Hejazi Arabic

Hejazi Arabic or Hijazi Arabic (Arabic: حجازي, romanized: ḥijāzī), also known as West Arabian Arabic, is a variety of Arabic spoken in the Hejaz region in Saudi Arabia. Strictly speaking, there are two main groups of dialects spoken in the Hejaz region,[3] one by the urban population, originally spoken in the major cities of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina, and another by the Bedouin or rural populations. However, the term most often applies to the urban variety which is discussed in this article.

Hejazi Arabic
Hijazi Arabic
West Arabian Arabic
حجازي Ḥijāzi
Pronunciation/ħiˈdʒaːziː/, [ħɪˈdʒaːzi]
Native toHejaz region, Saudi Arabia
Native speakers
14.5 million (2011)[1]
Early form
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3acw
  regions where Hejazi is the language of the majority
  regions considered as part of modern Hejaz region

In antiquity, the Hejaz was home to the Old Hejazi dialect of Arabic recorded in the consonantal text of the Qur'an. Old Hejazi is distinct from modern Hejazi Arabic, and represents an older linguistic layer wiped out by centuries of migration, but which happens to share the imperative prefix vowel /a-/ with the modern dialect.


Hejazi Arabic belongs to the western Peninsular Arabic branch of the Arabic language, which itself is a Semitic language. It includes features of both urban and bedouin dialects giving its history between the ancient urban cities of Medina and Mecca and the bedouin tribes that lived on the outskirts of these cities.


Also referred to as the sedentary Hejazi dialect, this is the form most commonly associated with the term "Hejazi Arabic", and is spoken in the urban centers of the region, such as Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina. With respect to the axis of bedouin versus sedentary dialects of the Arabic language, this dialect group exhibits features of both. Like other sedentary dialects, the urban Hejazi dialect is less conservative than the bedouin varieties in some aspects and has therefore shed some Classical forms and features that are still present in bedouin dialects, these include gender-number disagreement, and the feminine marker -n (see Varieties of Arabic). But in contrast to bedouin dialects, the constant use of full vowels and the absence of vowel reduction plus the distinction between the emphatic letters ض and ظ is generally retained.

Innovative features

  1. The present progressive tense is marked by the prefix بـ /bi/ or قاعد /gaːʕid/ as in بيدرس /bijidrus/ or قاعد يدرس /gaːʕid jidrus/ ("he is studying").
  2. The future tense is marked by the prefix حـ /ħa/ as in حيدرس /ħajidrus/ ("he is going to study").
  3. the internal passive form, which in Hejazi, is replaced by the pattern (أنفعل /anfaʕal/, ينفعل /jinfaʕil/).
  4. The final -n in present tense plural verb forms is no longer employed (e.g. يركبوا /jirkabu/ instead of يركبون /jarkəbuːn/).
  5. The dominant case ending before the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is -u, rather than the -a that is prevalent in bedouin dialects. For example, بيته /beːtu/ ("his house"), عنده /ʕindu/ ("he has"), أعرفه /aʕrifu/ ("I know him").

Conservative features

  1. Hejazi Arabic does not employ double negation, nor does it append the negation particles -sh to negate verbs: Hejazi ما اعرف /maː aʕrif/ ("I don't know"), as opposed to Egyptian معرفش /maʕrafʃ/ and Palestinian بعرفش /baʕrafiʃ/.
  2. The present indicative tense is not marked by any prefixes as in يِدْرُس /jidrus/ ("he studies"), as opposed to Egyptian بيدرس.
  3. The prohibitive mood of Classical Arabic is preserved in the imperative: لا تروح /laː tiruːħ/ ("don't go").
  4. The possessive suffixes are generally preserved in their Classical forms. For example, بيتكم /beːtakum/ "your (pl) house".
  5. The plural first person pronoun is نحنا /niħna/ or إحنا /iħna/, as opposed to the bedouin حنّا /ħənna/ or إنّا /ənna/.
  6. When used to indicate location, the preposition في /fi/ is preferred to بـ /b/. In bedouin dialects, the preference differs by region.
  7. Less restriction on the distribution of /i/ and /u/.
  8. The glottal stop can be added to final syllables ending in a vowel as a way of emphasising.
  9. Compared to neighboring dialects, urban Hejazi retains most of the short vowels of Classical Arabic with no vowel reduction, for example:
سمكة /samaka/ ("fish"), as opposed to bedouin [sməka].
نُطْق /nutˤg/ ("pronunciation"), as opposed to bedouin [nətˤg].
ضربَته /dˤarabatu/ ("she hit him"), as opposed to bedouin [ðˤrabətah].
وَلَدُه /waladu/ ("his son"), as opposed to bedouin [wlədah].
عندَكُم /ʕindakum/ ("in your possession" pl.), as opposed to bedouin [ʕəndəkum], Egyptian /ʕanduku/, and Levantine /ʕandkon/.


