Jordanian Arabic

Jordanian Arabic is a dialect continuum of mutually intelligible varieties of Arabic spoken by the population of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Jordanian Arabic
اللهجة الأردنية
Native toJordan
Native speakers
6.24 million (2016)[1]
  • Fellahi (rural)
  • Madani (urban)
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Map Arabic in the Levant.jpg
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Jordanian Arabic can be divided into sedentary and Bedouin varieties.[2] Sedentary varieties belong to the Levantine Arabic dialect continuum. Bedouin varieties are further divided into two groups, Northwest Arabian Arabic varieties of the south,[3] and Najdi Arabic and Shawi Arabic[4] varieties of the north.[2]

Jordanian Arabic varieties are Semitic. They are spoken by more than 6 million people, and understood throughout the Levant and, to various extents, in other Arabic-speaking regions. As in all Arab countries, language use in Jordan is characterized by diglossia; Modern Standard Arabic is the official language used in most written documents and the media, while daily conversation is conducted in the local colloquial varieties.

Regional Jordanian Arabic varietiesEdit

Although there is a common Jordanian dialect mutually understood by most Jordanians, the daily language spoken throughout the country varies significantly through regions. These variants impact altogether pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.

Jordanian Arabic can primarily be divided into sedentary and Bedouin varieties, each of which can be further divided into distinct subgroups:[2]

Sedentary varieties

  • Hybrid variety (Modern Jordanian)/Ammani: It is the most current spoken language among Jordanians. This variety was born after the designation of Amman as capital of the Jordanian kingdom early in the 20th century. It is the result of the merger of the language of populations who moved from northern Jordan, southern Jordan, Saudi Arabia and later from Palestine. For this reason, it mixes features of the Arabic varieties spoken by these populations. The emergence of the language occurred under the strong influence of the northern Jordanian dialect. As in many countries English is used to substitute many technical words, even though these words have Arabic counterparts in modern standard Arabic.
  • Balgawi-Horani:[5] Mostly spoken in the area from Amman to Irbid in the far north. As in all sedentary areas, local variations are many. The pronunciation has /q/ pronounced [g] and /k/ mostly ([tʃ]). This dialect is part of the southern dialect of the Levantine Arabic language.
  • Southern/Moab:[5] Spoken in the area south of Amman, in cities such as Karak, Tafilah, Ma'an, Shoubak and their countrysides, it is replete with city-to-city and village-to-village differences. In this dialect, the pronunciation of the final vowel (æ~a~ə) commonly written with tāʾ marbūtah (ة) is raised to [e]. For example, Maktaba (Fuṣḥa) becomes Maktabe (Moab), Maktabeh (North) and Mektaba (Bedawi). Named after the ancient Moab kingdom that was located in southern Jordan, this dialect belongs to the outer southern dialect of the Levantine Arabic language.
  • Aqaba variety[citation needed]

Bedouin varieties

  • Northwest Arabian Arabic:[3] Spoken by the Hwetat, Bani Atiya, the Bdul of Petra, and N’emat tribes in Southern Jordan. According to Palva, the dialects spoken in Jordan belong to the Eastern group of NWA dialects. Nevertheless, the dialects of the Bdul and N’emat share features with the Western group of NWA dialects spoken in the Negev.[3] In addition, the dialect of the Zawaida tribe is argued to be closely related to Negev Arabic.[6]
  • North Arabian dialects: Spoken by the Sirhan, Bani Saxar, and Bani Khalid tribes. They are further divided into Anazi-type dialects which are related to Central Najdi Arabic, and Shammari-type dialects which are related to Northern Najdi Arabic.[2]
  • Syro-Mesopotamian Bedouin dialects: These dialects show many similarities with Iraqi “gelet”-dialects and with Gulf Arabic.[2] Herin divides this group into a Central “ygulu” and Northern “ygulun” Shawi Arabic, both types being identical except for the presence of /n/ in the plural imperfect of the latter group. The Central “ygulu” dialects are spoken by the Ajarma, Adwan, and Ababid tribes.[5]



