Emirati Arabic

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Emirati Arabic
اللهجة الإماراتية
Native toUnited Arab Emirates
RegionEastern Arabia
EthnicityEmirati Arabs
Native speakers
3.7 million (2020)[1]
Arabic alphabet, Arabic chat alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3afb

Emirati Arabic (Arabic: اللهجة الإماراتية, romanizedal-Lahjah al-Imārātīyah) refers to a group of Arabic dialectal varieties spoken by the Emiratis native to the United Arab Emirates that share core characteristics with specific phonological, lexical, and morphosyntactic features and a certain degree of intra-dialectal variation, which is mostly geographically defined. It incorporates grammatical properties of smaller varieties within the UAE, generally of tribal nature, which can be roughly divided into a couple of broader sub-varieties: the first spoken in the Northern Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, and the western part of Ras al-Khaimah; the second in the eastern part of the country, mainly in Fujeirah, Dibba, Khor Fakkan, Hatta, Kalba, and the eastern part of Ras al-Khaimah; the third in Abu Dhabi including the oasis city of Al Ain, the dialect is also seen in the Omani region of Al-Buraimi.[13] Emirati Arabic varieties can also be distinguished based on environmental factors, including variations associated with Bedouin communities, coastal, agricultural, and mountainous regions.[14]

Additionally, a pidgin form of Emirati Arabic exists, predominantly utilized by blue-collar workers in the UAE. This linguistic variant, which is closely related to other variants of Gulf Pidgin Arabic, amalgamates elements of Emirati Arabic with other languages like English, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog. Serving as a simplified means of communication, Emirati Pidgin Arabic facilitates basic interactions in workplaces, construction sites, and similar environments where multilingual communication is necessary.[15][16]

Speakers of Emirati Arabic identify themselves as speakers of a distinct variety (as compared with other neighbouring dialects such as Qatari or Kuwaiti Arabic), based on several phonological, morphological, and syntactic properties that distinguish Emirati Arabic from other Gulf Arabic varieties.[13]

Emirati Arabic dialects are believed to have evolved from the linguistic variations spoken by ancient pre-Islamic Arabian tribes in the region, particularly the Azd, Qays, and Tamim, as noted by Emirati linguist and historian, Ahmed Obaid.[17]

Diglossia and dialectal variety[edit]

Due to the coexistence of the Modern Standard Arabic (high language) and the dialect (low language), it is possible to speak about diglossia of the Arabic language.[18]

The UAE, extending over a total area of about 83,000 km² and hosting more than 200 different nationalities, represent one of the nations with the largest aggregation of ethnic groups in the world. Archaeological excavations have shown that in this area several Semitic races were established. It follows that the spoken language, the Emirati dialect, includes some different dialectal shades. It represents the communication tool used by the overwhelming majority of the population, although people of good cultural level are able to express themselves in official Arabic. Notwithstanding the recent filling up of urban areas to the detriment of rural ones has led to a growing decrease in local dialectal variations, we can still identify three main areas of different shades of the Emirate dialect: Abu Dhabi (including Al Ain, the western region and islands), Dubai and the Northern Emirates (including Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain and part of Ras al-Khaimah) and the east coast (including Fujairah, Khor Fakkan, and the remainder of Ras al-Khaimah). To give a practical example, the word "mob (مب)" a negation which simply translates to "Not" should be mentioned with its variations: "mesh (مش)" in Abu Dhabi, "mob (مب)" in the Northern Emirates and "ma (ما)" in the East Coast.[13][19]

Furthermore, the unification of the UAE has contributed to making changes to the locally spoken dialect. Due to globalisation, it has been necessary to identify a more standard method of communication to interact with foreigners. As a result, the Emirati dialect has received influences from other Arabic dialects and foreign languages. Words from the technical language have often an English origin and have arrived in the Persian Gulf through interchanges with the English and Indian population, and then have been adapted to an Arabic pronunciation.

