Hejazi Arabic

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Hejazi Arabic
Native to Hejaz region, Saudi Arabia
Native speakers
6 million  (1996)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 acw
Glottolog hija1235[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Hejazi Arabic (Arabic: حجازيḥijāzī), also known as West Arabian Arabic, is a dialect of the Arabic language spoken in the Hejaz region in Saudi Arabia. Although, strictly speaking, there are two distinct dialects spoken in the Hejaz region, one by the bedouin rural population, and another by the urban population, the term most often applies to the urban variety, spoken in cities such as Jeddah, Mecca, Yanbu, Ta'if, and Medina.

Urban Hejazi appears to be most closely related to the Arabic dialects of Northern Sudan and Upper Egypt (Ingham 1971). Hejazi Arabic has many close similarities to Egyptian Arabic.[3] Hejazi Arabic dialect is also spoken by Rashaida in Eritrea and Sudan. Hejazi Arabic is used for daily communications and has no official status, instead, Modern Standard Arabic is used for official purposes, especially in Eritrea where Arabic is not the lingua franca.


Also referred to as the sedentary Hejazi dialect, this is the form most commonly associated with the term "Hejazi Arabic", and is spoken in the urban centers of the region, such as Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina. With respect to the axis of bedouin versus sedentary dialects of the Arabic language, this dialect group exhibits features of both.[citation needed]


Like other sedentary dialects, the urban Hejazi dialect is less conservative than the bedouin varieties and has therefore shed many Classical forms and features that are still present in many bedouin dialects. These include the internal passive form (which in Hejazi, is replaced by the pattern anfa'al"/"yinfa'il), the marker for indefiniteness (tanwin), gender-number disagreement, and the feminine marker -n (see Varieties of Arabic). Features that mark Hejazi Arabic as a sedentary dialect include:

  1. The present progressive tense is marked by gaʿid, ʿammaːl or the prefix bi- (gaʿed/ʿammaːl yektub or biyedrus "he is studying").
  2. The interdental /θ/ ث is mostly rendered /t/ and sometimes /s/ or kept /θ/, while the interdental /ð/ ذ (as in English "this") is mostly rendered /d/ and sometimes /z/ or kept /ð/. They remain interdental in the countryside.
  3. In contrast to bedouin dialects, the distinction between the emphatic sounds /dˤ/ ض and /ðˤ/ ظ is generally preserved in some words and according to the speaker's hometown.
  4. The final -n in present tense plural verb forms is no longer employed (e.g. yirkabu instead of yirkabun)
  5. The dominant case ending before the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is -u, rather than the -a that is prevalent in bedouin dialects. For example, bētuh "his house", ʿenduh "he has", aʿrifuh "he knew him".
  6. Possessive pronouns for the 2nd person are -ak (masculine) and -ek (feminine). In Standard Arabic, these are -ka and -ki, respectively.
  7. Portmanteau which is common in Hejazi examples include :
  • إيش (eːsh, what), from أي (ay, which) and شيء (shayʔ, thing).
  • ليش (leːsh, why), from لـ (li, for) and أي (ay, which) and شيء (shayʔ, thing).
  • إلين (eleːn, until), from إلى (ilaː, to) and أين (ayn, where).
  • دحين (daħeːn, until), from ذا (thaː, this) and الحين (alħiːn, part of time).
  • علشان/عشان (ʕashaːn/ʕalashaːn, because), from على (ʕalaː, on) and شأن (shaʔn, matter).
  • إيوه (iːwa, yes), from إي (, yes) and و (wa , and) and الله (allaːh, god).

Other features[edit]

Other features of Hejazi Arabic are:

  1. Compared to neighboring dialects, urban Hejazi retains more of the short vowels of Modern Standard Arabic[citation needed], for example:
samaka "fish", as opposed to bedouin smika or Levantine samake
darabatu ضربَته "she hit him", as opposed to bedouin dribtah
aktub "write", Imperative mood, as opposed to bedouin iktib, and Levantine ktub
ʿʕendakom عندَكُم "in your [plural] possession", as opposed to bedouin ʿindikom, Egyptian ʿandoko, and Levantine ʿandkun
  1. The plural first person pronoun is niḥna (نحنا) or eḥna (إحنا), as opposed to the bedouin ḥənna (حنّا) and ənna (إنّا).[citation needed]
  2. When used to indicate location, the preposition fi في Pronounced as an "f" فـ when connected to a noun is preferred to b بـ (f-Makkah "in Mecca"). In bedouin dialects, the preference differs by region.
  3. Less restriction on the distribution of /i/ and /u/.
  4. The glottal stop can be added to final syllables ending in a vowel as a way of emphasising.
  5. The two diphthongs /ai/ and /au/ from the Classic Arabic period underwent monophthongization and are realised as the long vowels /eː/ and /oː/, respectively but with some exceptions that didn't follow this rule from Classic Arabic.
  6. The qaaf (ق) of Modern Standard Arabic is pronounced /g/ except in certain words.


The urban Hejazi vocabulary differs in some respect from that of other dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. For example, there are fewer specialized terms related to desert life, and more terms related to seafaring and fishing. Due to the diverse origins of the inhabitants of Hijazi cities, few borrowings from the dialects of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen exist but now are fading due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic. and even the Five centuries of Turkish rule only had a slight influence on Hejazi and most of the loanwords are names of objects (with a change of meaning sometimes) as in : جزمة /d͡ʒazma/ "shoe" from çizme /t͡ʃizme/ originally meaning "boot" or كُبري /kobri/ "overpass" from köprü /køpry/ originally meaning "bridge".

Certain distinctive particles and vocabulary in Hijazi are /ɡiːd/ or /ɡed/ "already", /daħiːn/ or /daħeːn/ "now", and /lessa/ "not yet".


Hejazi has five vowels, with length as distinctive feature:

Hejazi vowels
  Front Back
short long short long
Close i u
Close-Mid e o
Open a  

/ɑː/ is an allophone of /aː/ in some foreign words such as ألمانيا [almɑːnja] (germany) and يابان [jaːbɑːn] (japan).

Free variation occur in Hejazi Arabic depending on the speaker's home town accent (Medina, Mecca/Jeddah, Ta'if) between the short front vowels /e/ and /i/ as in words like إعلام which can be pronounced [eʕlaːm] or [iʕlaːm] with the former being more common and the same occurs with short back vowels /o/ and /u/ such as in the word حُب can be pronounced [ħob] or [ħub] with the former being more common.


The varieties of Arabic spoken by the bedouin tribes of the Hejaz region are relatively under-studied. However, the speech of some tribes shows much closer affinity to other bedouin dialects, particularly those of neighboring Nejd, than to those of the Hejazi cities. The dialects of northern Hejazi tribes merge into those of Jordan and Sinai, while the dialects in the south merge with those of 'Asir and Nejd. It is also worth noting that many large tribal confederations in Nejd and eastern Arabia are recent migrants from the Hejaz, including the tribes of Utaybah, Mutayr, Harb, and Bani Khalid. In earlier times, many other Arab tribes also came from the Hejaz, including Kinanah, Juhayna, Banu Sulaym, and Ghatafan. Also, not all speakers of these bedouin dialects are figuratively nomadic bedouins; some are simply sedentary sections that live in rural areas, and thus speak dialects similar to those of their bedouin neighbors.


The most prominent of these are the following[citation needed]:

  1. The qaaf (ق) of Modern Standard Arabic is pronounced /g/.
  2. Hejazi Arabic does not employ double negation, nor does it append the negation particles -sh to negate verbs: Hejazi māʿarif "I don't know", as opposed to Egyptian maʿrafsh and Palestinian biʿrafish.
  3. The prohibitive mood of Classical Arabic is preserved in the imperative: lā tarūh "don't go".
  4. The possessive suffixes are generally preserved in their Classical forms. For example, beytakum "your (pl) house".


  1. ^ Hejazi Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Hijazi Arabic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Dialect, Culture, and Society in Eastern Arabia: Glossary". Clive Holes. 2001. 
  • Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language, NITLE Arab World Project, by the permission of Edinburgh University Press, [1]
  • Bruce Ingham, "Some Characteristics of Meccan Speech", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 34, No. 2. (1971), pp. 273–297. [2]
  • Margaret K. Omar, Saudi Arabic: Urban Hijazi Dialect, Basic Course , ISBN 0-88432-739-6