||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2009)|
|North-Central Levantine Arabic|
|(no estimate available)|
|Arabic alphabet, Latin|
Lebanese or Lebanese Arabic is a variety of Levantine Arabic, indigenous to and spoken primarily in Lebanon, with significant linguistic influences borrowed from other Middle Eastern and European languages, and is in some ways unique from other varieties of Arabic. Due to natural multiculturalism and multilingualism within Lebanon, it is not uncommon for Lebanese people to mix French, English, and other languages into their daily speech.
Differences from Standard Arabic
Lebanese Arabic shares many features with other so-called modern varieties of Arabic. Lebanese, like many other spoken Levantine varieties, exhibits a very different syllable structure from Modern Standard Arabic. While Standard Arabic can have only one consonant at the beginning of a syllable, after which a vowel must follow, Lebanese commonly has two consonants in the onset.
- Syntax: simpler, without any mood and case markings.
- Number: verbal agreement regarding number and gender is required for all subjects, whether already mentioned or not.
- Vocabulary: many borrowings from other languages; most prominently Ottoman Turkish, Greek, and French, as well as, less significantly, Persian, and English.
- The following example demonstrates two differences between Standard Arabic (Literary Arabic) and Spoken Lebanese: Coffee (قهوة), Literary Arabic: /ˈqahwa/; Lebanese: [ˈʔahwe]. The voiceless uvular plosive /q/ corresponds to a glottal stop [ʔ], and the final vowel ([æ~a~ɐ]) commonly written with tāʾ marbūtah (ة) is raised to [e].
- As a general rule of thumb, the voiceless uvular plosive /q/ is dropped from the words in which it appears, and is replaced instead with glottal stop [ʔ], e.g., /daqiːqa/ "minute" becomes [dʔiːʔa]. Dropping of /q/ is a feature shared with Syrian Arabic and Egyptian Arabic.
- The exception for this general rule is the Druze of Lebanon who, like the Druze of Syria and Israel, have retained the pronunciation of /q/ in the centre of direct neighbours who have substituted the /q/ for the [ʔ] (example: "Heart" is /qalb/ in Literary Arabic, becomes [ˈʔaleb] or [ʔalb], which is similar in Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Maltese. The use of /q/ by Druze is particularly prominent in the mountains and less so in urban areas.
- Unlike most other varieties of Arabic, a few dialects of Lebanese have retained the classical diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ (pronounced in Lebanese as [aɪ] and [aʊ]), which were monophthongised into [eː] and [oː] elsewhere, although the majority of Lebanese dialects realize them as [oʊ] and [eɪ]. In urban dialects (ie. Beiruti) [eː] has replaced /aj/ and sometimes medial /aː/, and [e] has replaced final /i/ making it indistinguishable with tāʾ marbūtah (ة). Also, [oː] has replaced /aw/; [o] replacing some short /u/s. In singing, the /aj/, /aw/ and medial /aː/ are usually maintained for artistic[specify] values.
- ^1 The phonemes [p], [v] are not native to Lebanese and are only found in loanwords. They are sometimes realized as [b] and [f] respectively.
- ^2 The velar stop [g] occurs in native Lebanese words but is generally restricted to loanwords. It is realized as [k] by some speakers.
Vowels and diphthongs
This table shows the correspondence between general Lebanese vowel phonemes and their counterpart realizations in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and other Levantine Arabic dialects. 
|/æ/||[a]||[ɑ] or [ʌ]||[ɑ] or [ʌ]||[ɔ] or [ɛ]|
|/ɪ/||[i] or [u]||[e]||[ə]||[e] or [o]|
|/ʊ/||[u]||[o] or [ʊ]||[o]||[o]|
Regional Lebanese Arabic dialects
Although there is a common Lebanese dialect mutually understood by most Lebanese, there are regional distinct variations in various parts of the country with at times unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
Widely used regional dialects include:
- Beiruti dialects, further distributed according to various neighborhoods, the notable ones being Achrafieh dialect, Basta dialect, Ras Beirut dialect, etc.
- Northern dialects, further distributed regionally, the most notable ones being Tripoli dialect, Zgharta dialect, Bsharri dialect, Koura dialect, Akkar dialect
- Southern dialects
- Beqaa dialects, further divided into various dialects, the notable ones being Zahlé dialect, Baalbek-Hermel dialect
- Mount Lebanon dialects, further divided into various regional dialects like the Keserwan dialect, the Druze dialect, etc.
Lebanese is rarely written, except in novels where a dialect is implied or in some types of poetry that do not use classical Arabic at all. Lebanese is also utilized in many Lebanese songs, theatrical pieces, local television and radio productions, and very prominently in zajal.
