 code: ajp). Kees Versteegh classifies Levantine (which he calls "Syro-Lebanese") into three groups: Lebanese/Central Syrian (inc. Beirut, Damascus, Druze Arabic, Cypriot Maronite), North Syrian (inc. Aleppo), and Palestinian/Jordanian. However, according to Versteegh, the distinctions between the groups are not clear-cut and the exact boundary cannot be determined with certainty using isoglosses.
North Levantine extends from Turkey in the north, specifically in the coastal regions of the Adana, Hatay, and Mersin provinces, to Lebanon, passing through the Mediterranean coastal regions of Syria (the Al Ladhiqiyah and Tartus governorates) as well as the areas surrounding Aleppo and Damascus. In the North, the limit between Mesopotamian Arabic starts from the Turkish border near el-Rāʿi, and Sabkhat al-Jabbul is the north-eastern limit of Levantine, which includes further south al-Qaryatayn, Damascus, and the Hauran.
Dialects of North Levantine include:
- Syrian Arabic: There is an urban standard dialect based on Damascus speech. This prestige dialect is the most widely documented and described Levantine variety. A national variety of colloquial Arabic which might be called “common Syrian Arabic” is emerging. The dialect of Aleppo is also well-known, it shows Mesopotamian (North Syrian) influence.
- Lebanese Arabic: No special prestige is attributed to the Beiruti dialect. According to Ethnologue, there are also the following dialects: North Lebanese, South Lebanese (Metuali, Shii), North-Central Lebanese (Mount Lebanon Arabic), South-Central Lebanese (Druze Arabic), Beqaa, Sunni Beiruti, Saida Sunni, Iqlim-Al-Kharrub Sunni, Jdaideh. There is an emerging "Standard Lebanese Arabic", which combines features of Beiruti Arabic and Jabale Arabic, the language of Mount Lebanon.
- Galilean Druze Arabic: A form of Druze Arabic spoken in Northern Israel
- Çukurova, Turkey: Cilician Arabic/Çukurovan, related to Antiochia Arabic
South Levantine is spoken in Palestine, as well as in the western area of Jordan (in the ‘Ajlun, Al Balqa', Al Karak, Al Mafraq, 'Amman, Irbid, Jarash, and Madaba governorates). The language is also spoken in the HaTsafon district of Israel. There are about half a million speakers in the United Arab Emirates, though it is not indigenous there. In the Negev and Arabia Petraea, Northwest Arabian Arabic varieties are spoken. The transition to Egyptian in the south via the Negev and Sinai Peninsula, where Northwest Arabian Arabic is spoken and then the dialect of Sharqia Governorate, was described by de Jong in 1999. In this direction, the Egyptian city of Arish is the last one to display proper Levantine features. In a similar manner, the region of el-Karak announces Hejazi Arabic.
Dialects of South Levantine include:
- Israel: Fellahi (rural), Madani (urban)
- Jordanian Arabic: There is a newly emerging urban standard dialect based on Amman dialect. Other dialects include Fellahi, Madani.
- Palestinian Arabic: Fellahi (rural), Madani (urban)
Speakers by country
In addition to the Levant, where it is indigenous, Levantine is spoken by diasporic communities from the region, especially among the Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian diasporas. In some countries, ethnic Arabs from the Levant have ceased to use the language. For instance usage of Levantine Arabic varies in native and heritage speakers among the 7 million Lebanese Brazilians. There's evidence of gradual disuse in third-generation Lebanese Brazilians: 100% of first-generation Lebanese Brazilians declare being able to speak Lebanese, while only 11% of third-generation Lebanese Brazilians do so.
|Country||Total population||North Levantine speakers (apc)||South Levantine speakers (ajp)||Total Levantine speakers (apc+ajp)||% Levantine speakers among the population|
|United Arab Emirates||9,890,000||127,000||499,000||626,000||6.3%|
In pre-Islamic antiquity, the predominant language spoken in the Levant was Western Aramaic, followed by Greek and, to a lesser extent, Latin. The homeland of Arabic is the Arabian Peninsula and the Syrian steppe. Arab communities existence stretched from the southern extremities of the Syrian desert to central Syria and Anti-Lebanon mountains, and Jordan and desert of Palestine and, Beqaa valley in Lebanon. This large swath of desert was inhabited by various Arabic-speaking tribes including the Nabataeans, the Tanukhids, Salihids, Banu al-Samayda, Banu Amilah and the Ghassanids. According to Al-Jallad, the Syrian steppe is the first region where Arabic was attested, in Safaitic inscriptions, and Arabic was part of the linguistic milieu of the Levant and Mesopotamia as early as the Iron Age.
With the Muslim conquest of the Levant, the region became the new home of Arabic speakers originating from the Arabian Peninsula, so that Aramaic, also a Semitic language, which had been widely spoken until then, gradually declined and all but disappeared, nevertheless leaving substrate influences on Levantine. The language shift from Aramaic to Arabic, was not a sudden switch from one language to another, but a long process over several generations, likely with an extended period of bilingualism. Some communities, such as the Samaritans, retained Aramaic well into the Muslim period, and a few small Aramaic-speaking villages had remained until the recent Syrian Civil War.
Contact with Aramaic
There is evidence that a peripheral variety of Aramaic with archaic phonology existed in the southern Levant and possibly northern Arabia during the late first millennium BCE. This variety retained a velar/uvular realization of *ṣ́, as evidenced by an inscription with a prayer to the deity Rqy.
The coexistence of Nabataean and Jewish Palestinian Aramaic in contracts from the Dead Sea show that Nabataeans were indeed exposed to other forms of Aramaic. The continuity of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, the emergence of Samaritan as well as Christian Palestinian Aramaic as written languages, and the eventual development of vocalization traditions makes it possible to define Western Aramaic as a dialect group more clearly in the later Roman period than before.
The degree to which Aramaic survived as a vernacular in Palestine after the 8th century CE is difficult to assess. One may suppose that the modern Western Aramaic dialects still spoken in the Christian and Muslim mountain villages of Maʿlūla, Baḫʿa, and Ǧubb ʿAdīn in the Antilebanon evolved from the same linguistic matrix as the older, now extinct Western Aramaic varieties that appear in the inscriptions and manuscript traditions of late Roman Palestine.
Northern Old Arabic
In antiquity ancient Arabia was home to a continuum of Central Semitic languages which stretched from the southern Levant to Yemen. The isoglosses associated with Arabic are clustered at the northern end of this continuum, in the northern Hijaz and the southern Levant. This may be in part due to a lack of documentation, but it is clear that Central Arabia was home to languages quite distinct from Arabic. Thus, Arabic can be said to have emerged in the second millennium BC and spread into the peninsula, replacing its sister languages on the Central Semitic continuum.
The primary division between Arabic dialects in ancient times was between Northern Old Arabic, spoken in the southern Levant, and Old Hijazi, spoken in the northern, and later central Hijaz. The main representatives of Northern Old Arabic were Safaitic, Hismaic, and Nabataean Arabic. Tens of thousands of graffiti in the Safaitic and Hismaic scripts cover the deserts of southern Syria and present-day Jordan. The Safaitic inscriptions sometimes exhibit the article ʾ(l), a shared areal isogloss with the Arabic substrate of the Nabataean inscriptions. Many Safaitic inscriptions exhibit all of the features typical of Arabic. The Hismaic script was used to compose two long texts in an archaic stage of Arabic before the language acquired the definite article.
Spread of Old Hijazi
Before the mid-sixth century, the coda of the definite article almost never exhibits assimilation to the following coronals and its onset is consistently given with an /a/ vowel. By the mid-sixth century CE in the dialect of Petra, the onset of the article and its vowel seem to have become weakened. There, the article is sometimes written as /el-/ or simply /l-/. A similar, but not identical, situation is found in the texts from the Islamic period. Unlike the pre-Islamic attestations, the coda of the article in the conquest Arabic assimilates to a following coronal consonant. The Arabic transcribed in the 1st century AH papyri clearly represents a different strand of the Arabic language, likely related to Old Hijazi.
The Damascus Psalm Fragment, dated to the mid- to late 9th century but possibly earlier, provides a glimpse of the vernacular of at least one segment of Damascene society during that period. Its linguistic features also shed light on a pre-grammarian standard of Arabic and the dialect from which it sprung, likely Old Hijazi.
Early Modern Levantine Arabic
The Compendio of Lucas Caballero (1709) contains a description of spoken Damascene Arabic in the early 1700s. In some respects, the data given in this manuscript correspond to modern Damascene Arabic. For example, the allomorphic variation between -a/-e in the feminine suffix is essentially identical. In other respects, especially when it comes to insertion and deletion of vowels, it differs from the modern dialect. The presence of short vowels in /zibībih/ and /sifīnih/ point to an earlier stage of linguistic development, before elision led to the modern zbībe and sfīne, though the orthography of the manuscript is in this respect unclear.
Status and usage
Levantine isn't recognized in any state or territory. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the official language in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. It has "special status" in Israel under the Basic Law. French is also recognized in Lebanon. In Turkey, the only official language is Turkish. Any variation from MSA is considered a "dialect" of Arabic.
The linguistic situation in the Levant, as in the rest of the Arab world, has been described as diglossia. Modern Standard Arabic is nobody's first acquired language. MSA is not transmitted naturally from parent to child, but learnt later on through formal instruction.
MSA is the language of literature, official documents and the written formal media in general (newspapers, instruction leaflets, school books, etc.). In spoken form, MSA is mostly used when reading from a scripted text (e.g., news bulletins). MSA is also used for prayer and sermons in the mosque or church.