Labial Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emph. plain emph.
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless t (t͡ʃ) k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced ð ðˤ z (ʒ) ɣ ʕ
Tap/Trill ɾ ~ r
Approximant l j w
  • /d͡ʒ/ is realized as a voiced fricative /ʒ/, across different speakers and dialects.
  • /t͡ʃ/ is a lexically-distributed alternant of /k/ in sedentary Horani/Balqawi dialects. [t͡ʃ] is historically also an allophone of /k/ in the Syro-Mesopotamian Bedouin dialects.[7]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid (e) (o)
Open a
  • /e/ and /i/ are only contrastive word-finally as shown by the minimal pair kalbe “dog (f.)” and kalbi “my dog”.
  • /o/ and /u/ are only contrastive word-finally as shown by the minimal pair katabo “he wrote it” vs. katabu “they wrote”.
  • /i u/ can be heard as [ɪ, ʊ] in lax form.
  • /a/ can occur as a back [ɑ] mostly after /r/, an open-front [a] before /r/, and as [ɛ] in word-final positions, except after velarized, emphatic, back or pharyngeal sounds.
  • /aː/ is heard within the position or /r/ as a long back [ɑː] or front [æː] among speakers. Among people who are first generation, Palestinian-dialect speakers, it can also be heard as [eː].
  • A central [ə] can be epenthetic within some long vowel sounds like /eː/ as [eːə].[8]


One syllable of every Jordanian word has more stress than the other syllables of that word. Some meaning is communicated in Jordanian by the location of the stress of the vowel. So, changing the stress position changes the meaning (e.g. ['katabu] means they wrote while [kata'bu] means they wrote it). This means one has to listen and pronounce the stress carefully.


The grammar in Jordanian also in Palestinian is a mixture[of what?]. Much like Hebrew and Arabic, Jordanian dielct is Arabic and Arabic is a Semitic language at heart, altered by the many influences that developed over the years.

Nominal morphologyEdit


/il-/ is used in most words that don't start with a vowel. It is affixed onto the following word. Il-bāb meaning the door. /iC-/ is used in words that start with a consonant produced by the blade of the tongue (t, ṭ, d, ḍ, r, z, ẓ, ž, s, ṣ, š, n. Sometimes [l] and [j] as well depending on the dialect). This causes a doubling of the consonant. This e is pronounced as in a rounded short backward vowel or as in an e followed by the first letter of the word that follows the article. For example: ed-desk meaning the desk, ej-jakét meaning the jacket, es-seks meaning the sex or hāda' et-téléfón meaning that is the telephone.


Contrary to MSA, dual pronouns do not exist in Jordanian; the plural is used instead. Because conjugated verbs indicate the subject with a prefix or a suffix, independent subject pronouns are usually unnecessary and mainly used for emphasis. Feminine plural forms modifying human females are found primarily in rural and Bedouin areas.

Jordanian Arabic independent personal pronouns
Amman[9] Salt[10]
1st person sg. (m/f) ana ana ~ ani
2nd person sg. m inta int ~ inte
f inti inti
3rd person sg, m huwwe ~ huwwe
f hiyye ~ hiyye
1st person pl. (m/f) niḥna / iḥna iḥna
2nd person pl. m intu intu
f intin
3rd person pl. m humme hummu
f hinne

Bound pronouns typically attach to nouns, prepositions, verbs andalso to certain adverbs, conjunctions and other discourse markers:

Jordanian Arabic bound pronouns
Amman[9] Salt[10]
after-C after-V after-C after-V
1st person sg. (m/f) -i, -ni -y -i, -ni -y(e)
2nd person sg. m -ak -k -ak -k
f -ik -ki -ič
3rd person sg, m -o -(h) -o -(h)
f -ha -ha
1st person pl. (m/f) -na -na
2nd person pl. m -kum -ku
f -čin
3rd person pl. m -hum -hum
f -hin

