Algerian Arabic

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Not to be confused with Algerian Saharan Arabic.
Algerian Arabic
Dziri, Jza'iri Algerian Arabic: دزيري ,جزائري
Native to Algeria
Native speakers
27 million (2012)[1]
3 million L2 speakers in Algeria (no date)[2]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 arq
Glottolog alge1239[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Algerian Arabic, a Maghrebi dialect of the Arabic language (a Derja of Arabic), is a cover term for varieties of Arabic dialects spoken in northern Algeria. (See also Algerian Saharan Arabic.) Like other varieties of Maghrebi Arabic, Algerian dialects have a mostly Arabic vocabulary, with significant Berber substrates and numerous loanwords from French and Spanish.


Algerian Arabic includes several distinct dialects belonging to two genetically different groups: pre-Hilalian and Hilalian dialects.

Hilalian dialects[edit]

Hilalian dialects of Algeria belong to three linguistic groups:[4]

  • Eastern Hilal dialects:[5] spoken in Hautes Plaines around Sétif, M'Sila and Djelfa (noted for replacing [ʁ] by [q]);
  • Central Hilal dialects:[6] of central and southern Algeria, south of Algiers and Oran ;
  • Mâqil dialects:[7] spoken in the western part of Oranais (nited fot the third singular masculine accusative pronoun is h, for example, /ʃʊfteh/ (I saw him) that would be /ʃʊftʊ/ in the other dialects).

Modern koine languages, urban and national, are based mainly on Hilalian dialects.

Pre-Hilalian dialects[edit]

Pre-Hilalian Arabic dialects are generally classified in three types: urban, "village" sedentary and Jewish dialects. Several Pre-Hilalian dialects are spoken in Algeria:[4][8]

  • Urban dialects are in all of Algeria's big cities. Urban dialects were formerly also spoken in other cities such as Azemmour and Mascara, where they are no longer spoken.
  • Lesser Kabylia dialect (or Jijel Arabic) is spoken in the triangular area north of Constantine, including Collo and Jijel (it is noteworthy for its pronunciation of [q] as [k] and characterised, such as other Eastern pre-Hilalian dialects, by the preservation of the three short vowels).
  • Traras-Msirda dialect is spoken in the area north of Tlemcen, including the eastern Traras, Rachgun and Honaine (it is noted for its pronunciation of [q] as [ʔ]) ;
  • Judeo-Algerian Arabic is no longer spoken after Jews left Algeria in 1962, following its independence.


IPA phonemes as transliterated in this article:

24 consonants:

/b/ /t/ /dʒ/ /ħ/ /χ/ /d/ /r/ /z/ /s/ /ʃ/ /sˤ/ /dˤ/ /tˤ/ /ʕ/ /ʁ/ /f/ /q/ /ɡ/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /h/ /w/ /j/
b t j x d r z s š ε γ f q g k l m n h w y
ب ت ج ح خ د ر ز س ش ص ض/ظ ط ع غ ف ق ݣ/ڨ ک/ك‎‎ ل م ن ه و ی/ي

The consonant /q/ has different allophones depending on the dialects: /q/ in all dialects, [ɡ] in some rural Tizi Ouzou dialects, [k] in Lesser Kabylia dialect and [ʔ] in Traras-Msirda dialect. Similarly, the consonant /dʒ/ also has different allophones depending on the dialects: [ɡ] in Western Algeria dialects, and [ʒ] in Eastern Algeria dialects, and finally, /ʁ/ is pronounced as [q] in Central Hilal dialects.

6 vowels: 3 long vowels:

  • /aː/ /sˤɑːħəb/ friend
  • /iː/ (as in "ski") e.g. قريت /qriːt/ I read, in the past
  • /uː/ (as in "flu") e.g. تِلِفون /tilifuːn/

3 short vowels:

  • /a/ (as in "man") [æ], e.g. سامح /sæməħ/ forgave
  • /e/ (as in "men") e.g. قَهوَة, or a shorter version of a as in father [ɑ]

e.g., rɑbbi my God

  • /i/ (as in sit) e.g. هِيَ /hijjɑ/ she
  • /u/ (as in foot) e.g. قُبَّة /qu:bɑ/ dome

plus the schwa, which replaces /e/ in some positions e.g. انتَ /ənte/

Arguably, one of the most notable features of Maghrebi Arabic dialects, including Algerian Arabic, is the collapse of short vowels in some positions: Standard Arabic كِتاب kitab (book) is /ktæb/

kalam كَلام (speech) is /klæm/

The feature is also sometimes present in Levantine Arabic. Standard Arabic words containing three syllables are simplified:

/ħɑdʒɑrɑ/ حَجَرة is /ħɑdʒrɑ/.