Attitudes toward MSA are largely positive in the Arab world, even among those who are not proficient in the language. MSA is indeed associated with "the language of the Qur’an", and therefore revered by Muslims who form the majority of the population, including by non-Arab inhabitants such as Kurds. MSA is also associated with the "Arab heritage and civilization", eloquent expression, and a pan-Arab identity, and, as such, it is respected and admired by Arabs in general regardless of their religious affiliation. Because the French and the British put an emphasis on spoken vernaculars when they colonized the Arab world, MSA was also seen by Arabs as an asset against colonialism and imperialism.
On the other hand, Levantine is the mother tongue of Arabic speakers in the region. It is the normal medium of communication in all domains except those described above, which require MSA. Traditionally, it was regarded as less eloquent and less expressive than MSA and, therefore, not fit as the medium of literature or any form of writing.
Traditionally in the Arab world, colloquial varieties, such as Levantine, have been regarded as corrupt forms of MSA, and thus looked upon with disdain. Writing in the vernacular has been a controversial issue for two reasons. First, Pan-Arab nationalists consider that this might divide the Arab people into different nations. Second, because Classical Arabic[c] is the language of the Quran, it is believed to be pure and everlasting, and Islamic religious ideology considers vernaculars to be inferior. Therefore, until recently, the use of Levantine in formal settings or in written form was often ideologically motivated, for instance in opposition to Pan-Arabism.
However, language attitudes surrounding Arabic diglossia are progressively shifting and the use of Levantine has become de-ideologized for most people. Recent research suggests that Levantine is now regarded in a more positive light, and its use is acknowledge certain modes of writing. This increasing acceptance of the vernacular is partly due to its recent widespread use online, in both written and spoken forms.
Code-switching between Levantine, MSA, English, French (in Lebanon and among Arab Christians in Syria), and Hebrew (in Israel) is frequent among Levantine speakers. Gordon cites two Lebanese examples: "Bonjour, ya habibti, how are you?" ("Hello, my love, how are you?") and "Oui, but leish?" ("Yes, but why?").
Code-switching is not limited to normal conversations and informal settings and also happens in formal settings such as on television.
Politics and government
In Lebanon, not all politicians master MSA, so they have to rely on Lebanese. Many public and formal speeches and most political talk shows are in Lebanese, instead of MSA.
In the Levant, MSA is the only variety that is taught in schools as "Arabic," Levantine is not taught. In institutions of higher education, it is used as a medium of instruction in the social sciences and humanities, whereas in most universities, English or French are used in the applied and medical sciences.
In Israel, MSA is learned as the first language in all Arab schools from the first through the twelfth grades. Hebrew is taught beginning in the third grade.
In Jordan, MSA is the language in instruction, except at the university level in the teaching of sciences, engineering, and medicine where English is used.
In Lebanon, about 50% of school students study in French.
In Syria, the only language of instruction is MSA, including in universities. Teachers are obliged to speak only MSA with their pupils. In practice, they only do so partly. In schools, English is mandatory for all students starting from the first grade. In seventh grade, each student has to choose a second foreign language between Russian (since 2014) and French.
In Turkey, article 42.9 of the Constitution prohibits languages other than Turkish being taught as a mother tongue. Therefore, almost all Arabic speakers are illiterate in Arabic, unless they have learned MSA for religious purposes.
Research found that users in the Arab world communicate with their local language (such as Levantine) more than MSA on social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments of online newspapers). According to this paper, depending on the platform, between 12% and 23% of all dialectal Arabic content online was written in Levantine.
Music and oral poetry
Levantine is commonly used in zajal and other forms of oral poetry. Zajal written in vernacular was published in Lebanese newspapers such as al-Mašriq ("The Levant", from 1898) and ad-Dabbūr ("The Hornet", from 1925). In the 1940s, five reviews in Beirut were dedicated exclusively to poetry in Lebanese.
Films, series, and TV shows
Most movies are in a’amiya.
Egypt was the most influential center of Arab media productions (films, drama, TV series, etc.) during the 20th century, but Levantine is now competing with Egyptian. Lebanese television is the oldest running Arab television and is today the largest private Arab broadcast industry. The majority of big-budget pan-Arab entertainment shows are filmed in the Lebanese dialect in the studios of Beirut. Moreover, the Syrian dialect dominates in Syrian TV series (such as Bab Al-Hara) and in the dubbing of Turkish television dramas (such as Noor), popular across all the Arab world. Since the Syrian civil war, dubbing is still done in the Syrian dialect but in Dubai by Emirati companies. Dubbing of Turkish TV dramas has made the Syrian dialect comprehensible all over the Arab world. Today, according to one survey, Native Arabic speakers think that Levantine dialects sound the most beautiful.
The majority of Arabic satellite television networks use colloquial varieties (instead of MSA) for their programs. MSA is limited to news bulletin. This shift to vernacular started in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War and expanded to the rest of the Arab world. Despite this trend, Al Jazeera still uses MSA only, while Al Arabiya and Al-Manar use MSA or a hybrid between MSA and colloquial for talkshows.
Newspapers usually use MSA and reserve Levantine for sarcastic commentaries and caricatures. However, Levantine titles can commonly be found. The letter to the editor section can include full paragraphs in Levantine, written by readers. Many newspapers also regularly publish personal columns in Levantine, such as خرم إبرة (xurm ʾibra, lit. "[through the] needle's eye") in the weekend edition of Al-Ayyam.
In a 2013 study, Abuhakema investigated 270 written commercial ads in two Jordanian (Al Ghad and Ad-Dustour) and two Palestinian (Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam) daily newspapers. The study concluded that MSA is still the most used variety in ads but both MSA and Levantine are acceptable, and Levantine is increasingly used in the language of ads.
Levantine is seldom written, except for some novels, plays, and humorous writings. Prose written in Lebanese goes back to at least 1892 when Ṭannūs al-Ḥurr published Riwāyat aš-šābb as-sikkīr ʾay Qiṣṣat Naṣṣūr as-Sikrī ("The tale of the drunken youth, or The story of Naṣṣūr the Drunkard’"). In the 1960s Said Akl led a movement in Lebanon to replace MSA as the national and literary language and a handful of writers wrote in Lebanese. They also translated foreign works, such as La Fontaine's Fables, in Lebanese using Akl's alphabet.
In general, most comedies are written in Levantine. In Syria, plays became more common and popular in the 1980s by using Levantine instead of Classical Arabic and Saadallah Wannous, the most renowned Syrian playwright, used Syrian Arabic in his latest plays.
In novels and short stories, most authors, such as Israeli-Arabs Riyad Baydas, Odeh Bisharat, and Mohammad Naffa', write the dialogues in their Levantine dialect, while the rest of the text is in MSA.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince was translated in Lebanese written in Arabic script by Mūrīs (Maurice) ʿAwwād (l-Amīr iz-zġīr, 1986). It was later translated in Palestinian Arabic and published in two biscriptal editions: one written in Arabic script and Hebrew script, and another one in Arabic and Latin script.
Full texts in dialect may be found in collections of short stories and anthologies of Palestinian folktales (turāṯ or heritage literature). On the other hand, Palestinian children’s literature is almost exclusively written in MSA.
The Gospel of Mark was published in the Palestinian dialect in 1940, with the Gospel of Matthew and the Letter of James published in 1946. The four Gospels were translated in Lebanese using Akl's alphabet in 1996 by Gilbert Khalifé. Muris (Maurice) 'Awwad published the four Gospels in 2001 in Lebanese in Arabic script.
|Fricative||voiceless||f||θ||s||sˤ||ʃ||x ~ χ||ħ||h|
|voiced||(v)[f]||ð||z||ðˤ ~ zˤ||ɣ ~ ʁ||ʕ|
Vowel length is phonemic in Levantine. Vowels often show dialectal and/or allophonic variations, that are socially, geographically, and phonologically conditioned. Diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ are found in some Lebanese dialects, they respectively correspond to long vowels /eː/ and /oː/ in other dialects.
In North Levantine:
- Stressed /i/ and /u/ merge. They usually become /i/, but might also be /u/ near emphatic consonants. Syrian and Beiruti tends to pronounce both of them as schwa [ə].
- The long vowel "ā" is pronounced similar to "ē" or even merge to "ē", when it's not near an emphatic or guttural consonant.
Vowels in word final position are shortened. As a result, more short vowels are distinguished.
|Open/Low||/a/ [i ~ ɛ ~ æ ~ a ~ ɑ]||/aː/ [ɛː ~ æː ~ aː ~ ɑː]|
Speakers often add a short vowel, called helping vowel or epenthetic vowel, sounding like a short schwa right before a word-initial consonant cluster to break it, as in ktiːr ǝmniːħ "very good/well". They are not considered part of the word as such and they're never stressed. This process of anaptyxis is subject to social and regional variation.
A helping vowel is inserted:
- Before the word, if this word starts with two consonants and is at the beginning of a sentence,
- Between two words, when a word ending in a consonant is followed by a word which starts with two consonants,
- Between two consonants in the same word, if this word ends with two consonants and either is followed by a consonant or is at the end of a sentence.
- if the word is bisyllabic, stress falls on the penultimate,
- if the word contains three or more syllables and none of them is superheavy, then stress falls:
- on the penultimate if it is heavy (CVː or CVC),
- on the antepenult, if the penultimate is light (CV).
Levantine can be sub-classified based on political boundaries (Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian and Jordanian) but there are also many socio-phonetic variations, based on socio-cultural classifications (urban, rural and Bedouin), on gender, or on religion (Muslim, Christian, Druze). For instance ق tends to be pronounced as /q/ by Bedouins, /ʔ/ by women and urban speakers, and as /g/ by men and rural speakers. And in urban varieties, interdentals /θ/, /ð/, and /ðʕ/ tend to merge to stops or fricatives [t] ~ [s]; [d] ~ [z]; and [dʕ] ~ [zʕ] respectively.
|Arabic letter||Modern Standard Arabic||Levantine (female/urban)||Levantine (male/rural)|
|ث||/θ/ (th)||/t/ (t) or [s] (s)||/θ/ (th)|
|ج||/d͡ʒ/ (j)||/ʒ/ (j)||/d͡ʒ/ (j)|
|ذ||/ð/ (dh)||/d/ (d) or [z] (z)||/ð/ (dh)|
|ض||/dˤ/ (ḍ)||/dˤ/ (ḍ)||/ðˤ/ (ẓ)|
|ظ||/ðˤ/ (ẓ)||/dˤ/ (ḍ) or [zˤ]||/ðˤ/ (ẓ)|
|ق||/q/ (q)||/ʔ/ (ʾ)||/g/ (g)|
Regarding vowels, one of the most distinctive features of Levantine is word-final imāla, a process by which the vowel corresponding to ة (taa marbuuTa) is raised from [a] to [æ], [ε], [e] or even [i] in some dialects.
