Pre-Hilalian Arabic
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Pre-Hilalian dialects also called Early Maghrebi Arabic are a continuum of Arabic dialects native to North Africa. They constitute, along with the Hilalian dialects, the larger Maghrebi Arabic family.


Pre-Hilalian dialects are a result of early Arabization phases that lasted from the 7th to the 15th centuries, and that concerned the main urban settlements (Kairouan, Constantine, Tlemcen and Fez) and the neighboring harbors (respectively Mahdia and Sousse, Jijel and Collo, Rachgun and Honaine, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera and Tangier) particularly from Al Andalus influences, as well as the –triangular– areas between them.[1]

This early Arabization also concerned various Jewish communities and a few urban centers outside the main Arabized areas, such as Tunis and Salé.[1]


Pre-Hilalian Arabic dialects are classified in three types:[1]

Two geographical groups of pre-Hilalian dialects are distinguished:[2]

Additionally, the Maltese language is often classified as pre-Hilalian, since it shares many pre-Hilalian features.[3]

Pre-Hilalian Urban dialects were formerly spoken in other cities such as Tripoli, Mascara and Azemmour, where they are extinct, replaced by the more widespread Hilalian dialects. Currently, many (Old) Urban dialects are endangered because of the prevalence of the Hilalian-based new urban koinés in everyday communication.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Dominique Caubet, « Questionnaire de dialectologie du Maghreb » Archived 2013-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, in: EDNA vol.5 (2000-2001), pp.73–92
  2. ^ Kees Versteegh, « The Dialects of Arabic », in: The Arabic Language, Columbia University Press (1997), pp.148–172
  3. ^ Martine Vanhove, « De quelques traits prehilaliens en maltais », in: Peuplement et arabisation au Maghreb cccidental : dialectologie et histoire, Casa Velazquez - Universidad de Zaragoza (1998), pp.97-108