The Arabic of today is derived principally from the old dialects of Central and North Arabia which were divided by the classical Arab grammarians into three groups: Hejaz, Najd, and the language of the tribes in adjoining areas. Though the modern Hejazi dialects has developed markedly since the development of Classical Arabic, and Modern Standard Arabic is quite distinct from the modern dialect of Hejaz. Standard Arabic now differs considerably from modern Hejazi Arabic in terms of its phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon,[4] such diglossia in Arabic began to emerge at the latest in the sixth century CE when oral poets recited their poetry in a proto-Classical Arabic based on archaic dialects which differed greatly from their own.[5]

Historically, it is not well known in which stage of Arabic the shift from the Proto-Semitic pair /q, g/ to Hejazi /g, d͡ʒ/ ج, ق occurred, although it has been attested as early as the eighth century CE, and it can be explained by a chain shift /q/* → /g//d͡ʒ/[6] that occurred in one of two ways:

  1. Drag Chain: Proto-Semitic gīm /g/ palatalized to Hejazi /d͡ʒ/ jīm first, opening up a space at the position of [g], which qāf /q/ (or /kˤ/) then moved to fill the empty space resulting in Hejazi /g/ gāf, restoring structural symmetrical relationships present in the pre-Arabic system.[7][8]
  2. Push Chain: Proto-Semitic qāf presumably /q/ (or /kʼ/) changed to Hejazi /g/ gāf first, which resulted in pushing the original gīm /g/ forward in articulation to become Hejazi /d͡ʒ/ jīm, but since most modern qāf dialects as well as standard Arabic also have jīm, hence the push-chain of qāf to gāf first can be discredited,[9] although there are good grounds for believing that old Arabic qāf had both voiced [g] and voiceless [q] allophones; and after that gīm /g/ was fronted to /d͡ʒ/ jīm, possibly as a result of pressure from the allophones.[10]

* The original value of Proto-Semitic qāf was probably an emphatic [] not [q].


In general, Hejazi native phonemic inventory consists of 26 (with no interdental /θ, ð/) to 28 consonant phonemes depending on the speaker's background and formality, in addition to the marginal phoneme /ɫ/ and two foreign phonemes /p/پ⟩ and /v/ڤ⟩ used by a number of speakers. Furthermore it has an eight-vowel system, consisting of three short and five long vowels /a, u, i, aː, uː, oː, iː, eː/, in addition to two diphthongs /aw, aj/.[11][12] Consonant length and Vowel length are both distinctive in Hejazi.

The main phonological feature that differentiates urban Hejazi from the neighboring urban and rural dialects of the Arabian peninsula, is the constant use of full vowels and the absence of vowel reduction, for example قلنا لهم 'we told them', is pronounced [gʊlnaːlahʊm] in Hejazi with full vowels but pronounced with the reduced vowel [ə] as [gəlnaːləhəm] in Najdi. In general it also retains the distinction between the letters ض and ظ, but alternates between the pronunciations of the letters ث ,ذ, and ظ which is another divergent feature. (See Hejazi Arabic Phonology)

A conservative phonological feature that Hejazi holds is the lack of palatalization for the letters ك /k/, ق /g/ and ج /d͡ʒ/, unlike in other peninsular dialects where they can be palatalized and merged with other phonemes in certain positions[13] e.g. Hejazi جديد 'new' [d͡ʒadiːd] vs Gulf Arabic [jɪdiːd], it is also worth mentioning that this trait of non-palatalization is becoming common across Saudi Arabia especially in urban centers, another feature is that the ل /l/ is only velarized /ɫ/ in the word الله /aɫːaːh/ 'god' (except when it follows an /i/: بسمِ الله /bismilːaːh/ or لله /lilːaːh/) and in words derived from it, unlike other peninsular dialects where it might be velarized allophonically, as in عقل pronounced [ʕaɡe̞l] in Hejazi but [ʕaɡəɫ] in other peninsular Arabic dialects.


Consonant phonemes of Hejazi (urban)
Labial Dental Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic
Nasal m n
Occlusive voiceless (p) t k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ* s ʃ x ħ h
voiced (v) ð* z ɣ ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l (ɫ) j w

Phonetic notes:

