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Algerian Arabic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Algerian Arabic
Dziria, دزيرية
Native toAlgeria
Native speakers
27 million (2012)[1]
3 million L2 speakers in Algeria (no date)[2]
Arabic script, Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3arq
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Algerian Arabic (known as Darja or Dziria in Algeria) is a dialect derived from a variety of the Arabic language spoken in northern Algeria. It belongs to the Maghrebi Arabic language continuum and is partially mutually intelligible with Tunisian and Moroccan.

Like other varieties of Maghrebi Arabic, Algerian has a mostly Semitic vocabulary.[4] It contains Berber and Latin (African Romance)[5] substrates and numerous loanwords from French, Andalusian Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and Spanish.

Algerian Arabic is the native dialect of 75% to 80% of Algerians and is mastered by 85% to 100% of them.[6] It is a spoken language used in daily communication and entertainment, while Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is generally reserved for official use and education.


The Algerian language includes several distinct dialects belonging to two genetically different groups: pre-Hilalian and Hilalian dialects.

Hilalian dialects

Hilalian dialects of Algeria belong to three linguistic groups:[7]

  • Eastern Hilal dialects:[8] spoken in Hautes Plaines around Sétif, M'Sila and Djelfa;
  • Central Hilal dialects:[9] of central and southern Algeria, south of Algiers and Oran;
  • Mâqil dialects:[10] spoken in the western part of Oranais (noted for the third singular masculine accusative pronoun h, for example, /ʃʊfteh/ (I saw him) that would be /ʃʊftʊ/ in the other dialects).

Modern koine languages, urban and national, are based mainly on Hilalian dialects.

Pre-Hilalian dialects

Pre-Hilalian Arabic dialects are generally classified into three types: urban, "village" sedentary and Jewish dialects. Several Pre-Hilalian dialects are spoken in Algeria:[7][11]

  • Urban dialects can be found in all of Algeria's big cities. Urban dialects were formerly also spoken in other cities such as Azemmour and Mascara, Algeria, where they are no longer spoken.
  • Lesser Kabylia dialect (or Jijel Arabic) is spoken in the triangular area north of Constantine, including Collo and Jijel (it is noteworthy for its pronunciation of [q] as [k] and [t] as [ts] and characterised, such as other Eastern pre-Hilalian dialects, by the preservation of the three short vowels).
  • Traras-Msirda dialect is spoken in the area north of Tlemcen, including the eastern Traras [fr], Rachgun [fr] and Honaine (it is noted for its pronunciation of [q] as [ʔ]) ;
  • Judeo-Algerian Arabic is no longer spoken after Jews left Algeria in 1962, following its independence.


IPA phonemes as transliterated in this article:

27 consonants:

/b/ /p/ /t/ /dʒ/ /ħ/ /χ/ /d/ /r/ /z/ /s/ /ʃ/ /sˤ/ /dˤ/ /tˤ/ /ʕ/ /ʁ/ /f/ /v/ /q/ /ɡ/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /h/ /w/ /j/
b p t j x d r z s š ε γ f v q g k l m n h w y
ب پ ت ج ح خ د ر ز س ش ص ض/ظ ط ع غ ف ڥ غ/ق1 ݣ/ڨ2 ک/ك‎‎ ل م ن ه و ی/ي
  • ^1 The letter Ghayn (غ) is only pronounced /q/ in some Berber loanwords.
  • ^2 The letter ݣ is only used in western Algeria, near the Morocco border (especially in Oranie). Elsewhere, it is written ڨ (especially in Kabylia).

The voice "Ch" (t͡ʃ) is used in some words in the Algerian dialect like "تشينا" /t͡ʃina:/ (orange) or "تشاراك" /t͡ʃa:ra:k/ (A kind of Algerian sweets) but remains rare.

