Algerian Arabic

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Algerian Arabic
Dziria, دزيرية
Native to Algeria
Native speakers
27 million (2012)[1]
3 million L2 speakers in Algeria (no date)[2]
Arabic script, Latin script
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. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Algerian Arabic, or Algerian (known as Darja, or Dziria in Algeria) is a language derived from a variety of the Arabic languages spoken in northern Algeria. It belongs to the Maghrebi Arabic language continuum and is mutually intelligible with Tunisian and Moroccan.

Like other varieties of Maghrebi Arabic, Algerian dialects have a mostly Semitic vocabulary,[4] with significant Berber substrates and numerous loanwords from French, Ottoman Turkish and Spanish.

Algerian Arabic is the native language of 75% to 80% of Algerians,[5] and is mastered by 95% to 100% of them.[5] It is essentially a spoken language used in daily communication and entertainment, while Classical Arabic is generally reserved for official use and education.


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:[6]

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:[6][10]

  • 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 (fr), Rachgun (fr) 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:

27 consonants:

/b/ /p/ /t/ /dʒ/ /ħ/ /χ/ /d/ /r/ /z/ /s/ /ʃ/ /sˤ/ /dˤ/ /tˤ/ /ʕ/ /ʁ/ /f/ /v/ /q/ /ɡ/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /h/ /w/ /j/
b p t j x d r z s š ε γ f v q g k l m n h w y
ب پ ت ج ح خ د ر ز س ش ص ض/ظ ط ع غ ف ڥ غ/ق1 ݣ/ڨ2 ک/ك‎‎ ل م ن ه و ی/ي
  • ^1 The letter Ghayn (غ) is only pronounced /q/ in some Berber loanwords.
  • ^2 The letter ݣ is only used in western Algeria, near the Morocco border (especially in Oranie (fr)). Elsewhere, it is written ڨ (especially in Kabylia).

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 /qub:ɑ/ 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

Original /q/ splits lexically into /q/ and /ɡ/ in most dialects but /q/ is preserved all the time in all of the big cities such as Algiers, Oran, Constantine, etc. and all of the montagneious regions; for all words, both alternatives exist.


Nouns and adjectives[edit]

English Pronunciation Algerian Arabic
drink shroob شراب
sky smâ' سما
water ma' ما
woman, women mra مرة
fire nar 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 شتا
ball balon بالون
napkin servieta 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 ki di كي دي
Because ala khatr على خاطر
When ila الا
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 taht تحت
over, on top of فوق
after mora/Bääd بعد,مور
before Qbel قبل Used only for time
next to, beside qodam or godam قدام Also used is حدا قدام
at εend عند
with ma' مع
among, between been, beenat (plural) بين، بينات
same as, as much as A'la hsab, qed, keema, على حساب, كيما, 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".


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:

Broken plural: ṭabla → ṭwabəl.


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 lεebtši /ʃ/  » ما لعبتشي ("I didn't play")
  • « ma tţabbaεniiš » ("Don't push me")
  • « ma yTawlo-lekš haaðu lqaraaεi » ("Those bottles won't last you long")
  • « ma sibtš 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 مانيش ماشي نكتب ماناش ماشيين نكتبو
2nd (m) ماكتبتش ماكتبتوش ماتكتبش ماتكتبوهاش ماراكش ماشي تكتب ما راكمش ماشيين تكتبو
2nd (f) ماكتبتيش ماكتبتوش ماتكتبش ماتكتبوش ماراكش ماشية تكتب ماراكمش ماشيين تكتبو
3rd (m) ماكتبش ماكتبوش مايكتبش مايكتبوهاش ماراش ماشي يكتب ماراهمش ماشيين يكتبو
3rd (f) ماكتبتش ماكتبوش ماتكتبش مايكتبوش ماراكمش ماشيين تكتبو ماراهمش ماشيين يكتبو

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 tta waħed ما شفت تا 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" → khrrej "to make to go out"
dkhel "to enter" → dkhol "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 yana ḥna
2nd (m) enta entum(a)
2nd (f) enti entum(a)
3rd (m) huwa huma
3rd (f) hiya huma

Example : « Ta yana. » — "Me too."

Person Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
I am راني rani
You are (m) راك rak
You are (f) راكي raki
He is راه rah
She is راهي rahi
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 « Kach rak. » "How are you." to both males and females.

Possessive pronouns[edit]

Dar (دار) means house.

Person Singular Plural
1st i (داري) na (دارنا)
2nd (e)k (دارك) kum (داركم)
3rd (m) u (دارو) m (دارم)
3rd (f) a (دارا) m (دارم)

Example : « dar-na. » — "Our house" (House-our) Possessives are frequently combined with « dyal (ديال)» "of, property" : « dar dyal-na » — "Our house.", « dar dial-kam » ...etc.

Singular: ديالي = my or mine (pronounced dyal-i) ديالك = your or yours (m, f) (pronounced dyal-ak) ديالو = his (pronounced dyal-o) ديالا = hers (pronounced dyal-a)

Plural: ديالنا = our or ours (pronounced dyal-na) ديالكم = your or yours (m, f) (pronounced dyal-kum) ديالم = their or theirs (m, f) (pronounced dya-um)

"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 Algerian Arabic Pronunciation
What? واش wesh?
When? وقتاش waqtach?
Why? علاه 3leh?
Which? اش من ach men ?
Where? وين ween?
Who? شكون shkoon?
How? كيفاش kifech?
How many? شحال/ قداش shHal / qaddech  ?
Whose? دا من /ويناه da'men /weenah  ?

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


« šoft-ni. » — "You saw me." (You.saw-me)
« qtlo. » — "He killed him." (He.killed-him)
« kla-h. » — "He ate it." (He.ate-it)


Unlike Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic has no dual and 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 bbah frank, baš yešri buzelluf. šra-h, kla kaɛ leḥm-u. bqa γi leɛṭam, jab-u l bbah. ki šaf-u qal-lu: "smo hada?" qal-lu: "buzelluf".

-A ššmata, fayan raham wednu?

-Kan trush

-Fayan rahem ɛiinih?

-Kan ɛma

-Fayan rah lsan-u?

-Kan boohali.

-U l-jalda di ras-u, warah or fayan 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.

French loanwords[edit]

Algerian Arabic contains numerous French loanwords.

Algerian Arabic French loanword English meaning
FRCHiTA fourchette fork
POR port port
FRAZ fraises strawberries
OTAL hôtel hotel
NORMALMO normalement normally
boSola Bosoule Compass
karta Carte Card
labazz Base Base
Boozhee Bouge Move
Laa Taay thé Tea
Fareena farine Flour
Danteest Dentist Dentist
Tilifoun Téléphone Phone
shoofuR Chauffeur Driver
Valeezat Valise Suitcase
passpoR Passport Passport
traanspoR Transport Transportation
Lapeest Piste Airfield
KaaziRna Caserne Barracks
Kouzina Cuisine Cook/Kitchen
Mitra Mètre Meter

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Algerian Arabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Elimam, Abdou (2009). Du Punique au Maghribi :Trajectoires d’une langue sémito-méditerranéenne (PDF). Synergies Tunisie. 
  5. ^ a b "Arabic, Algerian Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-02-25. 
  6. ^ a b K. Versteegh, Dialects of Arabic: Maghreb Dialects,
  7. ^ The Eastern Hilal also includes central Tunisian Bedouin dialects.
  8. ^ The Central Hilal also includes Algerian Saharan Arabic.
  9. ^ 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)
  10. ^ D. Caubet, Questionnaire de dialectologie du Maghreb, in: EDNA vol.5 (2000-2001), pp.73-92