Hejazi Arabic

Hejazi Arabic
Hijazi Arabic
West Arabian Arabic
حجازي Ḥijāzi
Pronunciation[ħɪˈdʒaːzi], [ħe̞ˈdʒaːzi]
Native toHejaz region, Saudi Arabia
Native speakers
14.5 million (2011)[1]
Early form
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3acw
Distribution of Hejazi Arabic in Saudi Arabia.png
  regions where Hejazi is the dialect of the majority
  regions considered as part of modern Hejaz region
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Hejazi Arabic or Hijazi Arabic (Arabic: حجازي‎, romanizedḥijāzī), 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.

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[edit]

  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 /jarkabuːn/).
  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").
Approximate distribution of Arabic language around the 1st century in Hejaz and Najd

Conservative features[edit]

  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 /kʼ/ qāf and /g/ gīm came to be Hejazi /g, d͡ʒ/ج, ق⟩ gāf and jīm, although it has been attested as early as the eighth century CE, and it can be explained by a chain shift /kʼ/* → /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 /kʼ/* 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 /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 conservative phonological feature that urban Hejazi holds in contrast to 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 a divergent feature. (See Hejazi Arabic Phonology)

Another feature that differentiates Hejazi is the lack 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 in the 20th century, [q] has been introduced as an allophone of /ɡ/ق⟩ in a number of 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.
  • [ðˤ] is an optional allophone for ⟨ظ⟩. In general, urban Hejazi speakers merge it with /dˤ/ or pronounce it distinctly as /zˤ/ 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').


Hejazi Arabic vowel chart, from Abdoh (2010:84)
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 uncommon but they 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. some 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 Ottoman Turkish چزمه /t͡ʃizme/ originally meaning "boot" or كُبري /kubri/ "overpass" from كوپرى /køpri/ 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 1-10 IPA 11-20 IPA 10s IPA 100s IPA
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/ or /xamastˤaʕaʃ/ 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[edit]

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, or even 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[edit]

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):

Verb Example (ك ت ب) (k t b) "to write"
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)
  • additional final ا to ـوا /-u/ in all plural verbs is silent.
  • 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.
  • the verbs highlighted in silver sometimes come in irregular forms e.g. حبيت (ħabbē)-t "i loved", حبينا (ħabbē)-na "we loved" but ّحب (ħabb) "he loved" and حبُّوا (ħabb)-u "they loved".
  • an example of conjugations unique to Hejazi include 3rd person pasts highlighted in silver as جري jiri 'he ran', جريت jiryat 'she ran' as opposed to Classical Arabic جرى jarā, جرت jarat. also بكي biki 'he cried', بكيَت bikyat 'she cried' and بكيوا bikyu 'they cried'. other verbs include بقي bigi 'he remained', مشي miši 'he walked', نسي nisi 'he forgot' other forms of these verbs follow the Classical verb conjugation.

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).


Enclitic pronouns[edit]

Enclitic forms of personal 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 prepositions.

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

  • ^1 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').
  • ^2 the colon between the parentheses -[ː] indicates that the final vowel of a word is lengthened as in كرسي /kursi/ ('chair') → كرسيه /kurs/ ('his chair'), since the word-final ـه [h] is silent in this position. although in general it is uncommon for Hejazi nouns to end in a vowel other than the /-a/ of the feminine nouns.

General Modifications:-

  • 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 (vowel+) 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).
  • 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').
  • the 3rd person past plural suffix -/u/ turns into -/oː/ (long o) before pronouns, as in عرفوا /ʕirfu/ ('they knew') → عرفوني /ʕirfni/ ('they knew me')

Indirect Object Pronouns[edit]

Indirect Object Pronouns (verbal)
Person Singular Plural
1st -li لي -lana لنا
2nd masculine m. -lak لَك -lakum لكم
feminine f. -lik لِك
3rd masculine m. -lu له -lahum لهم
feminine f. -laha لها

Indirect object pronouns are added to verbs, where they have the meaning of e.g. "(to/for) me,(to/for) you, (to/for) him", unlike other pronouns, indirect object pronouns are written separately from the verbs but they are pronounced as if they are fused with the verbs, this also effects the verbs the follow them as in the examples shown below;

Hollow Verb (ر و ح) (r w ḥ) "to go"
Tense/Mood Past "went" (ruḥ) Present (Indicative) "goes" (rūḥ) Imperative "go!" (rūḥ)
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st رحت ruḥt رحنا ruḥna أروح ʼarū نروح nirū
2nd masculine رحت ruḥt رحتوا ruḥtu تروح tirū تروحوا tirūḥu روح rū روحوا rūḥu
feminine رحتي ruḥti تروحي tirūḥi روحي rūḥi
3rd masculine راح rā راحوا rāḥu يروح yirū يروحوا yirūḥu
feminine راحت rāḥat تروح tirū

General modifications when added to any verb, including hallow verbs (verbs with medial vowels و ū, ي ī or ا ā):