In the frame of the general diglossia status of the Arab world, Levantine is mainly used for daily spoken use, while most of the written and official documents and media use Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).
Therefore, until recently, Levantine was almost never written. Brustad & Zuniga report that in 1988, they did not find anything published in Levantine in Syria. However, it is now possible to see written Levantine in many public venues as well as on the internet. Indeed, with the emergence of social media, the amount of written Levantine (among other varieties of Arabic) has increased.
There is no standard orthography for Levantine. There has been failed attempts to Latinize Levantine, especially Lebanese. For instance, the Lebanese writer Said Akl promoted a modified Latin alphabet. Akl used this alphabet to write books and to publish a newspaper, Lebnaan. The Computational Approaches to Modeling Language (CAMeL) Lab, a research lab at New York University Abu Dhabi, has been developing CODA, a conventional orthography for dialectal Arabic, since 2012. CODA uses the Arabic script and is is a unified framework for writing all vernacular varieties of Arabic, including Levantine. CODA is designed primarily for the purpose of developing computational models of Arabic dialects. A Palestinian CODA was also released.
Today, written communication takes place using a variety of orthographies and writing systems, including Arabic (right-to-left script), Hebrew (right-to-left, used in Israel), Latin (Arabizi, left-to-right), and a mixture of the three. Arabizi is a non-standard romanization often used by Levantine speakers in social media as well as discussion forums, SMS messaging and online chat. Arabizi was initially developed because the Arabic script was not available or not easy to use on most computers and smartphones, but its usage persisted even after Arabic software became widespread. A 2012 study found that on the Jordanian forum Mahjoob about one-third of messages were written in Levantine in the Arabic script, one-third in Arabizi, and one-third in English.
Zoabi (2012) studied alphabet choice in colloquial Arabic on Facebook. She found that Arabic script was dominant in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, and Libya. Latin script dominates in former French colonies: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Lebanon. In Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Gulf countries, both Arabic and Latin scripts are used. Israeli Druze and Bedouins preferred Hebrew script for status updates rather than Arabic or Latin. According to Zoabi, several factors affect script choice:
- Formality: Arabic script is used for formal situations (e.g., writing status updates). However, Latin script is used for informal situations (e.g., addressing someone specific and wall posts).
- Religion: Arabic script is strongly associated with being a Muslim, while Latin is associated with being Christian, particularly in wall posts.
- Age: Young use Latin more. 30 years of age and older use almost exclusively the Arabic script.
- Education: Educated people write more in Latin.
- Script Congruence: The tendency to reply to a post in the same script is higher than switching the script.
According to a 2020 survey done in and around Nazareth, Arabizi "emerged" as a "‘bottom-up’ orthography" and there is now "a high degree of normativization or standardisation in Arabizi orthography." Among consonants, only five (ج ,ذ ,ض ,ظ ,ق) revealed variability in their representation in Arabizi.
The Arabic alphabet is always cursive and letters vary in shape depending on their position within a word. Letters can exhibit up to four distinct forms corresponding to an initial, medial (middle), final, or isolated position (IMFI). Only the isolated form is shown in the tables below.
|أ إ ؤ ئ ء||ʔ||ʔ||ʔ||’||'||’||2 or not written||[ʔ]||glottal stop like in uh-oh|
|’||2 or not written
9 or q or k
|[ʔ] or [g]
|- glottal stop (urban accent) or "hard g" as in get (Jordanian, Beduin)|
- guttural "k", pronounced further back in the throat (formal MSA words)
|ع||ع||3||3||c||ع||c||3||[ʕ]||voiced throat sound similar to "a" as in father, but with more friction|
|ب||b||[b]||as in English|
|د||d||[d]||as in English|
|ض||ḍ||D||ɖ||ḍ||ḍ||d||d or D||[dˤ]||emphatic "d" (constricted throat, surrounded vowels become dark)|
|ف||f||[f]||as in English|
|غ||ġ||gh||ɣ||ġ||gh||gh||3’ or 8 or gh||[ɣ]||like Spanish "g" between vowels, similar to French "r"|
|ه||h||[h]||as in English|
|ح||ḥ||H||ɧ||ḥ||ḥ||h||7 or h||[ħ]||"whispered h", has more friction in the throat than "h"|
|خ||x||x||x||ɧ||kh||kh||7’ or 5 or kh||[x]||"ch" as in Scottish loch, like German "ch" or Spanish "j"|
|ج||ž||j||j or g||[dʒ] or [ʒ]||"j" as in jump or "s" as in pleasure|
|ك||k||[k]||as in English|
|- light "l" as in English love|
- dark "l" as call, used in Allah and derived words
|م||m||[m]||as in English|
|ن||n||[n]||as in English|
|- "rolled r" as in Spanish or Italian, usually emphatic|
- not emphatic before vowel "e" or "i" or after long vowel "i"
|س||s||[s]||as in English|
|th||t||t or s or not written||[s]
|- "s" as in English (urban)|
- voiceless "th" as in think (rural, formal MSA words)
|ص||ṣ||S||ʂ||ṣ||ṣ||s||s||[sˤ]||emphatic "s" (constricted throat, surrounded vowels become dark)|
|ش||š||sh||š||š||sh||ch||sh or ch or $||[ʃ]||"sh" as in sheep|
|ت||t||[t]||as in English but with the tongue touching the back of the upper teeth|
|ط||ṭ||T||ƭ||ṭ||ṭ||t||t or T or 6||[tˤ]||emphatic "t" (constricted throat, surrounded vowels become dark)|
|و||w||[w]||as in English|
|ي||y||[y]||as in English|
|d||d or z||d or z or th||[z]
|- "z" as in English (urban)|
- voiced "th" as in this (rural, formal MSA words)
|ز||z||[z]||as in English|
|ظ||ẓ||DH||ʐ||ẓ||ẓ||z||th or z or d||[zˤ]||emphatic "z" (constricted throat, surrounded vowels become dark)|
Usage in loanwords
Some sounds in loanwords don't exist in Levantine. They are represented as follows:
|ج غ ك
|g||[g]||"hard g" as in get|
|p||[p]||"p" as in pen|
|v||[v]||"v" as in vat|
A consonant can be doubled in length. In the Arabic script, the symbol shadda is written above the consonant. In Latin alphabet, the consonant is written twice. Unlike the other diacritic marks, the shadda is often written in a normal Arabic text to avoid ambiguity. If a consonant carries both a shadda and a kasrah, the kasrah is written under the shadda (which is above the consonant), instead of being under the consonant.
|Levantine (Arabic)||Levantine (Latin)||English|
|مدرِّسة||mudarrise||a female teacher|
In the Arabic script, short vowels are not represented by letters but by diacritics above or below the letters. When Levantine is written with the Arabic script, the short vowels are usually not indicated, unless a word is ambiguous.
|ـَ||ɑ||α||a||a||a||near emphatic consonant||[ɑ]||as in got (American pronunciation)|
|a||elsewhere||[a~æ]||as in cat|
|ـِ||i||e / i||e / i / é||i / é||e||before/after ح (ḥ) or ع (ʕ)||[ɛ]||as in get|
|elsewhere||[e] or [ɪ]||as in kit|
|ـُ||u||o / u||o / u||o / ou||u||any||[o] or [ʊ]||as in full|
|ـَا||ɑ̄||ᾱ||aa||ā||a||near emphatic consonant||[ɑː]||as in father|
|ā||elsewhere||[aː~æː]||as in can|
|ē||ē||Imāla in North Levantine||[ɛː~eː]||as in face, but plain vowel|
|ɑy||in open syllable in Lebanese||/ay/||as in price or in face|
|ـِي||ī||ii||ī||any||[iː]||as in see|
|ـَو||ō||ō||oo||ō||o||any||[oː]||as in boat, but plain vowel|
|ɑw||in open syllable in Lebanese||/aw/||as in mouth or in boat|
|ـُو||ū||uu||oū||any||[uː]||as in food|
|ـَا ـَى ـَة||ɑ||α||a||a||near emphatic consonant||[ɑ]||as in got (American pronunciation)|
|a||elsewhere||[a~æ]||as in cat|
|ـَا ـَى||i (respelled to ي)||é||Imāla in North Levantine||[ɛ~e]||as in get, but closed vowel|
|as in see, but shorter|
merged to "e" in Lebanese
|ـُه||u (respelled to و)||o||N/A||o||any||[o]||as in lot, but closed vowel|
|as in food, but shorter|
merged to "o" in Lebanese
Both VSO (verb before subject before object) and SVO (subject before verb before object) word orders are possible in Levantine. The verb is before the object (VO). However, Classical Arabic tends to prefer VSO, whereas in Levantine SVO is more common. Subject-initial order indicates topic-prominent sentences, while verb-initial order indicates subject-prominent sentences.
In interrogative sentences, the interrogative particle comes first.
There is no indefinite article in Levantine. Nouns (except proper nouns) are automatically indefinite by the absence of the definite article.
The Arabic definite article ال (il) precedes the noun or adjective and has multiple pronunciations. Its vowel is dropped when the preceding word ends in a vowel. A helping vowel "e" is inserted if the following word begins with a consonant cluster.