6 vowels: 3 long vowels:

  • /aː/ /sˤɑːħəb/ friend
  • /iː/ (as in "ski") e.g. قريت /qriːt/ I read, in the past
  • /uː/ (as in "flu") e.g. تِلِفون /tilifuːn/ phone

3 short vowels:

  • /a/ (as in "man") [æ], e.g. سامح /sæməħ/ forgave, [e] (as in "men") e.g. قَهوَة, or a shorter version of a as in father [ɑ], e.g. /rɑbbi/ my God
  • /i/ (as in sit) e.g. هِيَ /hijjɑ/ she
  • /u/ (as in foot) e.g. قُبَّة /qub:ɑ/ dome

plus the schwa, which replaces /e/ in some positions e.g. انتَ /ənte/

Arguably, one of the most notable features of Maghrebi Arabic dialects, including Algerian Arabic, is the collapse of short vowels in some positions: Standard Arabic كِتاب kitab (book) is /ktæb/

kalam كَلام (speech) is /klæm/

Though loss of short vowels is present in most Arabic dialects, it is significantly more advanced in Maghrebi ones (with Moroccan Arabic being the most advanced of all).

Standard Arabic words containing three syllables are simplified:

/ħɑdʒɑrɑ/ حَجَرة is /ħɑdʒrɑ/.

The Algerian language is particularly rich in uvular, pharyngeal, and pharyngealized ("emphatic") sounds. The uvular and emphatic sounds are generally considered to be q, x and , , and respectively.

Non-emphatic /r/ and emphatic /rˤ/ are two entirely separate phonemes, almost never contrasting in related forms of a word.

/ərrɑmla/ الرَّملة (sand), as in arrive
/jədʒri/ يجري (he runs), as in free

Original /q/ splits lexically into /q/ and /ɡ/ in most dialects but /q/ is preserved all the time in all of the big cities such as Algiers, Oran, Constantine, etc. and all of the montagneious regions; for all words, both alternatives exist.


Nouns and adjectives

English Algerian Arabic
drink šrab
sky sma
water ma
woman / women mra / nsa
fire nar
big kbir
man / men rajel / rjal
day nhar / yum
moon qmer
night lil
bread khubz
small ṣγir
sand rmel
winter / rain šta / mṭar
ball balun
napkin servita
toilet / bathroom bit-el-ma / bit-er-raḥa / Twalat

Conjunctions and prepositions

English Algerian Arabic Notes of usage
But beṣṣaḥ is also used "wa lakin"
If ila, ida, lakan, kun Used for impossible conditions and comes just before the verb
If lukan For possible conditions, Also used is "ida" and "kan"
So that, that baš
That belli
As if ki šγul, tquši, tqul
Because xaṭar
When ila
Before qbel ma Used before verbs
Without bla ma Used before verbs
Whether kaš ma Used before verbs
under taḥt
over, on top of fuq or fug
after mur / mura / Baεd / wra
before qbel Used only for time
next to, beside quddam or guddam is also used "ḥda"
at εend
with mεa
among, between bin, binat (plural)
same as, as much as εla ḥsab, qed, kima, amount
oh, oh so much ya, ah

Some of them can be attached to the noun, just like in other Arabic dialects. The word for in, "fi", can be attached to a definite noun. For example, the word for house has a definite form "ed-dar" but with "fi" , it becomes "fed-dar".


Algerian Arabic uses two genders for words: masculine and feminine. Masculine nouns and adjectives generally end with a consonant while the feminine nouns generally end with an a.


  • [ħmɑr] "a donkey", [ħmɑrɑ] "a female donkey".


Hilalian dialects, on which the modern koine is based, often use regular plural while the wider use of the broken plural is characteristic to pre-Hilalian dialects.

Unlike Classical Arabic's use of the suffix -un for the nominative, Algerian Arabic uses, for all cases, the suffix -in, used in Classical Arabic for the accusative and the genitive:

mumen (believer) → mumnin

For feminine nouns, the regular plural is obtained by suffixing -at:

Classical Arabic: bint (girl) → banat
Algerian Arabic: bent → bnat

The broken plural can be found for some plurals in Hilalian dialects, but it is mainly used, for the same words, in pre-Hilalian dialects:

Broken plural: ṭabla → ṭwabəl.


