Northwest Arabian Arabic
Levantine Bedawi Arabic
Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic
Native toEgypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Syria
Native speakers
3.0 million (2021–2023)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3avl

Northwest Arabian Arabic (also called Levantine Bedawi Arabic or Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic) is a proposed[2] subfamily of Arabic encompassing the traditional Bedouin dialects of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev, Gaza Strip, southern Jordan, and the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia.[2]

The dialect of the Maʿāzah in the Egyptian Eastern Desert borders the dialect of the ʿAbābdah, who speak a dialect more closely related to Sudanese Arabic.[3] Research is needed to establish whether the Maʿāzah dialect is the southwestern extremity of Northwest Arabian on the Egyptian mainland.[3]

In Saudi Arabia, the dialects of the eastern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, the Hisma, and the Harrat al-Riha belong to the Northwest Arabian type, but the dialect of the Bili to the south is not closely related.[4]



The Northwest Arabian Arabic dialects display several innovations from Proto-Arabic:[2]

  1. The voiced reflex of *q ([g])
  2. The gaháwah syndrome: insertion of /a/ after X in (C)aXC(V) sequences where X is /h/, /ʿ/, /ḥ/, /ġ/, or /ḫ/, e.g. gahwa(h) > gaháwa(h) "coffee", baġl > baġal "mule".
  3. The definite article al- and the relative pronoun alli are stressable as an integral part of the word, e.g. álwalad, áljabal. The initial /a/ is stable enough to be preserved after -ī (-iy), which is dropped: f-albēt, rāʿ-álġanam.
  4. A number of typical Bedouin lexical items (gōṭar "to go", sōlaf "to tell, narrate", ṭabb "to arrive", nišad ~ nišád "to ask").
  5. Absence of tanwīn and its residues.
  6. Absence of final /n/ in the imperfect, 2nd person feminine singular, 2nd person masculine plural, and 3rd person masculine plural.
  7. The pronominal suffix of the 2nd person masculine plural is -ku (-kuw).
  8. Stressed variants -ī and - of the pronominal suffix in the 1st person singular.
  9. Plural comm. forms haḏalla, haḏallāk, etc.
  10. Initial /a/ in Forms VII, VIII, and X in the perfect, and stressed when in stressable position.
  11. Initial /a/ in a number of irregular nouns (amm, aḫt, aḫwan, adēn, afám).



Northwest Arabian Arabic can be divided into a western branch spoken in Sinai and the Negev, and an eastern branch spoken to the east of the Wadi Araba.[2] Several dialects of the eastern branch, such as that of the Zalabiah and Zawaidih of Wadi Ramm,[5] and that of the Bdul,[6] have been argued to be closely related to the western branch.

Differences between western and eastern branches:[2]
Western branch Eastern branch
b- imperfect in regular use does not occur in plain colloquial
analytic genitive šuġl, šuġlah, šuġlīn, šuġlāt as genitive markers
Form I imperfect performative vowel harmony generalized /a/
reflexes of *aw and *ay partially monophthongized; monophthongs fluctuate with long phonemes /ō/ ~ /ū/, /ē/ ~/ī/. well-established monophthongs /ō/ and /ē/
gahawa syndrome gaháwa only ghawa ~ gaháwa
I-w imperfect yawṣal ~ yōṣal yāṣal
3FSG object suffix -ha/-hiy in Negev -ha
3MSG object suffix phonetically conditioned C-ih/-ah, C-u(h) in southern Sinai C-ah
1CPL subject pronoun iḥna, aḥna ḥinna, iḥna
reflex of -ā(ʾ) in neutral environments -iy -a




Labial Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emph. plain emph. plain emph.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless t k (q) (ʔ)
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced ð ðˤ z () (ʒ) ɣ ʕ
Trill r ()
Approximant l j w



Vowels occur in both long and short positions:[7]

Front Back
Close i u
Open a

Vowels are recognized as allophones in the following positions:[8]

