Andalusi Arabic
العربية الأندلسية
An ijaza granted to Muhammad XII of Granada, 1490[1]
Native toAl-Andalus (modern-day Spain and Portugal)
ExtinctEarly 17th century
Arabic alphabet (Maghrebi script)
Language codes
ISO 639-3xaa
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Andalusi Arabic or Andalusian Arabic (Arabic: اللهجة العربية الأندلسية, romanizedal-lahja l-ʿarabiyya l-ʾandalusiyya) was a variety or varieties of Arabic spoken mainly from the 9th to the 15th century in Al-Andalus, the regions of the Iberian Peninsula, respectively modern Spain until the late-15th century, and modern Portugal until the mid-13th century[2] under Muslim rule. It became an extinct language in Iberia after the expulsion of the Moriscos, 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. It continued to be spoken to some degree in North Africa after the expulsion, although Andalusi speakers rapidly assimilated into the Maghrebi communities to which they fled.

Arabic in al-Andalus existed largely in a situation of bilingualism with Andalusi Romance (known popularly as Mozarabic) until the 13th century. It was also characterized by diglossia: in addition to standard written Arabic, spoken varieties could be subdivided into an urban, educated idiolect and a register of the less-privileged masses.

Spoken Andalusi Arabic had distinct features. It is unique among colloquial dialects in retaining from Standard Arabic the internal passive voice through vocalization. Through contact with Romance, spoken Andalusi Arabic adopted the phonemes /p/ and // and replaced vowel length with stress (e.g. Andalusí in place of Andalusī). Like other Maghrebi Arabic varieties, the first-person imperfect was marked with the prefix n- (نلعب nalʿab 'I play') like the plural in Standard Arabic, necessitating an analogical imperfect first-person plural, constructed with the suffix (نلعبوا nalʿabū 'we play').



During the Muslim conquest of Spain in 711, about a century after the death of Muhammad, were composed of a few thousand Arab tribesmen[3] and a much larger number of partially Arabicized Amazigh, many of whom spoke little or no Arabic.[4] According to Consuelo López-Morillas, "this population sowed the seeds of what was to grow into an indigenous Andalusi Arabic."[4]

Unlike the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania, through which Latin remained the dominant language, the Muslim conquest brought a language that was a vehicle for a cultural and religious subjugation.[4]


Over the centuries, Arabic spread gradually in al-Andalus, primarily through conversion to Islam.[5] While Alvarus of Cordoba lamented in the 9th century that Christians were no longer using Latin, Richard Bulliet estimates that only 50% of the population of al-Andalus had converted to Islam by the death of Abd al-Rahman III in 961, and 80% by 1100.[6] By about 1260, Muslim territories in Iberia were reduced to the Emirate of Granada, in which more than 90% of the population had converted to Islam and Arabic-Romance bilingualism seems to have disappeared.[6]

A letter handwritten in Judeo-Arabic by Judah ha-Levi (1075–1141). While Muslims did not write in vernacular registers of Arabic, Andalusi Jews would write in colloquial Arabic with Hebrew script.[7]

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.[4]


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, due to the wars against the Ottoman Empire and to the fact that the Moriscos had revealed themselves as agents of the enemy who helped the Ottomans against Spain, 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 (1568–1571). Still, Andalusi Arabic remained in use in certain areas of Spain (particularly the inner regions of Valencia and Aragon)[8][9] until the final expulsion of the Moriscos at the beginning of the 17th century.[10]


Andalusi Arabic is still used in Andalusi classical music and has significantly influenced the dialects of such towns as Sfax in Tunisia, Rabat, Salé, Fès, Tétouan and Tangier in Morocco, Nedroma, Tlemcen, Blida, Jijel, and Cherchell in Algeria, and Alexandria in Egypt.[11] Andalusi Arabic also influenced Andalusi Romance ("Mozarabic"), Spanish , Judaeo-Spanish varieties, Catalan-Valencian-Balearic, Portuguese, Classical Arabic and Moroccan, Tunisian, Egyptian, Hassani and Algerian Arabics.