The article el is indeclinable and expresses definite state of a noun of any gender and number. It is also prefixed to each of that noun's modifying adjectives.

It follows the solar letters and lunar letters rules of Classical Arabic: if the word starts with one of these consonants, el is assimilated and replaced by the first consonant:

t, d, r, z, s, š, , , , l, n.


rajel → er-rajel "man" (assimilation)
qeṭṭ → el-qeṭṭ "cat" (no assimilation)

Important Notes:

  • When it is after lunar letters consonant we add the article le-.


qmar → le-qmar "moon"
ḥjer → le-ḥjer "stone"
  • We always use the article el with the words that begin with vowels.


alf → el-alf "thousand"


Verbs are conjugated by adding affixes (prefixes, postfixes, both or none) that change according to the tense.

In all Algerian Arabic dialects, there is no gender differentiation of the second and third person in the plural forms, nor is there gender differentiation of the second person in the singular form in pre-Hilalian dialects. Hilalian dialects preserve the gender differentiation of the singular second person.

Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st - t - na n - n(e) - u
2nd (m) - t - tu t - t - u
2nd (f) - ti - tu t - i t - u
3rd (m) - - u i/y(e) - i/y(e) - u
3rd (f) - t - u t(e) - i/y(e) - u
  • Example with the verb kteb "To write":
Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu
2nd (m) ktebt ktebtu tekteb tekketbu
2nd (f) ktebti ktebtu tekketbi tekketbu
3rd (m) kteb ketbu yekteb yekketbu
3rd (f) ketbet ketbu tekteb yekketbu
Person Past Present Future Present continuous
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu Rayenekteb Rayḥin nekketbu Rani nekteb Rana nekketbu
1st (f) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu Rayḥa nekteb Rayḥin nekketbu Rani nekteb Rana nekketbu
2nd (m) ketbt ktebtu tekteb tekketbu Rayetekteb Rayḥin tekketbu Rak tekteb Rakum tekketbu
2nd (f) ktebti ktebtu tekketbi tekketbu Rayḥa tekketbi Rayḥin tekketbu Raki tekketbi Rakum tekketbu
3rd (m) kteb ketbu yekteb yekketbu Rayeyekteb Rayḥin yekketbu Rah yekteb Rahum yekketbu
3rd (f) ketbet ketbu tekteb yekketbu Rayḥa tekteb Rayḥin yekketbu Raha tekteb Rahum yekketbu

Future tense

Speakers generally do not use the future tense above. Used instead is the present tense or present continuous.

Also, as is used in all of the other Arabic dialects, there is another way of showing active tense. The form changes the root verb into an adjective. For example, "kteb" he wrote becomes "kateb".


Like all North African Arabic varieties (including Egyptian Arabic) along with some Levantine Arabic varieties, verbal expressions are negated by enclosing the verb with all its affixes, along with any adjacent pronoun-suffixed preposition, within the circumfix ma ...-š (/ʃ/):

  • « lεebt » ("I played") → « ma lεebt-š /ʃ/ » ("I didn't play")
  • « ma tṭabbaεni-š » ("Don't push me")
  • « ma yṭawlu-l-ek-š hadu le-qraεi » ("Those bottles won't last you long")
  • « ma sibt-š plaṣa » ("I couldn't get a seat / parking place")
Person Past Present Future Present continuous
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ma ktebt ma ktebna ma nekteb-š ma nekketbu ma Rayeḥ-š nekteb ma Rayḥin-š nekketbu ma Rani-š nekteb ma Rana-š nekketbu
2st (f) ma ktebt ma ktebna ma nekteb-š ma nekketbu ma Rayḥanekteb ma Rayḥin-š nekketbu ma Rani-š nekteb ma Rana-š nekketbu
2nd (m) ma ketbt ma ktebtu ma tekteb-š ma tekketbu ma Rayeḥ-š tekteb ma Rayḥin-š tekketbu ma Rak-š tekteb ma Rakum-š tekketbu
2rd (f) ma ktebti ma ktebtu ma tekketbi ma tekketbu ma Rayḥatekketbi ma Rayḥin-š tekketbu ma Raki-š tekketbi ma Rakum-š tekketbu
3rd (m) ma kteb-š ma ketbu ma yekteb-š ma yekketbu ma Rayeḥ-š yekteb ma Rayḥin-š yekketbu ma Rah-š yekteb ma Rahum-š yekketbu
3rd (f) ma ketbet ma ketbu ma tekteb-š ma yekketbu ma Rayḥatekteb ma Rayḥin-š yekketbu ma Raha-š tekteb ma Rahum-š yekketbu

