Andalusi Arabic
العربية الأندلسية
Native toAl-Andalus (modern-day Spain and Portugal)
ExtinctEarly 17th century
Arabic alphabet (Maghrebi script)
Language codes
ISO 639-3xaa
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A page from a transcription of ibn al-Kattani's Treatment of Dangerous Diseases Appearing Superficially on the Body (early 11th century)
A page from a transcription of ibn al-Kattani's Treatment of Dangerous Diseases Appearing Superficially on the Body (early 11th century)

Andalusi Arabic (Arabic: اللهجة العربية الأندلسية), also known as Andalusian Arabic, was a variety or varieties of Arabic spoken mainly from the 9th to the 17th century in Al-Andalus, the regions of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) once under Muslim rule. It became an extinct language in Iberia after the expulsion of the former Hispanic Muslims, which took place over a century after the Granada War by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Once widely spoken in Iberia, the expulsions and persecutions of Arabic speakers caused an abrupt end to the language's use on the peninsula. Its use continued to some degree in North Africa after the expulsion, although Andalusi speakers were rapidly assimilated by the Maghrebi communities to which they fled.

Origin and history

The Muslim forces that conquered Iberia in 711, about a century after the death of prophet Muhammad, were composed of a small group of Arabic speakers and a majority of Amazigh people, of whom many spoke little or no Arabic.[1] According to Consuelo López-Morillas, "this population sowed the seeds of what was to grow into an indigenous Andalusi Arabic."[1]

Unlike the Visigothic conquest of Iberia, through which Latin remained the dominant language, the Islamic conquest brought a language that was a "vehicle for a higher culture, a literate and literary civilization."[1] Arabic became the dominant medium of literary and intellectual expression in the southern half of the peninsula from the 8th century to the 13th century.[1]

Andalusian Arabic appears to have spread rapidly and been in general oral use in most parts of Al-Andalus between the 9th and 15th centuries.[citation needed] The number of speakers is estimated[citation needed]to have peaked at around 5–7 million speakers around the 11th and 12th centuries before dwindling as a consequence of the Reconquista, the gradual but relentless takeover by the Christians. The colloquial Arabic of al-Andalus was prominent among the varieties of Arabic of its time in its use for literary purposes, especially in zajal poetry and proverbs and aphorisms.[1]

In 1502, the Muslims of Granada were forced to choose between conversion and exile; those who converted became known as the Moriscos. In 1526, this requirement was extended to Muslims in the rest of Spain, the Mudéjars. In 1567, Philip II of Spain issued a royal decree in Spain forbidding Moriscos from the use of Arabic on all occasions, formal and informal, speaking and writing. Using Arabic henceforth would be regarded as a crime. Arabic speakers were given three years to learn a "Christian" language, after which they would have to get rid of all Arabic written material. This triggered one of the largest revolts, the Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1568–71). Still, Andalusian Arabic remained in use in certain areas of Spain (particularly the inner regions of the Kingdom of Valencia)[citation needed] until the final expulsion of the Moriscos at the beginning of the 17th century.[2]

As in every other Arabic-speaking land, native speakers of Andalusian Arabic were diglossic, that is, they spoke their local dialect in all low-register situations, but only Classical Arabic was resorted to when a high register was required and for written purposes as well. Andalusian Arabic belongs to the pre-Hilalian dialects of the Maghrebi Arabic family, with its closest relative being Moroccan Arabic. Like other Maghrebi Arabic dialects, Andalusian does not differentiate between sedentary and Bedouin varieties. By contrast, Andalusian does not show any detectable difference between religious communities, such as Muslim Muladis, Christian Mozarabs, and Jews, unlike in North Africa where Judeo-Arabic dialects were common.

The oldest evidence of Andalusian Arabic utterances can be dated from the 10th and 11th century, in isolated quotes, both in prose and stanzaic Classical Andalusi poems (muwashahat), and then, from the 11th century on, in stanzaic dialectal poems (zajal) and dialectal proverb collections, while its last documents are a few business records and one letter written at the beginning of the 17th century in Valencia.[2] Andalusian Arabic is still used in Andalusian classical music and has significantly influenced the dialects of such towns as Sfax in Tunisia, Tétouan and Tangier in Morocco, Nedroma, Tlemcen, Blida, and Cherchell in Algeria, and Alexandria in Egypt.[3] Andalusian Arabic also influenced Mozarabic, Spanish (particularly Andalusian), Ladino, Catalan-Valencian-Balearic, Portuguese, Classical Arabic and Moroccan, Tunisian, Egyptian, Hassani and Algerian Arabics.

