Jordanian Arabic is a continuum of mutually intelligible varieties of Levantine Arabic spoken by the population of the Kingdom of Jordan. Jordanian Arabic varieties are Semitic, with lexical influences from English, Turkish and French. They are spoken by more than 6 million people, and understood throughout the Levant and, to various extents, in other Arabic-speaking regions. As in all Arabic-speaking countries, language use in Jordan is characterized by diglossia; Modern Standard Arabic is the official language used in most written documents and the media, while daily conversation is conducted in the local colloquial varieties.
Sub-dialects of Jordanian Arabic
Although there is a common Jordanian dialect mutually understood by most Jordanians, the daily language spoken throughout the country varies significantly through regions and socio-economical origin. These variants impact altogether pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
Jordanian Arabic falls into three varieties
- Urban Jordanian - belonging to the urban variety of the Levantine Arabic language
- Rural Jordanian - belonging to the southern rural varieties of the Levantine Arabic language
- Bedouin Jordanian - belonging to the Levantine Bedawi Arabic.
Is spoken by Jordanian villagers and the small-city or village-born city dwellers. There are two sub-types of Rural Jordanian:
- Hauran Arabic, spoken in the area north and west of Amman between Salt and Irbid in the far north. It is also spoken in the remaining part of the Hauran area southern Syria. As in all sedentary areas, local variations are many. The pronunciation, exemplified by the audio file has /q/ pronounced [g] and /k/ mostly ([tʃ]). This dialect is part of the southern dialect of the Levantine Arabic language.
- Moab Arabic, spoken in the area south of Amman, in cities such as Karak, Tafilah, Ma'an, Shoubak and their countrysides, replete with city-to-city and village-to-village differences. In this dialect, the pronunciation of the final vowel (æ~a~ɐ) commonly written with tāʾ marbūtah (ة) is raised to [e]. For example, Maktaba (Fuṣḥa) becomes Maktabe (Moab), Maktabeh (Haurani and Urban) and Mektaba (Bedawi). Named so after the antique Moab kingdom southern Jordan, this dialect belongs to the outer southern dialect of the Levantine Arabic language.
Bedouin Jordanian is spoken by Jordanian Bedouins mostly in the desert east of the Jordanian mountains and high plateau, and belongs to the Bedawi Arabic. Although being that of the royal family, this dialect is not widely used in the urban and rural regions. It is often considered as truer to the Arabic language, but this is a subjective view that shows no linguistic evidence. Note that rural Jordanian is also spoken in small towns and most of the villages in the Badia region east of Jordan's mountain heights plateau, such as Al-Azraq oasis.
This variety was born after the designation of Amman as capital of the Jordanian kingdom early in the 20th century. It is the result of the merger of the language of populations who moved from Hauran (northern Jordan), Moab (southern Jordan) and later on Palestine into the revived city. For this reason, it mixes features of the Arabic varieties spoken by these populations. The emergence of the language occurred under the strong influence of the rural Jordanian Hauran dialect. It is now driven by the influence of the urban Levantine Arabic koiné. As in many countries English is being used to substitute many technical words, even though these words have Arabic counterparts in modern standard Arabic. Urban Jordanian has been largely influenced by the Palestinians refugees who moved to Jordan in 1948 and 1967 following the displacement of the Palestinian population.
The following sections focus on the Urban Jordanian.
There is no standard way to write Jordanian Arabic. The sections below use the alphabet used in standard Arabic dialect studies, and the mapping to IPA is given.
One syllable of every Jordanian word has more stress than the other syllables of that word. Some meaning is communicated in Jordanian by the location of the stress or the tone of the vowel. This is much truer than in other Western languages in the sense that changing the stress position changes the meaning (e.g. ['katabu] means they wrote while [kata'bu] means they wrote it), while in other languages, changing the stress position only denotes a foreign accent. This means one has to listen and pronounce the stress carefully.
There are some phonemes of the Jordanian language that are easily pronounced by English speakers; others are completely foreign to English, making these letters difficult to pronounce.