  • After a verb that ends in a vowel (ا or ي or ـوا), the vowel is lengthened as in رحنا /ruħna/ ('we went') → رحنا له /ruħnlu/ ('we went to him'), but in the 3rd person past plural suffix -/u/ turns into -/oː/ (long o) instead of -/uː/ before pronouns, as in راحوا /raːħu/ ('they went') → راحوا له /raːħlu/ ('they went to him') or كتبوا /katabu/ ('they wrote') → كتبوا لي /katabli/ ('they wrote to me')
  • when a verb ends in two consonants as in رحت /ruħt/ ('i went' or 'you went') : an /-al-/ is added before the Indirect object pronoun suffixes → رحت له /ruħtalːu/ ('i went to him') or in كتبت /katabt/ ('I wrote' or 'you wrote') becomes كتبت له /katabtalːu/ ('i wrote to him'), كتبت لهم /katabtalːahum/ ('i wrote to them').
Hollow Verb + Indirect Object Pronoun (-lu)
Tense/Mood Past "went" Present (Indicative) "write" Imperative "write!"
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st رحت له ruḥt-allu رحنا له ruḥnā-lu أرح له or أروح له ʼaruḥ-lu نرح له or نروح له niru-lu
2nd masculine رحت له ruḥt-allu رحتوا له ruḥtū-lu ترح له or تروح له tiruḥ-lu تروحوا له tirūḥū-lu رح له or روح له ruḥ-lu روحوا له rūḥū-lu
feminine رحتي له ruḥtī-lu تروحي له tirūḥī-lu روحي له rūḥī-lu
3rd masculine راح له raḥ-lu راحوا له rāḥō-lu يرح له or يروح له yiruḥ-lu يروحوا له yirūḥū-lu
feminine راحت له rāḥat-lu ترح له or تروح له tiruḥ-lu

Unique modifications that are only applied to Hollow Verbs when added to Indirect object pronouns (vowel shortening):

  • when a verb has a long vowel in the last syllable (shown in silver in the main example) as in أروح /aruːħ/ ('I go'), يروح /jiruːħ/ (he goes) or نروح /niruːħ/ (''we go'); the vowel is shortened before the suffixes as in أرُح له /aruħlu/ (I go to him), يرح له /jiruħlu/ (he goes to him) and نرُح له /niruħlu/ (we go to him) with the verbs resembling the Jussive (مجزوم majzūm) mood conjugation in Classical Arabic (shown in gold in the example), original forms can be used depending on the writer but the vowels are still shortened in pronunciation.
  • This does effect past verbs as well but the form of the word does not change, as in راح /rħ/ rāḥ ('he went') which is pronounced راح له /raħlu/ ('he went to him!') after adding a pronoun.
  • Other hollow verbs include أعيد /ʔaʕiːd/ ('I repeat') or قول /guːl/ ('say!') which become أعِد لك /ʔaʕidlak/ ('I repeat for you') and قُل لها /gulːaha/ ('tell her!')

an alternative way to show the meaning of "for me", "for her", etc. when isolated, is to fuse the indirect object pronouns with the possessive pronouns as in لِيّ /lijːa/ ('for me'), لِيها /liːha/ ('for me'), ليهُم /liːhum/ ('for them') as opposed to the classical لي /lijːa/, لها /lijːa/, and لهم /lahum/.

Writing system[edit]

An Early Qur'anic manuscript written in Hijazi script (8th century AD)

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:

Letter Phonemes / Allophones (IPA) Example Pronunciation
ا /ʔ/ (see ⟨ء⟩ Hamza). سَأَل "he asked" /saʔal/
// باب "door" /baːb/
/a/ when word-final and unstressed (when word-final and stressed it's //) شُفْنا "we saw", (ذا m. "this") /ˈʃufna/, (/ˈdaː/ or /ˈðaː/)
in 3rd person masculine past verbs before indirect object pronouns e.g. لي ,له ,لها and some words قال لي "he told me", راح لَها "he went to her" /galːi/, /raħlaha/
additional ∅ silent word-final only in plural verbs and after nunation دِرْيُوا "they knew", شُكْرًا "thanks" /dirju/, /ʃukran/
ب /b/ بِسَّة "cat" /bisːa/
ت /t/ توت "berry" /tuːt/
either /t/ or always/in some words as /θ/ ثَلْج "snow" /tald͡ʒ/ or /θald͡ʒ/
or /s/ ثابِت "stable" /saːbit/ or /θaːbit/
ج /d͡ʒ/ جَوَّال "mobile phone" /d͡ʒawːaːl/
ح /ħ/ حوش "courtyard" /ħoːʃ/
خ /x/ خِرْقة "rag" /xirga/
د /d/ دولاب "closet" /doːˈlaːb/
either /d/ or always/in some words as /ð/ ذيل "tail" /deːl/ or /ðeːl/
or /z/ ذوق "taste" /zoːg/ or /ðoːg/
ر /r/ رَمِل "sand" /ramil/
ز /z/ زُحْليقة "slide" /zuħleːga/
س /s/ سَقْف "roof" /sagf/
ش /ʃ/ شيوَل "loader" /ʃeːwal/
ص // صُفِّيرة "whistle" /sˤuˈfːeːra/
ض // ضِرْس "molar" /dˤirs/
ط // طُرْقة "corridor" /tˤurga/
either // or always/in some words as [ðˤ] (allophone) ظِل "shade" /dˤilː/ or [ðˤɪlː]
or // ظَرْف "envelope, case" /zˤarf/ or [ðˤarf]
ع /ʕ/ عين "eye" /ʕeːn/
غ /ɣ/ غُراب "crow" /ɣuraːb/
ف /f/ فَم "mouth" /famː/
ق /g/ (pronounced [q] (allophone) in a number of words) قَلْب "heart" (قِمَّة "peak") /galb/ (/gimːa/ or [qɪmːa])
ك /k/ كَلْب "dog" /kalb/
ل /l/ (marginal phoneme /ɫ/ only in the word الله and words derived from it) ليش؟ "why?", (الله "god") /leːʃ/, (/aɫːaːh/)
م /m/ مويَة "water" /moːja/
ن /n/ نَجَفة "chandelier" /nad͡ʒafa/
هـ /h/ (silent when word-final in 3rd person masculine singular pronouns and some words) هَوا "air", (كِتابُه "his book", شُفْناه "we saw him") /hawa/, (/kitaːbu/, /ʃufˈnaː/)
و /w/ وَرْدة "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 //) رَبو "asthma", (مو "is not", جوا "they came") /ˈrabu/, (/ˈmuː/, /ˈd͡ʒoː/)
ي /j/ يَد "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 //) سُعُودي "saudi", (ذي f. "this") /suˈʕuːdi/, (/ˈdiː/ or /ˈðiː/)
Additional non-native letters
پ /p/ (can be written and/or pronounced as ⟨ب/b/ depending on the speaker) پول or بول "Paul" /poːl/ or /boːl/
ڤ /v/ (can be written and/or pronounced as ⟨ف/f/ depending on the speaker) ڤَيْروس or فَيْروس "virus" /vajruːs/ or /fajruːs/