Other negative words (walu, etc.) are used in combination with ma to express more complex types of negation. ʃ is not used when other negative words are used

  • ma qult walu ("I didn't say anything")
  • ma šuft tta waḥed ("I didn't see anyone")

or when two verbs are consecutively in the negative

  • ma šuft ma smeεt ("I neither saw nor did I hear").

Verb derivation

Verb derivation is done by adding suffixes or by doubling consonants, there are two types of derivation forms: causative, Passive.

  • Causative: is obtained by doubling consonants :
xrej "to go out" → xerrej "to make to go out"
dxel "to enter" → dexxel "to make to enter, to introduce".
  • Passive:It is obtained by prefixing the verb with t- / tt- / tn- / n- :
qtel "to kill" → tneqtel "to be killed"
šreb "to drink" → ttešreb "to be drunk".

The adverbs of location

Things could be in three places hnaya (right here), hna (here) or el-hih (there).


Personal pronouns

Most Algerian Arabic dialects have eight personal pronouns since they no longer have gender differentiation of the second and third person in the plural forms. However, pre-Hilalian dialects retain seven personal pronouns since gender differentiation of the second person in the singular form is absent as well.

Person Singular Plural
1st ana ḥna
2nd (m) enta entuma
2nd (f) enti entuma
3rd (m) huwwa huma
3rd (f) hiyya huma

Example : « ḥatta ana. » — "Me too."

Person Algerian Arabic
I am rani
You are (m) rak
You are (f) raki
He is rah or rahu
She is rahi or raha
We are rana
You or Y'all are raku or rakum (m)and (f)
They are rahum (m)and (f)

Example : « Rani hna. » — "I'm here." and « Waš rak. » "How are you." to both males and females.

Possessive pronouns

Dar means house.

Person Singular Plural
1st i (Dari) na (Darna)
2nd (e)k (Dar(e)k) kum (Darkum)
3rd (m) u (Daru) (h)um (Dar(h)um)
3rd (f) ha (Darha) (hum) (Dar(h)um)

Example : « dar-na. » — "Our house" (House-our) Possessives are frequently combined with taε "of, property" : dar taε-na — "Our house.", dar taε-kum ...etc.


taε-i = my or mine

taε-ek = your or yours (m, f)

taε-u = his

taε-ha = hers


taε-na = our or ours

taε-kum = your or yours (m, f)

taε-hum = their or theirs (m, f)

"Our house" can be Darna or Dar taε-na, which is more like saying 'house of ours'. Taε can be used in other ways just like in English in Spanish. You can say Dar taε khuya, which means 'house of my brother' or 'my brother's house'.

Interrogative pronouns

Interrogatives Algerian Arabic
What ? waš ?
When ? waqtaš ?
Why? 3lah ? / 3laš ?
Which ? waš-men ? / aš-men ? / ama ?
Where ? win ?
Who ? škun ?
How ? kifaš ? / kifah ?
How many ? šḥal ? / qeddaš ?
Whose ? taε-men ?

Verbal pronouns

Person Singular Plural
1st ni na
2nd (m) (e)k kum
3rd (m) u (after a consonant) / h (after a vowel)
/ hu (before an indirect object pronoun)
3rd (f) ha hum


« šuft-ni. » — "You saw me." (You.saw-me)
« qetl-u. » — "He killed him." (He.killed-him)
« kla-h. » — "He ate it." (He.ate-it)


Unlike Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic has no dual and uses the plural instead. The demonstrative (hadi) is also used for "it is".

Interrogatives Algerian Arabic Emphasized
This had (m), hadi (f) hada, hadaya (m), hadiyya (f)
That dak (m), dik (f) hadak (m), hadik (f)
These hadu haduma
Those duk haduk

Sample text

The text below was translated from Kabylie, in Auguste Moulieras's Les fourberies de si Djeh'a.

Buzelluf Sheep Head
Waḥed en-nhar, jḥa med-lu baba-h frank, baš yešri buzelluf. šra-h, kla gaɛ leḥm-u. bqa γir leɛdem, jab-u l baba-h. ki šaf-u qal-lu: "waš hada?" qal-lu: "buzelluf".

-A šmata, win rahi wedn-u?

-Kan ṭreš

-win rahum ɛini-h?

-Kan ɛma

-win rah lsan-u?

-Kan bekkuš.

- U el-jelda taɛ ras-u, win rahi

-Kan ferṭas.
One day, Jha's father gave him one cent so he buys a sheep head. He bought it and ate all of its meat. Only an empty carcass was left. He brought it to his father. Then, when he saw it, he said: "what is that?" Jehha said: "a sheep head".

-You vile, where are its ears?

-It was deaf.

-Where are its eyes?

-It was blind.

-Where is its tongue?

-It was dumb.

-And the skin of its head, where is it?

-It was bald.

French loanwords

Algerian Arabic contains numerous French loanwords.

Algerian Arabic French loanword English meaning Algerian Arabic French loanword English meaning
Feršiṭa Fourchette Fork Pur Port Port
Fraz Fraises Strawberries utal Hôtel Hotel
Nurmalmu Normalement Normally Frijidar Réfrigérateur Refrigerator
Karṭa Carte Card Bumba Bombe Bomb
Buja (v) Bouger (v) Move (v) Tay Thé Tea
Farina Farine Flour Duntist Dentist Dentist
Tilifun Téléphone Phone šufur Chauffeur Driver
Valiza Valise Suitcase Paṣpur Passport Passport
Ṭrunspur Transport Transportation Ṭunubil Automobile Car
Kazirna Caserne Barracks Kuzina Cuisine Kitchen
Fermliyya/Fermli Infirmière/Infirmier Nurse/Male nurse Blaṣa/Plaṣa place Place/seat
Pyasa Pièce Coin Šarja (v) Charger (v) Load (v)
Karti Quartier District Jerda Jardin Garden
Girra Guerre War Riska (v) Risquer (v) Risk (v)
(G)Kravaṭa Cravate Tie Zigu Égout Sewer
Mikru Micro-ordinateur Computer Kader Cadre Frame
Riẓu Réseau Network Ridu Rideau Curtain
Ṭabla Table Table Biyyi Billet Ticket
Vista Veste Jacket Lappulis/El-bulisiyya Police Police


See also


  1. ^ Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Algerian Arabic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Elimam, Abdou (2009). Du Punique au Maghribi :Trajectoires d’une langue sémito-méditerranéenne (PDF). Synergies Tunisie.
  5. ^ Martin Haspelmath; Uri Tadmor (22 December 2009). Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. p. 195. ISBN 978-3-11-021844-2.
  6. ^ "Arabic, Algerian Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  7. ^ a b K. Versteegh, Dialects of Arabic: Maghreb Dialects,
  8. ^ The Eastern Hilal also includes central Tunisian Bedouin dialects.
  9. ^ The Central Hilal also includes Algerian Saharan Arabic.
  10. ^ The Mâqil family of dialects also includes Moroccan Bedouin Arabic dialects and Hassaniya. Those of the Oranais are similar to those of eastern Morocco (Oujda area)
  11. ^ D. Caubet, Questionnaire de dialectologie du Maghreb Archived 2013-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, in: EDNA vol.5 (2000-2001), pp.73-92
This page was last edited on 9 November 2019, at 23:45
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