Phoneme/Sound Allophone Notes
i [i] [ɪ] in lax position
u [u] [ʊ] in lax position
[o] when preceding emphatic sounds
a [a] [ɐ] in lax position
[ɑ] when preceding or following emphatics
[] [ɛː] when following emphatic or back fricatives
[] [ɔː] when preceding velar consonants
[] [ɑː] in velarized environments
[ɐː] when following pharyngeal consonants
[ɛː ~ æː] in neutral position in the Tarabin dialect



Word-internal imala of */-ā-/


Some varieties of Negev Arabic are characterized by word-internal imala of *-ā- to /ē/ in patterns where /i/ historically occurred in an adjacent syllable. It does not occur when one of the adjacent consonants is emphatic or a back consonant. Some of the patterns where it is found include the following:[9]

Similar raising is found in the Bdul dialect of Jordan: minǣsif “mansaf (pl.)”, hǣḏi “this (f.)”, ḏ̣aygǣt “narrow (pl.)”, iblǣdna “our land”.[6]

Word-final imala of */-ā(ʾ)/


Some of the western dialects of Northwest Arabian Arabic (Central Sinai and Negev in particular) are characterized by an Imala of Old Arabic word-final *-ā(ʾ) to /iy/ in certain patterns of nouns and adjectives. Emphatics seem to block the shift. The following examples are from Negev Arabic:[10]

In the dialects of southern Sinai, word-final imala typically results in /iʾ/. Some examples are íštiʾ “winter”, ǧiʾ “he came”, ḏiʾ “this, these”, tižibhiʾ “you get it”, ifṭarniʾ “we had breakfast”. In some, but not all groups, /a/ in a previous syllable blocks this imala. Like the dialects of central Sinai and Negev, the imala of feminine adjectives of color and defect on the pattern CaCCāʾ results in stressed /íy/: sōdíy “black; bad”.[3]



The following are some archaic features retained from Proto-Arabic:[2]

  1. Gender distinction in the 2nd and 3rd person plural pronouns, pronominal suffixes, and finite verbal forms.
  2. Productivity of Form IV (aC1C2aC3, yiC1C2iC3).
  3. The initial /a/ in the definite article al- and the relative pronoun alli.
  4. Frequent and productive use of diminutives (glayyil "a little", ḫbayz "bread").
  5. Absence of affricated variants of /g/ (< */q/) and /k/.
  6. The use of the locative preposition fi (fiy).
  7. The invariable pronominal suffix -ki of the 2nd person feminine singular.

See also



  1. ^ Northwest Arabian Arabic at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c d e f Palva, Heikki. "Northwest Arabian Arabic". Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. doi:10.1163/1570-6699_eall_EALL_COM_vol3_0233. ISBN 978-90-04-17702-4.
  3. ^ a b c de Jong 2011, p. 356.
  4. ^ Palva, Heikki (2004). "Remarks of the Arabic dialect of the Hwetat tribe". Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam (29): 195–209.
  5. ^ Bassil Mohammad, Al Mashaqba (April 2015). The phonology and morphology of Wadi Ramm Arabic (Thesis). OCLC 1065303726.[page needed]
  6. ^ a b Yasin, Raslan Bani; Owens, Jonathan (1984). "The Bduul Dialect of Jordan". Anthropological Linguistics. 26 (2): 202–232. JSTOR 30027504.
  7. ^ de Jong 2011, pp. 27–39.
  8. ^ de Jong, R. E. (1999). The Bedouin Dialects of the Northern Sinai Littoral. Bridging the Gap between the Eastern and the Western Arab World (Thesis). hdl:11245/1.154881.[page needed]
  9. ^ a b Shawarbah, Musa (2012). A Grammar of Negev Arabic: Comparative Studies, Texts, and Glossary in the Bedouin Dialect of the ʻAzāzmih Tribe. Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-06647-1.[page needed]
  10. ^ Blanc 1970.