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Arabic Language and Khaleeji Dialect   

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Arabic Language is spoken natively by over 190 million people; it functions as a “liturgical language for the hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world” (Bishop).  Modern Arabic is a form of the Arabo-Canaaite. A subdivision of the central group of the western Semitic language.  It’s a Proto-Semitic language, or more commonly classified by the Afro-Asiatic family. Arabic is a unique language given the fact that it has kept a sizeable part of its original Proto-Semitic features.

Afro-Asiatic phonology of the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is characterized by the following two main features: 1.

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  A six vowel system consisting of three long vowels, and three short vowels; for example, /a/, with /j/ and /w/;  2.  Pharyngeal fricative consonants

(articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx); for example, /q/, /k/, and/h/.

 Afro-Asiatic morphology has six points;

 1. Words composed of consonant roots; for example, the root ktb – means to do writing, maktaba        means library or replace-to “keep writing.”

 2.  Major roots have three consonants.

 3.  In fixation frequently uses suffixes and prefixes less frequently.

 4.  Declension system is marked by three cases, nominative, accusative, and genitive.

 5.  Three numbers, the singular, dual, and plural are used with nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

 6.  Two grammatical genders, males and females, distinguished in certain nouns and adjectives             (Bishop).

Disglossia is the use of two languages or dialects by one group of people. The two dialects in Arabia are so contrary  (MSA and Khaleeji) they become two distinctive languages. The theory of how Arabic diglossia originated is from Koine,  meaning “common,“ in Greek or lingua franca – “a systematic means of communicating by the use of sound or conventional  symbols” (Bishop), one that comes from a mixture of languages and dialects.

American linguist, Charles Ferguson (1921-1998), widely known for his work in Arabic Linguistics, and one of the founders of sociolinguistics (the focus of the effect of the society on language) noted that there were approximately thirty-five different dialects.  Ferguson composed a list of fourteen features where Modern Standard Arabic, and Kaleeji  differ; they are:

            1.    Loss of dual

            2.    Taltalah

            3.    Loss of final-w-w verbs

            4.    Pre-formation of geminate verbs

            5.    The verb siffix -l-”to, far”

            6.    Cardinal numbers 3-10

            7.     /t/ in the numbers 13-19

            8.    Loss of feminine comparative

            9.    Adjectives plural fu_l

            10.   Nisbah suffix – ivy

            11.   The verb “to bring”

            12.   The verb “to see”

            13.   Relative *iilli

            14.   The merger of d=d, and o_i (Bishop, 1998).

Ferguson agreed that the majority of modern dialects of Arabic descended from Koine and was not based on any particular region.  He supported his theory based on the above list, which demonstrates a distinction between colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic.  Koine  began disglossia and became the basis of MSA.

Arabic speakers are sensitive to “borrowing words” for their language, because most Arabs believe their language is the language of God. A common example is borrowing the English word, ‘car,’ sayy-ra; the word originally meant ‘caravan of camels’ redefined to mean ‘car’.  This paper will concentrate on the of Khaleeji, dialect; with numerous examples of MSA, Khaleeji and their English meanings.

Some of the other dialects spoken in modern day Kuwait are Najdi, Hindu, Egyptian, Kurdish, and English as the second language; which is also taught in schools.  Kuwait has a prominent tourist business,  and a constant stream of new settlers, making diverse linguistics  expected.  All of which is enhanced by multi media.

Arabic is the language of more than four million people, and is the fifth most widely spoken in the world.  It is said to be the “purest form of the language that which was handed down from Heaven” (worldmap.org.).  MSA is the official language of government, television, formal speeches, and primary language taught in schools.  Khaleeji is essentially the “spoken” language. To the ‘commoners’ MSA is extremely hard to comprehend, which is vital because it is all they hear outside of school.  The dialects spoken in Kuwait include;  Hadari, Urdu, Farsi (mostly spoken by non-nationals), and the primary dialect is Gulf Arabic or Khaliji.

Gulf Arabic is spoken widely “in both the shores of the Persian Gulf,” (asia rooms.com), with over 800,000 people speaking  Khaleeji.  It is the everyday language of the ‘everyday man’ learned informally and continuously spoken.  It is often labeled as the language of the less educated because only Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools.  So, until children go to school they are taught, by their parents Khaleeji and continue to speak it whenever they’re not in school.

When students make the transition from their spoken language to MSA four areas of concern are imposed:

  1. Lexical differences even in everyday words.
  2. Inflections with gender, number, and tense.
  3. Changes in phonological structure with “sounds in writing.”
  4. “A lack of unified Fus’ha Arabic scientific vocabulary of various levels of the curriculum (Cote, R ).