It assimilates with "Sun letters", basically all consonants that are pronounced with the tip of the tongue. Other letters are called "Moon letters". The letter Jeem (ج) is a special case. It's usually a Sun letter for speakers pronouncing it as [ʒ] but not for those pronouncing it as [d͡ʒ].
|Sun letter (assimilation)||الشمس||iš-šams|
|Letter Jeem (ج)||الجمعة||il-jumʕa [ɪl.ˈd͡ʒʊm.ʕa] / ij-jumʕa [ɪʒ.ˈʒʊm.ʕa]|
Nouns can be either masculine or feminine. In the singular, most feminine nouns end with Tāʼ marbūṭah (ـة). This is pronounced as –a or -e depending on the preceding consonant. Generally, -a after guttural (ح خ ع غ ق ه ء) and emphatic consonants (ر ص ض ط ظ), and -e after other consonants.
For nouns referring to humans, the regular (also called sound) masculine plural is formed with the suffix -īn. The regular feminine plural is formed with -āt. The masculine plural is used to refer to a group with both gender. However, there are many broken plurals (also called internal plurals), in which the consonantal root of the singular is changed (nonconcatenative morphology). These plural patterns are shared with other varieties of Arabic and may also be applied to foreign borrowings: such as faːtuːra (plural: fwaːtiːr), from the Italian fattura, invoice. Several patterns of broken plurals exist and it's not possible to exactly predict them.
|Pattern (Arabic)||Pattern (Latin)||Example||English meaning|
|ـَ و ا ـِ ـ||CawāCeC||شارع šāreʕ
|أَ ـْ ـ ا ـ||ʔaCCāC||شخص šaḵṣ
|ـَ ـ ا ـِ ي ـ||CaCāCīC||دكان dukkān
|convenience store |
|ـُ ـُ و ـ||CuCūC||حرف ḥarf
|ـُ ـَ ـ||CuCaC||قصة ʾuṣṣa
|ـِ ـَ ـ||CiCaC||��ريق farīq
|ـُ ـَ ـ ا||CuCaCa||مدير mudīr
|ـُ ـّ ا ـ||CuC2C2āC||طالب ṭāleb
|أَ ـْ ـِ ـ ة||ʔaCCiCe||جهاز jihāz
|electrical device |
|ـُ ـُ ـ||CuCoC||مدينة madīne
|ـُ ـْ ـ ا ن||CuCCān||قميص ʾamīṣ
|dress shirt |
|أَ ـْ ـِ ـ ا ء||ʔCCiCāʔ||صديق ṣadīq
- Noun-Relative clause.
The genitive relationship is formed by putting the nouns next to each other, this construct is called Iḍāfah (literally, addition): one indefinite noun is added to a definite noun, which results in a new definite compound noun.
Besides possessiveness, the Iḍāfah construct can be used to specify or define the first term.
There is no limit to the number of nouns you can string together in an Iḍāfah, however, it is rare to have three or more words, except with very common or monosyllabic nouns.
The Iḍāfah construct is different from the noun-adjective structure. In an iDaafah construct, the two nouns are different in terms of their definiteness: the first is indefinite, the second is usually definite. Whereas adjectives agree with nouns in definiteness.
The first term must be in the construct state: if it ends in the feminine marker (/-ah/, or /-ih/), it changes to (/-at/, /-it/) in pronunciation (i.e. ة pronounced as "t"). Whereas in a noun-adjective string, the pronunciation would remain (/-ah/, /-ih/).
|Levantine (Arabic)||Levantine (Latin)||English||Note|
|كتاب الإستاذ||ktāb il-ʾistāz||the book of the teacher||Indefinite noun + Definite noun|
|كتاب الإستاذ الجديد||ktāb il-ʾistāz le-jdīd||the new book of the teacher||The adjective is definite, because the Iḍāfah is definite|
|كتاب إستاذ العربي||ktāb ʾistāz il-ʕarabi||the book of the teacher of Arabic||Chained Iḍāfah, only the last noun takes the definite article|
|مجلة جديدة||majalle jdīde||a new magazine||Noun-adjective: ة pronounced as "ih"|
|مجلة الإستاذ||majallet il-ʾistāz||the magazine of the teacher||ة pronounced as "t" in construct state|
|بيت خالد||bēt ḵālid||Khalid’s house||With a proper noun: possessiveness|
|مدينة نيويورك||madīnet nyū-yōrk||New York City||First noun ends with ah (pronounced as "t"), second is a proper noun|
|مدينة زغيرة||madīne zḡīre||a small town/city||Noun-adjective, ة pronounced as "ah"|
|صحن حمص||ṣaḥen ḥummuṣ||hummus dish|
Number one and two have a masculine and feminine form. When used with a noun, they rather follow it like an adjective than precede it. An exception are uncountable nouns.
Numbers larger than 3 don't have gender but may have two forms, one used before nouns and one used independently.
|Number||Gender||Independent||Followed by noun||Number of noun|
|0 / ٠||صفر ṣifr||N/A||Plural|
|1 / ١||m||واحد wāḥad||N/A||Singular|
|2 / ٢||m||تنين tnēn||N/A||Dual or plural|
|3 / ٣||تلاتة talāte (South)
تلاتة tlēte (North)
|تلت talat/tlat (South)
تلات tlēt/tlat (North)
|4 / ٤||أربعة ʾarbaʕa||أربع ʾarbaʕ|
|5 / ٥||خمسة ḵamse||خمس ḵams|
|6 / ٦||ستة sitte||ست sitt|
|7 / ٧||سبعة sabʕa||سبع sabʕ|
|8 / ٨||تمانية tamānye (South)
تمانة tmēne (North)
|تمن taman/tman (South)|
تمن tman/tmin (North)
|9 / ٩||تسع tisʕa||تسع tisʕ|
|10 / ١٠||عشرة ʕašara||عشر ʕašr|
|11 / ١١||احدعش (i)ḥdaʕš||احدعشر (i)ḥdaʕšar||Singular|
|12 / ١٢||تنعش tnaʕš||تنعشر tnaʕšar|
|20 / ٢٠||عشرين ʕišrīn|
|21 / ٢١||واحد وعشرين wāhad w-ʕišrīn|
|30 / ٣٠||تلاتين talatīn (South) / tlētīn (North)|
|100 / ١٠٠||مية miyye||مية mīt|
|200 / ٢٠٠||ميتين mītēn|
|300 / ٣٠٠||تلتمية t(a)lat-miyye||تلتمية t(a)lat-mīt|
|1000 / ١٠٠٠||ألف ʾalf|
|2000 / ٢٠٠٠||ألفين ʾalfēn|
|3000 / ٣٠٠٠||تلتة آلاف t(a)latt‿ālāf|
|10000 / ١٠٠٠٠||عشرة آلاف ʕašert‿ālāf|
|11000 / ١١٠٠٠||إحدشر ألف ʾiḥdaʕšar ʾalf|
|100000 / ١٠٠٠٠٠||مية ألف mīt ʾalf|
Ordinal numbers and fractions
followed by noun
|1 / ١||أول ʾawwal||أولى ʾūla||أوائل ʾawāʾel or أولى ʾuwala||N/A|
|2 / ٢||تاني tāni||تانية tānye||تانين tānyīn||1⁄2 / ١⁄٢||نص nuṣṣ||أنصاص (ʾa)nṣāṣ|
|3 / ٣||تالت tālet||تالتة tālte||تالتين tāltīn||1⁄3 / ١⁄٣||تلت tult||تلات tlāt|
|4 / ٤||رابع rābeʕ||رابعة rābʕa||رابعين rābʕīn||1⁄4 / ١⁄٤||ربع rubʕ||رباع rbāʕ|
|5 / ٥||خامس ḵāmes||خامسة ḵāmse||خامسين ḵāmsīn||1⁄5 / ١⁄٥||خمس ḵums||أخماس (ʾa)ḵmās|
|6 / ٦||سادس sādes||سادسة sādse||سادسين sādsīn||1⁄6 / ١⁄٦||سدس suds||أسداس (ʾa)sdās|
|7 / ٧||سابع sābeʕ||سابعة sābʕa||سابعين sābʕīn||1⁄7 / ١⁄٧||سبع subʕ||أسباع (ʾa)sbāʕ|
|8 / ٨||تامن tāmen||تامنة tāmne||تامنين tāmnīn||1⁄8 / ١⁄٨||تمن tumn||أتمان (ʾa)tmān|
|9 / ٩||تاسع tāseʕ||تاسعة tāsʕa||تاسعين tāsʕīn||1⁄9 / ١⁄٩||تسع tusʕ||أتساع (ʾa)tsāʕ|
|10 / ١٠||عاشر ʕāšer||عاشرة ʕāšra||عاشرين ʕāšrīn||1⁄10 / ١⁄١٠||عشر ʕušr||أشار (ʾa)ʕšār|
Many adjectives have the pattern فعيل (fʕīl / CCīC or faʕīl / CaCīC) but other patterns are also possible.
Adjectives typically have three form: a masculine singular, a feminine singular, and a plural which does not distinguish gender. In most adjectives the feminine is formed through addition of -a/e, sometimes dropping an unstressed short vowel.
Nouns in dual have adjectives in plural.
