Gilit Mesopotamian Arabic
Gilit Arabic
Mesopotamian Gelet Arabic
Southern Mesopotamian Arabic
اللهجة العراقية‎
Native toIraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey
Speakers19 million (2020)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3acm Mesopotamian Arabic

Gilit Mesopotamian Arabic,[2] also known as Iraqi Arabic,[2][1] Mesopotamian Gelet Arabic,[1] or simply Mesopotamian Arabic[2][1] is one of the two main varieties of Mesopotamian Arabic, together with North Mesopotamian Arabic.[1][3][4]

Relationship to North Mesopotamian

Mesopotamian Arabic has two major varieties: Gilit Mesopotamian Arabic and Qeltu Mesopotamian Arabic. Their names derive from the form of the word for "I said" in each variety.[5] Gilit Arabic is a Bedouin variety spoken by Muslims (both sedentary and non-sedentary) in central and southern Iraq and by nomads in the rest of Iraq. Qeltu Arabic is an urban dialect spoken by Non-Muslims of central and southern Iraq (including Baghdad) and by the sedentary population (both Muslims and Non-Muslims) of the rest of the country.[6] Non-Muslims include Christians, Yazidis, and Jews, until most of them left Iraq in the 1940s–1950s.[7][8] Geographically, the gelet–qeltu classification roughly corresponds to respectively Upper Mesopotamia and Lower Mesopotamia.[9] The isogloss is between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, around Fallujah and Samarra.[9]

During the Siege of Baghdad (1258), the Mongols killed all Muslims.[10] However, sedentary Christians and Jews were spared and northern Iraq was untouched.[10] In southern Iraq, sedentary Muslims were gradually replaced by Bedouins from the countryside.[10] This explains the current dialect distribution: in the south, everyone speaks Bedouin varieties close to Gulf Arabic (continuation of the Bedouin dialects of the Arabian Peninsula),[10][11] with the exception of urban Non-Muslims who continue to speak pre-1258 qeltu dialects while in the north the original qeltu dialect is still spoken by all, Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.[10]

Gilit/qǝltu verb contrasts[12]
s-stem Bedouin/gilit Sedentary/qǝltu
1st SG ḏạrab-t fataḥ-tu
2nd m. SG ḏạrab-t fataḥ-t
2nd f. SG tišṛab-īn tǝšrab-īn
2nd PL tišṛab-ūn tǝšrab-ūn
3rd PL yišṛab-ūn yǝšrab-ūn


Gelet dialects include:[9]

  1. Northern Mesopotamian group
    1. Syrian šāwi dialects (including Urfa and al-Raqqah)
    2. Rural dialects of northern and central Iraq.
  2. Central Iraqi Group
    1. Muslim Baghdad Arabic
    2. The Sunni area around Baghdad
  3. Southern Iraqi and Khuzestani Arabic group
    1. Urban dialects
    2. Rural dialects
    3. Marshland dialects of the Marsh Arabs of the Mesopotamian Marshes
Baghdadi Arabic is Iraq's de facto national vernacular, as about half of population speaks it as a mother tongue, and most other Iraqis understand it. It is spreading to northern cities as well.[13] Other Arabic speakers cannot easily understand Moslawi and Baghdadi.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gilit Mesopotamian Arabic at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  2. ^ a b c "Glottolog 4.7 - Gilit Mesopotamian Arabic". Retrieved 2023-01-01.
  3. ^ Hassan, Qasim. "Reconsidering the Lexical Features of the south-Mesopotamian Dialects." Folia Orientalia 56 (2019).
  4. ^ Jasim, Maha Ibrahim (2020). Tafxi:m in the vowels of Muslawi Qeltu and Baghdadi Gilit dialects of Mesopotamian Arabic (Thesis thesis). Newcastle University.
  5. ^ Mitchell, T. F. (1990). Pronouncing Arabic, Volume 2. Clarendon Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-19-823989-0.
  6. ^ Jasim, Maha Ibrahim (2022-12-15). "The Linguistic Heritage of the Maṣlāwī Dialect in Iraq". CREID Working Paper 18. doi:10.19088/creid.2022.015.
  7. ^ Holes, Clive, ed. (2018). Arabic Historical Dialectology: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches. Oxford University Press. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-19-870137-8. OCLC 1059441655.
  8. ^ Procházka, Stephan (2018). "3.2. The Arabic dialects of northern Iraq". In Haig, Geoffrey; Khan, Geoffrey (eds.). The Languages and Linguistics of Western Asia. De Gruyter. pp. 243–266. doi:10.1515/9783110421682-008. ISBN 978-3-11-042168-2. S2CID 134361362.
  9. ^ a b c Ahmed, Abdulkareem Yaseen (2018). Phonological variation and change in Mesopotamia: a study of accent levelling in the Arabic dialect of Mosul (PhD thesis). Newcastle University.
  10. ^ a b c d e Holes, Clive (2006). Ammon, Ulrich; Dittmar, Norbert; Mattheier, Klaus J.; Trudgill, Peter (eds.). "The Arabian Peninsula and Iraq/Die arabische Halbinsel und der Irak". Sociolinguistics / Soziolinguistik, Part 3. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter: 1937. doi:10.1515/9783110184181.3.9.1930. ISBN 978-3-11-019987-1.
  11. ^ Al‐Wer, Enam; Jong, Rudolf (2017). "Dialects of Arabic". In Boberg, Charles; Nerbonne, John; Watt, Dominic (eds.). The Handbook of Dialectology. Wiley. p. 529. doi:10.1002/9781118827628.ch32. ISBN 978-1-118-82755-0. OCLC 989950951.
  12. ^ Prochazka, Stephan (2018). "The Northern Fertile Crescent". In Holes, Clive (ed.). Arabic Historical Dialectology: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches. Oxford University Press. p. 266. doi:10.1093/oso/9780198701378.003.0009. ISBN 978-0-19-870137-8. OCLC 1059441655.
  13. ^ a b Collin, Richard Oliver (2009). "Words of War: The Iraqi Tower of Babel". International Studies Perspectives. 10 (3): 245–264. doi:10.1111/j.1528-3585.2009.00375.x.