Hijazi Arabic: mutual intelligibility with other dialects

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by 121ace, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. 121ace New Member

    British English (Surrey)

    I would be grateful if speakers of hejazi arabic could shed some light on their dalect please.

    In terms of an approximate percentage :

    1. How similar is hejazi in terms of vocabulary and structure to the following :
    (i) Egyptian Arabic (ii)Levantine (particularly Syrian (iii). Najdi arabic (iv)Khaliji arabic (UAE and Kuwaiti dialects)

    2. How well do you as a hejazi speaker understand the following dilaects as a percentage:
    (i) Egyptian Arabic (ii)Levantine (particularly Syrian (iii). Najdi arabic (iv)Khaliji arabic (UAE and Kuwaiti dialects)

    3. How well are you understood by speakers of the following dialects
    (i) Egyptian Arabic (ii)Levantine (particularly Syrian (iii). Najdi arabic (iv)Khaliji arabic (UAE and Kuwaiti dialects)

  2. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    I'm not a speaker of this dialect but will attempt to answer because I am very familiar with it. This all assumes you're talking about Urban Hejazi Arabic:

    It's a hybrid between the group that includes Egyptian and Syrian on one hand and the group that includes Najdi and Gulf dialects, though it's probably most similar to Sudanese in certain respects.

    In terms of vocabulary, I would say roughly 50/50 between the Egyptian/Syrian group (especially Egyptian) and the Arabian group (including Najdi). In terms of structure it's closer to the Syrian/Egyptian group.

    I think Egyptian and Syrian are easier for them to understand than Najdi and Khaliji, unless the latter two are spoken in a very watered-down version. Najdi is probably easier than Khaliji because there is much more exposure to it.

    Najdi because of the exposure between speakers of the two groups, otherwise probably Egyptian and Syrian more so than Khaliji.
  3. 121ace New Member

    British English (Surrey)
    Thankyou very much for your answer.
  4. suma Senior Member

    English, USA
    That's an interesting set of questions.
    I'd like to see more responses.
  5. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Tough question. I won't be able to give approximate percentages, so I'll have to elaborate a little:
    Although Urban Hijazi Arabic (UHA) exhibits lots of various influences from different dialects, it's quite a distinct group itself, as can be seen from the basic vocabulary of the dialect. That said, Egyptian Arabic (EA) seems to have had the most influence on the vocabulary.
    Some differences in the basic vocabulary:
    UHA vs. EA (differences also applicable on Sa'idi Arabic and Sudanese Arabic)
    kef vs. ezzay
    yibgha vs. 3awez/3ayez
    rijjaal/raajil vs. raagel vs. Zool (Sudanese Arabic)
    marra vs. awi (meaning "very")
    famm vs. bu2 (bug in Sa'idi Arabic)
    id(i)n & adaani vs. wedn & wedaan
    yadd vs. iid
    esh vs. eh vs. shinu (Sudanese Arabic)
    ba2a (Sa'idi baga) has no equivalent in UHA.

    The grammar is quite different, especially when it comes to structure and preferred word order.
    EA (and Sudanese as far as I'm aware) for example prefers putting the interrogative at the end of the sentence (post-positional, attributed by some linguists to a Coptic substratum), UHA puts it in the beginning. Same thing for the demonstratives.
    EA vs. Sudanese Arabic vs. UHA
    bye3mel eh? vs. dayer yi3mil shinu? vs. esh biyi3mil?
    el-walad dah vs. al-walad dah vs. (ha)da 'l-walad. (although the structure al-walad (ha)da isn't uncommon in UHA)

    Egyptian Arabic exhibits a double negation, while UHA doesn't.

    Usually I would say that most similarities in the grammars of UHA and the Egyptian Arabic group can be attributed to the Mashreqi Arabic common features, or even to a Egyptian-Levantine-Hijazi/Arabian continuum (as with the present progressive tense, which can even be found in Cypriot Maronite Arabic if my memory serves me correctly).
    Even the common vocabulary between UHA and Egyptian Arabic can also be found in other Mashreqi dialects, mostly Levantine (variations depending on the dialect).