Algerian Arabic is particularly rich in uvular, pharyngeal, and pharyngealized ("emphatic") sounds. The uvular and emphatic sounds are generally considered to be q, x and , , and respectively.

Non-emphatic /r/ and emphatic /rˤ/ are two entirely separate phonemes, almost never contrasting in related forms of a word.

/ərrɑmle/ الرَّملة (sand), as in arrive
/jədʒri/ يجري (he runs), as in free

The original /q/ splits lexically into /q/ and /ɡ/ in some rural Tizi Ouzou dialects; for all words, both alternatives exist.


Nouns and adjectives[edit]

English Pronunciation Algerian Arabic
drink shrââb شراب
sky smâ' سما
water mâ' ما
woman, women mra مرة
fire nâr نار
big kbir كبير
man, men rajel \ rjal (راجل)(رجال)
day nhâr, yom نهار، يوم
moon Qmar قمر
night liil ليل
bread khobz خبز
small ṣghir صغير
sand rmel رمل
winter, rain shtâ \ nu (rain) شتا \ نو
ball balon بالون
napkin servita سرڥيتة
toilet, bathroom beit el ma'; beit er-râHa ; Twâlaat بيت الماء، بيت الراحة

Conjunctions and prepositions[edit]

English Conjunctions Algerian Arabic Notes of usage
But bâṣṣâh بالصح Also used is ولكن
If ila, lakan ،إيلا، إيدا، لاكان، كون Used for impossible conditions and comes just before the verb
If loukan لوكان For possible conditions, Also used is لو, لاكون and إذا
So that, that bash باش
That beli باللي
As if shgol شغل Also used is كي اللي
Because ala khatach, ala khatr, Khatrekch على خاطر, على خاطش خخ
When ki/weenta كي Used before verbs
Before Qbel ma قبل ما Used before verbs
Without bla ma بلا ما Used before verbs
Whether kash ma كاش ما Used before verbs
under that تحت
over, on top of fuq فوق
after Men beεd/mora/Bääd عمن بعد ب
before Qbel قبل Used only for time
next to, beside qodam قدام Also used is حدا قدام
at εend عند
with ma' مع
among, between been, beenat (plural) بين، بينات
lion sba', sayd سبع، صيد
same as, as much as A'la hsab ged قد amount
oh, oh so much ya, ah يا، آه

Some of them can be attached to the noun, just like in other Arabic dialects. The word for in, "fee", can be attached to a definite noun. For example, the word for house has a definite form "eddar" (الدار) but with "fee" (في), it becomes "feddar" (فالدار).


There is the masculine and the feminine. Masculine nouns and adjectives generally end with a consonant while the feminine nouns generally end with an a.


  • [ħmɑr] "a donkey", [ħmɑrɑ] "a female donkey".
  • [tˤfal] "a little boy", [tˤoflɑ] "a little girl".


Hilalian dialects, on which the modern koine is based, often use regular plural while the wider use of the broken plural is characteristic to pre-Hilalian dialects.

Unlike Classical Arabic's use of the suffix -un for the nominative, Algerian Arabic uses, for all cases, the suffix -in, used in Classical Arabic for the accusative and the genitive:

mumen مومن (believer) → mumnin مومنين

For feminine nouns, the regular plural is obtained by suffixing -at:

Classical Arabic: bint (girl) → banat
Algerian Arabic: bent → bnat

The broken plural can be found for some plurals in Hilalian dialects, but it is mainly used, for the same words, in pre-Hilalian dialects:

Regular plural: ṭablaṭablat ("Table") ;
Broken plural: ṭablaṭwabəl.


The article el is indeclinable and expresses definite state of a noun of any gender and number. It is also prefixed to each of that noun's modifying adjectives.

It follows the solar letters and lunar letters rules of Classical Arabic: if the word starts with one of these consonants, el is assimilated and replaced by the first consonant:

t, d, r, z, s, š, , , , l, n.


rajel → errajel "man" (assimilation)
qmar → elqmar "moon" (no assimilation)


Conjugation is done by adding affixes (prefixes, postfixes, both or none) that change according to the tense.

In all Algerian Arabic dialects, there is no gender differentiation of the 2nd and 3rd person in the plural forms. However, there is also no gender differentiation of the 2nd person in the singular form in pre-Hilalian dialects unlike Hilalian ones where it has been preserved.

Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st - t - na n - n(e) - u
2nd (m) - t - tu t - t - u
2nd (f) - ti - tu t - i t - u
3rd (m) - - u i/y(e) - i/y(e) - u
3rd (f) - t - u t(e) - i/y(e) - u
  • Example with the verb kteb "To write":
Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu
2nd (m) ktebt ktebtu tekteb tekketbu
2nd (f) ktebti ktebtu tekketbi tekketbu
3rd (m) kteb ketbu yekteb yekketbu
3rd (f) ketbet ketbu tekteb yekketbu
Person Past Present Future Present continuous
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) كتبت كتبنا نكتب نكتبوا رايح نكتب رايحين نكتبوا راني نكتب رانا نكتبوا
2nd (m) كتبت كتبتوا تكتب تكتبوا رايح تكتب رايحين تكتبوا راك تكتب راكم تكتبوا
2nd (f) كتبتي كتبتوا تكتبي تكتبوا رايحة تكتبي رايحين تكتبوا راكي تكتبي راكم تكتبوا
3rd (m) كتب كتبوا يكتب يكتبوا رايح يكتب رايحين يكتبوا راهو يكتب راهم يكتبوا
3rd (f) كتبت كتبوا تكتب يكتبوا رايحة تكتب رايحين يكتبوا راهي تكتب راكم تكتبوا

Future tense[edit]

Speakers generally do not use the future tense above. Used instead is the present tense or present continuous.

Also, as is used in all of the other Arabic dialects, there is another way of showing active tense. The form changes the root verb into an adjective. For example, "kteb" he wrote becomes "kateb".


Like all North African Arabic varieties (including Egyptian Arabic) along with some Levantine Arabic varieties, verbal expressions are negated by enclosing the verb with all its affixes, along with any adjacent pronoun-suffixed preposition, within the circumfix ma... š (/ʃ/):

  • « lεebt » ("I played") → « ma lεebtš /ʃ/  » ما لعبتش ("I didn't play")
  • « ma tţabbaεniiš » ("Don't push me")
  • « ma yšaddu-lekš haaðu l-qraε » ("Those bottles won't last you long")
  • « ma şaħħeet-liiš plaaşa » ("I couldn't get a seat / parking place")
Person Past Present Future
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ماكتبتش ماكتبناش مانكتبش مانكتبواش مارانيش رايح نكتب ماراناش رايحين نكتبوا
2nd (m) ماكتبتش ماكتبتوش ماتكتبش ماتكتبواش ماراكش رايح تكتب ما راكمش رايحين تكتبوا
2nd (f) ماكتبتيش ماكتبتوش ماتكتبيش ماتكتبوش ماراكيش رايحة تكتبي ماراكمش رايحين تكتبوا
3rd (m) ماكتبش ماكتبوش مايكتبش مايكتبواش ماراهش رايح يكتب ماراهمش رايحين يكتبوا
3rd (f) ماكتبتش ماكتبوش ماتكتبش مايكتبوش ماراكمش رايحين تكتبو ماراهمش رايحين يكتبوا

Other negative words (walu, etc.) are used in combination with ma to express more complex types of negation. ʃ is not used when other negative words are used

  • ma qolt walu ماقلت والو ("I didn't say anything")
  • ma šuft ħetta waħed ما شفت حتى واحد ("I didn't see anyone")

or when two verbs are consecutively in the negative

  • ma šuft ma smeεt ما شفت ما سمعت ("I neither saw nor did I hear").

Verb derivation[edit]

Verb derivation is done by adding suffixes or by doubling consonants, there are two types of derivation forms: causative, Passive.

  • Causative: is obtained by doubling consonants :
khrej "to go out" → kherrej "to make to go out"
dkhel "to enter" → dekhkhel "to make to enter, to introduce".
  • Passive:It is obtained by prefixing the verb with t- / tt- / tn- / n- :
qtel "to kill" → tneqtel "to be killed"
šreb "to drink" → ttešreb "to be drunk".

The adverbs of location[edit]

Things could be in three places hnaya (right here), hna (here) or el-hih (there).


Personal pronouns[edit]

Most Algerian Arabic dialects have 8 personal pronouns since they no longer have gender differentiation of the 2nd and 3rd person in the plural forms. However, pre-Hilalian dialects retain 7 personal pronouns since gender differentiation of the 2nd person in the singular form is absent as well.

Person Singular Plural
1st ana / anaya ḥna / ḥnaya
2nd (m) enta / ntaya entuma
2nd (f) enti / entiyya entuma
3rd (m) huwa huma
3rd (f) hiya huma

Example : « Ana tani. » — "Me too."

Person Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
I am راني rani
You are (m) راك rak
You are (f) راكي raki
He is راهو rahu
She is راهي or راها rahi or raha
We are رانا rana
You or Y'all are راكُ raku
You or Y'all are راكم rakum (m)and (f)
They are راهم rahum (m)and (f)

Example : « Rani hna. » — "I'm here." and « Wech raki. » or « Ki raki(western dialect). » — "How are you." to a woman.