  • Medial ⟨ا⟩ is short only in 3rd person masculine past verbs before indirect object pronouns e.g. لي ,له ,لها as in عاد d/ "he repeated" becomes عاد لهم adlahum/ "he repeated to them" and in few words as in جاي "I'm coming" pronounced /d͡ʒaj/ or /d͡ʒj/, the same "indirect object pronoun" vowel-shortening effect takes place with medial ⟨ي⟩ and ⟨و⟩ for example رايحين له "going to him" is mostly pronounced /raːjħinlu/ with a shortened /i/ and rarely /raːjħnlu/.
  • 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 indicating final /-a/, 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 شفناه /ʃufˈnaː/ "we saw him" or the heteronym ليه pronounced /leː/ 'why?' or /liː/ 'for him', but the /h/ can be added for emphasis if needed. The silent ⟨هـ⟩ also helps in distinguishing minimal pairs with word-final vowel length contrast تبغي /tibɣi/ 'you want f.' vs. تبغيه /tibɣ/ 'you want him f.'. but it is still maintained word-final in most other nouns as in فَواكِه /fawaːkih/ "fruits", كُرْه /kurh/ "hate" and أَبْلَه /ʔablah/ "idiot" where it is differentiated from أبلة /ʔabla/ "f. teacher".
  • غ/ɣ/ and ⟨ج/d͡ʒ/ are sometimes used to transcribe /g/ in foreign words. ⟨غ⟩ is especially used in city/state names as in بلغراد "Belgrade" pronounced /bilgraːd/ or /bilɣraːd/, this ambiguity arised due to Standard Arabic not having a letter that transcribes /g/ distinctively, which created doublets like كتلوق /kataˈloːg/ vs. كتلوج /kataˈloːd͡ʒ/ "catalog" and قالون /gaːˈloːn/ vs. جالون /d͡ʒaːˈloːn/ "gallon". newer terms are more likely to be transcribed using the native ⟨ق⟩ as in إنستقرام /instagraːm/ "Instagram" and قروب /g(u)ruːb, -uːp/ "WhatsApp group".
  • ض// is pronounced /zˤ/ only in few words from the two trilateral roots ⟨ض ب ط⟩ and ⟨ض ر ط⟩, as in ضبط ("it worked") pronounced /zˤabatˤ/ and not /dˤabatˤ/.
  • The interdental consonants:
    • ث⟩ represents /t/ as in ثوب /toːb/ & ثواب /tawaːb/ or /s/ as in ثابت /saːbit/, but the classical phoneme /θ/ is still used as well depending on the speaker especially in words of English origin.
    • ذ⟩ represents /d/ as in ذيل /deːl/ & ذكر /dakar/ or /z/ as in ذكي /zaki/, but the classical phoneme /ð/ is still used as well depending on the speaker especially in words of English origin.
    • ظ⟩ represents /dˤ/ as in ظفر /dˤifir/ & ظل /dˤilː/ or /zˤ/ as in ظرف /zˤarf/, but the classical [ðˤ] is still used as an allophone depending on the speaker.

Rural dialects[edit]

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[edit]


  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. pp. 92.
  18. ^ Aljuhani, Sultan (2008). "Spoken Al-'Ula dialect between privacy and fears of extinction. (in Arabic)".


External links[edit]