Juba Arabic
South Sudanese Creole Arabic
arabi juba, luġa
Native toSouth Sudan
Native speakers
L1: 250,000 (2020)[1]
L2: 1.2 million (2019)[1]
Early form
Latin alphabet[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pga

Juba Arabic (Arabi Juba, عربی جوبا; Arabic: عربية جوبا, romanized‘Arabiyyat Jūbā), also known since 2011 as South Sudanese Arabic, is a lingua franca spoken mainly in Equatoria Province in South Sudan, and derives its name from the South Sudanese capital, Juba. It is also spoken among communities of people from South Sudan living in towns in Sudan. The pidgin developed in the 19th century, among descendants of Sudanese soldiers, many of whom were recruited from southern Sudan. Residents of other large towns in South Sudan, notably Malakal and Wau, do not generally speak Juba Arabic, tending towards the use of Arabic closer to Sudanese Arabic, in addition to local languages. Reportedly, it is the most spoken language in South Sudan (more so than the official language English) despite government attempts to discourage its use due to its association with past Arab rule.[2]



Juba derives from a pidgin based on Sudanese Arabic. It has a vastly simplified grammar as well as the influence of local languages from the south of the country. DeCamp, writing in the mid-1970s, classifies Juba Arabic as a pidgin rather than a creole language (meaning that it is not passed on by parents to their children as a first language), though Mahmud, writing slightly later, appears to equivocate on this issue (see references below). Mahmoud's work is politically significant as it represented the first recognition by a northern Sudanese intellectual that Juba Arabic was not merely "Arabic spoken badly" but is a distinct dialect.[3]

Because of the civil war in southern Sudan from 1983, more recent research on this issue has been restricted. However, the growth in the size of Juba town since the beginning of the civil war, its relative isolation from much of its hinterland during this time, together with the relative collapse of state-run education systems in the government held garrison town (that would have further encouraged the use of Arabic as opposed to Juba Arabic), may have changed patterns of usage and transmission of Juba Arabic since the time of the last available research. Further research is required to determine the extent to which Juba Arabic may now be considered a creole rather than a pidgin language.





Each vowel in Juba Arabic comes in more open/more close pairs. It is more open in two environments: stressed syllables preceding /ɾ/, and unstressed syllables. For example, contrast the /i/ in girish [ˈɡɪ.ɾɪɕ] "piastre", and mile [ˈmi.lɛ] "salt"; or the /e/ in deris [ˈdɛ.ɾɪs] "lesson", and leben [ˈle.bɛn] "milk".[4]

As opposed to Standard Arabic, Juba Arabic makes no distinction between short and long vowels. However, long vowels in Standard Arabic often become stressed in Juba Arabic. Stress can be grammatical, such as in weledu [ˈwe.lɛ.dʊ] "to give birth", and weleduu [wɛ.lɛˈdu] "to be born".[4]

Juba Arabic vowel phonemes[4]
Front Back
Close ɪ~i ⟨i⟩ ʊ~u ⟨u⟩
Mid ɛ~e ⟨e⟩ ɔ~o ⟨o⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩



Juba Arabic omits some of the consonants found in Standard Arabic. In particular, Juba Arabic makes no distinction between pairs of plain and emphatic consonants (e.g. س sīn and ص ṣād), keeping only the plain variant. Moreover, ع ʿayn is never pronounced, while ه hāʾ and ح ḥāʾ may be pronounced [h] or omitted altogether. Conversely, Juba Arabic uses consonants not found in Standard Arabic: v /β/, ny /ɲ/, and ng /ŋ/. Finally, consonant doubling, also known as gemination or tashdid in Arabic, is absent in Juba Arabic. Compare Standard Arabic سُكَّر sukkar and Juba Arabic sukar, meaning "sugar".

In the following table, the common Latin transcriptions appear between angle brackets next to the phonemes. Parentheses indicate phonemes that are either relatively rare or are more likely to be used in the "educated" register of Juba Arabic.[4]

Juba Arabic consonant phonemes[4]
Bilabial Alveolar Alveolo-palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ɲ̟ ⟨ny⟩ ŋ ⟨ng⟩
Plosive Voiceless t ⟨t⟩ k ⟨k⟩ (ʔ) ⟨'⟩[a]
Voiced b ⟨b⟩ d ⟨d⟩ ɟ̟ ⟨j⟩ ɡ ⟨g⟩
Fricative Voiceless ɸ ⟨f⟩ s ⟨s⟩ (ɕ) ⟨sh⟩[b] (h) ⟨h⟩[c]
Voiced β ⟨v⟩ z ⟨z⟩[d]
Flap ɾ ⟨r⟩
Approximant w ⟨w⟩ l ⟨l⟩ j ⟨y⟩
  1. ^ Glottal stops are rare, but necessary in some words, such as la' meaning "no".
  2. ^ ⟨sh⟩ is rare and may often be pronounced [s].
  3. ^ ⟨h⟩ is rare and may often not be pronounced at all.
  4. ^ ⟨z⟩ can be a sign of education in some areas, but is common in some rural dialects.



Juba Arabic has no standardised orthography, but the Latin alphabet is widely used.[5] A dictionary was published in 2005, Kamuus ta Arabi Juba wa Ingliizi, using the Latin script.[6][7][8]



The following is a sample vocabulary taken from Smith and Ama (1985):[9]

Juba Arabic Origin English
gelba From Arabic قَلْبqalb heart
januub From Arabic جَنُوبjanūb south
jidaada From Sudanese Arabic جدادةjidāda, from Arabic دَجَاجَةdajāja (with metathesis) chicken
tarabeeza From Sudanese Arabic طربيزةṭarabēza, from Greek τραπέζι trapézi table
yatu From Sudanese Arabic ياتوyātu which
bafra From Dinka bafora cassava

See also



  1. ^ a b c Juba Arabic at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Brown, Ryan Lenora (2018-11-06). "Voice of a nation: How Juba Arabic helps bridge a factious South Sudan". The Christian Science Monitor. Christian Science Publishing Society. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  3. ^ Abdel Salam & De Waal 2004, p. 79.
  4. ^ a b c d e Watson 2015.
  5. ^ Manfredi, Stefano; Petrollino, Sara (September 9, 2013). "Juba Arabic structure dataset". Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures Online. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  6. ^ "Juba Arabic". ResearchGate.
  7. ^ "APiCS Online - Survey chapter: Juba Arabic". apics-online.info.
  8. ^ Miller, Catherine (2014). "Juba Arabic as a written language". Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. 29 (2): 352–384. doi:10.1075/jpcl.29.2.06mil.
  9. ^ Smith, Ian; Ama, Morris T. (1985). A Dictionary of Juba Arabic & English (1st ed.). Juba: The Committee of The Juba Cheshire Home and Centre for Handicapped Children.



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