Gulf Arabic

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Gulf Arabic
Native to Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, UAE, Oman
Native speakers
5 million (1995–2014)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 afb
Glottolog gulf1241[2]

Gulf Arabic (خليجي Khalījī local pronunciation: [χɐˈliːdʒi] or اللهجة الخليجية el-lahja el-Khalijiyya, local pronunciation: [elˈlɑhdʒɐ lχɐˈliːdʒɪj.jɐ]) is a variety of the Arabic language spoken in Eastern Arabia[3] around the coasts of the Persian Gulf in Kuwait, Iraq,[4] Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran[5] and northern Oman.

Gulf Arabic is rather defined as a set of closely related and more or less mutually intelligible, varieties that form a dialect continuum, with the level of mutual intelligibility between any two varieties largely depending on distance between them. Similarly to other Arabic varieties, Gulf Arabic is not completely mutually intelligible with other Arabic varieties spoken outside the Gulf.[6] The specific dialects differ in vocabulary, grammar and accent.[7] There are considerable differences between, for instance, Kuwaiti Arabic and the dialects of Qatar and the UAE—especially in accent, that may hinder mutual intelligibility.[7]

Gulf varieties' closest related relatives are other the other dialects native to Saudi Arabia, that is the Saudi Arabic varieties.[8][9] Although spoken over much of Saudi Arabia's area, Gulf Arabic is not the native tongue of most Saudis, as the majority of them do not live in Eastern Arabia.[7] There are some 200,000 Gulf Arabic speakers in the country, out of a population of over 30 million, mostly in its coastal eastern province.[8][9] Most Saudis speak the Hejazi Arabic and Najdi Arabic dialects at home.[8][9]

Name[edit]

The dialect's full name el-lahja el-Khalijiyya (اللهجة الخليجية local pronunciation: [elˈlɑhdʒɐ lχɐˈliːdʒɪj.jɐ]) can be translated as 'the dialect of the gulf'. However, it is most commonly referred to as Khaliji (خليجي Khalījī local pronunciation: [χɐˈliːdʒi]), in which the noun خليج (Arabic pronunciation: [χɐˈliːdʒ]; Khalīj) has been suffixed with the Nisba, literally meaning 'of the bay' or 'of the gulf'.[10]

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[edit]

Gulf Arabic consonants[11]
Labial Dental Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic
 plain  emphatic
Nasal m () n
Occlusive voiceless (p) t t͡ʃ k ʔ
voiced b () d d͡ʒ ɡ q
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x~χ ħ h
voiced ð z ðˤ ɣ~ʁ ʕ
Trill r ()
Approximant l (ɫ) j w

Phonetic notes:

  • The non-native Arabic letter /p/پ⟩, or its native counterpart /b/ب⟩, is used to denote that sound which occurs only in loanwords, e.g.: piyāḷah (پيالة or بيالة [pijɑːɫɑh], 'small glass'), from Hindi.
  • /dˤ/ض⟩ has merged to /ðˤ/ظ⟩.
  • The difference between /l/ and /ɫ/ is not orthographically shown.
  • The classicized [q] is an allophone for /g/ق⟩ , used in Literary Arabic loanwords, and also an allophone for /ɣ/غ⟩.
  • The stops /b/, /d/, and /g/ are described as fully voiced despite their position within the word.


The differences in the phonology of the Arabic dialect group of the Persian Gulf, compared to Modern Standard Arabic, are following:

Letter MSA pronunciation Khaliji varieties Examples Notes
ج /d͡ʒ/ [j] or [d͡ʒ⁓ʒ] mōy or mōj (موج [moːj] or [moːd͡ʒ], 'wave');
masyīd or masjīd (مسجد [ˈmɑsjɪd] or [ˈmɐsd͡ʒɪd], "mosque")
Changes are optional, although jim (ج) never changes to [j] in loanwords.[12]
ق /q/ /q/ (in Classical Arabic words), [ɡ], very rarely and optionally [d͡ʒ⁓ʒ] when followed by front vowels ([ɐ], [e], [ɪ] or [i]) or following a consonant preceded by a front vowel jiddām, qeddām or geddām (قدام [d͡ʒɪdˈdɑːm], [qedˈdɑːm] or [ɡedˈdɑːm], "in front of");
sharji, sharqi or shargi (شرقي [ˈʃɑɾd͡ʒi], [ˈʃɑɾqi] or [ˈʃɑɾɡi], "eastern")
Many Literary Arabic loanwords preserve the /q/ sound. By Persian influence, extremely rarely the qaf (ق) changes to ghayn (غ) [ʁ].[13]
غ /ʁ/ [q] qannā (غنى [ˈqɑnnɑ], "to sing") [14]
ك /k/ /k/, [t͡ʃ] if preceded or followed by a front vowel or if 2nd person feminine singular suffixed/object pronoun ubūch (أبوك [ʔʊˈbuːt͡ʃ]; 'your (f.sg.) father') This change is optional, but encountered with more often when the kaf (ك) is used to denote the 2nd person feminine singular suffixed/object pronoun.[15]
ض // [ðˤ] ẓāʼ (ضاع [ðˤɑːʕ], 'to lose') Ẓāʼ (ظ) and Ḍad (ض) cannot be distinguished by pronunciation as the Gulf dialects lack the pharyngealised [d].[11]