Indirect object / dative pronouns arise from the merging of l- “for, to”, and the bound pronouns. Note that geminated forms like Ammani after-CC katabt-illo “I wrote for him” are not to be found in Salti, which has katab(ə)t-lo:[10]

Jordanian Arabic indirect object / dative pronouns
Amman[9] Salt[10]
after-V after-C after-CC after-V after-C
1st person sg. (m/f) -li -illi -li
2nd person sg. m -lak -illak -lak
f -lik -illik -lič
3rd person sg, m -lo -illo -lo
f -lha -ilha -lha -ilha
1st person pl. (m/f) -lna -ilna -lna (-nna) -ilna (-inna)
2nd person pl. m -lkum -ilkum -lku -ilku
f -lčin -ilčin
3rd person pl. m -lhum -ilhum -lhum -ilhum
f -lhin -ilhin

Demonstratives can appear pre-nominally or post-nominally

Jordanian Arabic demonstrative pronouns
Amman[9] Salt[10]
Near sg. m hād(a) hāḏ(a), hāḏ̣(a)
f hāy ~ hādi hāy(e) ~ hāḏi
pl. m hadōl haḏōl(a), haḏ̣ōl(a)
Far sg. m hadāk haḏāk(a), haḏ̣āk(a)
f hadīk haḏīč(e)
pl. m hadolāk haḏ(o)lāk(a), haḏ̣(o)lāk(a)

Verbal morphologyEdit

Form IEdit

Strong verbsEdit

In Amman, Form I strong verbs usually have perfect CaCaC with imperfect CCuC/CCaC, and perfect CiCiC with imperfect CCaC.[9] In Salt, CaCaC and CiCiC can occur with imperfect CCiC.[10]

Form I Strong (CaCaC/CCuC)
Amman[9] Salt[10]
Perfect (CaCaC) 1st person sg. (m/f) daras(i)t maragt
2nd person sg. m daras(i)t maragt
f darasti maragti
3rd person sg, m daras marag
f darsat margat
1st person pl. (m/f) darasna maragna
2nd person pl. m darastu maragtu
f maragtin
3rd person pl. m darasu maragu
f maragin
Imperfect (CCuC) 1st person sg. (m/f) adrus, badrus amrug, bamrug
2nd person sg. m tudrus, btudrus tumrug, btumrug
f tudrusi, btudrusi tumurgi, btumurgi
3rd person sg, m yudrus, b(y)udrus yumrug, bumrug
f tudrus, btudrus tumrug, btumrug
1st person pl. (m/f) nudrus, bnudrus numrug, mnumrug
2nd person pl. m tudrusu, btudrusu tumurgu, btumurgu
f tumurgin, btumurgin
3rd person pl. m yudrusu, b(y)udrusu yumurgu, bumurgu
f yumurgin, bumurgin
Form I Strong (CiCiC/CCaC)
Amman[9] Salt[10]
Perfect (CiCiC) 1st person sg. (m/f) kbirt gdirt
2nd person sg. m kbirt gdirt
f kbirti gdirti
3rd person sg, m kibir gidir
f kibrat gidrat
1st person pl. (m/f) kbirna gdirna
2nd person pl. m kbirtu gdirtu
f gdirtin
3rd person pl. m kibru gidru
f gidrin
Imperfect (CCaC) 1st person sg. (m/f) akbar, bakbar agdar, bagdar
2nd person sg. m tikbar, btikbar tigdar, btigdar
f tikbari, btikbari tigdari, btigdari
3rd person sg, m yikbar, b(y)ikbar yigdar, bigdar
f tikbar, btikbar tigdar, btigdar
1st person pl. (m/f) nikbar, bnikbar nigdar, mnigdar
2nd person pl. m tikbaru, btikbaru tigdaru, btigdaru
f tigdarin, btigdarin
3rd person pl. m yikbaru, b(y)ikbaru yigdaru, bigdaru
f yigdarin, bigdarin
Geminated verbsEdit

Geminate verbs generally have perfect CaCC and imperfect CiCC. In Amman and Salt, the 2nd person singular masculine and the 1st person singular perfect inflect as CaCCēt: ḥassēt, šaddēt.[9][10] In Amman, the active participle alternates between CāCC and CāCC (ḥāss and ḥāsis). In Salt, only CāCC (ḥāss) is present.

