|Native to||south-western Algeria, north-western Mali, Mauritania, southern Morocco, Western Sahara|
|Native speakers||3.3 million (2004–2006)|
|Writing system||Arabic alphabet|
Current distribution of the Hassaniya language, alone (dark green) or alongside Tuareg (light green). It is also spoken in regions around the shaded zone.
Hassānīya (Arabic: حسانية Ḥassānīya; also known as Hassaniyya, Klem El Bithan, Hasanya, Hassani, Hassaniya) is the variety of Arabic originally spoken by the Beni Hassān Bedouin tribes, who extended their authority over most of Mauritania and the Western Sahara between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. It has almost completely replaced the Berber languages spoken in this region. Though clearly a western dialect, Hassānīya is relatively distant from other North African variants of Arabic. Its geographical location exposed it to influence from Zenaga and Wolof. There are several dialects of Hassaniya. The primary differences among them are phonetic. Today Hassaniya is spoken in Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and the Western Sahara.
The phonological system of Hassānīya is both very innovative and very conservative. All phonemes of Classical Arabic are represented in the dialect, but new phonemes are numerous, too. As in other Bedouin dialects, Classical /q/ corresponds mostly to dialectal /ɡ/, /dˤ/ and /ðˤ/ have merged into /ðˤ/ and the interdentals /θ/ and /ð/ have been preserved. In common with most western Arabic varieties, the equivalent of Modern Standard Arabic /d͡ʒ/ is realised as /ʒ/.
However, there is sometimes a double correspondence of a classical sound and its dialectal counterpart. Thus classical /q/ is represented by /ɡ/ in /ɡbaðˤ/ 'to take' but by /q/ in /mqass/ 'scissors'. Similarly, /dˤ/ becomes /ðˤ/ in /ðˤəħk/ 'laugh (noun)', but /dˤ/ in /mrˤədˤ/ 'to be sick'. Some consonant roots even have a double appearance: /θaqiːl/ 'heavy (mentally)' vs. /θɡiːl/ 'heavy (materially)'. Some of the "classicizing" forms are easily explained as recent loans from the literary language (such as /qaː.nuːn/ 'law') or from sedentary dialects in case of concepts pertaining to the sedentary way of life (such as /mqass/ 'scissors' above). For others, there is no obvious explanation (like /mrˤədˤ/ 'to be sick'). Etymological /ðˤ/ appears constantly as /ðˤ/, never as /dˤ/.
Nevertheless, the phonemic status of /q/ and /dˤ/ as well as /ɡ/ and /ðˤ/ appears very stable, unlike in many other Arabic varieties. Somewhat similarly, classical /ʔ/ has in most contexts disappeared or turned into /w/ or /j/ (/ahl/ 'family' instead of /ʔahl/, /wak.kad/ 'insist' instead of /ʔak.kad/ and /jaː.məs/ 'yesterday' instead of /ʔams/). In some literary terms, however, it is clearly preserved: /mət.ʔal.lam/ 'suffering (participle)' (classical /mu.ta.ʔal.lim/).
Hassānīya has innovated many consonants by the spread of the distinction emphatic/non-emphatic. In addition to the above-mentioned, /rˤ/ and /lˤ/ have a clear phonemic status and /bˤ fˤ ɡˤ mˤ nˤ/ more marginally so. One additional emphatic phoneme /zˤ/ is acquired from the neighbouring Zenaga Berber language along with a whole palatal series /c ɟ ɲ/ from Niger–Congo languages of the south. At least some speakers make the distinction /p/–/b/ through borrowings from French. All in all, the number of consonant phonemes in Hassānīya is 33, or 39 if you count the marginal cases, too.
On the phonetic level, the classical consonants /f/ and /θ/ are usually realised as voiced [v] (hereafter marked /v/) and [θ̬]. The latter is still, however, pronounced differently from /ð/, the distinction probably being in the amount of air blown out (Cohen 1963: 13–14). In geminated and word-final positions both phonemes are voiceless, for some speakers /θ/ apparently in all positions. The uvular fricative /ʁ/ is likewise realised voiceless in a geminated position, although not fricative but plosive: [qː]. In other positions, etymological /ʁ/ seems to be in free variation with /q/ (etymological /q/, however varies only with /ɡ/).
Vowel phonemes come in two series: long and short. The long vowels are the same as in Classical Arabic /aː iː uː/, and the short ones extend this by one: /a i u ə/. The classical diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ may be realised in many different ways, the most usual variants being [eːʲ] and [oːʷ], respectively. Still, realisations like [aj] and [aw] as well as [eː] and [oː] are possible, although less common.
As in most western Arabic dialects, etymological short vowels are generally dropped in open syllables (except for the feminine noun ending /-a/): */tak.tu.biː/ > /tə.ktbi/ 'you (f. sg.) write', */ka.ta.ba/ > */ka.tab/ > /ktəb/ 'he wrote'. In the remaining closed syllables dialectal /a/ generally corresponds to classical /a/, while classical /i/ and /u/ have merged into /ə/. Remarkably, however, morphological /j/ is represented by [i] and /w/ by [u] in a word-initial pre-consonantal position: /u.ɡəft/ 'I stood up' (root w-g-f; cf. /ktəbt/ 'I wrote', root k-t-b), /i.naɡ.ɡaz/ 'he descends' (subject prefix i-; cf. /jə.ktəb/ 'he writes', subject prefix jə-). In some contexts this initial vowel even gets lengthened, which clearly demonstrates its phonological status of a vowel: /uːɡ.vu/ 'they stood up'. In addition, short vowels /a i/ in open syllables are found in Berber loanwords, such as /a.raː.ɡaːʒ/ 'man', /i.vuː.kaːn/ 'calves of 1 to 2 years of age', and /u/ in passive formation: /u.ɡaː.bəl/ 'he was met' (cf. /ɡaː.bəl/ 'he met').
According to Ethnologue.com, in 2006 there were around 3,123,190 hassaniya speakers (excluding Western Sahara), distributed in:
- Mauritania: 2,770,000 (2006)
- Algeria: 150,000 (1985)
- Western Sahara: unknown
- Mali: 106,000 (1991)
- Morocco: 195,000 (1995)
- Libya: 40,000 (1985)
- Niger: 10,000 (1998)
- Senegal: 7,190 (2006)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (June 2009)|
- Hassaniyya reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Raymond G. Gordon, Jr, ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
- Languages of Mauritania
- Languages of Algeria
- Languages of Mali
- Languages of Morocco
- Languages of Libya
- Languages of Niger
- Languages of Senegal
- Cohen, David & el Chennafi, Mohammed (1963). Le dialecte arabe ḥassānīya de Mauritanie (parler de la Gəbla). Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-00150-X.
- "Hassaniya, the Arabic of Mauritania", Al-Any, Riyadh S. / In: Linguistics; vol. 52 (1969), pag. 15 / 1969
- "Hassaniya, the Arabic of Mauritania", Al-Any, Riyadh S. / In: Studies in linguistics; vol. 19 (1968), afl. 1 (mrt), pag. 19 / 1968
- "Hassaniya Arabic (Mali) : Poetic and Ethnographic Texts", Heath, Jeffrey; Kaye, Alan S. / In: Journal of Near Eastern studies; vol. 65 (2006), afl. 3, pag. 218 (1) / 2006
- Hassaniya Arabic (Mali) : poetic and ethnographic texts, Heath, Jeffrey / Harrassowitz / 2003
- Hassaniya Arabic (Mali) – English – French dictionary, Heath, Jeffrey / Harrassowitz / 2004