Mesopotamian Arabic

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Mesopotamian Arabic
Iraqi Arabic
اللهجة العراقية
Native toIraq (Mesopotamia), Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, parts of northern and eastern Arabia
RegionMesopotamia, Armenian highlands, Cilicia
Native speakers
About 41.2 million speakers (2019-2021)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
acm – Mesopotamian Arabic
ayp – North Mesopotamian Arabic
Árabe mesopotámico.png
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Mesopotamian Arabic, (Arabic: لهجة بلاد ما بين النهرين) also known as Iraqi Arabic, (Arabic: اللهجة العراقية) is a continuum of mutually intelligible varieties of Arabic native to the Mesopotamian basin of Iraq as well as spanning into southeastern Turkey, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, and spoken in Iraqi diaspora communities.[2][3]

Mesopotamian Arabic has a Syriac-Aramaic substrate, and also shares significant influences from ancient Mesopotamian languages of Sumerian and Akkadian, as well as influences from Persian, Turkish, and Greek. Mesopotamian Arabic is said to be the most Syriac-Aramaic influenced dialect of Arabic, due to Syriac-Aramaic having originated in Mesopotamia, and spread throughout the Middle East (Fertile Crescent) during the Neo-Assyrian period, eventually becoming the lingua franca of the entire region before Islam.[4][5][6] Mesopotamian Arabs and Assyrians are the largest Semitic peoples in Iraq, sharing significant similarities in language between Mesopotamian Arabic and Syriac.


Aramaic was the lingua franca in Mesopotamia from the early 1st millennium BC until the late 1st millennium AD, and as may be expected, Mesopotamian Arabic shows signs of an Aramaic substrate.[7] The Gelet and the Judeo-Iraqi varieties have retained features of Babylonian Aramaic.[7]

Due to Iraq's inherent multiculturalism as well as history, Iraqi Arabic in turn bears extensive borrowings in its lexicon from Aramaic, Akkadian, Persian, and Turkish. Aramaic, and before that Akkadian, were the dominant languages in Mesopotamia before the Arab invasions that brought Islam, and are Semitic like Arabic. The inclusion of Mongolian and Turkic terms in the Iraqi Arabic dialect should also be mentioned, because of the political role a succession of Turco-Mongol dynasties played after Mesopotamia was invaded by Mongol-Turkic colonizers in 1258 that made Iraq became part of Ilkhanate[citation needed] (Iraq is the only Arab country that was invaded and influenced by Mongols), and also because of the prestige Iraqi Arabic dialect and literature enjoyed in the part of Arab world, which was often ruled by sultans and emirs with a Turkic background. Mesopotamian Arabic also boasts a large number of Persian words and expressions, including many that are not found in other forms of Arabic, due to long stretches of Persian rule over the region, as well as continual contact influence over the centuries.


Mesopotamian Arabic has two major varieties. A distinction is recognised between Gelet Mesopotamian Arabic and Qeltu Mesopotamian Arabic, the names deriving from the form of the word for "I said".[8]

The southern (Gelet) group includes a Tigris dialect cluster, of which the best-known form is Baghdadi Arabic, and a Euphrates dialect cluster, known as Furati (Euphrates Arabic). The South Mesopotamian Arabic is spoken in southern Iraq, the Gelet variety is also spoken in the Khuzestan Province of Iran.[2]

The northern (Qeltu) group includes the north Tigris dialect cluster, also known as North Mesopotamian Arabic or Maslawi (Mosul Arabic).


Both the Gelet and the Qeltu varieties of Iraqi Arabic are spoken in Syria,[2][9] the former is spoken on the Euphrates east of Aleppo and, some parts in Iran, and across the border in Turkey.[9]

Cypriot Arabic shares a large number of common features with Mesopotamian Arabic;[10] particularly the northern variety, and has been reckoned as belonging to this dialect area.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arabic, Mesopotamian Spoken - Ethnologue". Ethnologue. Simons, Gary F. and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2017. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twentieth edition. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Arabic, Mesopotamian | Ethnologue
  3. ^ Enam al-Wer, Rudolf Erik de Jong, ed. (2009). Arabic Dialectology: In Honour of Clive Holes on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday. Vol. 53. Brill. p. 99–100. ISBN 9789047425595.
  4. ^ Aramaic was the medium of everyday writing, and it provided scripts for writing. (1997). Humanism, Culture, and Language in the Near East : Studies in Honor of Georg Krotkoff. Krotkoff, Georg., Afsaruddin, Asma, 1958-, Zahniser, A. H. Mathias, 1938-. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575065083. OCLC 747412055.[verification needed]
  5. ^ Tradition and modernity in Arabic language and literature. Smart, J. R., Shaban Memorial Conference (2nd : 1994 : University of Exeter). Richmond, Surrey, U.K. 16 December 2013. p. 253. ISBN 9781136788123. OCLC 865579151.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)[verification needed]
  6. ^ Sanchez, Francisco del Rio. ""Influences of Aramaic on dialectal Arabic", in: Archaism and Innovation in the Semitic Languages. Selected papers". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[verification needed]
  7. ^ a b Muller-Kessler, Christa (July–September 2003). "Aramaic 'K', Lyk' and Iraqi Arabic 'Aku, Maku: The Mesopotamian Particles of Existence". The Journal of the American Oriental Society. 123 (3): 641–646. doi:10.2307/3217756. JSTOR 3217756.
  8. ^ Mitchell, T. F. (1990). Pronouncing Arabic, Volume 2. Clarendon Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-19-823989-0.
  9. ^ a b Arabic, North Mesopotamian | Ethnologue
  10. ^ Versteegh, Kees (2001). The Arabic Language. Edinburgh University Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-7486-1436-2.
  11. ^ Owens, Jonathan (2006). A Linguistic History of Arabic. Oxford University Press. p. 274. ISBN 0-19-929082-2.