The plural of adjectives is either regular ending in ـين (-īn) or is an irregular "broken" plural. It is used with nouns referring to people. For non-human / inanimate / abstract nouns, adjectives can use either the plural or the feminine form regardless of the noun's gender.
|بيت كبير bēt kbīr||a big house|
|البيت الكبير il-bēt le-kbīr||the big house|
|البيت كبير il-bēt kbīr||the house is big|
Superlative and comparative
|Regular||كبير kbīr||أكبر ʾakbar|
|سهل sahl||أسهل ʾashal|
|قديم ʾadīm||أقدم ʾaʾdam / haʾdam|
|Gemination||جديد jdīd||أجدّ ʾajadd|
|قليل ʾalīl||أقلّ ʾaʾall / haʾall|
|Final i/u||عالي ʕāli||أعلى ʾaʕla|
|حلو ḥilu||أحلى ʾaḥla|
|Irregular||منيح mnīḥ / كويس kwayyes||أحسن 'aḥsan (from حسن ḥasan)|
When an elative modifies a noun, it precedes the noun an no definite article is used.
|Levantine (Arabic)||Levantine (Latin)||English|
|أحسن إشي||ʾaḥsan ʾiši||the best thing|
|هالإشي أحسن||ha-l-ʾiši ʾaḥsan||this thing is better / the best|
|هالإشي أحسن من إشي تاني||ha-l-ʾiši ʾaḥsan min ʾiši tāni||this thing is better than something else|
|Levantine (Arabic)||Levantine (Latin)||English|
|مجنون أكتر||majnūn ʾaktar||crazier / craziest|
|هو مجنون أكتر منك||huwwe majnūn ʾaktar minnak||he is crazier than you|
|أكتر واحد مجنون||ʾaktar wāḥad majnūn||the caziest one|
Prepositions must precede nominals in Levantine.
|بـ bi-||with; in, at|
|فِي fī||in, at|
|مَع�� maʕ||with, along with|
|مِن min||from; than|
|لـ la-||to; for|
|عـ ʕa- / على ʕāla||on, upon; to; about|
|قدّام ʾuddām||in front of|
|فوق fōʾ||above, over|
|تحت taḥt||below, under|
Feminine plural forms modifying human females are found mostly in rural and Bedouin areas. They are not mentioned below.
Levantine has eight persons, and therefore eight pronouns. Dual forms that exist in Modern Standard Arabic don't exist in Levantine, the plural is used instead. Because conjugated verbs indicate the subject with a prefix and/or a suffix, independent subject pronouns are usually not necessary and are mainly used for emphasis.
Independent personal pronouns
|Levantine independent personal pronouns|
|1st person (m/f)||أنا ʾana||احنا ʾiḥna (South) / نحنا niḥna (North)|
|2nd person||m||انت ʾinta||انتو / انتوا ʾintu|
|3rd person||m||هو huwwe||هم humme (South) / هن hinne (North)|
Direct object and possessive pronouns
Direct object pronouns are indicated by suffixes attached to the conjugated verb. Their form depends whether the verb ends with a consonant or a vowel. Suffixed to nouns, these pronouns express possessive.
|Levantine enclitic pronouns, direct object and possessive|
|after consonant||after vowel|
|1st person||after verb||ـني -ni||ـنا -na|
|else||ـِي -i||ـي -y|
|2nd person||m||ـَك -ak||ـك -k||ـكُن -kun (North)|
ـكُم -kom ـكو -ku (South)
|f||ـِك -ik||ـكِ -ki|
|3rd person||m||و -u (North)
ـُه -o (South)
|ـه (silent)||ـُن -(h/w/y)un (North)|
ـهُم -hom (South)
|f||ـا -a (North)
ـها -ha (South)
|ـا -(h/w/y)a (North)|
ـها -ha (South)
Indirect object pronouns
Indirect object pronouns (dative) are suffixed to the conjugated verb. They are form by adding an ل (-l) and then the possessive suffix to the verb. They precede object pronouns if present.
|Levantine indirect object pronoun suffixes|
|1st person (m/f)||ـلي -li||ـلنا -lna|
|2nd person||m||لَك -lak||ـلكُن -lkun (North)|
ـلكُم -lkom, ـلكو -lku (South)
|3rd person||m||لو -lu (North)
لُه -lo (South)
|ـلُن -lun (North)|
ـلهُم -lhom (South)
|f||ـلا -la (North)|
ـلها -lha (South)
Demonstrative pronouns have three referential types: immediate, proximal, and distal. The distinction between proximal and distal demonstratives is of physical, temporal, or metaphorical distance. The genderless and numberless immediate demonstrative article ها ha is translated by "this/the", to designate something immediately visible or accessible.
|Levantine demonstrative pronouns|
|m||هادا hāda / هاد hād (South, Syria)
هيدا hayda (Lebanon)
|هدول hadōl (South, Syria)|
هيدول haydōl (Lebanon)
|f||هادي hādi / هاي hāy (South)|
هيّ hayy (Syria)
هيدي haydi (Lebanon)
|m||هداك hadāk (South, Syria)
هيداك haydāk (Lebanon)
|هدولاك hadōlāk (South)|
هدوليك hadōlīk (Syria)
هيدوليك haydōlīk (Lebanon)
|f||هديك hadīk (South, Syria)|
هيديك haydīk (Lebanon)
|شو šū / إيش ʾēš (South)||what|
|لشو la-šu||for what|
|ليش lēš / ليه lē (Lebanon)||why|
|إيمتى ʾēmta / إمتى ʾimta (Lebanon)||when|
|لوين la-wēn||where to|
|من وين min wēn / منين mnēn||where from|
|كيف kīf / شلون šlōn (Syria)||how|
|قدّيش ʾaddēš / قدّيه ʾaddē (Lebanon)||how much|
|كم kam||how many|
|كل قدّيش kull/kill ʾaddēš / كم مرّة kam marra||how often|
Like Arabic verbs, most Levantine verbs are based on a triliteral root (also called radical) made of three consonants (therefore also called triconsonantal root). The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb, e.g. k-t-b 'write', q-r-’ 'read', ’-k-l 'eat'. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as mood (e.g. indicative, subjunctive, imperative), voice (active or passive), and functions such as causative, intensive, or reflexive.
The base form is the third-person masculine singular of the perfect (also called past) tense.
Almost all Levantine verbs can be categorized in one of ten verb forms (also called verb measures, stems, or patterns). Form I, the most common one, serves as a base for the other nine forms. Each form carries a different verbal idea, relative to the meaning of its root. Technically, 10 verbs can be constructed from any given triconsonantal root. However, all of those ten forms may not be used in practice by speakers. After Form I, Forms II, V, VII, and X are the most common ones.
|Form/Measure/Stem||Tendency of meaning||Perfect pattern||Imperfect pattern||Example||Root of the example||Note|
|Form I||Active or stative verb (base form)||C1vC2vC3||-C1vC2vC3||عمل
(to do, to make)
|ع م ل
(related to work)
|Form II||Causes action (Causative), shows intensity (Augmentative), or may indicates continuing action||C1aC2C2aC3||-C1aC2C2eC3||علّم
|ع ل م
(related to knowledge)
|Most productive form|
|Form III||Active in meaning or shows attempt; focus is on one-sided action||C1v̄C2aC3||-C1v̄C2eC3||عامل
|ع م ل
(related to work)
|Form IV||Causes action, similar to Form II||ʔaC1C2aC3||-C1C2eC3||أعلن
|ع ل ن
(related to publicity)
|Rare, limited to borrowings from MSA|
|Form V||Reflexive/passive/mediopassive meaning for transitive Form II verbs||tC1aC2C2aC3||-tC1aC2C2aC3||تعلّم
|ع ل م
(related to knowledge)
|Form VI||Reflexive/passive meaning for Form III or active in meaning||tC1v̄C2aC3||-tC1v̄C2eC3||تعامل
(to work or deal with)
|ع م ل
(related to work)
|Form VII||Reflexive/passive meaning for Form I or no particular tendency of meaning||nC1aC2aC3 (North)
-nC1aːC2 in medial glide roots
(to have fun, enjoy oneself)
|ب س ط
(related to spreading and extending)
|Form VIII||Active, reflexive, or passive in meaning||C1tvC2vC3 (North)
|ع ر ف
(related to awareness)
|Form IX||Inchoative verbs from adjectives: Changing of color or physical handicap||C1C2aC3C3 (North)
(to become white)
|ب ي ض
(related to whiteness)
|Very rare, replaced by ṣār "to become" + adjective|
|Form X||Sought to do something or believe something to be big, close, etc. (Denominal or deadjectival)||staC1C2aC3 (North)
|ع م ل
(related to work)
|Often transitive verbs|
In addition to its form, each verb has a "quality":
- Sound (or regular): 3 distinct radicals, neither the second nor the third is w or y,
- Verbs containing the radicals w or y are called weak. They can be either:
- Hollow: verbs with w or y as the second radical, which can become a long a in some forms, or
- Defective: verbs with w or y as the third radical, treated as a vowel,
- Geminate (or doubled): the second and third radicals are identical, remaining together as a double consonant.
Some irregular verbs do not fit into any of the verb forms.
The initial i in verb forms VII, VIII, IX, X drops when the preceding word ends in a vowel or at the beginning of a sentence.
Regular verb conjugation
The Levantine verb has only two tenses: past (perfect) and present (also called imperfect, b-imperfect, or bi-imperfect). The future tense is an extension of the present tense. The negative imperative is the same as the negative present with helping verb (imperfect). The grammatical person and number as well as the mood are designated by a variety of prefixes and suffixes. The following table shows the paradigm of a sound Form I verb, katab (كتب) 'to write'.
The b-imperfect is usually used for the indicative mood (non-past present, habitual/general present, narrative present, planned future actions, or potential). The prefix b- is deleted in the subjunctive mood, usually after various modal verbs, auxiliary verbs, pseudo-verbs, prepositions, and particles.