    Phonologically, UHA might be closer to Sudanese Arabic or Sa'idi Arabic than to other varieties of Egyptian Arabic. However, the phonology of UHA is typical of that of the Urban centers when it comes to consonants. The vowels on the other hand, UHA shows a degree of conservatism. (It guards the internal changes of verbs, less consonantal clustering, mostly uses a-i-u but shows a monophthongization of the diphthongs ai-au to e-o).

    That was the answer to your first question!
    Gulf Arabic, in my opinion, belongs to a different continuum of dialects, the first is a continuum with Najdi Arabic, the second is a continuum with Iraqi Arabic. As such it's relatively distant from UHA.
    In terms of structure and vocabulary, Najdi Arabic isn't that distant from Urban Hijazi Arabic. Probably just as distant as Levantine Arabic!
    To me it's easier to understand Najdi Arabic than for example rural Syrian Arabic, or even Sudanese Arabic. Bedouin Hijazi is even easier to understand than certain dialects of Najdi Arabic. (Not counting NabaTi peotry though) :D

    (Given the speaker isn't using obscure slang words)
    Egyptian Arabic 99%
    Najdi Arabic 95% --> 99% (depending on the dialect, and not including NabaTi poetry)
    Levantine Arabic 90% --> 95% (depending on the dialect)
    Gulf Arabic 90%
    For example, I'm not used to hearing Emarati Arabic, not even on TV or songs. In fact, the first time I ever spoke with an Emarati was here in Paris. And apart from several terms I heard for the first time in my life like طالع أدوخ:D it was easy to understand and be understood. I have to say though that I was familiar with Kuwaiti Arabic from TV (though I found Emarati Arabic quite different).

    (Given I'm not using obscure slang words from my dialect)
    Najdi Arabic 99%
    Egyptian Arabic 95% --> 99%
    Levantine Arabic 95%
    Khaliji Arabic 95%
    (UHA is actually widely used in Saudi media broadcast to the Arab world)
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  6. 121ace New Member

    British English (Surrey)
    Very detailed answer thank you for taking your time to write that. It seems that Hijazi is one of the better understood dialects by other nations in the middle east. I assume a combination of hijazi and fusha would go very well and allow full communication across the arab region, with the only things being difficult being specific expressions from different dialects.
  7. Schem

    Schem Senior Member

    Najdi Arabic
    I thought we had more Hejazi speakers? I'm interested in reading more on mutual intelligibility from a native's perspective. Rayloom's dialect percentage-order was very interesting to see.

    Good thread!
  8. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    I think you're underestimating the similarities with Egyptian/Sudanese dialects. There are other features that make it resemble Egyptian and Sudanese that you've overlooked. The pronouns are nearly identical, as are the demonstratives. Conditional sentences are basically the same as well. The use of the present progressive b-, 3amman/3ammal (which I admit is becoming rare) and the future particle 7a- are also shared with those dialects. There's also some shared basic vocabulary like feen (instead of ween), yijri (instead of yirkiD), zayy (instead of mithl), yiddi (instead of yi3Ti), barDu, doob, jazma (instead of kindarah), jamal (instead of b3eer), sharm (instead of khor), etc. The morphology, particularly the patterns, are almost the same as Egyptian, including for example 9i7yat, bigyat, etc. instead of 9a7at, bigat/bagyat. UHA lacks many patterns that are present in Najdi and bedouin dialects. The phonology, as you said, is almost identical with Upper Egyptian and Sudanese, as are the short vowels, including the near absence of consonontal clusters, which are so common in Najdi, beduoin and Khaliji dialects. It's no coincidence that people from the Gulf invariably describe UHA as sounding like Egyptian or Sudanese.

