Egyptian Arabic

From Academic Kids

Egyptian Arabic is a dialect of Arabic spoken in Egypt. It is the variety of Arabic with the largest number of speakers. This is due to the fact that Egyptian films are widely distributed in the Arab World. In addition, Egypt is the most populous Arab nation, with more than 70 million inhabitants (2004). There are few educational publications for Egyptian Arabic, compared to say, French, but Egyptian Arabic remains one of the most widely taught and known colloquial Arabic dialects. Many American and other Western students of modern Arabic learn Egyptian Arabic because it is so well understood all over the Arab world.


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  • The letter jiim ج is pronounced as /g/ in most Egyptian local dialects, apart from those of Upper Egypt (the Sa'id), e.g. gabal for jabal (mountain), gamiil for jamiil (beautiful), and so forth. This pronunciation is considered "typically" Egyptian Arabic; however, it is not unique to Egypt. This was in fact the original Semitic pronunciation of the sound, and the tribes of Arabia at the time of the Arab Conquest may still have had among them those who had this pronunciation, as did Yemeni Arabic since before the introduction of Arabic in Egypt. If this sound is a direct retention from the earliest times, then presumably one of these groups of speakers introduced this feature into the Egyptian dialect. However, it is perhaps more likely that it is a secondary development from a palatal or palatalized g ( or ), which appears to be the most common pronunciation of this sound at the time of the Arab conquest of Egypt. (The standard "jiim" pronunciation is another secondary development from this same sound, and the "zhiim" of North Africa is a further development, which restores the symmetry of the system by providing a voiced counterpart to .) This substitution may have occurred as a result of Coptic influence. (Two notable syntactic features that are particular to Egyptian Arabic -- postposed demonstratives and in-situ wh words -- are also said to be due to Coptic influence.)
  • The letter qaaf ق is pronounced as a glottal stop in Cairo and the delta, but /g/ in Upper Egypt (the Sa'id), which is due to Bedouin influence.
  • Thaa ث can become either /t/ or /s/ (in classicisms).
  • dhaal ذ /­/ becomes /d/ in much of Egypt, although sometimes it is /z/ (in classicisms).
  • Egyptian Arabic is unusual among Arabic dialects in maintaining in all positions the early post-Classical distinctions between short /i/ and /u/, distinguishing kitaab "book", gumaal "beautiful" (pl.), and ixhtaar "he chose" -- which become ktaab, jmaal, and xhtaar in most other dialects.

Related Articles

Varieties of Arabic

External links

  • UCLA (

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