  • due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic, [q] has been introduced as an allophone of /ɡ/ ق in few words and phrases as in القاهرة ('Cairo') which is phonemically /alˈgaːhira/ but can be pronounced as [alˈqaːhɪra] or less likely [alˈgaːhɪra] depending on the speaker, although older speakers prefer [g] in all positions.
  • the marginal phoneme /ɫ/ only occurs in the word الله /aɫːaːh/ ('god') and words derived from it, it contrasts with /l/ in والله /waɫːa/ ('i swear') vs. ولَّا /walːa/ ('or').
  • the affricate /d͡ʒ/ ج and the trill /r/ ر are realised as a [ʒ] and a tap [ɾ] respectively by a number of speakers or in a number of words.
  • the reintroduced phoneme /θ/ ث is partially used as an alternative phoneme, while most speakers merge it with /t/ or /s/ depending on the word.
  • the reintroduced phoneme /ð/ ذ is partially used as an alternative phoneme, while most speakers merge it with /d/ or /z/ depending on the word.
  • the classicized [ðˤ] is an optional allophone for ⟨ظ⟩, but it is always used when pronouncing the letter's name which is [ˈðˤaːʔ]. In general, urban Hejazi speakers pronounce it as /zˤ/ or merge it with /dˤ/ depending on the word.
  • /p/پ⟩ and /v/ڤ⟩ which exist only in foreign words, are used by a number of speakers and can be substituted by /b/ب⟩ and /f/ف⟩ respectively depending on the speaker.
  • [tʃ] occurs only in foreign words and it is not considered to be part of the phonemic inventory but as a sequence of /t/ت⟩ and /ʃ/ش⟩, as in تشيلي /ˈtʃiːli/ or /tʃiːleː/ ('Chile').


Vowel phonemes of Hejazi
Short Long
Front Back Front Back
Close i u
Open a

Phonetic notes:

  • /a/ and /aː/ are pronounced either as an open front vowel [a] or an open central vowel [ä] depending on the speaker, even when adjacent to emphatic consonants, except in some words such as ألمانيا [almɑːnja] ('Germany'), يابان [jaːbɑːn] ('Japan') and بابا [bɑːbɑ] ('dad') where they are pronounced with the back vowel [ɑ].
  • /oː/ and /eː/ are pronounced as true mid vowels [o̞ː] and [e̞ː] respectively.
  • short /u/ is pronounced allophonically as [ʊ] or [] in word initial or medial syllables and strictly as [u] at the end of words or before [w] or when isolate.
  • short /i/ is pronounced allophonically as [ɪ] or [] in word initial or medial syllables and strictly as [i] at the end of words or before [j] or when isolate.
  • the close vowels can be distinguished by tenseness with /uː/ and /iː/ being more tense in articulation than their short counterparts [ʊ ~ o̞] and [ɪ ~ e̞], except at the end of words.


Most of the occurrences of the two diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ in the Classical Arabic period underwent monophthongization in Hejazi, and are realized as the long vowels /eː/ and /oː/ respectively, but they are still preserved as diphthongs in a number of words which created a contrast with the long vowels /uː/, /oː/, /iː/ and /eː/.

Example (without diacritics) Meaning Hejazi Arabic Modern Standard Arabic
دوري league /dawri/ /dawri/
my turn /dri/
turn around! /dri/ /dri/

Not all instances of mid vowels are a result of monophthongization, some are from grammatical processes قالوا /gaːlu/ 'they said' → قالوا لها /gaːllaha/ 'they said to her' (opposed to Classical Arabic قالوا لها /qaːl lahaː/), and some occur in modern Portmanteau words e.g. ليش /leːʃ/ 'why?' (from Classical Arabic لأي /liʔaj/ 'for what' and شيء /ʃajʔ/ 'thing').


Hejazi vocabulary derives primarily from Arabic Semitic roots. The urban Hejazi vocabulary differs in some respect from that of other dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. For example, there are fewer specialized terms related to desert life, and more terms related to seafaring and fishing. Loanwords are mainly of Persian, Turkish, Latin (French and Italian) and English origins, and due to the diverse origins of the inhabitants of Hejazi cities, some loanwords are only used by some families. A number of old loanwords are fading or became obsolete due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic and their association with lower social class and education,[14] e.g. كنديشن /kunˈdeːʃan/ "air conditioner" (from English Condition) was replaced by Standard Arabic مكيّف /mukajːif/. Most of the loanwords are nouns (with a change of meaning sometimes) as in: جزمة /d͡ʒazma/ "shoe" from Turkish çizme /t͡ʃizme/ originally meaning "boot" or كُبري /kubri/ "overpass" from köprü /køpry/ originally meaning "bridge".

Some general Hejazi expressions include بالتوفيق /bitːawfiːg/ "good luck", إيوه /ʔiːwa/ "yes", لأ /laʔ/ "no", لسة /lisːa/ "not yet", قد /ɡid/ or قيد /ɡiːd/ "already", دحين /daħiːn/ or /daħeːn/ "now", أبغى /ʔabɣa/ "I want", لو سمحت /law samaħt/ "please/excuse me" to a male and لو سمحتي /law samaħti/ "please/excuse me" to a female.


