Najdi Arabic

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Najdi Arabic
Native toSaudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria
Native speakers
4.05 million (2011-2015)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3ars
Árabe najdí.png

Najdi Arabic (Arabic: اللهجة النجدية‎) is the group of Arabic varieties originating from the Najd region of Saudi Arabia. The group includes the majority of bedouin tribes historically residing in deserts surrounding Najd, and as a result several regions surrounding Najd, including the Eastern Province, Al Jawf, Najran, and Northern Borders Regions are now mostly Najdi-speaking.[citation needed] Outside of Saudi Arabia, it is also the main Arabic variety spoken in the Syrian Desert of Iraq, Jordan, and Syria (with the exception of Palmyra oasis and settlements dotting the Euphrates, where Mesopotamian Arabic is spoken) as well as the westernmost part of Kuwait.

Najdi Arabic can be divided into four region-based groups:

  1. Northern Najdi, spoken by the tribe of Shammar and surrounding tribes in Ha'il Region in Najd and the Syrian Desert.[2][3]
  2. Mixed northern-central Najdi of Al-Qassim, and the tribe of Dhafeer around Kuwait.[3][4]
  3. Central Najdi (Urban Najdi), spoken in the city of Riyadh and surrounding towns and farming communities, and by the tribe of Anazah in the Syrian Desert.[3][2]
  4. Southern Najdi, spoken by the tribes of Qahtan and Banu Yam, including in the Rub' al-Khali and Najran, as well as the branches of Banu Yam, Ajman and Al Murrah in Eastern Arabia.[3][4]



Here is a table of the consonant sounds of Najdi Arabic. The phonemes /p/پ⟩ and /v/ڤ⟩ (not used by all speakers) are not considered to be part of the phonemic inventory, as they exist only in foreign words and can be pronounced as /b/ and /f/ respectively depending on the speaker.[5]

Labial Inter-
Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless (p) t k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x~χ ħ h
voiced (v) ð z ðˤ ɣ~ʁ ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l j w

Phonetic notes:

  • /ɡ/ is the modern reflex of Classical /q/ق⟩, though /q/ can appear in a few loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic and proper names, as in القرآن [alqurˈʔaːn] ('Quran') and قانون [qaːnuːn] ('law').[7]
  • The distinction between the Classical Arabic⟩ and ⟨ظ⟩ was completely lost in Najdi Arabic, and both are realised as [ðˤ].[8] /tˤ/ is sometimes voiced.[6]
  • The phonemes /ɣ/غ⟩ and /x/خ⟩ can be realised as uvular fricatives [ʁ] and [χ] respectively.
  • Northern and central dialects feature affricates [t͡s] and [d͡z] as allophonic variants of the velar stops /k/ and /ɡ/, respectively, particularly in the context of front vowels e.g. كَلْب [t͡salb] ('dog').[9][8][10] Dialect leveling as a result of influence from the Riyadh-based prestige varieties has led to the affricate allophones becoming increasingly less common among younger speakers.[10]
  • Historically, /ʔ/ was deleted. It now appears only in borrowings from Classical Arabic; word-medially, this deletion comes along with the lengthening of short vowels.[11]


Vowels of Najdi Arabic[12][13]
Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close ɪ ʊ
Open a

Unless adjacent to /ɣ x h ħ ʕ/, /a/ is raised in open syllables to [i], [ɨ], or [u], depending on neighboring sounds.[14] Remaining /a/ may become fronted to [æ~ɛ] in the context of front sounds, as well as adjacent to the pharyngeals /ħ ʕ/.[15]

Najdi Arabic exhibits the so-called gahawa syndrome, insertion of epenthetic /a/ after (/h x, ɣ ħ, ʕ/). For example, [gahwah] > [gahawah].

When short /a/ appears in an open syllable that is followed by a nonfinal light syllable, it is deleted. For example, /saħab-at/ is realized as [sˈħa.bat].[16] This, combined with the gahawa syndrome can make underlying sequence of /a/ and a following guttural consonant (/h x, ɣ ħ, ʕ/) to appear metathesized, e.g. /ʕistaʕʒal/ ('got in a hurry') [ʕistˈʕaʒal].[17]

Short high vowels are deleted in non-final open syllables, such as /tirsil-uːn/ ('you [m. sg.] send') [tirsˈluːn].[18]

There is both limited distributional overlap and free variation between [i] and [u], with the latter being more likely in the environment of bilabials, pharyngealized consonants, and /r/.[6]

The mid vowels /eː oː/ are typically monophthongs, though they can be pronounced as diphthongs when preceding a plosive, e.g. /beːt/ ('house') [beit].[15] [ei]


Najdi Arabic sentence structure can have the word order VSO and SVO, however, VSO usually occurs more often.[19] NA morphology is distinguished by three categories which are: nouns ism, verb fial, and particle harf. Ism means name in Arabic and it corresponds to nouns and adjectives in English. Fial means action in Arabic and it corresponds to verbs. Harf means letter and corresponds to pronouns, demonstratives, prepositions, conjunctions and articles.

Verbs are inflected for number, gender, person, tense, aspect and transitives. Nouns show number (singular and plural) and gender (masculine and feminine).[20]

Complementizers in NA have three different classes which are: relative particle, declarative particle, and interrogative particles. The three different complementizers that are used in Najdi Arabic are: illi, in, itha.[21]


Two particles are used in negation, which are: ma and la. These particles come before the verb in verbal sentences.[19] ma is used with all verbal sentences but la is used with imperative verb forms indicating present and future tense.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arabic, Najdi Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  2. ^ a b Ingham (1986), p. 274.
  3. ^ a b c d Al Motairi (2015), p. 4.
  4. ^ a b Ingham (1994), p. 5.
  5. ^ Al Motairi (2015), p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c Ingham (1994), p. 14.
  7. ^ a b Al Motairi (2015), p. 6.
  8. ^ a b Al Motairi (2015), p. 7.
  9. ^ Ingham (1986), p. 274, 278.
  10. ^ a b Al-Rojaie (2013), p. 46.
  11. ^ Ingham (1994), p. 13.
  12. ^ INgham (1994), p. 15.
  13. ^ Al Motairi (2015), p. 8.
  14. ^ McCarthy (2007:177, 178), citing Al-Mozainy (1981:64ff)
  15. ^ a b Ingham (1994), p. 15.
  16. ^ McCarthy (2007), pp. 181.
  17. ^ McCarthy (2007), pp. 205.
  18. ^ McCarthy (2007), pp. 187.
  19. ^ a b Ingham (1994), pp. 37–44.
  20. ^ a b Alothman (2012), p. 96–121.
  21. ^ Lewis Jr. (2013), p. 22.


Further reading[edit]

  • P.F. Abboud. 1964. "The Syntax of Najdi Arabic", University of Texas PhD dissertation.
  • Al-Mozainy, Hamza Q (1981). Vowel Alternations in a Bedouin Hijazi Arabic Dialect: Abstractness and Stress (Thesis). Austin, Texas: University of Texas, Austin.
  • Al-Sudais, M. S. A critical and comparative study of modern Najdi Arabic Proverbs. PhD diss., University of Leeds, 1976.