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Map of Arabic dialects 16, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Random.
Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a fascinating map of the various Arabic dialects found throughout the Middle East. Being far from an expert or even someone overly proficient at Arabic I’ll just make two quick comments.

1) It must not be forgotten that this map does not at all account for the differences in Arabic. Whilst, for example, Iraqi and Gulf Arabic might not be that dissimilar, Gulf and Moroccan Arabic are, I believe, hugely and almost incomprehensibly different.

2) This map also significantly underestimates the importance, spread and general dissemination of Egyptian Arabic. Whilst the map shows that this dialect is spoken only along the Nile and in its delta, Egyptian Arabic is, so to speak, the lingua franca/arabica of the Arabic speaking world and will be understood essentially everywhere. This is due to the profusion and ubiquity of Egyptian media (notably films and music) throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Though to some degree this is changing today, with Lebanese film and music coming to the fore, Egyptian Arabic is still entrenched and widely understood.

Hat tip: Simon Kerr

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1. petey - 18, April 2010

i dont agree that egyptian arabic is the lingua franca of the arab world. it may be understood by almost all arab speakers but definitely not spoken among them.

classical arabic still retains that status in that almost all will understand it and be able to converse – possibly crudely – with others.

davidbroberts - 18, April 2010

Perfectly fair point – Egyptian it is not spoken amongst arabs, yet understood by all. But would a Qatari and a Moroccan really talk in classical arabic were they to meet? I doubt that very much. MSA perhaps…

2. shanfara - 18, April 2010

they would probably talk in egyptian arabic, or a “classicised” version of the their regional/local dialect.

3. Perry - 18, April 2010

The fact is when 2 distant Arabs meet(their native dialect is incomprehensible to the other), both automatically switch to ‘Egyptian Mode’. When any Arab meets an Egyptian, regardless of where they are, that Arab will choose the Egyptian dialect instead of their native, even if their native is understood by the Egyptian, like Palestinian or Syrian.

So in reality, Egyptian dialect is the universal lingua for Arabs and I don’t believe this will change soon if ever, even with the rise of pop culture from other countries.

davidbroberts - 19, April 2010

Thanks all for commenting.

I imagine that two distant Arabs may just use a few Egyptian inflections, verbs and so on. ‘Ruh’ (if they don’t use that in any case) instead of ‘th-a-b’ and an ‘izayak’ for a ‘shlonek’ or something like that. Though I stand to be corrected.

4. Nasser - 6, July 2010

Interesting map, I commend the author for acknowledging its limitations. Here are a few:

-Arabic is spoken in Western Mali, Northern Niger, Nigeria and Tchad
-Arabic is spoken in Northeast Ethiopia
-One has to acknowledge that Egyptian Arabic is not as universally understood as one might think, there’s an age factor. Many Arabs above age 40 cannot easily understand it as they grew up before the age of TV.

5. Ahmed Hafez - 15, July 2010

actually, i was supprised to find my map here, i created this map for Wikipedia, and am astonished to see that it was used elsewhere, since i believe that this is the only Arabic Dialect map available online, furthurmore, Egyptian Arabic is not being undermined (since im an Egyptian myself, and i wouldnt want to undermine my own Dialect 😛 )

but the fact is, this tiny line holds one of the larget populations in the Arab World, with roughly over 54 million in this narrow strip, and it ends where Sa’idi Arabic starts, which is near El-Minya city, ofcourse, all of these Dialects merge peacefully in each others, but more or less, these are its official boundries, if one can say…

anyways, moreover, i thank everyone who has commented…

@Nasser, yes i understand that their are other dialects of Arabic spoken elsewhere, such as Uzbek Arabic, Tajiki Arabic, as well as Rashidi Arabic in Eritrea, but the map was created for the Arab League as an Organization, so it includes countries that are Members of the Arab League, rather than Arabic internationally…

davidbroberts - 15, July 2010

Thanks for the map!