Features of Andalusian Arabic

Many features of Andalusian Arabic have been reconstructed by Arabists using Hispano-Arabic texts (such as the azjāl of ibn Quzman, al-Shushtari and others) composed in Arabic with varying degrees of deviation from classical norms, augmented by further information from the manner in which the Arabic script was used to transliterate Romance words. The first complete linguistic description of Andalusi Arabic was given by the Spanish Arabist Federico Corriente, who drew on the Appendix Probi, zajal poetry, proverbs and aphorisms, the work of the 16th century lexicographer Pedro de Alcalá, and Andalusi letters found in the Cairo Geniza.[1]


Vowel phonemes of Andalusi Arabic[4]
Short Long
Front Back Front Back
Close /i/ /u/ /iː/ /uː/
Open /a/ /aː/
Diphthongs /aw/, /aj/, /iw/[5]
Andalusi Arabic consonant phonemes[6]
Labial Dental Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emphatic
Nasal m n
voiceless p~[a] t t͡ʃ[b] k q[c] ʔ[d]
voiced b d d͡ʒ~ʒ[e] (ɡ)[f]
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ~ χ ħ h
voiced (β~v)[g] ð z ðˤ~[h] ɣ ~ ʁ ʕ
Approximant l ɫ[i] j w
Trill r~ɾ[j] ~ɾˤ[k]
  1. ^ [p] was at the very least, a marginal phoneme, but a phoneme nonetheless. /p/ "behaved most of the time as an "emphaticised" phoneme, resistant to imālah or palatalisation" thus possibly being pronounced as [].[7]
  2. ^ [t͡ʃ] was a marginal phoneme used mainly in Romance loanwords. In the Granadan dialect, /t͡ʃ/ represented the evolution of the cluster /st/. In lower registers, [t͡ʃ] was occasionally an allophone of /d͡ʒ/ in word-final position by speakers of Hispanic origin.[8]
  3. ^ The standard pronunciation of ق was most likely [q]. Though it merged with [k] in at least some words.[9]
  4. ^ [ʔ] only survived in word-initial position, while turning into [j] or [w] intravocalically, or sometimes in other positions. Rarely, [ʔ] would turn into [ʕ]. In most other instances, [ʔ] would cause an adjacent vowel to be stressed or would disappear altogether, leaving no trace.[10]
  5. ^ ج was variously realized as [d͡ʒ] or [ʒ][11]
  6. ^ ق had an alternate and substandard pronunciation of [g] amongst speakers of Hispanic origin, especially bilingual Romance speakers. ج was also alternatively pronounced as [g] by some speakers, although this was marginal.[12]
  7. ^ Under Berber and Romance influence, [b] would sometimes turn into a bilabial spirant (fricative) [β], especially intravocalically. This fricative could turn into [f] via devoicing, thus presumably being realized as [v] before devoicing took place. Sometimes, it further evolved into [w]. Either way, a voiced bilabial or labiodental fricative was "substandard and repressed".[13]
  8. ^ By the time of the Cordoban Caliphate, [] and [ðˤ] had merged. Thus, ض and ظ would have been pronounced the same.[14]
  9. ^ Velarized in at least the word Allah, as in most Arabic dialects.[15]
  10. ^ ر was realized as either a trill or a tap.[16]
  11. ^ Contrasting pairs of words differing only by a plain or an emphatic pronunciation of their respective <r> are found.[17]

The phoneme represented by the letter ق in texts is a point of contention. The letter, which in Classical Arabic represented either a voiceless pharyngealized velar stop or a voiceless uvular stop, most likely represented some kind of post-alveolar affricate or velar plosive in Andalusian Arabic. Federico Corriente presents the case that ق most often represented /q/, sometimes /k/, and marginally /g/ based on a plethora of surviving Andalusi writings and Romance transcriptions of Andalusi Arabic words.[9]

The vowel system was subject to a heavy amount of fronting and raising, a phenomenon known as imāla, causing /a(ː)/ to be raised, probably to [ɛ] or [e] and, particularly with short vowels, [ɪ] in certain circumstances, particularly when i-mutation was possible.