Moreover, in the spoken Emirati language it is common to substitute some letters with others of similar sound: the [d͡ʒ] can become [j]; the [k] can become [t͡ʃ]; the [q] can become [g] or [d͡ʒ].[20]

English Standard Modern Arabic Standard Emirati Arabic
Chicken /dæ.d͡ʒæːd͡ʒ/ /diˈjaːj/
Fish /sæ.mak/ /sɪˈmat͡ʃ/
Coffee /qah.wa/ /gæhˈwa/
Near /qa.riːb/ /d͡ʒɪˈriːb/ , /gɪrˈiːb/
Mountain /d͡ʒ̼æ.bæl/ /yɛˈbæl/
Dog /'kælb/ /t͡ʃælb/

There is also a guide book for the Arabic dialect of the Emirates, Spoken Emirati, and an Italian version, Dialetto Emiratino, edited by Nico de Corato together with Hanan Al Fardan and Abdulla Al Kaabi, authors of the original English version.[21]


Some examples of loanwords in Emirati Arabic:

Transliterated Word Meaning in English Language Burrowed from
soman equipment Urdu
dreːˈwæl driver English
siːˈdæ front Urdu
ˈxaːshuːˌgæh spoon Turkish
dæriːˈshæ window Persian
buʃˈkar servant Persian
acancel I cancel English
doːˈʃæg mattress Persian
leːt light English
orːæd.di already English
sændiˈwiːt͡ʃ sandwich English
d͡ʒuːˈti shoe Persian
seːˈkæl bicycle English
kʰaːb cap English
burˈwaz frame Persian
t͡ʃʌb shut up Urdu
moːˈtær car/motor English
dæfˈtɛr notebook Persian
særˈwaːl trousers Persian
ɛsˈtaːð male teacher Persian
moˈda fashion French
rɛˈgiːmæ diet French
bantˤaˈluːn trousers French
ruːbiˈd͡ʒːaː money Hindi
ʃˤaˈnˤtˤa bag Turkish
abˈla female teacher Turkish
tɛzː whatever Turkish


  1. ^ Emirati Arabic at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  3. ^ "كم عدد اللهجات في الامارات؟".
  4. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  5. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  6. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  7. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  8. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  9. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  10. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  11. ^ "اللّهجة الإماراتية".
  12. ^ Altakhaineh, Abdel Rahman Mitib; Al-Namer, Abdul-Salam; Alnamer, Sulafah (2022). "Degemination in Emirati Pidgin Arabic: A Sociolinguistic Perspective". Languages. 7: 8. doi:10.3390/languages7010008.
  13. ^ a b c Leung, Tommi Tsz-Cheung; Ntelitheos, Dimitrios; Kaabi, Meera Al (2020-12-29). Emirati Arabic: A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-30055-0.
  14. ^ للأخبار, مركز الاتحاد (2016-05-19). "اللهجات الإماراتية فصيحة وهجينها قليل". مركز الاتحاد للأخبار (in Arabic). Retrieved 2024-03-14.
  15. ^ Altakhaineh, Abdel Rahman Mitib; Al-Namer, Abdul-Salam; Alnamer, Sulafah (5 January 2022). "Degemination in Emirati Pidgin Arabic: A Sociolinguistic Perspective". Languages. 7 (1): 8. doi:10.3390/languages7010008. ISSN 2226-471X.
  16. ^ Naylor, Hugh (2008-10-09). "The word on the street - same-same, but different". The National. Retrieved 2024-03-14.
  17. ^ البيان, دبي- (2019-09-10). "«اللهجات الإماراتية».. بيئات وجذور". www.albayan.ae (in Arabic). Retrieved 2024-03-14.
  18. ^ Al-Sobh, Mahmoud A.; Abu-Melhim, Abdel-Rahman H.; Bani-Hani, Nedal A. (2015-03-09). "Diglossia as a Result of Language Variation in Arabic: Possible Solutions in Light of Language Planning". Journal of Language Teaching and Research. 6 (2): 274. doi:10.17507/jltr.0602.05. ISSN 1798-4769.
  19. ^ a b Al Fardan, Hanan (2016). Spoken Emirati (in Arabic and English). Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Al Ramsa Institute. pp. 8–10.
  20. ^ al-Hashemi, Ayesha; Isleem, Nasser (2015). Ramsah: An Introduction to Learning Emirati Dialect and Culture. Kuttab Publishing. ISBN 9789948186632.
  21. ^ "Academy of Poetry publishes UAE dialect dictionary in English, Italian". Emirates News Agency. 2017-05-29. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  22. ^ Leung, Tommi Tsz-Cheung; Ntelitheos, Dimitrios; Kaabi, Meera Al (2020-12-30). Emirati Arabic: A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-31756-5.
  23. ^ "Emirati Phrasebook P1to41". pdfcoffee.com. Retrieved 2022-05-21.

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