In the following table, the accented vowel is in bold.
|Conjugation of كتب, 'to write' (sound form I verb)|
|North Levantine||South Levantine|
|1st person||2nd person||3rd person||1st person||2nd person||3rd person|
|Past[l]||Masc.||كتبت katabit||كتبت katabit||كتب katab||كتبت katabt||كتبت katabt||كتب katab|
|Fem.||كتبتي katabti||كتبت katabit||كتبتي katabti||كتبت katbat|
|Plural||كتبنا katabna||كتبتو katabtu||كتبو katabu||كتبنا katabna||كتبتو katabtu||كتبو katabu|
|Present[m]||Masc.||بكتب biktub||بتكتب btiktub||بيكتب byiktub||بكتب baktob||بتكتب btuktob||بكتب buktob|
|Fem.||بتكتبي btiktbi||بتكتب btiktub||بتكتبي btuktobi||بتكتب btuktob|
|Plural||منكتب mniktub||بتكتبو btiktbu||بيكتبو byiktbu||منكتب mnuktob||بتكتبو btuktobu||بكتبو buktobu|
|Present with helping verb[n]||Masc.||اكتب iktub||تكتب tiktub||يكتب yiktub||أكتب ʾaktob||تكتب tuktob||���يكتب yuktob|
|Fem.||تكتبي tiktbi||تكتب tiktub||تكتبي tuktobi||تكتب tuktob|
|Plural||نكتب niktub||تكتبو tiktbu||���يكتبو yiktbu||نكتب nuktob||تكتبو tuktobu||يكتبو yuktobu|
|Positive imperative[o]||Masc.||N/A||كتوب ktūb||N/A||N/A||أكتب ʾuktob||N/A|
|Fem.||كتبي ktibi||أكتب ʾuktobi|
|Plural||كتبو ktibu||أكتب ʾuktobu|
|Active participle[p]||Masc.||كاتب kētib||كاتب kāteb|
|Fem.||كاتبة kētbi||كاتبة kātbe|
|Plural||كاتبين kētbīn||كاتبين kātbīn|
|Passive participle[q]||Masc.||مكتوب maktūb||مكتوب maktūb|
|Fem.||مكتوبة maktūba||مكتوبة maktūba|
|Plural||مكتوبين maktūbīn||مكتوبين maktūbīn|
|Table of prefixes, affixes, and suffixes added to the base form (for sound form I verbs with stressed prefixes)|
|1st person||2nd person||3rd person||1st person||2nd person||3rd person|
|Past[l]||M||-it||-it||∅ (base form)||-na||-tu||-u|
|mni-||bti- -u||byi- -u (North)|
bi- -u (South)
|Present with helping verb[n]||M||i- (North)
|ti-||yi-||ni-||ti- -u||yi- -u|
|Positive imperative[o]||M||N/A||∅ (Lengthening the present tense vowel, North)
i- (Subjunctive without initial consonant, South)
|N/A||N/A||-u (Stressed vowel u becomes i, North)
i- -u (South)
|F||-i (Stressed vowel u becomes i, North)|
i- -i (South)
|Active participle[p]||M||-ē- (North) or -ā- (South) after the first consonant||-īn (added to the masculine form)|
|F||-e/i or -a (added to the masculine form)|
|Passive participle[q]||M||ma- and -ū- after the second consonant|
|F||-a (added to the masculine form)|
In the perfect tense, the first person singular and second person masculine singular are identical. For regular verbs, the third-person feminine singular is written identically but stressed differently.
Depending on regions and accents, the -u can be pronounced -o and the -i can be pronounced -é.
The active participle, also called present participle, is grammatically an adjective derived from a verb. Depending on the context, it can express the present or present continuous (with verbs of motion, location, or mental state), the near future, or the present perfect (past action with a present result). It can also serve as a noun or an adjective.
The active participle can be inflected from the verb based on its verb form.
|Form||Verb pattern||Active participle pattern||Example|
(to grab, to arrest)
(is arresting, has arrested)
(to present, to offer)
(has presented, a presenter)
(assistant, has helped)
(is convincing, has convinced)
|Form VII||nC1aC2aC3 (North)
(to be happy, to have fun)
|Form VIII||C1tvC2vC3 (North)
|Form IX||C1C2aC3C3 (North)
(to blush, to turn red)
(is blushing, has turned red)
|Form X||staC1C2aC3 (North)
(user, has used)
The passive participle, also called past participle, has a similar meaning as in English (i.e. sent, written, etc.). It is mostly used as an adjective but it can sometimes be used as a noun. It is inflected from the verb based on its verb form. However, in practice, passive participles are largely limited to verb forms I (CvCvC) and II (CvCCvC), becoming maCCūC for the former and mCaCCaC for the latter.
|Form||Verb pattern||Passive participle pattern||Example|
(to organize, to tidy up)
|Form V||tC1aC2C2aC3||Very rarely used|
|Form VI||tC1v̄C2aC3||Very rarely used|
|Form VII||nC1aC2aC3 (North)
|Form VIII||C1tvC2vC3 (North)
|Form IX||C1C2aC3C3 (North)
|Form X||staC1C2aC3 (North)
The future is formed with the imperfect preceded by the particle raH (رح) or by the prefixed particle Ha- (-ح).
After helping verbs (may also be called modal verbs, pseudo-verbs, auxiliary verbs, or prepositional phrases) the imperfect form (also called subjunctive)[n] is used, that is, the form without the initial b/m.
|بد bidd- / badd-||to want|
|ممكن mumkin, قدر qider||to can|
|قدر qider / فيـ fī- (North) / ḥəsen||to be able to|
|لازم lazim||to must, it is necessary to|
|حب ḥabb||to like|
|بلكي balki / بركي berki||may|
|ممنوع mamnūʿ||it's forbidden to|
|مفروض mafrūḍ / المفروض il-mafrūḍ||should|
|صار ṣār||to start to, to got used to doing|
|بلش ballaš||to begin to|
|فضل fiḍel / bəʾi||to end up|
|ضل ḍall / تم tamm||to keep doing|
|رجع rijeʕ||to start doing again|
|كان kān||used to doing|
|kān in the past tense||kān in the present tense|
|Past tense||كان عمل kān ʕimel||he had done||بكون عمل bikūn ʕimel||he will have done|
|Active participle||كان عامل kān ʕāmel||he had done||بكون عامل bikūn ʕāmel||he will have done|
|Subjunctive||كان يعمل kān yiʕmel||he used to do / he was doing||بكون يعمل bikūn yiʕmel||he will be doing|
|Progressive||كان عم يعمل kān ʕam yiʕmel||he was doing||بكون عم يعمل bikūn ʕam yiʕmel||he will be doing|
|Future tense||كان رح يعمل kān raḥ yiʕmel
كان حيعمل kān ḥa-yiʕmel
|he was going to do||N/A|
|Present tense||كان بعمل kān biʕmel||he would do|
Form I verbs often correspond to an equivalent passive form VII verb, with the prefix n-. Form II and form III verbs usually correspond to an equivalent passive on forms V and VI, respectively, with the prefix t-.
|Verb form||Levantine||English||Verb form||Levantine||English|
|I||مسك masak||to catch||VII||انمسك inmasak||to be caught|
|II||غيّر ḡayyar||to change||V||تغيّر tḡayyar||to be changed|
|III||فاجأ fājaʾ||to surprise||VI||تفاجأ tfājaʾ||to be surprised|
While the verb forms V, VI and VII are common in the simple past and compound tenses, the passive participle (past participle) is preferred in the present tense.
|Levantine (Arabic)||Levantine (Latin)||English||Verb form||Tense|
|الكتاب مكتوب.||le-ktāb maktūb||The book is written.||I||passive participle|
|الكتاب عم بنكتب.||le-ktāb ʕam binkateb||The book is being written.||VII||progressive|
|الكتاب انكتب.||le-ktāb inkatab||The book has been written. / The book was written.||VII||past tense|
|الكتاب كان مكت��ب.||le-ktāb kān maktūb||The book was written.||I||kān + passive participle|
|الكتاب رح ينكتب.||le-ktāb raḥ yinkateb||The book will be written.||VII||future|
Levantine does not have a verb "to have". Instead, possession is expressed using the prepositions عند (ʕind, literally "at", meaning "to possess") and مع (maʕ, literally "with", meaning "to have on oneself"), followed by personal pronoun suffixes. The past indicator ken and the future indicator raH are used to express possession in the past or the future, respectively.
|Inflected forms of عند (ʕind, "at", "to possess, to have")|
|Base form||عند ʕind|
|1st person||عندي ʕindi||عنّا ʕinna|
|2nd person||عندك ʕindak||عندك ʕindek||عندكم ʕindkom (South) / عندكن ʕindkun (North)|
|3rd person||عنده ʕindo (South) / عندو ʕindu (North)||عندها ʕindha (South) / عندا ʕinda (North)||عندهم ʕindhom (South) / عندن ʕindun (North)|
|Inflected forms of مع (maʕ, "with", "to have on oneself")|
|Base form||مع maʕ|
|1st person||معي maʕi||معنا maʕna|
|2nd person||معك maʕak||معك maʕek||معكم maʕkom (South) / معكن maʕkun (North)|
|3rd person||معه maʕo (South) / معو maʕu (North)||معها maʕha (South) / معا maʕa (North)||معهم maʕhom (South) / معن maʕun (North)|
Levant does not distinguish between adverbs and adjectives in adverbial function. Almost any adjective can be used as an adverb: منيح (mnīḥ, ‘good’) vs. نمتي منيح؟ (nimti mnīḥ, ‘Did you sleep well?’) Adverbs from MSA, showing the suffix -an, are often used, e.g. أبدا (ʾabadan, ‘at all’). Adverbs often appear after the verb or the adjective. كتير (ktīr, ‘very’) can be positioned after or before the adjective.