Possessive pronouns[edit]

Dar (دار) means house.

Person Singular Plural
1st i (داري) na (دارنا)
2nd (e)k (دارك) kum (داركم)
3rd (m) u (داره, دارو) hum (دارهم)
3rd (f) ha (دارها) hum (دارهم)

Example : « dar-na. » — "Our house" (House-our) Possessives are frequently combined with « nteε or teε (تاع)» "of" and « dial » "property" : « dar nteε-na » — "Our house.", « dar dial-kum » ...etc.

Singular: تاعي = my or mine (pronounced ta'ee) تاعك = your or yours (m) (pronounced ta'ak) تاعكِ = your or yours (f) (pronounced ta'ik) تاعه = his (pronounced ta'u) تاعها = hers (pronounced ta'ha)

Plural: تاعنا = our or ours (pronounced ta'na) تاعكم = your or yours (m) (pronounced ta'kum) تاعكن = your or yours (f) (pronounced ta'kun) تاعكُ = your or yours (pronounced ta'ku) تاعهم = their or theirs (m) (pronounced ta'hum) تاعهن = their or theirs (f) (pronounced ta'hun)

"Our house" can be "Darna" (دارنا) or "Dar ta'na" (دار تاعنا), which is more like saying 'house of ours'. Ta' can be used in other ways just like in English in Spanish. You can say "Dar ta' khuya" (دار تاع خويا), which means 'house of my brother' or 'my brother's house'.

Interrogative pronouns[edit]

Interrogatives Other ways of saying it Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
What? اش، شنو، واشنو واش wash/ sha ?
When? فاوك, وقتاه، وينتا، إمتى وقتاش wektash/ weenta ?
Why? علاه، وعلاش، لاه، لياه, علاش alash / lech ?
Which? واش من وينه ama ?
Where? فين وين ween ?
Who? أشكون , من شكون shkoon?
How? كيفاه، كي كيفاش kifash ?
How many? أشحال، قداش، قداه شحال shHal ?
Whose? ديال من تاع من ta'men ?

Verbal pronouns[edit]

Person Singular Plural
1st ni na
2nd (m) (e)k kum
3rd (m) u (after a consonant) / h (after a vowel)
/ hu (before an indirect object pronoun)
3rd (m) ha hum


« šeft-ni. » — "You saw me." (You.saw-me)
« qtel-u. » — "He killed him." (He.killed-him)
« kla-h. » — "He ate it." (He.ate-it)


Unlike Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic has no dual amd uses the plural instead. The demonstrative (hadi) is also used for "it is".

Interrogatives Emphasized Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
This هذا (m), هذه (f), هاديا هاد (m), هادي (f) had (m), hadi (f)
That هداك (m), هديك (f) داك (m), ديك (f) dak (m), dik (f)
These هدوما هدو hadu
Those هدوك دوك duk

Sample text[edit]

The text below was translated from Kabylie, in Auguste Moulieras's Les fourberies de si Djeh'a.

Buzelluf Sheep Head
Waḥed nnhar, jeḥḥa med-lu baba-h frank, baš yešri buzelluf. šra-h, kla geɛ leḥm-u. bqa γir leɛḍam, jab-u l baba-h. ki šaf-u qal-lu: "wešnu hada?" qal-lu: "buzelluf".

-A ššmata, win rahum wedni-h?

-Kan ṭtrash

-Win rahum wednih?

-Kan ɛwer.

-Win rah lsan-u?

-Kan ɛeggun.

-U jeldet ras-u, win raha?

-Kan fertas.
One day, Jehha's father gave him one cent so he buys a sheep head. He bought it and ate all of its meat. Only an empty carcass was left. He brought it to his father. Then, when he saw it, he said: "what is that?" Jehha said: "a sheep head".

-You vile, where are its ears?

-It was deaf.

-Where are its eyes?

-It was blind.

-Where is its tongue?

-It was dumb.

-And the skin of its head, where is it?

-It was bald.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Algerian Arabic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ a b K. Versteegh, Dialects of Arabic: Maghreb Dialects,
  5. ^ The Eastern Hilal also includes central Tunisian Bedouin dialects.
  6. ^ The Central Hilal also includes Algerian Saharan Arabic.
  7. ^ The Mâqil family of dialects also includes Moroccan Bedouin Arabic dialects and Hassaniya. Those of the Oranais are similar to those of eastern Morocco (Oujda area)
  8. ^ D. Caubet, Questionnaire de dialectologie du Maghreb, in: EDNA vol.5 (2000-2001), pp.73-92