Maghrebi Arabic

(Redirected from Darija)

Maghrebi Arabic (Arabic: الْلهجَة الْمَغاربِيَة, Western Arabic; as opposed to Eastern or Mashriqi Arabic) is a vernacular Arabic dialect continuum spoken in the Maghreb region, in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Western Sahara, and Mauritania. It includes Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, Hassaniya and Maltese. It is known locally as Darja, Derdja, Derja, Derija or Darija, depending on the region's dialect (Arabic: الدارجة; meaning "common or everyday dialect"[1]). This serves to differentiate the spoken vernacular from Standard Arabic.[2] Maghrebi Arabic has a predominantly Semitic and Arabic vocabulary,[3] although it contains a few Berber loanwords which represent 2–3% of the vocabulary of Libyan Arabic, 8–9% of Algerian and Tunisian Arabic, and 10–15% of Moroccan Arabic.[4] The Maltese language is believed to have its source in a language spoken in Muslim Sicily that ultimately origins from Tunisia, as it contains some typical Maghrebi Arabic areal characteristics.[5]

Maghrebi Arabic
اللهجات المغاربية
Arabic abjad
Language codes
ISO 639-3


Darija, Derija or Delja (Arabic: الدارجة) means "everyday/colloquial dialect";[6] it is also rendered as ed-dārija, derija or darja. It refers to any of the varieties of colloquial Maghrebi Arabic. Although it is also common in Algeria and Tunisia to refer to the Maghrebi Arabic varieties directly as languages, similarly it is also common in Egypt and Lebanon to refer to the Mashriqi Arabic varieties directly as languages. For instance, Algerian Arabic would be referred as Dzayri (Algerian) and Tunisian Arabic as Tounsi (Tunisian), and Egyptian Arabic would be referred as Masri (Egyptian) and Lebanese Arabic as Lubnani (Lebanese).

In contrast, the colloquial dialects of more eastern Arab countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, are usually known as al-‘āmmīya (العامية), though Egyptians may also refer to their dialects as al-logha-d-darga.


The varieties of Maghrebi Arabic form a dialect continuum. The degree of mutual intelligibility is high between geographically adjacent dialects (such as local dialects spoken in Eastern Morocco and Western Algeria or Eastern Algeria and North Tunisia or South Tunisia and Western Libya), but lower between dialects that are further apart, e.g. between Moroccan and Tunisian Darija. Conversely, Moroccan Darija and particularly Algerian Derja cannot be easily understood by Eastern Arabic speakers (from Egypt, Sudan, Levant, Iraq, and Arabian peninsula) in general.[7]

Maghrebi Arabic continues to evolve by integrating new French or English words, notably in technical fields, or by replacing old French and Italian/Spanish ones with Modern Standard Arabic words within some circles; more educated and upper-class people who code-switch between Maghrebi Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic have more French and Italian/Spanish loanwords, especially the latter came from the time of al-Andalus. Maghrebi dialects all use n- as the first-person singular prefix on verbs, distinguishing them from Levantine dialects and Modern Standard Arabic.

Relationship with Modern Standard Arabic and Berber languagesEdit

Modern Standard Arabic (Arabic: الفصحى, romanizedal-fuṣḥá) is the primary language used in the government, legislation and judiciary of countries in the Maghreb. Maghrebi Arabic is mainly a spoken and vernacular dialect, although it occasionally appears in entertainment and advertising in urban areas of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In Algeria, where Maghrebi Arabic was taught as a separate subject under French colonization, some textbooks in the dialect exist but they are no longer officially endorsed by the Algerian authorities. Maghrebi Arabic has a mostly Semitic Arabic vocabulary.[3] It contains a few Berber loanwords which represent 2–3% of the vocabulary of Libyan Arabic, 8–9% of Algerian and Tunisian Arabic, and 10–15% of Moroccan Arabic.[4][8] The dialect may also possess a substratum of Punic.[9]

Latin substratumEdit

Additionally, Maghrebi Arabic has a Latin substratum, which may have been derived from the African Romance that was used as an urban lingua franca during the Byzantine Empire period.[10] Morphologically, this substratum brought the plural noun morphemes -əsh/-osh that are common in northern Moroccan dialects[11] and probably the gender merging in the second person singular of personal pronouns verbs for example in Andalusian Arabic.[12] The lexicon derives many words form Latin, e.g. the Moroccan/Algerian/Tunisian شَاقُور, shāqūr, 'hatchet' from secūris (this could also be derived from Spanish segur);[13] ببوش, 'snail' from babōsus and فلوس, 'chick' from pullus through Berber afullus.[14]

Relationship with other languagesEdit

Maghrebi Arabic speakers frequently borrow words from French (in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), Spanish (in northern Morocco and northwestern Algerian) and Italian (in Libya and Tunisia) and conjugate them according to the rules of their dialects with some exceptions (like passive voice for example). Since it is not always written, there is no standard and it is free to change quickly and to pick up new vocabulary from neighbouring languages. This is somewhat similar to what happened to Middle English after the Norman conquest.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wehr, Hans (1979). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic: (Arab.-Engl.). Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 319. ISBN 3447020024. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  2. ^ Harrell, Richard Slade (2004). A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic: Moroccan-English. Georgetown University Press. p. 18. ISBN 1589011031. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b Elimam, Abdou (2009). Du Punique au Maghribi :Trajectoires d'une langue sémito-méditerranéenne (PDF). Synergies Tunisie.
  4. ^ a b Wexler, Paul (2012-02-01). The Non-Jewish Origins of the Sephardic Jews. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-1-4384-2393-7.
  5. ^ Borg, Albert; Azzopardi-Alexander, Marie (2013). Maltese. Routledge. p. xiii. ISBN 978-1136855283. OCLC 1294538052. Wikidata Q117189264. Retrieved 17 March 2023.
  6. ^ Wehr, Hans (2011). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic.; Harrell, Richard S. (1966). Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic.
  7. ^ Zaidan, Omar F.; Callison-Burch, Chris (2014). "Arabic Dialect Identification". Computational Linguistics. 40 (1): 171–202. doi:10.1162/COLI_a_00169.
  8. ^ Tilmatine, Mohand (1999). "Substrat et convergences: Le berbère et l'arabe nord-africain". Estudios de dialectología norteafricana y andalusí (in French). 4: 99–119.
  9. ^ Benramdane, Farid (1998). "Le maghribi, langue trois fois millénaire de Elimam, Abdou (Éd. ANEP, Alger 1997)". Insaniyat (6): 129–130. doi:10.4000/insaniyat.12102. S2CID 161182954. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  10. ^ Sayahi, Lotfi (2014). Diglossia and Language Contact: Language Variation and Change in North Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0521119368. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  11. ^ Aguadé, Jorge (2018). The Maghrebi dialects of Arabic. Arabic Historical Dialectology: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches. p. 34. doi:10.1093/OSO/9780198701378.003.0002. ISBN 978-0-19-870137-8. Wikidata Q117189070.
  12. ^ Corriente, Federico (29 September 2012). A Descriptive and Comparative Grammar of Andalusi Arabic. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-90-04-22742-2. Wikidata Q117189169.
  13. ^ Cf. Singer, Hans R. (1 June 1984). Grammatik der arabischen Mundart der Medina von Tunis (in German). Berlin, New York City: De Gruyter. p. 129. doi:10.1515/9783110834703. ISBN 978-3-11-003435-6. Wikidata Q117189196.
  14. ^ Aguadé, Jorge (2018). The Maghrebi dialects of Arabic. Arabic Historical Dialectology: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches. p. 35. doi:10.1093/OSO/9780198701378.003.0002. ISBN 978-0-19-870137-8. Wikidata Q117189070.

Further readingEdit

  • Singer, Hans-Rudolf (1980) “Das Westarabische oder Maghribinische” in Wolfdietrich Fischer and Otto Jastrow (eds.) Handbuch der arabischen Dialekte. Otto Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden. 249–76.