Sociolinguistic features


Under Muslim rule, Arabic became a superstrate, prestige language and the dominant medium of literary and intellectual expression in the southern half of the peninsula from the 8th century to the 13th century.[4]

Multilingualism and language contact

Arabic in al-Andalus existed largely in a situation of bilingualism with Romance until the 13th century.[3] It also coexisted with Hebrew, and Arabic features and traditions had a major impact on Jewish poetry in Iberia.[5] There is evidence that code-switching was commonplace among bilingual populations in al-Andalus.[5] It also had some contact with Berber languages or al-lisān al-gharbī (اللسان الغربي 'the western tongue') in periods of Berber rule, particularly under the Almoravids[12] and Almohads,[13] though Federico Corriente identified only about 15 Berberisms that entered Andalusi Arabic speech.[4]

The influence of Romance on Andalusi Arabic was especially pronounced in situations of daily Arabic-Romance contact. For example, an Arabic letter written by a Valencian Morisco in 1595 contained constructions such as taʿmál alburšíblī 'do what is possible' and aquštiš matáʿī 'at a cost to me.'[5]


It was also characterized by diglossia: in addition to standard written Arabic, spoken varieties could be subdivided into an urban, educated idiolect and a register of the less-privileged masses.[3]

Linguistic features

Many features of Andalusi 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.[4]


Romance loanwords

As Arabisms moved into varieties of Iberian Romance over time, Andalusi Arabic borrowed widely from the Romance lexicon.[5] Corriente observes three periods in which Romance words entered Arabic, as Romance shifted from a substratum to an adstratum to a superstratum with respect to Arabic.[5] Semantic fields such as plant and animal names, domestic objects, and agriculture received the most loanwords.[5] Sometimes both the Romance and Arabic words were used, such as the words imlíq (from UMBILICU) and surra (سُرَّة) for navel; Consuelo Lopez-Morillas recalls "the many households made up of Hispano-Roman women and Arab men."[5] Once subsumed into Arabic morphological patterns, Romance loanwords became difficult to distinguish as such. For example, nibšāriuh (from aniversario 'anniversary' or 'birthday') was made plural as nibšāriyāt and lubb (from lobo 'wolf') became a broken plural as lababah.[5] Romance loanwords were used in Andalusi Arabic through the end of Muslim rule in Iberia, even after Granada had been monolingually arabophone for two centuries.[5]

Berber loanwords

The lexical impact of Berber language on Andalusi Arabic appears to be considerably less than that of Romance and very small in proportion to the extensive Berber presence in al-Andalus.[5] Corriente identified about 15 Berberisms that entered Andalusi Arabic, only a few of which were still in use in the early 16th century.[5]


Vowel phonemes of Andalusi Arabic[14]
Short Long
Front Back Front Back
Close /i/ /u/ /iː/ /uː/
Open /a/ /aː/
Diphthongs /aw/, /aj/, /iw/[15]
Andalusi Arabic consonant phonemes[16]
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 imāla or palatalisation" thus possibly being pronounced as [].[17]
  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.[18]
  3. ^ The standard pronunciation of ق was most likely [q]. Though it merged with [k] in at least some words.[19]
  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.[20]
  5. ^ ج was variously realized as [d͡ʒ] or [ʒ][21]
  6. ^ ق had an alternate and substandard pronunciation of [ɡ] amongst speakers of Hispanic origin, especially bilingual Romance speakers. ج was also alternatively pronounced as [ɡ] by some speakers, although this was marginal.[22]
  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".[23]
  8. ^ By the time of the Cordoban Caliphate, [] and [ðˤ] had merged. Thus, ض and ظ would have been pronounced the same.[24]
  9. ^ Velarized in at least the word Allah, as in most Arabic dialects.[25]
  10. ^ ر was realized as either a trill or a tap.[26]
  11. ^ Contrasting pairs of words differing only by a plain or an emphatic pronunciation of their respective <r> are found.[27]

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 Andalusi Arabic. Federico Corriente presents the case that ق most often represented /q/, sometimes /k/, and marginally /ɡ/ based on a plethora of surviving Andalusi writings and Romance transcriptions of Andalusi Arabic words.[19]

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.[28] However, /a/ could turn into [e] or [i] via imāla.[29] 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].[30]

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.


Passive voice

Andalusi Arabic is uniquely conservative among colloquial Arabic dialects for retaining the internal passive voice (صيغة المجهول 'sighatu l-majhūl') of Standard Arabic verbs, using the same stem of the active voice verb with different vocalization. The passive voice is expressed in the past or perfect tense with kasra (/i/) on the last syllable and damma (/u/) on all other syllables, and in the imperfect tense with damma /u/ on the personal subject prefix—the first syllable—and fatḥah /a/ on the following syllables.[31]: 89 

Active (مبنى للمعلوم) Passive (مبنى للمجهول)
Andalusi Arabic transliteration English Andalusi Arabic transliteration English
تَرْجَم tarjam (he) translated تُرْجِم turjim (it) was translated
يِتَرْجَم yitarjam (he) translates يُتَرْجَم yutarjam (it) is translated

Noun gender

Some nouns in Andalusi Arabic shifted gender to match the gender of corresponding terms in Romance, such as the feminine Arabic nouns ʿayn (عين 'eye') and shams (شمس 'sun'), which became masculine in al-Andalus, matching ojo and sol.[5]


Gender distinction in second-person pronouns and verbs was abandoned.[5]

There were about twenty suffixes from Romance that were attached to Arabic bases.[5]

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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).

