Regional variations in Iraqi Arabic

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by Jacobtm, May 24, 2011.

  1. Jacobtm Senior Member

    English - New York

    Wondering what kinda variations there are within Iraq in terms of the Arabic spoken there. Would shia and sunni areas have much difference in the way they speak? Or are there other differences just based on geography?

  2. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

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    I've never heard this question before! Differences are regional in any dialect.
  3. Abdou2011 New Member

    Arabic,Tamazight, French, English, Germa
    I think Arabic is all the same, to whichever Arab country you go. To my mind there are minimal differences. The Sunni and Shia can understand each other though.

    This is merely a point of view, I have never been there..


  4. Masjeen Senior Member

    Arabian Gulf
    I agree :thumbsup:
  5. Ihsiin

    Ihsiin Senior Member

    In general there's a north-south divide in terms of both dialect and religion.
    The south is dominant.
  6. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

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    I would split Iraqi into at least 3 dialects:
    Kurdish (really quite eloquent from the ones I've met here, and easy enough to understand).
    Baghdadi (hard for me)
    Southern (hard for me).
    I'm sure there are others. The Jazeera region is bound to have its own dialect probably. But those are the ones I know of and can tangibly distinguish. And they're nothing to do with religion.
    Last edited: May 26, 2011
  7. clevermizo Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    Well, don't forget Maslawi which sounds different from Baghdadi.

    There has been a religious split in the past and maybe still to my understanding. Mostly because Christians in Baghdad spoke with a more Maslawi-type dialect whereas Muslims in Baghdad spoke with what you consider the regular Baghdadi accent. So within Baghdadi that split was religious, not regional. I don't know how accurate that description is or if it still holds today, but certainly someone with more knowledge on Iraq will hopefully explain a little better.
  8. sirr Member

    Swedish & Kurdish
    Actually, Kurdish is not a dialect of Iraqi Arabic but an Indo-european language. There are loaned words from Arabic which an Arabic speaker could understand, but that doesn't make it an Arabic dialect :)

    "There are three major geographical groups of dialects in modern Iraq that can be identified in general terms as northern, southern, and central. The northern dialect is centered around the city of Mosul (the largest city in the north), and the southern dialect is centered around the city of Basra (the largest city in the south). The central dialect is spoken in the capital city of Baghdad and its sorroundings." (Modern Iraqi Arabic, Yasin M. Alkalesi)
  9. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

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    I didn't mean the Kurdish language.
    I meant the kind of Arabic which Kurds speak. This is from my exposure to them in Europe. Maybe it is the same as the dialect of Mosul I don't know.
  10. sirr Member

    Swedish & Kurdish
    Oh ok, sorry about the mistake!
  11. hantendon New Member

    Just being born there, my impressions are as follows: 2 main dialects: 1.Mosul (and a slightly similar 'Christian Baghdadi') and 2.Everything else! Only because I find the Maslawi dialect to be so different and obvious from the rest.

    Although most Christians in the capital (new generation) have abandoned this dialect, so in a couple of generations I guess it's going to be negligible.

    As you go West from Baghdad towards Anbar province, the speech sounds a bit more 'bedouinish' similar to Najdi/Ahwazi maybe. Same as you go North to Samarra'/Tikrit/etc, but not as strongly as going West.

    As you go South (predominantly Shiite area), especially once you reach Najaf all the way down to Basra, the speech sounds more like Gulf Arabic (naturally), but also sounds distinct, mainly to me it's the arabic 'kasra' (english 'i'?) usage. So instead of saying 'Agullak', they will say 'Agillak'. Other words escape me, but it's not a huge change. Maybe this is considered the 'Shiite speech' of Iraq, although it would be a gross generalization. On a side note, I'm noticing that this 'sub-dialect' is recently influencing the dialect of Baghdad and even the general Arabic of the country more and more!

    Even the Maslawis of today are sounding less and less distinct, and more like the above. Also, Tikritis used to sound more like Maslawis before! Even in 1 generation I think I see a transition towards a more southern accent!

    A note about sects: A Sunni/Shiite from Baghdad cannot be told apart from their speech, unless they immigrated recently from a place where they spoke differently in the first place. Many people from Baghdad did immigrate to there though: Sunnis from Anbar, Shiites from the the Southeast.