While Arabic script is usually employed, informal usage such as online chat may mix and match Latin letter transliterations. The Lebanese poet Saïd Akl proposed the use of the Latin alphabet but did not gain wide acceptance. Whereas some works, such as Romeo and Juliet and Plato's Dialogues have been transliterated using such systems, they have not gained widespread acceptance. Yet, now, most Arabic web users, when short of an Arabic keyboard, transliterate the Lebanese words in the Latin alphabet in a pattern similar to the Said Akl alphabet, the only difference being the use of digits to render the Arabic letters with no obvious equivalent in the Latin alphabet.
There is still today no generally accepted agreement on how to use the Latin alphabet to transliterate Lebanese words. In 2012, Antoine Rizk has carried out an analysis of the way Lebanese use Latin alphabet over chat systems, social networks, sms, and emails then summarized the most used conventions on a web page. These conventions form the basis of a comprehensive online system for learning the Lebanese language online.
In 2010, The Lebanese Language Institute has released a Lebanese keyboard layout and made it easier to write Lebanese in a Latin script, using unicode-compatible symbols to substitute for missing sounds.
Said Akl's orthography
- Capitalization and punctuation are used normally the same way they are used in English language.
- Some written consonant-letters, depending on their position, inherited a preceding vowel. As L and T.
- Emphatic consonants are not distinguished from normal ones, with the exception of /zˤ/ represented by ƶ. Probably Said Akl did not acknowledge any other emphatic consonant.
- Stress is not marked.
- Long vowels and geminated consonants are represented by double letters.
- Ç which represents /ʔ/ was written even initially.
- All the basic Latin alphabet are used, in addition to other diacriticized ones. Most of the letters loosely represent their IPA counterparts, with some exceptions:
|Letter||Corresponding Phoneme(s)||Additional Information|
|ç||/ʔ/||The actual diacritic looks like a stroke|
|i||/ɪ/, /i/||Represents /i/ word-finally|
|u||/ʊ/, /u/||Represents /u/ word-finally|
|ȳ||/ʕ/||The actual diacritic looks like a stroke connected to the upper-left spoke of the letter|
Lebanese verbs, even though they share root similarities with many Arabic dialects, display unique characteristics that set them apart from Arabic verbs. In his book about Lebanese verbs, Mr. Maroun Kassab classifies Lebanese verbs into 68 categories and maintains that these categories can be simplified much further. Any Lebanese verb belongs to one of these specific categories and conjugate according to the rules that govern it.
- Spoken Lebanese. Maksoud N. Feghali, Appalachian State University. Parkway Publishers, 1999 (ISBN 978-1-887905-14-5)
- Michel T. Feghali, Syntaxe des parlers arabes actuels du Liban, Geuthner, Paris, 1928.
- Elie Kallas, 'Atabi Lebnaaniyyi. Un livello soglia per l'apprendimento del neoarabo libanese, Cafoscarina, Venice, 1995.
- Angela Daiana Langone, Btesem ente lebneni. Commedia in dialetto libanese di Yahya Jaber, Università degli Studi La Sapienza, Rome, 2004.
- Jérome Lentin, "Classification et typologie des dialectes du Bilad al-Sham", in Matériaux Arabes et Sudarabiques n. 6, 1994, 11–43.
- Plonka Arkadiusz, L’idée de langue libanaise d’après Sa‘īd ‘Aql, Paris, Geuthner, 2004, ISBN 978-2-7053-3739-1
- Plonka Arkadiusz, "Le nationalisme linguistique au Liban autour de Sa‘īd ‘Aql et l’idée de langue libanaise dans la revue «Lebnaan» en nouvel alphabet", Arabica, 53 (4), 2006, 423–471.
- Franck Salameh, "Language, Memory, and Identity in the Middle East", Lexington Books, 2010.
- lebaneselanguage.org, "Lebanese VS Arabic", Lebanese Language Institute, March 6, 2010.
- Learn Arabic Lebanese Youtube Channel
- Lebanese Language Mobile Application
- Keefak on Facebook
- Lebanese Language Institute
- Lebanese alphabet
- Manual with grammar of South Lebanese Arabic for the Dutch UNIFIL detachment
- Manual with grammar of South Lebanese Arabic Spoken samples part 1
- Manual with grammar of South Lebanese Arabic Spoken samples part 2
- Abjadiye: a comprehensive online system for learning the Lebanese spoken language
- Summary of commonly used conventions of writing the Lebanese spoken language using Latin alphabet