|إيمتى ʾēmta||when (interrogative)|
|بعد بكرة baʕd bukra||the day after tomorrow|
|أول مبارح ʾawwal mbāriḥ / قبل مبار�� ʾabl mbāreḥ||the day before yesterday|
|هلا halla(ʾ) (common Levantine) / هسا hassa (Amman) / هلقيت halʾēt (Jerusalem)||now|
|على بكرة ʕala bukra||early in the morning|
|وقتها waʾt-ha||at that time|
|الصبح iṣ-ṣubḥ||in the morning or this morning|
|دايما dāyman / على طول ʕala ṭūl (Damascus)||always|
|لسا lissa / بعد baʕd (Beirut)||still / not yet|
|هناك hunāk (Amman) / هونيك honīk (Beirut) / هنيك hnīk (Damascus)||there|
|هيك hēk||like this|
|على مهل ʕala mahl / شوي شوي šway šway / بهدوء bi-hudūʾ||slowly|
|دغري duḡri||straight on|
|لألله laʾalla||lit. "to God", used as an intensifier|
|عادي ʕādi||lit. "ordinary", "it makes no difference"|
|عشان هيك ʕašān hēk||therefore|
|مبلا mbala||it is so|
|يمكن yimken / بركي barki||maybe|
Verbs and prepositional phrases can be negated by the particle ما mā / ma either on its own or, in South Levantine, together with the suffix ـش -iš at the end of the verb or prepositional phrase. In Palestinian, it's also common to negate verbs by the suffix ـش -iš only.
|Negative copula in Levantine|
|1st person (m/f)||ماني māni||مانا māna|
|2nd person||m||مانَك mānak||مانكُن mānkon|
|3rd person||m||مانو māno||مانلُن mānon|
If the noun to which the relative pronoun refers is indefinite and non specific, the relative clause is linked without any coordinating conjunction and is indistinguishable from an independent sentence.
|English||Levantine (Arabic)||Levantine (Latin)||Note|
|I saw the boy who was playing football.||شفت الولد اللي كان يلعب فطبول||šuft il-walad illi kān yilʕab faṭbōl.||Definite subject: use of illi|
|I saw a girl playing football.||شفت بنت كانت تلعب فطبول||šuft bint kānat tilʕab faṭbōl.||Indefinite subject: sentences connected without a pronoun|
In formal speech, sentence complements can be introduced with the particle ʔǝnn ("that"), to which some speakers attach a personal pronoun (o or i).
For circumstantial clauses, the conjunction w- introduces subordinate clauses with the sense "while, when, with".
Temporal adverbs such as baʕd (after) may be used with the "ma" to form a subordinate clause: baʕd ma tnaːm ("after she goes to sleep").
|و w ~ u||and (also with temporal meaning "then, during...")|
|يا ... يا ya ... ya||either ... or|
|لإنه laʾinno / حاكم ḥākem / لأن laʾann(o) (Beirut)||because|
|لما lamma / بس bass||as soon as|
|وقت waʾt / وقت اللي waʾt illi||when|
|ما ... إلا ma ... ʾilla||just as soon as, hardly|
|طالما ṭāla ma||as long as|
|تـ ta||so that, until|
|عشان ʕašān||so that|
|كل ما kull/kill ma||every time that|
|على بين ما (ʕa)la bēn ma||until|
|أحسن ما ʾaḥsan ma||rather than|
|لـ la / حتى ḥatta / لحتى la ḥatta / منشان minšān||in order to|
|إذا ʾiza / لو law / إن ʾin / إذاً ʾizan (Amman)||if|
The lexicon of Levantine is overwhelmingly Arabic. However, it also includes layers of ancient indigenous languages: Canaanite, classical Hebrew (Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew), Aramaic (particularly Western Aramaic), Persian, Greek, and Latin. After the Arab conquest of the Levant in the 7th century, linguistically and religiously, the area became a Muslim Arab region, and Aramaic survived only among Christian minorities, Jews, and Mandaeans. Moreover, since the early modern period, it has borrowed from Turkish and European languages, mainly English, French, German, and Italian. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, there has also been a significant influence of Modern Hebrew on the Palestinian dialect spoken by Arab Israelis. Loanwords are gradually replaced with words of Arabic root. For instance, borrowings from Ottoman Turkish that were common in the 20th century have been largely replaced by Arabic words after the end of Ottoman Syria.
Lexical distance with MSA
Saiegh-Haddad & Ali (2009) studied phonological distance between Palestinian and MSA. They analyzed the spoken lexicon of five-year old native Palestinian speakers and concluded that:
- 40% of the words were unique to Palestinian and not present in MSA;
- 40% of the spoken Palestinian words were related to words in MSA but were different in between 1 and 6 phonological parameters (sound change, addition, or deletion);
- 20% of the words were identical in Palestinian and MSA.
Levantine words coming from Classical Arabic have undergone three common phonological processes:
- Regressive vowel harmony: The first vowel /a/ has changed to /u/ in harmony with the following vowel /u/,
- Final vowel deletion: The final vowel /u/ is deleted, and
- Initial consonant addition: A voiced bilabial consonant is often added before present verb prefixes. It is /b/ in all forms except 1st person plural, where it is /m/.
Despite these differences, three scientific papers concluded, using various natural language processing techniques, that Levantine dialects (and especially Palestinian) were the closest colloquial varieties, in terms of lexical similarity, to Modern Standard Arabic: Harrat et al. (2015, comparing MSA to two Algerian dialects, Tunisian, Palestinian, and Syrian; found 38% of common words between Syrian and MSA and 52% between Palestinian and MSA), El-Haj et al. (2018, comparing MSA to Egyptian, Levantine, Gulf, and North African Arabic), and Abu Kwaik et al. (2018, comparing MSA to Algerian, Tunisian, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian; found that Levantine dialects were very similar to each other and between 0.4 and 0.5 similarity between MSA and Palestinian).
Verbal nouns (also called gerunds or masdar) play an important role in Levantine. Derived from a verb root, they can be used as a noun ("food") or as a gerund ("eating"). Verbal nouns don't exist as infinitives, they are not part of the verbal system but of the lexicon.
|Form||Verb pattern||Verbal noun pattern||Example|
|Most common||Variants||Verb||Verbal noun|
|Form I||C1vC2vC3||C1vC2C3||Many variants||درس
(to study, to learn)
|Form II||C1aC2C2aC3||taC1C2īC3||taC1C2iC3a / tiC1C2āC3||قدّم
(to present, to offer)
(a presentation, presenting)
|Form VII||nC1aC2aC3 (North)
(to be happy, to have fun)
|Form VIII||C1tvC2vC3 (North)
|Form IX||C1C2aC3C3 (North)
(to blush, to turn red)
(blushing, turning red)
|Form X||staC1C2aC3 (North)
|Wiktionary has a category on North Levantine Arabic terms derived from Aramaic languages|
|Wiktionary has a category on South Levantine Arabic terms derived from Aramaic languages|
Aramaic traces remains in Levantine, especially in rural areas. Aramaic influence on Levantine is relatively minor, but it is particularly prominent in vocabulary. Aramaic words underwent morphophonemic adaptation when they entered Levantine. In the course of time, it has become difficult to identify them. They belong to different fields of everyday life such as seasonal agriculture, housekeeping, tools and utensils, alongside Christian religious terms.
The plural of loanwords may be sound or broken.
Learned borrowings from MSA
|Wiktionary has a category on North Levantine Arabic semi-learned borrowings from Arabic|
|Wiktionary has a category on South Levantine Arabic learned borrowings from Arabic|
As it is generally the case in diglossic environments, Levantine (the "Low" or "L" variety) shows a tendency to borrow learned words from Modern Standard Arabic (the "High" or "H" variety), particularly when speakers try to use Levantine in more formal ways.
|Wiktionary has a category on North Levantine Arabic terms derived from English|
|Wiktionary has a category on South Levantine Arabic terms derived from English|
Contacts between Levantine and English started during the nineteenth century when the British ran academic and religious institutions in the Levant. More influence of English occurred during the British protectorate over Jordan (1921–1946) and the British Mandate for Palestine (1923-1948), however, the borrowing process was low at the time as the number of the British personnel was very small. In Jordan, English is a compulsory subject in schools and all scientific subjects at universities are taught in English. Over the last few decades, English contact with Levantine has gained increasing momentum, leading to the introduction of many loanwords, particularly in the contexts of technology and entertainment.
|Wiktionary has a category on North Levantine Arabic terms derived from French|
|Wiktionary has a category on South Levantine Arabic terms derived from French|
|French original word||French pronunciation||French meaning||Lebanese meaning||Lebanese|
|bonjour||/bɔ̃.ʒuʁ/||good morning||/bon.ʒuɾ/ بونجور|
|échappement||/e.ʃap.mɑ̃/||exhaust pipe||/æ.ʃɘk.mɑn/ أشكمون|
From Ottoman Turkish
|Wiktionary has a category on North Levantine Arabic terms derived from Ottoman Turkish|
|Wiktionary has a category on South Levantine Arabic terms derived from Ottoman Turkish|
The vast majority of Turkish loans in Levantine date from the time of the Ottoman Empire, which for about four hundred years dominated the Levant and a large part of the Arab world. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire resulted in a rapid and drastic decrease in the use of Turkish words, due to Arabization of the language and the negative perception of the Ottoman era among Arabs. However, Arabic-speaking minorities in present-day Turkey (mostly in the Hatay Province) are still influenced by Turkish today. Many Western words entered Arabic through Ottoman Turkish as Turkish was the main language for the transmission of Western ideas and culture into the Arab world. There are about 3,000 Turkish borrowings in Syrian Arabic. Most Turkish loanwords are in the domains of administration and government, army and war, crafts and tools, house and household, dress, and food and dishes.