Contact with native Romance speakers led to the introduction of the phonemes /p/, /ɡ/ and, possibly, the affricate // from loanwords.

Monophthongization led to the disappearance of certain diphthongs such as /aw/ and /aj/ which were leveled to // and //, respectively, though Colin hypothesizes that these diphthongs remained in the more mesolectal registers influenced by the Classical language. Alternatively in higher registers, [e] and [o] were only allophones of /i/ and /u/ respectively, while diphthongs were mostly resistant to monophthongization.[18] However, /a/ could turn into [e] or [i] via imāla.[19] In the presence of velar or pharyngeal contour, /a/ was backed into [ɑ] and sometimes even rounded into [o] or [u], or even [ɒ]. This is evidenced by occasional Romance or even local Arabic transcription of /a/ as [o] or [u].[20]

There was a fair amount of compensatory lengthening involved where a loss of consonantal gemination lengthened the preceding vowel, whence the transformation of عشّ /ʕuʃ(ʃ)/ ("nest") into عوش /ʕuːʃ/.

New phonemes introduced into Andalusi Arabic, such as /p/ and /t͡ʃ/ were often written as geminated بّ and جّ respectively. This would later be carried over into Aljamiado, in which /p/ and /t͡ʃ/ in Romance languages would be transcribed with the above letters, each containing a shadda.

Syntax and morphology

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The -an which, in Classical Arabic, marked a noun as indefinite accusative case (see nunation), became an indeclinable conjunctive particle, as in ibn Quzmān's expression rajul-an 'ashīq.

The unconjugated prepositive negative particle lis developed out of the classical verb lays-a.

The derivational morphology of the verbal system was substantially altered. One example is the initial n- on verbs in the first person singular, a feature shared by many Maghrebi varieties. Likewise the form V pattern of tafaʻʻal-a (تَفَعَّلَ) was altered by epenthesis[dubious ] to atfa``al (أتْفَعَّل).

Andalusi Arabic developed a contingent/subjunctive mood (after a protasis with the conditional particle law) consisting of the imperfect (prefix) form of a verb, preceded by either kān or kīn (depending on the register of the speech in question), of which the final -n was normally assimilated by preformatives y- and t-. An example drawn from Ibn Quzmān will illustrate this:

Example Transliteration English translation
لِس كِن تّراني
لَو لا ما نانّ بعد
lis ki-ttarānī (underlying form: kīn tarānī)
law[a] lā mā nānnu baʻad
You would not see me
if I were not still moaning
  1. ^ The conditional "law" (لَو) is the source of the modern Spanish Ojalá, (law sha Allah; لَوْ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ).

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Menocal, María Rosa; Scheindlin, Raymond P.; Sells, Micheal (2012). The literature of Al-Andalus. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-17787-0. OCLC 819159086.
  2. ^ a b Kees Versteegh, et al.: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Brill Publishers, 2006.
  3. ^ "Ramón Cotarelo". Archived from the original on 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
  4. ^ Corriente (2013:1–9)
  5. ^ Corriente (2013:7)
  6. ^ Corriente (2013:9–36)
  7. ^ Corriente (2013:12–14)
  8. ^ Corriente (2013:28–29)
  9. ^ a b Corriente (2013:30–31)
  10. ^ Corriente (2013:34–36)
  11. ^ Corriente (2013:23)
  12. ^ Corriente (2013:27–28, 30)
  13. ^ Corriente (2013:10–11)
  14. ^ Corriente (2013:23–24)
  15. ^ Corriente (2013:21)
  16. ^ Corriente (2013:19)
  17. ^ Corriente (2013:20)
  18. ^ Corriente (2013:5–6, 7–9)
  19. ^ Corriente (2013:2)
  20. ^ Corriente (2013:4–5)