Verbs IʾEdit
Form I Weak Iʾ
Amman[9] Salt[10]
Perfect (CaCaC) 1st person sg. (m/f) ʾakalt ʾakalt
2nd person sg. m ʾakalt ʾakalt
f ʾakalti ʾakalti
3rd person sg, m ʾakal ʾakal
f ʾaklat ʾaklat
1st person pl. (m/f) ʾakalna ʾakalna
2nd person pl. m ʾakaltu ʾakaltu
f ʾakaltin
3rd person pl. m ʾakalu ʾakalu
f ʾakalin
Imperfect 1st person sg. (m/f) ākul, bākul ʾōkil, bōkil
2nd person sg. m tākul~tōkil, btākul~btōkil tōkil, btōkil
f tākli~tōkli, btākli~btōkli tōkli, btōkli
3rd person sg, m yākul~yōkil, byākul~b(y)ōkil yōkil, bōkil
f tākul~tōkil, btākul~btōkil tōkil, btōkil
1st person pl. (m/f) nākul~nōkil, bnākul~bnōkil nōkil, mnōkil
2nd person pl. m tāklu~tōklu, btāklu~btōklu tōklu, btōklu
f tōklin, btōklin
3rd person pl. m yāklu~yōklu, byāklu~b(y)ōklu yōklu, bōklu
f yōklin, bōklin
Verbs Iw/yEdit

Note that Salt forms the perfect on a different template than Amman. In any case, the perfect is conjugated as a strong verb:

Form I Weak Iw/y
Amman[9] Salt[10]
Perfect 1st person sg. (m/f) wṣil(i)t waṣalt
2nd person sg. m wṣil(i)t waṣalt
f wṣilti waṣalti
3rd person sg, m wiṣil waṣal
f wiṣlat waṣlat
1st person pl. (m/f) wṣilna waṣalna
2nd person pl. m wṣiltu waṣaltu
f waṣaltin
3rd person pl. m wiṣlu waṣalu
f waṣalin
Imperfect 1st person sg. (m/f) ʾawṣal, bawṣal ʾaṣal, baṣal
2nd person sg. m tuwṣal, btuwṣal taṣal, btaṣal
f tuwṣali, btuwṣali taṣali, btaṣali
3rd person sg, m yuwṣal, b(y)uwṣal yaṣal~yiṣal, baṣal
f tuwṣal, btuwṣal taṣal, btaṣal
1st person pl. (m/f) nuwṣal, bnuwṣal naṣal, mnaṣal
2nd person pl. m tuwṣalu, btuwṣalu taṣalu, btaṣalu
f taṣalin, btaṣalin
3rd person pl. m yuwṣalu, b(y)uwṣalu yaṣalu~yiṣalu, baṣalu
f yaṣalin~yiṣalin, baṣalin
Verbs IIw/yEdit

The vowel of the short base of the perfect usually has the same quality as the vowel of the imperfect: gām~ygūm~gumt and gām~ygīm~gimt. An exception is šāf~yšūf~šuft. Verbs with yCāC imperfects usually have CiCt perfects.[10]

Verbs IIIw/yEdit

In the perfect, both CaCa and CiCi are found.