These areas are addressed in the classroom, but with Gulf Arabic the prominent, “spoken” language, it is a moot point, unless the student becomes a professional in either the private sector or government.

Linguistically there is a great difference between Modern Standard Arabic and Khaleeji; especially with syntactic and morphologic levels.  The main problem is in schools. With the increase in new settlers, and access to multi-media, is it practical for MSA to be the only language taught?  Gulf Arabic is the language of the people, so doesn’t it make sense to teach what is actually being spoken outside the doors of the school?  What is actually happening is that a barrier in communication is being put up between the ‘commoner,’ and the ‘prosperous’ citizens. The differences in semantics, phonics, and linguistic taxonomy promote this issue.

MSA is characterized by a complicated system of conjugations that change the case of words which are composed of three consonants; ex. S-L-M. formal Arabic shows this

practice to a larger extent than any other language.  None of these case markings are imposed in the dialects.  Basic to all Semitic languages is using prefixes, infixes, and suffices.

Two kinds of syllables, phrases are an exception, they begin with the definite article, ends in a vowel, and the following word is the definite article. At this junction the first vowel is elided and the consonant closes the final syllable of the word; ex. baytu-l mudir- house (of) the director becomes baytul mudir.   A final long vowel in the last syllable is not frazzled; all of which is not

evident in dialects where the vowel is shortened; ex. K: Taa-bun, book;  kaa-ti-bun, writer; ka-at-bu, they wrote, and ka-tabt,  I wrote.

Examples of essential travel phrases (notice the syntax):

            Where is my room?                     Ayna gurfati                       (ay-na gu-r-fa-ti)

            Where is the beach?                    Ayna s-sati                         (ay-na s-sa-ti)

            Where is the bar?                         Ayna l-bar                          (ay-na l-bar)

             Don’t touch me there?

                                 * (male)              La talmasni huna                  (la tal ma-sni hu-na)

                                 * (female)           La talmasini huna                 (la tal ma-si-ni-hu-na)

There are several words and phrases that are have different allophones for male and female, here are a few examples:

English                                        Arabic                                                         Khaleeji

your                                             add ka                                                          add ki

cold                                              barid                                                            baridah

please                                           min fadlak                                                  min fadik

small                                            sagheer                                                        sagheeerah

student                                        talib                                                              taliba

tourist                                         sa’ih                                                              sa’iha

you                                               inta                                                               inti

big                                                kebir                                                             kebira

It is important to repeat, that Khaleeji is not a written, but a spoken, colloquial dialect.  Its root is standard Arabic, but simplified for easy daily use. Some non-Arabic words were tousled into the dialect because of “geographical locations, external cultural and linguistic influences,” (dalilusa.com.).  One distinguishing mark of the Khaleeji dialects, is how it uses the original velar and uvular stops /q/, d3/.  Proto-Semitic /g/ and /k/:

            * /q/ keeps its original pronunciation, except it is a voiced velar stop {g} in Gulf Arabic.

            */d3/ retains its pronunciation in MSA, but is {j} in Gulf dialect.

Standard Arabic is the foundation of Arabic dialects, but are so different that when spoken they are equally inarticulate. Other languages already spoken, in the region, also affect the dialects. The languages provide many new words, and have sometimes, influenced pronunciation or word order. The quantity exemplified in this paper consists from different areas of the Arabian Peninsula.  Two geographical areas, dialectological forms are observed;  Kuwait and the Emirates.

Grammatical subjects in this dialect are permanently marked by subject-verb order in consideration of the person, number, and gender (where appropriate).  Definite nouns are exact variants from indefinite nouns and proper nouns.  Pronouns and pronominal are mostly subject-verb, used extensively in Khaleeji, general nouns tend to be subject-verb and indefinite nouns; verb-subject.  This is a brief overview of Khaleeji’s written rules, even though it is primarily a spoken language, some rules apply.

This list of Modern Standard Arabic and Khaleeji words and phrases will view the significant differences in both languages:

English                                    Arabic                                              Khaleeji

Good Morning                    Sa-Ba Hele-Khair                               Sabaaa il-xayr

Good Night                        Layla Sa-Y-Da                                   Masa il-xayr

Hello                                   As-salamou-al-eikoum                       Mar-aba

Welcome                             Af-wan                                               Ahlan wa sahlan

please                                  min fad lak (m)                                  min fad lak (m)

                                            iki (f)                                                 min fad leek (f)

thank you                            shukran                                              shookran

goodbye                              ma-a sala ma                                      ma-a salaama

milk                                    halib                                                   haleeb

fish                                     samak                                                 summak

coffee                                 oah-wa                                                kannwa

water                                  maa                                                     mwai

tea                                      shay                                                     chai

today                                  al-yaum                                               al yaum

tomorrow                           shadan                                                 book rah

no                                       la-a                                                      laah

How are you?                    Shlonik? (m)   Shlonick? (f)              Schloonak?