    We've discussed this before; I really think the Najdi you've been exposed to is the watered-down koine that you hear on TV or among the very young, which is heavily influenced by UHA or Egyptian. In terms of morphology, I'd have to consider UHA to belong to the same group as Egyptian and Syrian, rather than Najdi, despite obviously being closer to Najdi and bedouin Arabic than either Egyptian or Syrian are. Khaliji (which is almost a subset of Najdi) is another matter entirely. A Jeddawi friend of mine literally called up a Najdi friend to act as an interpreter for him when he got into a car accident in Bahrain! (though Bahrainis had little trouble understanding him). The idea that UHA speakers would find Khaliji or Najdi easier to understand than Egyptian is a bit difficult for me to believe, unless the speaker has a lot of exposure to the first two (which I guess is often the case nowadays).
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
  9. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    I guess we agree on most stuff.

    I'm not underestimating the similarities, just saying that its not enough to say that UHA belongs to the Egyptian Arabic group, since their shared features are probably the result of a heavy influence, or a form of sprachbund between these varieties (on both sides of the Red Sea, or a (genuine) continuum.
    Moreover, the similarities in demonstratives, interrogatives, pronouns, use of bi- (for the present progressive), 7a- (rayi7, for the future), 3ammal (3am-, 3amman...etc), are more or less the case also for the Levantine varieties.
    So yes it's closer to Egyptian and Syrian than Najdi or Khaliji (Gulf Arabic).
    (Our discussion the last time was concerning Gulf Arabic and its grouping with Najdi, to me (probably watered down) Najdi seems closer to UHA while Gulf Arabic seems closer to Iraqi Arabic) ;)

    Also I'm not underestimating the number of Egyptian borrowings, which is more clear with the number of recent borrowings of ultimately non-Arabic origin (dugri, kubri, barDu, a9an9ēr...etc). The Egyptian influence is a relatively recent one, with max influence probably by the end of the Ottoman period.
    Also a bilateral influence can't be ruled out on the 2 sides of the Red Sea.
    Some forms in UHA appear ancestral to forms in EA or Levantine Arabic.
    Lissa3 vs lissa
    rayi7, ra7-, 7a- vs. 7a-, ha-
    3ammal vs. 3am- (Levantine Arabic)
    bi- as a present progressive particle can't be said to be of Egyptian origin, it appears even in Cypriot Maronite Arabic, a language which has separated from a "post-Classical" koine nearly a millennium ago.

    I said that we'd find EA easier to understand in general than Najdi or Gulf Arabic. But a Jeddawi not understanding Bahraini Arabic, that's strange. I've been to Bahrain only once, never had any problem understanding the locals (I'm from Jeddah too).
  10. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    Just to be clear, I said you underestimated the similarities, not the "borrowings." I'm just saying that the dialects sound similar in many ways, regardless of how the similarities arose (i.e. whether through the influence of one over the other or otherwise). Certainly not all shared traits are the result of borrowing from Egyptian per se, though some are. My point was that Hejazi sounds more similar to Egyptian/Sudanese than to Syrian for the reasons I explained above. The fact that Syrian has many similar or cognate features is not relevant. For example, "7a-" (used in Egypt and UH) is related to "ra7-" which is used in Syria, but that doesn't change the fact that UH uses "7a-" and not "ra7-" and so it is closer to Egyptian in that respect and so on. Like I said, every Khaliji person I've discussed this with over the years confuses UHA with Sudanese or Egyptian. None has ever confused it with Syrian.

    Bilateral influence is possible, but only for features that are also present in the Hejazi countryside and among the tribes. The progressive b- for example is certainly an import from other Arab countries because it is completely absent in (non-Urban) Hejazi dialects.

    You have an interest in dialects and you've mentioned that you've been exposed to Khaliji television. That probably explains why you didn't face problems in Bahrain. But most tourists don't interact that heavily with the locals, whereas this individual was forced to do so because of the car accident (police, etc.). Plus the incident was in the late 90's when people in Jeddah didn't get a lot of exposure to Khaliji TV.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2013
  11. Sprachmittler224 New Member

    English - Scottish
    I worked through the FSI Hijazi Arabic course years ago. Subsequently I have had more to do with Levantine. I have the impression it is much like Egyptian, Levantine and even Sudanese Arabic varieties and is probably not a bad colloquial to learn even if you are interested in Arabic outside Saudi Arabia.

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