Form IVEdit

Form IV is not productive in the sedentary dialects of Amman or Karak. A conservative feature of the sedentary Balqāwi-Hōrani group is the preservation of Form IV, which is productive in three uses:[11]

  • to create transitive verbs from nouns and adjectives:
    • bʿadyibʿid “to go away” (from bʿīd “far”)
  • to create “weather verbs”:
    • štattišti “to rain”
  • to derive causative verbs from intransitive verbs with stem CvCvC:
    • gʿadyigʿid “to wake sth. up” (from gaʿadyugʿud “to sit down”)


Qdar is the infinitive form of the verb can. Baqdar means I can, I can't is Baqdareş, adding an or ış to the end of a verb makes it negative; if the word ends in a vowel then a ş should be enough.

An in-depth example of the negation: Baqdarelhomm figuratively means I can handle them, Baqdarelhommeş means I cannot handle them, the same statement meaning can be achieved by Baqdareş l'ıl homm

Legal statusEdit

Jordanian Arabic is not regarded as the official language even though it has diverged significantly from Classic Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).[12][1][13] A large number of Jordanians, however, call their language "Arabic", while referring to the original Arabic language as Fusħa. This is common in many countries that speak languages or dialects derived from Arabic and can prove to be quite confusing[to whom?]. Whenever a book is published, it is usually published in English, French, or in MSA and not in Levantine.[12][1][13]

Writing systemsEdit

General remarksEdit

There are many ways of representing Levantine Arabic in writing. The most common is the scholastic Jordanian Latin alphabet (JLA) system which uses many accents to distinguish between the sounds (this system is used within this article). Other Levantine countries, however, use their own alphabets and transliterations, making cross-border communication inconvenient.[14]


There are some phonemes of the Jordanian language that are easily pronounced by English speakers; others are completely foreign to English, making these sounds difficult to pronounce.

Arabic consonant JLA IPA Explanation
ب b [b] As English ⟨b⟩.
ت t [t] As English ⟨t⟩ in still (without the English aspiration).
ث [θ] As English ⟨th⟩ in thief. It is rare, mostly in words borrowed from MSA.
ج j [dʒ] As English ⟨j⟩, jam or ⟨s⟩ in vision (depending on accent and individual speaker's preference).
ح [ħ] Somewhat like English ⟨h⟩, but deeper in the throat.
خ [x] As German ⟨ch⟩ in Bach.
د d [d] As English ⟨d⟩.
ذ [ð] As English ⟨th⟩ in this. It is rare, mostly in words borrowed from MSA.
ر [ɾˤ] Simultaneous pronunciation of ⟨r⟩ and a weak ayn below.
ر r [ɾ] As is Scottish, Italian or Spanish.
ز z [z] As English ⟨z⟩.
س s [s] As English ⟨s⟩.
ش š [ʃ] As English ⟨sh⟩.
ص [sˤ] Simultaneous pronunciation of ⟨s⟩ and a weak ayn below.
ض [dˤ] Simultaneous pronunciation of ⟨d⟩ and a weak ayn below.
ط [tˤ] Simultaneous pronunciation of unaspirated ⟨t⟩ and a weak ayn below.
ظ [zˤ] Simultaneous pronunciation of ⟨z⟩ and a weak ayn below.
ع ʿ [ʕ] This is the ayn. It is pronounced as ḥ but with vibrating larynx.
غ ġ [ɣ] As in ⟨g⟩ of Spanish pagar.
ف f [f] As English ⟨f⟩.
ق q [q] Similar to English ⟨k⟩, but pronounced further back in the mouth, at the uvula. It is rare, mostly in words borrowed from MSA apart from the dialect of Ma'daba or that of the Hauran Druzes.
ك k [k] As English ⟨k⟩ in skill (without the English aspiration).
ل l [l] As English ⟨l⟩
م m [m] As English ⟨m⟩.
ن n [n] As English ⟨n⟩.
ه h [h] As English ⟨h⟩.
و w [w] As English ⟨w⟩.
ي y [j] As English ⟨y⟩ in yellow.