|Ottoman Turkish||Modern Turkish||Meaning||Levantine|
|قازمه kazma||kazma||pick, mattock||قزمة qazma|
|طبانجه tabanca||tabanca||pistol||طبنجة ṭabanje|
|طوغری doğrı||doğru||straight ahead||دغري duḡri|
|تپسی tepsi||tepsi||tray, ashtray||تبسية təbsiyye / تبسة təbse|
|اوطه oda||oda||room||أوضة ʾōḍa|
|باشلامق başlamak||başlamak||to begin||بلّش ballaš|
From Modern Hebrew
|Wiktionary has a category on South Levantine Arabic terms derived from Hebrew|
There are many Modern Hebrew loanwords in the Levantine dialect spoken by Palestinian Israelis. Hebrew loanwords can be written in Hebrew, Arabic, or Latin script depending on the speaker and the context. Code-switching between Levantine and Hebrew is frequent. In one study, the average frequency of Hebrew borrowings, mostly nouns, in conversations on WhatsApp and Viber was about 2.7% of all words. The vast majority of Hebrew loanwords in this study were from the domains of education, technology, and employment. Some Hebrew loanwords are originally English borrowings into Hebrew that were subsequently borrowed from Hebrew into Palestinian Israeli vernacular. According to the author, this percentage is low compared to other languages, for instance, about 10% of Japanese words are English loanwords.
|Palestinian (Arabic script)||Palestinian pronunciation (IPA)||Original Hebrew word||Hebrew transliteration||English meaning|
|بلفون||[bilifon]||פלאפון||pélefon||mobile phone (Genericized trademark of Pelephone)|
|السدور||[ilsido:r]||סידור||sidúr||the work schedule|
|حوفش||[ћofiʃ]||חופש||khófesh||break from work|
|بجروت||[bigro:t]||בגרות||bagrút||comprehensive high school final exam (Bagrut certificate)|
|ھشتلموت||[hiʃtalmo:t]||השתלמות||hishtalmút||extension of study|
Common words and phrases
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Lebanese Arabic.|
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Jordanian Arabic.|
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2021)
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
|Lebanese (Arabic)||Lebanese (Romanized)||Palestinian (Arabic)||Palestinian (Romanized)||Modern Standard Arabic||MSA (Romanized)||English|
كل البخر بيخلقو أحرار ومتساويين بالكرامة والحقوق. وهن نوهبو عقل وضمير، ولازم يعملو بعدهن البعد بروح الأخوة.
|Kill el bachar byekhla2o a7rar w metsewyin bil karame w el 7o2ou2. W hinne nwahabo 3a2el w damir, w lezim y3emlo ba3dun el ba3ed b’rou7 el okhouwe.||
يولد جميع الناس أحراراً ومتساوين في الكرامة والحقوق. وهم قد وهبوا العقل والوجدان وعليهم أن يعاملوا بعضهم بعضاً بروح الإخاء.
|Yūladu jamī'u n-nāsi aḥrāran mutasāwīna fī l-karāmati wa-l-ḥuqūq. Wa-qad wuhibū 'aqlan wa-ḍamīran wa-'alayhim an yu'āmila ba'ḍuhum ba'ḍan bi-rūḥi l-ikhā'.||All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.|
The Little Prince
|Lebanese (Arabic)||Lebanese (Romanized)||Palestinian (Arabic)||Palestinian (Romanized)||Modern Standard Arabic||MSA (Romanized)||English|
|al-amir as-saghir||The Little Prince|
وهيك يا إميري الزغير، ونتفي نتفي، فهمت حياتك التواضعا الكئيبي. إنت اللّي ضلّيت عَ مِدّي طويلي ما عندك شي يسلّيك إلاّ عزوبة التطليع بغياب الشمس. هالشي الجزءي، وجديد، غرفتو رابع يوم ��ن عبكرا، لِمّن قلتلّي: أنا بحب غياب الشمس.[r]
آه أيها الأمير الصغير ، لقد أدركت شيئا فشيئا أبعاد حياتك الصغيرة المحزنة ، لم تكن تملك من الوقت للتفكير والتأمل غير تلك اللحظات التي كنت تسرح فيها مع غروب الشمس. لقد عرفت بهذا الأمر الجديد في صباح اليوم الرابع من لقائنا، عندما قلت لي: إنني مغرم بغروب الشمس.
|Aah al-amiir as-saghiir, liqad adrakat shay'an fashai'an ab"ad xayaatika as-saghiirat al-xazinat, lam takun tamallaka min waqt liltafqiir wa-ttaamil ghayr tilka al-laxazaat allati kanat tasarrax fiihaa ma"a gharuub ash-shams. Liqad "araftu bihadha al-amiir al-jadiid fii sabaaxi al-yawmi ar-raabi"i min liqaa'inan, "indamaa qalta lii: innanii mughram bigharuub ash-shams.||Oh, little prince! Bit by bit I came to understand the secrets of your sad little life. For a long time you had found your only entertainment in the quiet pleasure of looking at the sunset. I learned that new detail on the morning of the fourth day, when you said to me: I am very fond of sunsets.|
|North Levantine (Arabic)||North Levantine (Romanized)||South Levantine (Arabic)||South Levantine (Romanized)||Modern Standard Arabic||MSA (Romanized)||English|
أبونا اللي بالسما
|abūna ellé bel-sama,||To do||To do||
،أَبَانَا الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ
|’abā-nā alladhī fī as-samāwāt-i,||Our Father in heaven,|
خلي اسمك يتقدس
|xallé esmak yet’addas||To do||To do||
|li-ya-ta-qaddas-i asm-u-ka!||hallowed be your name,|
خلي ملكوتك يجي
|xallé malakūtak yejé||To do||To do||
|li-ya-’ti malakūt-u-ka!||your kingdom come,|
خلي مشيئتك تصير بالأرض متل ما بالسما
|xallé mašī’tak tṣīr bel areḍ metel ma bel-sama||To do||To do||
!لِتَكُنْ مَشِيئَتُكَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ كَمَا هِيَ السَّمَاءِ فِي
|li-takun ma-shī’at-u-ka ʽalā al-’arḍ-i kamā hīa fī as-samā’-i!||your will be done, on earth as in heaven.|
خبزنا حاجتنا كل يوم عطينا ياه
|xebezna hɑ̄jetna kel yōm cṭīna yyē||To do||To do||
!خُبْزَنَا كَفَافَنَا أَعْطِنَا الْيَوْمَ
|khubz-a-nā kafāf-a-nā ’a-ʽṭi-nā al-yawm-a!||Give us today our daily bread.|
|w sēmeħelna ġalaṭna||To do||To do||
،وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا
|wa-aghfir la-nā dhunūb-a-nā,||Forgive us our sins|
متل ما نحنا منسامح للي غلطو معنا
|metel ma neħna mensēmeħ lallé ġelṭo macna||To do||To do||
!كَمَا نَغْفِرُ نَحْنُ لِلْمُذْنِبِينَ إِلَيْنَا
|kamā na-ghfir-u naḥnu li-lmu-dhnib-ī-na ’ilay-nā!||as we forgive those who sin against us.|
وما تدخلنا بالتجربة
|w ma tdaxxelna bel-tajerbé||To do||To do||
،وَلاَ تُدْخِلْنَا فِي تَجْرِبَةٍ
|wa-lā tu-dkhil-nā fī ta-jribat-in,||Save us from the time of trial|
بس خلصنا من الشر
|bas xalleṣna men el-šar||To do||To do||
،لَكِنْ نَجِّنَا مِنَ الشِّرِّيرِ
|lakin najji-nā mina ash-shirrīr-i,||and deliver us from evil.|
لأنه لإلك الملكوت والقوة والمجد للأبد
|la’anno la-elak el-malakūt w el-uwwé w el-majed lal-abad.||To do||To do||
.لأَنَّ لَكَ الْمُلْكَ وَالْقُوَّةَ وَالْمَجْدَ إِلَى الأَبَدِ
|l’anna laka al-mulka wa-al-qūwaha wa-al-majda ’ilā al-’abadi.||For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.|
|ēmīn||To do||To do||
- Also spelled Ammiya, Amiyya, Ammiyya, 'Ammiyya, 'Ammiya, Amiyah, Ammiyah, Amiyyah, Ammiyyah
- In a broader meaning, "Eastern Arabic" may refer to Mashriqi Arabic, to which Levantine belongs, one of the two main varieties of Arabic (as opposed to Western Arabic, also called Maghrebi Arabic).
- Native speakers of Arabic generally do not distinguish between "Modern Standard Arabic" and "Classical Arabic" as separate languages; they refer to both as al-ʻArabīyah al-Fuṣḥā (العربية الفصحى) meaning "the eloquent Arabic".
- Youth, especially teenagers, are considered the most active initiators of language change.
- Only countries with at least 100,000 speakers are shown
- In loanwords only.
- Mainly in words from Classical Arabic and in Druze, rural, and Bedouin dialects.
- Only in loanwords, except in Jordanian Arabic
- On Israeli road signs.
- Rarely used.
- C represents a consonant, v represent a short vowel, v̄ represents a long vowel. Short vowel variations include e ~ i ~ ǝ and a ~ ǝ.
- Also called perfect.
- Also called bi-imperfect, b-imperfect, or standard imperfect.
- Also called Ø-imperfect, imperfect, or subjunctive.
- Also called imperative or command.
- Also called present participle. Not all active participles are used and their meaning may vary.
- Also called past participle, mostly used as an adjective. Not all passive participles are used and their meaning may vary.
- This is author's original orthography. An alternate orthography could be: وهيك يا إميري الزغير، ونتفة نتفة، فهمت حياتك المتواضعة الكئيبة. إنت اللي ضليت ع مدة طويلة ما عندك شي يسليك إلا عزوبة التطليع بغياب الشمس. هالشي الجزئي، وجديد، عرفته رابع يوم من عبكرا، لمن قلتلي: أنا بحب غياب الشمس.
- North Levantine at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)
South Levantine at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)
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Particularly, PAL is closest to MSA than other dialects are (Table 3).
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|North Levantine Arabic test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
|South Levantine Arabic test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Levantine Arabic|
|Look up levantine arabic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|For a list of words relating to Levantine Arabic, see the North Levantine Arabic language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|For a list of words relating to Levantine Arabic, see the South Levantine Arabic language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Lebanese Arabic.|
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Jordanian Arabic.|
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