A common feature in Hejazi vocabulary is portmanteau words (also called a blend in linguistics); in which parts of multiple words or their phones (sounds) are combined into a new word, it is especially innovative in making Interrogative words, examples include:

  • إيوه (/ʔiːwa/, "yes") : from إي (/ʔiː/, "yes") and و (/wa/, "and") and الله (/aɫːaːh/, "god").
  • معليش (/maʕleːʃ/, is it ok?/sorry) : from ما (/maː/, nothing) and عليه (/ʕalajh/, on him) and شيء (/ʃajʔ/, thing).
  • إيش (/ʔeːʃ/, "what?") : from أي (/aj/, "which") and شيء (/ʃajʔ/, "thing").
  • ليش (/leːʃ/, "why?") : from لأي (/liʔaj/, for what) and شيء (/ʃajʔ/, "thing").
  • فين (/feːn/, where?) : from في (/fiː/, in) and أين (/ʔajn/, where).
  • إلين (/ʔileːn/, "until") : from إلى (/ʔilaː/, "to") and أن (/an/, "that").
  • دحين (/daħiːn/ or /daħeːn/, "now") or ذحين (/ðaħiːn/ or /ðaħeːn/, "now") : from ذا (/ðaː/, "this") and الحين (/alħiːn/, part of time).
  • بعدين (/baʕdeːn/, later) : from بعد (baʕd, after) and أَيْن (ʔayn, part of time).
  • علشان or عشان (/ʕalaʃaːn/ or /ʕaʃaːn/, "because") : from على (/ʕalaː/, "on") and شأن (/ʃaʔn/, "matter").
  • كمان (/kamaːn/, "also") : from كما (/kamaː/, "like") and أن (/ʔan/, "that").
  • يلّا (/jaɫːa/, come on) : from يا (/jaː/, "o!") and الله (/aɫːaːh/, "god").


The Cardinal number system in Hejazi is much more simplified than the Classical Arabic[15]

numbers 1-10IPA11-20IPA10sIPA100sIPA
1 واحد/waːħid/11 احدعش/iħdaʕaʃ/10 عشرة/ʕaʃara/100 مية/mijːa/
2 اثنين/itneːn/ or /iθneːn/12 اثنعش/itˤnaʕaʃ/ or /iθnaʕaʃ/20 عشرين/ʕiʃriːn/200 ميتين/mijteːn/ or /mijːateːn/
3 ثلاثة/talaːta/ or /θalaːθa/13 ثلثطعش/talattˤaʕaʃ/ or /θalaθtˤaʕaʃ/30 ثلاثين/talaːtiːn/ or /θalaːθiːn/300 ثلثميَّة/tultumijːa/ or /θulθumijːa/
4 أربعة/arbaʕa/14 أربعطعش/arbaʕtˤaʕaʃ/40 أربعين/arbiʕiːn/400 أربعميَّة/urbuʕmijːa/
5 خمسة/xamsa/15 خمسطعش/xamistˤaʕaʃ/50 خمسين/xamsiːn/500 خمسميَّة/xumsumijːa/
6 ستة/sitːa/16 ستطعش/sittˤaʕaʃ/60 ستين/sitːiːn/600 ستميَّة/sutːumijːa/
7 سبعة/sabʕa/17 سبعطعش/sabaʕtˤaʕaʃ/70 سبعين/sabʕiːn/700 سبعميَّة/subʕumijːa/
8 ثمنية/tamanja/ or /θamanja/18 ثمنطعش/tamantˤaʕaʃ/ or /θamantˤaʕaʃ/80 ثمانين/tamaːniːn/ or /θamaːniːn/800 ثمنميَّة/tumnumijːa/ or /θumnumijːa/
9 تسعة/tisʕa/19 تسعطعش/tisaʕtˤaʕaʃ/90 تسعين/tisʕiːn/900 تسعميَّة/tusʕumijːa/
10 عشرة/ʕaʃara/20 عشرين/ʕiʃriːn/100 ميَّة/mijːa/1000 ألف/alf/

A system similar to the German numbers system is used for other numbers between 20 and above : 21 is واحد و عشرين /waːħid u ʕiʃriːn/ which literally mean ('one and twenty') and 485 is أربعمية و خمسة و ثمانين /urbuʕmijːa u xamsa u tamaːniːn/ which literally mean ('four hundred and five and eighty').

Unlike Classical Arabic, the only number that is gender specific in Hejazi is "one" which has two forms واحد m. and وحدة f. as in كتاب واحد /kitaːb waːħid/ ('one book') or سيارة وحدة /sajːaːra waħda/ ('one car'), with كتاب being a masculine noun and سيّارة a feminine noun.

  • for 2 as in 'two cars' 'two years' 'two houses' etc. the dual form is used instead of the number with the suffix ēn /eːn/ or tēn /teːn/ (if the noun ends with a feminine /a/) as in كتابين /kitaːbeːn/ ('two books') or سيّارتين /sajːarateːn/ ('two cars'), for emphasis they can be said as كتابين اثنين or سيّارتين اثنين.
  • for numbers 3 to 10 the noun following the number is in plural form as in اربعة كتب /arbaʕa kutub/ ('4 books') or عشرة سيّارات /ʕaʃara sajːaːraːt/ ('10 cars').
  • for numbers 11 and above the noun following the number is in singular form as in :-
    • from 11 to 19 an ـر [ar] is added to the end of the numbers as in اربعطعشر كتاب /arbaʕtˤaʕʃar kitaːb/ ('14 books') or احدعشر سيّارة /iħdaʕʃar sajːaːra/ ('11 cars').
    • for 100s a [t] is added to the end of the numbers before the counted nouns as in ثلثميّة سيّارة /tultumijːat sajːaːra/ ('300 cars').
    • other numbers are simply added to the singular form of the noun واحد و عشرين كتاب /waːħid u ʕiʃriːn kitaːb/ ('21 books').


Subject pronouns

In Hejazi Arabic, personal pronouns have eight forms. In singular, the 2nd and 3rd persons differentiate gender, while the 1st person and plural do not.


Hejazi Arabic verbs, as with the verbs in other Semitic languages, and the entire vocabulary in those languages, are based on a set of three, four also five consonants (but mainly three consonants) called a root (triliteral or quadriliteral according to the number of consonants). The root communicates the basic meaning of the verb, e.g. k-t-b 'to write', ʼ-k-l 'to eat'. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as :

  • Two tenses (past, present; present progressive is indicated by the prefix (b-), future is indicated by the prefix (ħ-))
  • Two voices (active, passive)
  • Two genders (masculine, feminine)
  • Three persons (first, second, third)
  • Two numbers (singular, plural)
  • Two moods (indicative, imperative).

Hejazi Has a single indicative present verb mood instead of the three Classical Arabic present verb moods (indicative رفع, subjunctive نصب, jussive جزم), it also includes present progressive tense which was not part of the Classical Arabic grammar, and has a two grammatical number in verbs (Singular and Plural) instead of the Classical (Singular, Dual and Plural).

Regular verbs

The most common verbs in Hejazi have a given vowel pattern for past (a and i) to present (a or u or i). Combinations of each exist:

Vowel patterns Example
Past Present
a a raħam رحم he forgave – yirħam يرحم he forgives
a u ḍarab ضرب he hit – yiḍrub يضرب he hits
a i ġasal غسل he washed – yiġsil يغسل he washes
i a fihim فهم he understood – yifham يفهم he understands
i i ʕirif عرف he knew – yiʕrif يعرف he knows

According to Arab grammarians, verbs are divided into three categories; Past ماضي, Present مضارع and Imperative أمر. An example from the root k-t-b the verb katabt/ʼaktub 'i wrote/i write' (which is a regular sound verb):

Tense/Mood Past "wrote" Present (Indicative) "write" Imperative "write!"
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st كتبت (katab)-t كتبنا (katab)-na أكتب ʼa-(ktub) نكتب ni-(ktub)
2nd masculine كتبت (katab)-t كتبتوا (katab)-tu تكتب ti-(ktub) تكتبوا ti-(ktub)-u أكتب [a]-(ktub) أكتبوا [a]-(ktub)-u
feminine كتبتي (katab)-ti تكتبي ti-(ktub)-i أكتبي [a]-(ktub)-i
3rd masculine كتب (katab) كتبوا (katab)-u يكتب yi-(ktub) يكتبوا yi-(ktub)-u
feminine كتبت (katab)-at تكتب ti-(ktub)

While present progressive and future are indicated by adding the prefix (b-) and (ħ-) respectively to the present (indicative) :

Tense/Mood Present Progressive "writing" Future "will write"
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st بكتب or بأكتب ba-a-(ktub) بنكتب bi-ni-(ktub) حكتب or حأكتب ħa-a-(ktub) حنكتب ħa-ni-(ktub)
2nd masculine بتكتب bi-ti-(ktub) بتكتبوا bi-ti-(ktub)-u حتكتب ħa-ti-(ktub) حتكتبوا ħa-ti-(ktub)-u
feminine بتكتبي bi-ti-(ktub)-i حتكتبي ħa-ti-(ktub)-i
3rd masculine بيكتب bi-yi-(ktub) بيكتبوا bi-yi-(ktub)-u حيكتب ħa-yi-(ktub) حيكتبوا ħa-yi-(ktub)-u
feminine بتكتب bi-ti-(ktub) حتكتب ħa-ti-(ktub)
  • The Active Participles قاعد /gaːʕid/, قاعدة /gaːʕda/ and قاعدين /gaːʕdiːn/ can be used instead of the prefix بـ [b-] as in قاعد اكتب /gaːʕid aktub/ ('i'm writing') instead of بأكتب/ بكتب /baktub/ / /baʔaktub/ ('i'm writing') without any change in the meaning.
  • when an indirect object pronoun (لي ,لها ,لهم...etc) is added to a present verb or a masculine singular imperative verb that has a long vowel in the last syllable as in أعيد /ʔaʕiːd/ ('I repeat') or قول /guːl/ ('say!'); the vowel is shortened before the suffixes as in أعِد لك /ʔaʕidlak/ ('I repeat for you') and قُل لها /gulːaha/ ('tell her!') with the verbs resembling the Jussive mood conjugation in Classical Arabic
  • the 3rd person past plural suffix -/u/ turns into -/oː/ (long o) before pronouns. as in كتبوا /katabu/ ('they wrote') → كتبوا لي /katabli/ ('they wrote to me'), and عرفوا /ʕirfu/ ('they knew') → عرفوني /ʕirfni/ ('they knew me')
  • the verbs highlighted in silver sometimes come in irregular forms e.g. (ħabbē)-t "i loved", (ħabbē)-na "we loved" but (ħabb) "he loved" and (ħabb)-u "they loved".

Example: katabt/aktub "write": non-finite forms

Number/Gender اسم الفاعل Active Participle اسم المفعول Passive Participle مصدر Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. kātib كاتب maktūb مكتوب kitāba كتابة
Fem. Sg. kātb-a كاتبة maktūb-a مكتوبة
Pl. kātb-īn كاتبين maktūb-īn مكتوبين

Active participles act as adjectives, and so they must agree with their subject. An active participle can be used in several ways:

  1. to describe a state of being (understanding; knowing).
  2. to describe what someone is doing right now (going, leaving) as in some verbs like رحت ("i went") the active participle رايح ("i'm going") is used instead of present continuous form to give the same meaning of an ongoing action.
  3. to indicate that someone/something is in a state of having done something (having put something somewhere, having lived somewhere for a period of time).

Object pronouns

Enclitic forms of object pronouns are suffixes that are affixed to various parts of speech, with varying meanings:

  • To the construct state of nouns, where they have the meaning of possessive demonstratives, e.g. "my, your, his".
  • To verbs, where they have the meaning of direct object pronouns, e.g. "me, you, him".
  • To verbs, where they have the meaning of indirect object pronouns, e.g. "(to/for) me,(to/for) you, (to/for) him".
  • To prepositions.

Unlike Egyptian Arabic, in Hejazi no more than one pronoun can be suffixed to a word.


  • When a noun ends in a feminine /a/ vowel as in مدرسة /madrasa/ ('school') : a /t/ is added before the suffixes as in → مدرستي /madrasati/ ('my school'), مدرسته /madrasatu/ ('his school'), مدرستها /madrasatha/ ('her school') and so on.
  • After a word ends in a vowel (other than the /-a/ of the feminine nouns), the vowel is lengthened, and the pronouns in (Parentheses) are used instead of their original counterparts :-
    • the possessive pronouns as in كرسي /kursi/ ('chair') → كرسيه /kurs/ ('his chair'), كرسينا /kursna/ ('our chair'), كرسيكي /kursiːki/ ('your chair' f.)
    • the direct object pronouns لاحقنا /laːħagna/ ('we followed') → لاحقناه /laːħagn/ ('we followed him'), لاحقناكي /laːħagnki/ ('we followed you' feminine).
    • the indirect object pronouns رحنا /ruħna/ ('we went') → رحنا له /ruħnlu/ ('we went to him').
  • After a word that ends in two consonants, or which has a long vowel in the last syllable, /-a-/ is inserted before the 5 suffixes which begin with a consonant /-ni/, /-na/, /-ha/, /-hom/, /-kom/.
    • the possessive pronouns كتاب /kitaːb/ ('book') → كتابها /kitaːbaha/ ('her book'), كتابهم /kitaːbahum/ ('their book'), كتابكم /kitaːbakum/ ('your book' plural), كتابنا /kitaːbana/ ('our book').
    • the direct object pronouns عرفت /ʕirift/ ('you knew') → عرفتني /ʕiriftani/ ('you knew me'), عرفتنا /ʕiriftana/ ('you knew us'), عرفتها /ʕiriftaha/ ('you knew her'), عرفتهم /ʕiriftahum/ ('you knew them').
  • only with indirect object pronouns when a verb ends in two consonants as in katabt كتبت /katabt/ ('i wrote') : an /-al-/ is added before the Indirect object pronoun suffixes → katabtallu كتبت له /katabtalːu/ ('i wrote to him'), katabtallahum كتبت لهم /katabtalːahum/ ('i wrote to them').
  • only with indirect object pronouns when a verb has a long vowel in the last syllable as in أروح /aruːħ/ ('I go') : the vowel is shortened before the suffixes → أرُح لها /aruħlaha/ ('I go to her') with the verbs resembling the Jussive mood conjugation in written Classical Arabic.
  • ^1 the colon between the (Parentheses) indicate that only the vowel is lengthened, since the word-final ـه [h] is silent in this position.
  • ^2 if a noun ends with a vowel (other than the /-a/ of the feminine nouns) that is /u/ or /a/ then the suffix (-ya) is used as in أبو /abu/ ('father') becomes َابوي /abuːja/ ('my father') but if it ends with an /i/ then the suffix (-yya) is added as in َّكرسي /kursijːa/ ('my chair').
  • it is uncommon for Hejazi nouns to end in a vowel other than the /-a/ of the feminine nouns.