Contrasting with the rich consonant inventory, Jordanian Arabic has much fewer vowels than English. Yet, as in English, vowel duration is relevant (compare /i/ in bin and bean).

JLA IPA Explanation
a [a] or [ɑ] As English hut or hot (the latter linked to the presence of ṣ, ḍ, ṭ, ẓ, ẖ, ʿ, ḥ or ṛ).
ā [a:] or [ɑ:] The previous one but longer (you hear [ɑ:] in father). Amman is [ʕɑm'ma:n].
i [i] As in English hit.
ī [i:] As in English heat.
u [u] As in English put.
ū [u:] As in English fool.
e [e] French été.
ē [e:] As in English pear, or slightly more closed.
o [o] As in French côté.
ō [o:] As French (faune) or German (Sohn).

External InfluencesEdit

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is spoken in formal TV programs, and in Modern Standard Arabic classes, as well as to quote poetry and historical phrases. It is also the language used to write and read in formal situations if English is not being used. However, MSA is not spoken during regular conversations. MSA is taught in most schools and a large number of Jordanian citizens are proficient in reading and writing formal Arabic. However, foreigners residing in Jordan who learn the Levantine language generally find it difficult to comprehend formal MSA, particularly if they did not attend a school that teaches it.

Other influences include English, French, Turkish, and Persian. Many loan words from these languages can be found in the Jordanian dialects, particularly English. However, students also have the option of learning French in schools. Currently, there is a small society of French speakers called Francophone and it is quite notable in the country. The language is also spoken by people who are interested in the cultural and commercial features of France.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c South Levantine Arabic at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)  
  2. ^ a b c d e Palva, Heikki (1 January 1984). "A general classification for the Arabic dialects spoken in Palestine and Transjordan". Studia Orientalia.
  3. ^ a b c Palva, Heikki. ""Northwest Arabian Arabic." Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics. Vol. III. Leiden – Boston: Brill 2008, pp. 400-408". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Younes, Igor; Herin, Bruno (1 January 2016). "Šāwi Arabic". Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online Edition.
  5. ^ a b c Herin, Bruno; Younes, Igor; Al-Wer, Enam; Al-Sirour, Youssef (March 2022). "The Classification of Bedouin Arabic: Insights from Northern Jordan". Languages. 7 (1): 1. doi:10.3390/languages7010001. ISSN 2226-471X.
  6. ^ Sakarna, Ahmad Khalaf (2002). "The Bedouin Dialect of Al-Zawaida Tribe, Southern Jordan". Al-'Arabiyya. 35: 61–86. ISSN 0889-8731. JSTOR 43192846.
  7. ^ Al-Wer, Enam; Horesh, Uri; Fanis, Maria; Herin, Bruno (1 January 2015). "How Arabic regional features become sectarian features: Jordan as a case study. Enam Al-Wer, Uri Horesh, Bruno Herin, Maria Fanis". Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik (ZAL).2015.
  8. ^ Sawaie, Mohammed (2008). Jordanian Arabic (Amman). In Kees Versteegh (ed.), Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Vol. II: Leiden: Brill. pp. 505–509.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Al-Wer, Enam (30 May 2011), "Jordanian Arabic (Amman)", Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Brill, retrieved 4 August 2022
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Herin, Bruno (1 January 2014). "The dialect of Salt (Jordan)". Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Lutz Edzard, Rudolf de Jong. (Eds), Brill Online.
  11. ^ Herin, Bruno (2013). "Do Jordanians really speak like Palestinians?". Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies. 13: 99–114. doi:10.5617/jais.4629. ISSN 0806-198X.
  12. ^ a b Jordanian Arabic phrasebook – iGuide Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  13. ^ a b iTunes – Podcasts – Jordanian Arabic Language Lessons by Peace Corps Archived 21 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine. (16 February 2007). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  14. ^ Diana Darke (2006). Syria. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-84162-162-3.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit