Maghrebi Arabic

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Maghrebi Arabic
اللهجات المغاربية
Arabic alphabet (Maghrebi script)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Árabe magrebí.png
Maghrebi Arabic dialects

Maghrebi Arabic (Arabic: اللهجات المغاربية, Western Arabic; as opposed to Eastern or Mashriqi Arabic) is a vernacular Arabic dialect continuum spoken in the Maghreb region, in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Moroccan western sahara, and Mauritania. It includes Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, and Hassaniya Arabic. It is known locally as Darja, Derdja, Derja, Derija or Darija, depending on the region's dialect (Arabic: الدارجة; meaning "common or everyday language"[1]). This serves to differentiate the spoken vernacular from Standard Arabic.[2] The Maltese language is believed to be derived from Siculo-Arabic and ultimately from Tunisian Arabic, as it contains some typical Maghrebi Arabic areal characteristics.[3]



Darija, Derija or Delja (Arabic: الدارجة) means "everyday/colloquial language";[4] it is also rendered as ed-dārija, derija or darja. It refers to any of the varieties of colloquial Maghrebi Arabic. Although it is also common in Algeria and Tunisia to refer to the Maghrebi Arabic varieties directly as languages, similarly it is also common in Egypt and Lebanon to refer to the Mashriqi Arabic varieties directly as languages. For instance, Algerian Arabic would be referred as Dzayri (Algerian) and Tunisian Arabic as Tounsi (Tunisian), and Egyptian Arabic would be referred as Masri (Egyptian) and Lebanese Arabic as Lubnani (Lebanese).

In contrast, the colloquial dialects of more eastern Arab countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, are usually known as al-‘āmmīya (العامية), though Egyptians may also refer to their dialects as al-logha-d-darga.


The varieties of Maghrebi Arabic form a dialect continuum. The degree of mutual intelligibility is high between geographically adjacent dialects (such as local dialects spoken in Eastern Morocco and Western Algeria or Eastern Algeria and North Tunisia or South Tunisia and Western Libya), but lower between dialects that are further apart, e.g. between Moroccan and Tunisian Darija. Conversely, Moroccan Darija and particularly Algerian Derja cannot be easily understood by Eastern Arabic speakers (from Egypt, Sudan, Levant, Iraq, and Arabian peninsula) in general.[5]

Maghrebi Arabic continues to evolve by integrating new French or English words, notably in technical fields, or by replacing old French and Italian/Spanish ones with Modern Standard Arabic words within some circles; more educated and upper-class people who code-switch between Maghrebi Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic have more French and Italian/Spanish loanwords, especially the latter came from the time of al-Andalus. Maghrebi dialects all use n- as the first-person singular prefix on verbs, distinguishing them from Levantine dialects and Modern Standard Arabic.

Relationship with Modern Standard Arabic and Berber languages[edit]

Modern Standard Arabic (الفصحى al-Fusḥā) is the primary language used in the government, legislation and judiciary of countries in the Maghreb. Maghrebi Arabic is mainly a spoken and vernacular language, although it occasionally appears in entertainment and advertising in urban areas of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In Algeria, where Maghrebi Arabic was taught as a separate subject under French colonization, some textbooks in the language exist but they are no longer officially endorsed by the Algerian authorities. Maghrebi Arabic contains a Berber substratum, which represents the languages originally spoken by the native populations of the Maghreb prior to their adoption of Arabic.[6] The dialect may also possess a Punic substrate.[7] Additionally, Maghrebi Arabic has a Latin substratum, which may have been derived from the African Romance that was used as an urban lingua franca during the Byzantine Empire period.[8]

Relationship with other languages[edit]

Maghrebi Arabic speakers frequently borrow words from French (in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), Spanish (in northern Morocco and northwestern Algerian) and Italian (in Libya and Tunisia) and conjugate them according to the rules of their dialects with some exceptions (like passive voice for example). Since it is not always written, there is no standard and it is free to change quickly and to pick up new vocabulary from neighbouring languages. This is somewhat similar to what happened to Middle English after the Norman conquest.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wehr, Hans (1979). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic: (Arab.-Engl.). Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 319. ISBN 3447020024. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  2. ^ Harrell, Richard Slade (2004). A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic: Moroccan-English. Georgetown University Press. p. 18. ISBN 1589011031. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  3. ^ Marie Azzopardi-Alexander, Albert Borg (2013). Maltese. Routledge. p. xiii. ISBN 978-1136855283. Retrieved 10 January 2018.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Wehr, Hans (2011). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic.; Harrell, Richard S. (1966). Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic.
  5. ^ Zaidan, Omar F.; Callison-Burch, Chris (2014). "Arabic Dialect Identification". Computational Linguistics. 40 (1): 171–202. doi:10.1162/COLI_a_00169.
  6. ^ Tilmatine, Mohand (1999). "Substrat et convergences: Le berbère et l'arabe nord-africain". Estudios de dialectología norteafricana y andalusí (in French). 4: 99–119.
  7. ^ Benramdane, Farid (1998). "Le maghribi, langue trois fois millénaire de Elimam, Abdou (Éd. ANEP, Alger 1997)". Insaniyat (6): 129–130. doi:10.4000/insaniyat.12102. S2CID 161182954. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  8. ^ Sayahi, Lotfi (2014). Diglossia and Language Contact: Language Variation and Change in North Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0521119368. Retrieved 13 December 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Singer, Hans-Rudolf (1980) “Das Westarabische oder Maghribinische” in Wolfdietrich Fischer and Otto Jastrow (eds.) Handbuch der arabischen Dialekte. Otto Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden. 249–76.