Vowels[edit]

Following vowel chart applies to the Gulf Arabic dialect continuum:[16]

  Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i     u
Close-mid e     o
Near-open æ æː        
Open     ä äː ɑ ɑː

Qafisheh stipulates at least two qualities of /a/:

a has a low back quality in the environment of pharyngealized consonants and frequently before or after /q/. This sound is similar to the a sound in father but shorter and farther back. (...) Before or after the pharyngeals 9 [= ʿAyin] and H [= ḥ], or any other plain consonant, a is farther front than the a in father; its quality ranges between the e in pen and the a in pan.

— Hamdi A. Qafisheh, A Short Reference Grammar of Gulf Arabic, p. 16

He further explains that these qualities also apply to /aː/, so that [ɑ(ː)][ä(ː)][æ(ː)] can therefore be assumed.

Morphology[edit]

Pronouns[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

Gulf Arabic has 10 personal pronouns.[17] The conservative dialect has preserved the gender differentiation of the 2nd and 3rd person in the plural forms, whereas dual forms have not survived. The following table bears the generally most common pronouns:

Person Singular Plural
1st ānā (آنَا) niḥin (نِحِنْ)
2nd masculine inta (إِنْتَ) intum (إِنْتُمْ)
feminine inti (إِنْتِ) intin1 (إِنْتِنْ)
3rd masculine huwa (هُوَ) hum (هُمْ)
feminine hiya (هِيَ) hin2 (هِنْ)
  • ^1 Many speakers do not distinguish between masculine and feminine forms in the second person plural, replacing intum and intin with intu (إنْتُ).
  • ^2 Speakers that do not distinguish between masculine and feminine forms in the third person plural will also use hum (هُمْ) for both genders in the third person plural, respectively.

Some pronouns, however, have other (less frequent, resp. local) forms:

  • ānā (آنَا):
    anā (أَنَا)
    āni (آنِي) (especially Baḥrānī)
  • inta (إِنْتَ):
    init (إِنِتْ)
  • huwa (هُوَ):
    (هُوْ)
    huwwa (هُوَّ) (especially Qaṭarī)
    uhu (أُهُو)
  • hiya (هِيَ):
    (هِيْ)
    hiyya (هِيَّ) (especially Qaṭarī)
    ihi (إِهِي)
  • niḥin (نِحِنْ):
    niḥna (نِحْنَ)
    iḥna (إِحْنَا) (especially Baḥrānī and Qatarī)
  • intum (إِنْتُمْ):
    intu (إنْتُ)[Note 1]
  • hum (هُمْ):
    humma (هُمَّ) (especially Qatarī)
    uhum (أُهُمْ)
  1. ^ For a more detailed info, look at the table above.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gulf Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gulf Arabic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "Dialect, Culture, and Society in Eastern Arabia: Glossary". Clive Holes. 2001. p. XVI-XVII. 
  4. ^ Arabic, Gulf Spoken – A Language of Iraq Ethnologue
  5. ^ Languages of Iran Ethnologue
  6. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Introduction". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. xvii. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  7. ^ a b c "Dialect, Culture, and Society in Eastern Arabia: Glossary". Clive Holes. 2001. 
  8. ^ a b c "International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Volume 1". William Frawley. 2003. p. 38. 
  9. ^ a b c Languages of Saudi Arabia Ethnologue
  10. ^ Smith, Arabic-English by N. Awde; English-Arabic by N. Awde & K. (2003). Arabic dictionary. London: Bennett & Bloom. p. 88. ISBN 1-898948-20-8. 
  11. ^ a b McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Diagram I". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  12. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Appendix I". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 263. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  13. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Appendix II". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 265. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  14. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Appendix II". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 266. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  15. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Appendix III". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 267. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  16. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Diagram II". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 
  17. ^ McCarus, Hamdi A. Qafisheh ; in consultation with Ernest N. (1977). "Pronouns". A short reference grammar of Gulf Arabic. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-8165-0570-5. 

Further reading[edit]