Writing system

Hejazi is written using the Arabic alphabet; like other varieties of Arabic, Hejazi does not have a standard form of writing and mostly follows Classical Arabic rules of writing.[17] In general people alternate between writing the words according to their etymology or the phoneme used while pronouncing them, which mainly has an effect on the three letters ث ذ and ظ, for example writing تخين instead of ثخين or ديل instead of ذيل although this alternation in writing is not considered acceptable by all Hejazi speakers.

Another alternation which is more likely to appear happens when writing words that end in a short vowel /a, u, i/, the writer would choose whether to add a vowel letter و ا or ي at the end of the word as in انتي /inti/ ('you' singular feminine) to differentiate it from انت /inta/ ('you' singular masculine), or use the Classical form انت which can be pronounced /inta/ or /inti/, this happens since most word-final short vowels from the Classical Arabic period have been omitted and most word-final unstressed long vowel letters have been shortened in Hejazi. In Arabic handwriting of everyday use, in general publications, and on street signs, short vowels are typically not written, and when needed to be written they are written in a form of diacritics; ـَ above the letter for /a/, ـُ above the letter for /u/, ـِ under the letter for /i/.

The table below shows the Arabic alphabet letters and their corresponding phonemes in Hejazi:

LetterPhonemes (IPA)ExamplePronunciation
ا /ʔ/ (see ء Hamza).سأل "he asked"/saʔal/
//باب "door"/baːb/
/a/ only when word-final and unstressed (when word-final and stressed it's an //) شُفنا "we saw", (ذا m. "this") /ˈʃufna/, (/ˈdaː/ or /ˈðaː/)
additional ∅ silent word-final only in plural verbs and after nunation قالوا "they said", شكرًا "thanks" /gaːlu/, /ʃukran/
ب /b/برق "lightning"/barg/
ت /t/توت "berry"/tuːt/
either /t/, merging with ت or always/in some words as /θ/ثخين "thick"/taxiːn/ or /θaxiːn/
or less likely /s/, merging with سمثال "example"/misaːl/ or /miθaːl/
ج /d͡ʒ/جوَّال "mobile phone"/d͡ʒawːaːl/
ح /ħ/حوش "courtyard"/ħoːʃ/
خ /x/خرقة "rag"/xirga/
د /d/دولاب "closet"/doːˈlaːb/
either /d/, merging with د or always/in some words as /ð/ذيل "tail"/deːl/ or /ðeːl/
or /z/, merging with زذوق "taste"/zoːg/ or /ðoːg/
ر /r/رمل "sand"/ramil/
ز /z/زحليقة "slide"/zuħleːga/
س /s/سمكة "fish"/samaka/
ش /ʃ/شيول "loader"/ʃeːwal/
ص //صُفِّيرة "whistle"/sˤuˈfːeːra/
ض //ضرس "molar"/dˤirs/
ط //طرقة "corridor"/tˤurga/
either //, merging with ض or always/in some words as [ðˤ]ظل "shade"/dˤilː/ or [ðˤɪlː]
or // (distinct phoneme)لحظة "moment"/laħzˤa/ or [laħðˤa]
ع /ʕ/عين "eye"/ʕeːn/
غ /ɣ/غراب "crow"/ɣuraːb/
ف /f/فم "mouth"/famː/
ق /g/قلب "heart" /galb/
ك /k/كلب "dog"/kalb/
ل /l/ (marginal phoneme /ɫ/ only in the word الله and words derived from it)لحم "meat", (الله "god")/laħam/, (/aɫːaːh/)
م /m/موية "water"/moːja/
ن /n/ناس "people"/naːs/
هـ /h/ (silent when word-final in 3rd person masculine singular pronouns and some words)هوا "air", (كتابُه "his book", شفناه "we saw him")/hawa/, (/kitaːbu/, /ʃufˈnaː/)
و /w/وردة "rose"/warda/
//فوق "wake up!"/fuːg/
//فوق "above, up"/foːg/
/u/ only when word-final and unstressed (when word-final and stressed it's either // or //) ربو "asthma", (مو "is not", جوا "they came") /ˈrabu/, (/ˈmuː/, /ˈd͡ʒoː/)
ي /j/يد "hand"/jadː/
//بيض "whites pl."/biːdˤ/
//بيض "eggs"/beːdˤ/
/i/ only when word-final and unstressed (when word-final and stressed it's either // or //) سعودي "saudi", (ذي f. "this") /suˈʕuːdi/, (/ˈdiː/ or /ˈðiː/)
Additional non-native letters
پ /p/ (can be written and/or pronounced as a ب depending on the speaker) پول ~ بول "Paul" /poːl/ ~ /boːl/
ڤ /v/ (can be written and/or pronounced as a ف depending on the speaker) ڤيروس ~ فيروس "virus" /vajruːs/ ~ /fajruːs/


