Hejazi Arabic

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Hejazi Arabic
Pronunciation [ħed͡ʒaːzi]
Native to Hejaz region, Saudi Arabia
Native speakers
6 million  (1996)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 acw
Glottolog hija1235[2]
  regions where Hejazi is the language of the majority
  regions considered as part of modern Hejaz region
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 Central Arabian Peninsula (Najdi Arabic), Northern Sudan and Egyptian Arabic in both pronunciation and grammar. Hejazi Arabic has many close similarities between Egyptian Arabic and Najdi 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.


Hejazi belongs to the western Peninsular Arabic branch of the Arabic language, which itself is a Semitic language. It includes features of both urban and bedouin dialects giving its history between the ancient urban cities of Medina and Mecca and the bedouin tribes that lived on the outskirts of these cities. the main noticeable characteristic features that differentiate Hejazi from the neighbouring accent Najdi and other accents in the Arabian peninsula is the five vowel /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/ and /u/ system with no vowel reduction, and the heavy stress used in the accents of Jeddah and Mecca and the distinction between the letters ض [dˤ] and ظ [ðˤ] / [zˤ].


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]

General features[edit]

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. 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.
  3. The final -n in present tense plural verb forms is no longer employed (e.g. yirkabu instead of yirkabun)
  4. 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".
  5. Possessive pronouns for the 2nd person are -ak (masculine) and -ek (feminine). In Standard Arabic, these are -ka and -ki, respectively.
  6. Hejazi Arabic does not employ double negation, nor does it append the negation particles -sh to negate verbs: Hejazi mā aʿref "I don't know", as opposed to Egyptian maʿrafsh and Palestinian biʿrafish.
  7. The prohibitive mood of Classical Arabic is preserved in the imperative: lā trūħ "don't go".
  8. The possessive suffixes are generally preserved in their Classical forms. For example, bētakom "your (pl) house".

Other features[edit]

Other features of Hejazi Arabic are:

  1. Compared to neighboring dialects, urban Hijazi 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 qaaf (ق) of Modern Standard Arabic is pronounced /g/ except in certain words.


Hejazi vocabulary derives primarily from Classical Arabic Semitic roots. 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 Hejazi 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 Hejazi are قد /ɡiːd/ or /ɡed/ "already", دحين /daħiːn/ or /daħeːn/ "now", and لسه /lessa/ "not yet".

General Hejazi Expressions include بالتوفيق /bettawfiːg/ "good luck", لو سمحت /law samaħt/ "please/excuse me", شكرًا /ʃukran/ "thank you", عفوًا /ʕafwan/ "you are welcome (response)".


Portmanteau, also called a blend in linguistics,is a combination of taking parts (but not all) of two (or more) words or their sounds (phones) and their meanings into a single new, it a common feature in Hejazi especially in making new Interrogative words 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).


Hejazi Arabic has 47 phonemes if all phonemes (native and foreign) and allophones used by most urban Hejazi speakers are counted and they are :-

  1. 34 consonant phonemes : 26 native consonants + 4 consonants used in Classical Arabic words (/θ/,/ð/,/ðˤ/,/q/) + 3 foreign consonants (not used by all the speakers) (/p/,/v/,/tʃ/) + an allophone (/ɫ/).
  2. 13 vowel phonemes : 10 monophthongsa (/a, u, i, o, e, aː, uː, iː, oː, eː/) + an allophone (/ɑː/) and 2 diphthongs (/aw/, /aj/).


Hejazi Arabic consonant phonemes
Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Palato-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic  plain  emphatic
Plosive voiceless پ (p)1 ت t ط تش (t͡ʃ)1 ك k ق (q)6 ء ʔ
voiced ب b د d ض ج d͡ʒ2 ق ɡ
Fricative voiceless ف f ث (θ)3 س s ص ش ʃ خ x ح ħ هـ h
voiced ڤ (v)1 ذ (ð)4 ظ (ðˤ)5 ز z ظ غ ɣ ع ʕ
Nasal م m ن n
Lateral ل l ل (ɫ)
Trill ر r2
Approximant ي j و w
  • ^1 the phonemes /p/, /v/ , /t͡ʃ/ are only found in loanwords and they can be pronounced as /b/ [ب], /f/ [ف] and /ʃ/ [ش] respectively depending on the speaker.
  • ^2 the phonemes /dʒ/ and the trill /r/ are realised as a /ʒ/ and a tap /ɾ/ respectively by some speakers.
  • ^3 the dental consonant ث is mostly rendered /t/ and rarely /s/ or kept /θ/ in Classical Arabic borrowings, it remains dental in the countryside.
  • ^4 the dental consonant ذ is mostly rendered /d/ and sometimes /z/ or kept /ð/ in Classical Arabic borrowings, it remains dental in the countryside.
  • ^5 the dental consonant ظ is mostly rendered /dˤ/ and sometimes /zˤ/ or kept /ðˤ/ in Classical Arabic borrowings, it remains dental in the countryside.
  • ^6 the phoneme /q/ occurs only in loanwords from Classical Arabic and it is mostly rendered as /g/ by most of the speakers.
  • ^7 the phoneme [ɫ] ل is an allophone of [l] in the word الله [aɫɫaːh] ('god') and in the environment of a neighbouring emphatic (pharyngealized) consonant as in طلع [tˤeɫeʕ] ('he went out'), ضلع [dˤeɫʕ] ('Rib') or لحظة [ɫaħzˤa] ('moment').


Hejazi has five (or three short vowels)a /a/, /u/, /i/, /o/ and /e/, and five long vowels /aː/, /uː/, /iː/, /oː/ and /eː/ with length as distinctive feature, and two diphthongs /aw/ and /aj/, Hejazi retains most of the long and short vowels of Classical Arabic with no vowel reduction. The two diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ from the Classical period underwent monophthongization and are realised as the long vowels /eː/ and /oː/, respectively but they still occur as diphthongs in some words as in موْعد [mawʕed] ('Appointment'). Native Hejazi words don't begin with a short /u/ or /i/, the initial /u/ of the Classical period is turned into an /o/ as in the words أُغنية [uɣnija] ('song') and أُم [um] ('mother') are pronounced [oɣnija] and [om] respectively and the Classical /i/ turns into /e/.

Hejazi vowels
  Front Back
short long short long
Close i u
Close-Mid e o
Open a1 2  
The vowel phonemes of Hejazi Arabic.
  • ^1 /a/ is pronounced as an open central vowel [ä] by some speakers, instead the more common open front vowel [a].
  • ^2 [ɑː] is an allophone of [] in some foreign words such as ألمانيا [almɑːnja] ('germany') and يابان [jaːbɑːn] ('japan').
Example words for vowel phonemes
IPA Arabic Example
/a/ ـَ فَم fam [fam] 'mouth'
// ا ناس nās [naːs] 'people'
/u/ ـُ حُدود ħudūd [ħuduːd] 'borders'
/o/a حُب ħob [ħob] 'love'
// و توت tūt [tuːt] 'berry'
// يوم yōm [joːm] 'day'
/i/ ـِ كِتاب kitāb [kitaːb] 'book'
/e/a طِب eb [tˤeb] 'medicine'
// ي ديك dīk [diːk] 'rooster'
// عين ʕēn [ʕeːn] 'eye'
  • ^a Free variation occurs 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 طِب which can be pronounced [tˤeb] or [tˤib] 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 but that doesn't apply to long /eː/ and /oː/.


Subject Pronouns[edit]

In Hejazi Arabic, personal pronouns have 8 forms simplified from the original Classical Arabic 12 pronouns. In singular, the 2nd and 3rd persons differentiate gender, while the 1st person and plural do not.