Recorded evidence

The oldest evidence of Andalusi Arabic utterances can be dated from the 10th and 11th century, in isolated quotes, both in prose and stanzaic Classical Andalusi poems (muwashshahat), and then, from the 11th century on, in stanzaic dialectal poems (zajal) and dialectal proverb collections.[10]

Substantial material on late Granadan Arabic survives in the work of Pedro de Alcalá—the Vocabulista aravigo en letra castellana[32] and Arte para ligeramente saber la lengua araviga,[33] both published in 1505 to explain the language of the conquered to the conquerors following the Fall of Granada.[5]

Its last documents are a few business records and one letter written at the beginning of the 17th century in Valencia.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Ženka, Josef (2018-10-25). "A Manuscript of the Last Sultan of al-Andalus and the Fate of the Royal Library of the Nasrid Sultans at the Alhambra". Journal of Islamic Manuscripts. 9 (2–3): 341–376. doi:10.1163/1878464x-00902013. ISSN 1878-4631. S2CID 187262948.
  2. ^ "Chapter Five. The Expulsion of the Muslims from Portugal: The Forgotten Persecution". The Persecution of the Jews and Muslims of Portugal. Brill. January 2007. pp. 241–281. ISBN 978-90-474-3155-8.
  3. ^ a b c University of Zaragoza, ed. (1977-01-01). A Descriptive and Comparative Grammar of Andalusi Arabic. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-23027-9.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p López-Morillas, Consuelo (2000). "Language". The literature of Al-Andalus. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521471596.004. ISBN 9781139177870.
  6. ^ a b Bulliet, Richard W. (1979-12-31). Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period. De Gruyter. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674732810. ISBN 978-0-674-73280-3. Cited in Morillas, Consuelo López (2000-08-31), Menocal, María Rosa; Scheindlin, Raymond P.; Sells, Michael (eds.), "Language", The Literature of Al-Andalus (1 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 31–59, doi:10.1017/chol9780521471596.004, ISBN 978-0-521-47159-6, retrieved 2023-02-17
  7. ^ López-Morillas, Consuelo (2000). "Chapter 2: Language". The literature of Al-Andalus. Maria Rosa Menocal, Raymond P. Scheindlin, Michael Anthony Sells. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-17787-0. OCLC 794678936.
  8. ^ Barceló, Carmen; Labarta, Ana (2009). Archivos moriscos : textos árabes de la minoría islámica valenciana 1401-1608. Universitat de València. ISBN 978-84-370-7384-2. OCLC 804262422.
  9. ^ Fournel-Guerin, Jacqueline (1979). "Le livre et la civilisation écrite dans la communauté morisque aragonaise (1540-1620)". Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez. 15 (1): 241–259. doi:10.3406/casa.1979.2299.
  10. ^ a b c Kees Versteegh, et al.: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Brill Publishers, 2006.
  11. ^ "Ramón Cotarelo". Archived from the original on 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
  12. ^ Gómez, Emilio García; Palencia, Ángel González (1945). Un eclipse de la poesía en Sevilla: la época almorávide (in Spanish). Real Academia Española.
  13. ^ "The Preaching of the Almohads: Loyalty and Resistance across the Strait of Gibraltar", Spanning the Strait, BRILL, pp. 71–101, 2013-01-01, doi:10.1163/9789004256644_004, ISBN 9789004256644, retrieved 2023-02-13
  14. ^ Corriente (2013:1–9)
  15. ^ Corriente (2013:7)
  16. ^ Corriente (2013:9–36)
  17. ^ Corriente (2013:12–14)
  18. ^ Corriente (2013:28–29)
  19. ^ a b Corriente (2013:30–31)
  20. ^ Corriente (2013:34–36)
  21. ^ Corriente (2013:23)
  22. ^ Corriente (2013:27–28, 30)
  23. ^ Corriente (2013:10–11)
  24. ^ Corriente (2013:23–24)
  25. ^ Corriente (2013:21)
  26. ^ Corriente (2013:19)
  27. ^ Corriente (2013:20)
  28. ^ Corriente (2013:5–6, 7–9)
  29. ^ Corriente (2013:2)
  30. ^ Corriente (2013:4–5)
  31. ^ University of Zaragoza, Institute of Islamic Studies (2012). A descriptive and comparative grammar of Andalusi Arabic. Brill. ISBN 978-1-283-63484-7. OCLC 1259249610.
  32. ^ "Vocabulista aravigo en letra castellana". Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. Retrieved 2023-04-02.
  33. ^ "Arte para ligeramẽte saber la lẽgua arauiga". Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. Retrieved 2023-04-02.