  • The classical [q] is an allophone for /g/ ق only in few words and phrases e.g. قاموس "dictionary" /gaːmuːs/ pronounced [qaːmuːs].
  • /zˤ/ is spelled ض only in a number of words from the two trilateral roots ض ب ط and ض ر ط, as in ضبط ("it worked") pronounced /zˤabatˤ/ and not /dˤabatˤ/.
  • ة is only used at the end of words and mainly to mark feminine gender for nouns and adjectives with few exceptions (e.g. أسامة; a male noun). phonemically It is silent, except when in construct state it is a /t/, which leads to the word-final /-at/. e.g. رسالة /risaːla/ 'message' → رسالة أحمد /risaːlat ʔaħmad/ 'Ahmad's message'.
  • هـ /h/ is silent only word-final in some words and in 3rd person masculine singular pronoun, as in the heteronym ليه pronounced lē /leː/ 'why?' or lī /liː/ 'for him' although the /h/ can be added for emphasis, the silent هـ also helps in distinguishing minimal pairs with word-final vowel length contrast تبغي tibḡi /tibɣi/ 'you want f.' vs. تبغيه tibḡī /tibɣ/ 'you want him f.'.
  • Short vowels are written as diacritics :-
    1. ـَ above the letter for /a/.
    2. ـُ above the letter for /u/.
    3. ـِ under the letter for /i/.

Rural dialects

The varieties of Arabic spoken in the smaller towns and by the bedouin tribes in the Hejaz region are relatively under-studied. However, the speech of some tribes shows much closer affinity to other bedouin dialects, particularly those of neighboring Najd, than to those of the urban Hejazi cities. The dialects of northern Hejazi tribes merge into those of Jordan and Sinai, while the dialects in the south merge with those of 'Asir and Najd. Also, not all speakers of these bedouin dialects are figuratively nomadic bedouins; some are simply sedentary sections that live in rural areas, and thus speak dialects similar to those of their bedouin neighbors.


The dialect of Al-`Ula governorate in the northern part of the Madinah region. Although understudied, it is considered to be unique among the Hejazi dialects, it is known for its pronunciation of Classical Arabic ك /k/ as a ش /ʃ/ (e.g. تكذب /takðib/ becomes تشذب /taʃðib/), the dialect also shows a tendency to pronounce long /aː/ as [] (e.g. Classical ماء /maːʔ/ becomes ميء [meːʔ]), in some instances the Classical /q/ becomes a /d͡ʒ/ as in قايلة /qaːjla/ becomes جايلة /d͡ʒaːjla/, also the second person singular feminine pronoun /ik/ tends to be pronounced as /iʃ/ (e.g. رجلك /rid͡ʒlik/ ('your foot') becomes رجلش /rid͡ʒliʃ/.[18]


The dialect of Badr governorate in the western part of the Madinah region is mainly noted for its lengthening of word-final syllables and its alternative pronunciation of some phonemes as in سؤال /suʔaːl/ which is pronounced as سعال /suʕaːl/, it also shares some features with the general urban dialect in which modern standard Arabic ثلاجة /θalːaːd͡ʒa/ is pronounced تلاجة /talːaːd͡ʒa/, another unique feature of the dialect is its similarity to the Arabic dialects of Bahrain.

See also


  1. "Arabic, Hijazi Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Hijazi Arabic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Alzaidi (2014:73)
  4. Watson, Janet (2002). The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic. Oxford university press. pp. 8, 9.
  5. Lipinski (1997). Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. p. 75.
  6. Cantineau, Jean (1960). Cours de phonétique arabe (in French). Paris, France: Libraire C. Klincksieck. p. 67.
  7. Freeman, Aaron (2015). "The Linguistic Geography of Dorsal Consonants in Syria" (PDF). The Linguistic Geography of Dorsal Consonants in Syria. University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Öhrnberg, Kaj (2013). "Travelling Through Time". Studia Orientalia 114: 524.
  9. Heinrichs, Wolfhart. "Ibn Khaldūn as a Historical Linguist with an Excursus on the Question of Ancient gāf". Harvard University.
  10. Blanc 1969: 11, Travelling Through Time, Essays in honour of Kaj Öhrnberg
  11. Abdoh (2010:84)
  12. Omar (1975:xv)
  13. Owens, Owens. The Oxford Handbook of Arabic Linguistics. p. 259.
  14. Alahmadi (2015:45)
  15. Kheshaifaty (1997)
  16. Omar (1975)
  17. Holes, Clive (2004). Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions, and Varieties. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C. p. 92.
  18. Aljuhani, Sultan (2008). "Spoken Al-'Ula dialect between privacy and fears of extinction. (in Arabic)".


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