There are a few more maps of this kind here – http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/maps.shtml

6. Josh - 16, July 2010

Hey there,
This map is awesome!
I have a bunch of maps collected on my site http://joshberer.wordpress.com/
I was wondering, do you have a higher res version of this, I’d like to add it to the collection on my site.

davidbroberts - 16, July 2010

Sorry..what you see is what you get.

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[…] Posted November 5, 2010 by inislamicworld in Uncategorized. Leave a Comment Here's a fascinating map of the various Arabic dialects found throughout the Middle East. Being far from an expert or even someone overly proficient at Arabic I'll just make two quick comments. 1) It must not be forgotten that this map does not at all account for the differences in Arabic. Whilst, for example, Iraqi and Gulf Arabic might not be that dissimilar, Gulf and Moroccan Arabic are, I believe, hugely and almost incomprehensibly different. … Read More […]

8. Muneera - 9, December 2010

there might be some Arabs who switch to Egyptian dialect in order to communicate with other Arabs (like Moroccan) but I don’t think that this apply on the Gulf countries, because people there might stick to their dialect or switch to different language (probably English)

9. Muneera - 9, December 2010

And thank u for the map

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12. thepersiancloset - 4, October 2011

Last time I checked, northern Iraq spoke Kurdish, not “Mesopotamian Arabic” as goes with the eastern Syrian-Iraqi Border.

I’m in an Arabic class right now, they teach formal (Quranic), Shami, and Masri – the teacher discourages us from using classical too much and tells us to focus more on Egyptian. So I think Egyptian is indeed the lingua franca.

13. NeverStopLearning - 19, July 2012

Arabs in northern Iraq speak Mesopotamian or Masawi dialect. Kurdish may be more widely used there, but that is not to say Arabic doesn’t exist.

14. Anonymous - 23, August 2012

Well as a matter of fact, Moroccan and Algerian are the dialects who are closest to Gulf Arabic in terms of vocabulary, and it’s not rare to see Gulf singers sing old Moroccan folk songs, its only the rough gluterral pronunciation, and the French and Spanish loanwords which make Maghrebian dialects harsh to understand for the common middle-eastern. Plus to say that all Arabs speak Egyptian with each other is tacky, Arabs speak Egyptian only with Egyptian people because it’s a known fact that Egyptians don’t make any effort to understand something else than their dialect. There’s no really a lingua frinca in the Arab world, we all speak Arabic, but sometimes people need to do some code switching with their dialect in order to be understood. The reason why many people can understand and immitate Egyptian is because its a well-mediatized dialect, unlike Maghrebian, Iraqi or Yemeni dialects. But the truth is that all Arabicspeakers are permeable to all Arabic dialects. When middle-easterns hang out with Moroccans or Algerians, it doesn’t take long for them to get the accent. I have a friend from Rass El Khaima in UAE and he speaks perfectly Moroccan, same for a Saudi friend who couldn’t understand Moroccan, but after two months of hanging out with Moroccans, he just got it, same for a Syrian friend in Canada who is studying in a program full of Moroccan students, a Lebanese guy who is married to an Algerian woman, etc…

15. Informed opinion - 20, January 2013

Nobody switches into Egyptian Arabic to understand each other, that’s just crazy talk. It is much more likely that Arabs will switch to MSA, if the vocabulary is very different. Even then, you laugh at each other because speaking MSA, just sounds strange in normal conversation. Someone here said that the vocab of Moroccan and Gulf Arabic is most similar??? Maybe for Moroccans that have lived in the Gulf for years and years. Otherwise, there is a serious split in vocabulary from East to West… the divide coming somewhere in the Libyan desert. This map is interesting and I would really like to see the research that backs it up.

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17. Suhaim - 31, March 2014

I am a Qatari and have spoken to Moroccans in Morocco and Qatar and no alternative dialect was necessary , the only accent that is impossible for me to understand as a Qatari is Algerian.

18. Anonymous - 15, July 2014

Hey guys thanks for making this clear as mud….

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