    Finally, I assume you're asking about the Arabic language in Iraq. Otherwise, it would be a much longer story describing the many other languages spoken in that country. In short, Kurdish, Armenian, Syriac, Persian, and others I probably don't know about.
    Last edited: May 27, 2011
  12. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

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    How could you describe A7wazi?
  13. hiba Senior Member

    English- US
  14. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    Actually, there is a slight difference between Shiia and Sunni trends of speech. It's not a different dialect, it's more like a difference in accent. It's not easy to describe but Shiia accent is a little bit thicker than Sunni. Even a Baswrawi Sunni's accent is a little lighter than the Shiia's accent. There are also differences in choice of words or overall trends, but they generally speak the same dialect.

    Maybe you can easily distinguish Maslawi because they pronounce the qaaf as it is in fus7a and pronounce the raa' as a ghain. But I would also add a southern dialect. It's easily distinguished from the Baghdadi dialect or mid-Mesopotamian dialect, the use many different words and tend to pronounce many words differently. The southern dialect is closer to Khaliji dialect, although not identical (khaliji is also a dialect continuum).

    I don't think it's closer to the Bedouin dialect in any way.
  15. hantendon New Member

    Hmm even the definition of the word means `desert-dwelling`, which is traditionally what Anbar`s inhabitants were and in many cases still are. I think their dialect sounds closer to the Najdi dialect to my ears, and here I`m comparing to Baghdad.

    As for North of the country, again just my observation that they share similarities (not as extreme) with the West of the country in their speech.

    For the rest of your post, I agree with some points, with others it really depends on perspective. For example, I don't know much about Basra's Sunni-Shiite dialect variations. Although many of the former were from tribes hailing from Najd&Hijaz, which could explain a bit more of the differences in speech.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2011
  16. i_guess_i_am_a_genius Member

    San Diego, CA
    saidi Arabic
    I know chaldeans that pronounce "ra" as "ghen"
    Where I live in California, has a pretty big Chaldean population, and it was the hardest thing I had to get used to when speaking to them in Arabic.
  17. Abu-l-Maqqa New Member

    English - UK
    Shloonak akhi, inshallah killish mlii7!
    Yes this seems to be the case unfortunately. I´ve read two short articles on the Tikriti dialect(Johnstone and Jastrow)and most of the examples given were identical or very close to Maslawi and to Jewish Baghdadi. But whenever I´ve heard people from Tikrit speak to journalists on the news, they´ve sounded pretty much like Baghdadis, with the "g" and "ch". True, it could have been people from the countryside(note that the so-called Qeltu dialects of Mosul and Tikrit were only spoken in the cities. Even the immediately surrounding villages spoke a rural dialect similar to that of Baghdad.) Also, people of the smaller dialects are usually perfectly able to speak the dominant dialect of the capital(as were Jews and Christians back in the day in Baghdad), so it could perhaps be them adapting to the interviewer. Although I am not as good at this as my older relatives(who can switch back and forth without missing a beat and sound perfectly native in both), I still find myself doing this more or less instinctively.

    Sorry for the long post, but I am so sad to hear that those dialects are vanishing, not only because I love the sounds and words unique to them, but because they are the authentic remnants of the old magnificent Iraq, and bear witness to its rich history.

    I have recently spoken to 3 people from Mosul(2 Christians, 1 Muslim)and they did speak very authentic Maslawi(very close to Jewish Baghadi, but not identical), using words that Baghdadis would not understand. 2 of them had been living in Europe for a long time, though.

    If anyone speaks the dialect of Mosul, Be7zaani or Tikriti(or any other qeltu or as I´ve heard some other Iraqis say, somewhat mockingly, "qii-qoo"-dialect)or the old Christian dialect of Baghdad, I would love to chat about words and expression that we share. Even if you only speak a broken version of the dialect that you picked up at home, I would love to hear from you.

    Quoted for mere hilarity! Especially coming from a speaker of a North African dialect(Moroccan?) :)
    (no disrespect, of course, but you are in for a surprise if you ever hear two Baghdadis speak amongst themselves, not to mention two Maslawis).

    Also, the only place I know of that has Sunni-Shia communal dialects(that is along religious rather than simply geographic lines) is Bahrain. Clive Holes has written about this.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2011

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