What is your name?        Shu hatha?                                          Aysh Ismak? (m)

                                                                                                             Aysh Is meek (f)

I wore                                libagt

We wore                            libasna

You were                           libast (m)

You were                           libastai f)

Looking at this list, you will notice there is no cut and dry pattern between MSA and Khaleeji.  Some of the words and/or phrases are gender specific, but not the same words in

both languages.  Some of the dialect phrases are much shorter, which would make it easier and quicker to say and to understand.  Tourists and new citizens of Kuwait understand the dialect much faster than the MSA because of this fact, and that the official language has to be learned.

The influence of Arabic on other languages includes many English words, such as:

                                    English                                     Arabic Root

                                    algebra                                      alkali (al-kal-i)

                                    almanac                                     almanaakh (al-man-a-akh)

                                    jar                                              jarrah (jar-rah)

                                    magazine                                   makhaazin (mak-haa-zin)

                                   angry                                         ghazeb

                                   blue                                           azraq

                                   broken                                        maksour

                                   clean                                          nadeef

                                    dead                                          mayyet

And, like all languages there are slang words:

                                        English                                   Arabic Slang

                                        police                                          obreeza

                                        beautiful                                     geher

                                        lady                                             anasi

                                       hello                                            keefic

                                       old                                                kasha

                                       How are you?                             Shonak? (m)

                                                                                             Shonik? (f)

There are two primary genetic language family classifications in Kuwait: Afro-Asiatic, which was reviewed at the beginning of the paper, and the Semitic language. The first constitutes a group of genetically-related languages descended from a common proto-language. Afro-Asiatic is considered one of the larger classifications in the Semitic family who are assumed to have arrived in the Middle East from Africa in the late Neolithic.  Several linguistics believes Proto-Afro-Asiatic originated in the Middle East, and Semitic “was the only branch to stay put,” (en.all experts.com.).

Re-voweling or changing the form of the word by replacing the vowel, is common in Semitic languages. Dictionaries list the words by consonants; ex. “ktb- writes.”  This root gives you kataba; “he wrote,” yak tuba; “he writes,” kitab; “book,” and maktaba; “library.” The glottal stop; is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages.  The glottal stop symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) for Arabic is an apostrophe. It is usually left off or represented by a single quote in transliterations for ex.; eid.  The sound made in English is between the two “oh’s in “oh-oh.”  Next the consonants {k} and {g} sounds come from the furthest part of the throat in English (called ’velars’), which Arabic produces in the same fashion; ex. {k},  but with a hissing sound.

Basic Semitic grammar word order is Verb Subject Object in Modern Standard Arabic called ra a munammadun fandan;  MSA uses these cases mainly in a literary context, and verb tenses, which are accredited to Afro-Asiatic.  MSA follows strict Semitic linguistic rules; which probably influenced the duality aspect of the language.  Khaleeji dialect is simpler, even with some basic grammar rules to follow.

MSA has trilateral roots, or three consonantal roots, which after adding a vowel(s) the word is formed. For example: the root k-t-b forms these words: kataba (he wrote), katabat (she wrote), and kutiba (it was written (m), kutibat, (itg was written (f), kitab (book), maktab (desk), and maktabat (library).

In conclusion, the State of Kuwait’s has a rich economy, primarily from its oil industry, and a 3.53% population growth per year.  It also has a progressive tourist business with over seventy thousand visitors each year.  Modern Standard Arabic is its “official” language; it’s ridged, complicated,

and mainly geared towards well educated people, such as politicians, administrators, government officials, etc. The Khaleeji dialect is the people’s language. The “spoken” language that is simple, widely used, and easier for visitors and Kuwaitis to communicate.

Works Cited

  1. asiarooms.com. “Kuwait Overview.” Asia Room. 2009.  http://www.asiarooms.com.
  2. Bishop, B. “A History of the Arabic Language.” Brigham Young University.  24 April 2008.
  3. http://linguisticsbu
  4. Cote, R. “Choosing One Dialect for the Arabic Speaking World.” Arizona University. 2009.
  5. http://w3/coh.arizona.edu.
  6. dalilusa.com. “Middle East International Services.” 2009. http://www.dalilusa.com.
  7. en.allexperts.com. “Semitic Languages: Encyclopedia.”.  All Experts.  http://en.allexperts.com.
  8. worldmap.org .  “Mission Atlas Project.”  World Map.   http://worldmap.org.

Cite this Arabic Language and Khaleeji Dialect   

Arabic Language and Khaleeji Dialect   . (2016, Jul 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/arabic-language/

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