Baghdad Jewish Arabic is the Arabic dialect spoken by the Jews of Baghdad and other towns of Southern Iraq. This dialect differs from the dialect spoken by the Jews in Northern Iraq, such as Mosul and 'Ana. The Baghdadi and Northern dialects may be regarded as subvarieties of Judeo-Iraqi Arabic. As with most Judeo-Arab communities, there are likely to be few, if any, speakers of the Judeo-Iraqi Arabic dialects who still reside within Iraq. Rather these dialects have been maintained or are facing critical endangerment within respective Judeo-Iraqi diasporas, namely those of Israel and the United States.
Baghdad Jewish Arabic (and Baghdadi Christian Arabic) resemble the dialect of Northern Iraq, and more distantly that of Syria, rather than the Baghdad Arabic spoken by the Muslims. The Muslim dialect is classified as a gilit dialect (from their pronunciation of the Arabic word for "I said") while the others are qeltu dialects. Another resemblance between Baghdad Jewish Arabic and North Mesopotamian Arabic is the pronunciation of ra as a uvular. This peculiarity goes back centuries: in medieval Iraqi Judaeo-Arabic manuscripts the letters ra and ghayn are frequently interchanged. It is thought that the qeltu dialects represent the older Arabic dialect of Mesopotamia while the gilit dialect is of Bedouin origin. Another factor may be the northern origins of the Jewish community of Baghdad after 1258 (see below under History). Like Northern Mesopotamian and Syrian Arabic, Jewish Baghdadi Arabic shows some signs of an Aramaic substrate. Violette Shamosh records that, at the Passover Seder, she could understand some of the passages in Aramaic but none of the passages in Hebrew.
The earliest Jewish community of Baghdad was virtually wiped out after the Mongol invasion in 1258. A second wave of Baghdad Jews, after Mongol rule, were largely descendants of immigrants from Mosul and Aleppo who by the Middle Ages had weaved into being a long established community.
As with other respective religious and ethnic communities coexisting in Baghdad, the Jewish community had almost exclusively spoken as well as written in their distinctive dialect, largely drawing their linguistic influences from Hebrew and Judeo-Aramaic. Simultaneous fluency and literacy in the Arabic used by the dominant Muslim communities had also been commonplace.
With waves of persecution and thus emigration, the dialect has been carried to and until recently used within respective Judeo-Iraqi diaspora communities, spanning Bombay, Calcutta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manchester and numerous other international urban hubs. More notably, after the mass emigration of Jews from Iraq to Israel between the 1940s and 1960s, Israel came to hold the single largest linguistic community of Judeo-Iraqi Arabic speakers. With successive generations being born and raised in Israel, it is mainly the older people who still actively or passively speak Judeo-Baghdadi and other forms of Judeo-Iraqi Arabic. Israelis of Iraqi descent in turn are largely unilingual Israeli Hebrew speakers, with small numbers having also acquired the more local Palestinian Arabic.
JB is relatively conservative in preserving Classical Arabic phonemes. Classical Arabic /q/ has remained as an uvular (or post-velar) stop, like Christian Baghdad Arabic, but unlike in Muslim Baghdad Arabic where it is pronounced as [ɡ]. /k/ is retained as [k], like in Christian Baghdadi, but unlike the Muslim dialect where it is sometimes [tʃ]. Classical Arabic interdental /ð, θ, ðˠ/ are preserved, like in Muslim Baghdadi Arabic (Christian Baghdadi Arabic merges them into /d, t, dˤ/). /dˤ/ has merged into /ðˠ/.
There are a few rare minimal pairs with /lˠ, bˠ/ (e.g. wáḷḷa 'by God! (an oath)' vs. wálla 'he went away', ḅāḅa 'father, dad' vs. bāba 'her door'). In other words there are velarized segments which cannot be demonstrated to be phonemic, but which cannot be substituted, e.g. ṃāṃa 'mother, mummy'. There is a certain degree of velarization harmony.
/r/ is one of the primary distinguishing features of Jewish (as opposed to Muslim, Christian) Baghdadi Arabic. Older Arabic /r/ has shifted to /ɣ/ (as in Christian, but not Muslim, Baghdadi Arabic). However /r/ has been re-introduced in non-Arabic loans (e.g. brāxa 'blessing' < Heb. ברכה, qūri 'teapot' < Pers.qūrī). Modern loan words from other Arabic dialects also have this sound; this sometimes leads to cases where the same word may have two forms depending on context, e.g. ʿáskaġ 'army' vs. ḥākəm ʿáskari 'martial law'. There are many instances where this alternation leads to a subtle change in meaning, e.g. faġġ 'he poured, served foot' vs. farr 'he threw'.
The consonants /p, ɡ, tʃ/ were originally of foreign origin, but have pervaded the language to the extent that native speakers do not perceive or even realize their non-native origin.