|/b/||[b]||As English b|
|/t/||[t]||As French or Spanish t (without the English aspiration)|
|/ṯ/||[θ]||As English thief. It is rare, mostly in words borrowed from MSA. More frequent in rural accents.|
|/j/||[dʒ]||Either hard [dʒ] as in English jam or soft [ʒ] as in English vision (depending on accent and individual speaker's preference).|
|/ḥ/||[ħ]||This h is pronounced deep in the throat, deeper than English h. Imagine you want to blow fog on your sunglasses.|
|/ẖ/||[x]||As German ch in ach! or as Spanish jota.|
|/d/||[d]||As English d|
|/ḏ/||[ð]||As English this. It is rare, mostly in words borrowed from MSA. More frequent in rural accents.|
|/r/||[ɾˤ]||Simultaneous pronunciation of r and a weak ayn below.|
|/ṛ/||[ɾ]||As is Scottish, Italian or Spanish|
|/z/||[z]||As English z|
|/s/||[s]||As English s|
|/š/||[ʃ]||As English sh|
|/ṣ/||[sˤ]||Simultaneous pronunciation of s and a weak ayn below.|
|/ḍ/||[dˤ]||Simultaneous pronunciation of d and a weak ayn below.|
|/ṭ/||[tˤ]||Simultaneous pronunciation of d and a weak ayn below.|
|/ẓ/||[zˤ]||Simultaneous pronunciation of z and a weak ayn below.|
|/ʿ/||[ʕ]||This is the ayn. It is pronounced as /ḥ/ but with vibrating Larynx. It is a voiced fricative sound produced as deep as possible in the throat.|
|/ġ/||[ɣ]||As Spanish pagar, or Greek gato; similar also to r in Parisian French or German.|
|/q/||[q]||It is a voiceless occlusive as [k], but pronounced further back in the mouth, at the uvula. It is rare, mostly in words borrowed from MSA apart from the dialect of Ma'daba or that of the Hauran Druzes.|
|/k/||[k]||As French or Spanish [k] in ca,co,cu (without the English aspiration)|
|/l/||[l]||As English list (never a dark l as in call)|
|/y/||[j]||As English in yet, yellow etc.|
Contrasting with the rich consonant inventory, Jordanian Arabic has much fewer vowels than English. Yet, as in English, vowel duration is relevant (compare /i/ in bin and bean).
|/a/||[a] or [ɑ]||As English hut or hot (the latter linked to the presence of ṣ, ḍ, ṭ, ẓ, ẖ, ʿ, ḥ or ṛ).|
|/ā/||[a:] or [ɑ:]||The previous one but longer (you hear [ɑ:] in father). Amman is [ʕɑm'ma:n]|
|/i/||[ı]||As in English hit|
|/ī/||[i:]||As in English heat|
|/u/||[u]||As in English put|
|/ū/||[u:]||As in English fool|
|/ē/||[e:]||As in English pear, or slightly more closed.|
|/o/||[o]||As in French côté|
|/ō/||[o:]||As French (faune) or German (Sohn)|
Note : It is tempting to consider /e/ and /i/ as variants of the same phoneme /i/, as well as /o/ and /u/. For the case of e/i, one can oppose 'ente' (you, masculine singular) to 'enti' (you, feminine singular), which makes the difference relevant at list at the end of words.
- This is used in most words that don't start with a vowel in the beginning of a sentence. It is affixed onto the following word.
Il-bāb or el-port meaning the door.
- A modified "el" used in words that start with a consonant produced by the blade of the tongue (t, ṭ, d, ḍ, r, z, ẓ, ž, s, ṣ, š, n. Sometimes [l] and [j] as well depending on the dialect). This causes a toubling of the consonnant.
This e is pronounced as in a rounded short backward vowel or as in an e followed by the first letter of the word that follows the article. For example: ed-desk meaning the desk, ej-jakét meaning the jacket, es-seks meaning the sex or hāda' et-téléfón meaning that is the telephone.
- This is elided into l' when the following word starts with a vowel. For example: l'yüniversiti meaning the University, l'üniform meaning the uniform or l'ēyen meaning the eye.
- Because of Arabic phonology, the definite article can be also elided onto the preceding word on the condition that it ends with a vowel and the word following the article starts with a constant that doesn't require an e()-, it is elided into an 'l and affixed to the end of the word. For example: Lámma'l kompyütar pıştağel means when the computer works
- I (singular)(male)(female) (Urban Amman Dialect)
- You (singular)(male) (Urban Amman Dialect)
- You (singular)(female) (Urban Amman Dialect)
- You (plural)(male) (Urban Amman Dialect)
- You (plural)(female) (Hardly used any more)
- He (Standard Dialect)
- She (Urban Amman Dialect)
- She (Eastern and Southern Dialect)
- They (plural)(male) (Urban Amman Dialect)
- They (plural)(female) (Hardly used any more)
- We (Urban Amman Dialect)
Note : The urban Amman dialect is understood by almost everyone in the country and the entire region.
Similar to ancient and modern semitic languages, Jordanian adds a suffix to a word for possession.
- my book
- your book (singular, male)
- your book (singular, female)
- your book (plural, male)
- your book (plural, female, rural or bedouin)
- his book
- her book
- their book (plural, male)
- their book (plural, female rural or bedouin)
- our book
General Sentence Structure
In a sentence, the pronouns change into prefixes to adjust to the verb, its time and its doer. In present perfect and participle with a verb that starts with a consonant Ana becomes ba, Inta becomes 'Bt', Inti becomes Bıt and so-on.
For example: The verb hıb means to love, Bahıb means I love, Bthıb means you love, Bahıbo means I love him, Bıthıbha means she loves her, Bahıbhom means I love them, Bahıbhālí means I love myself.
Qdar is the infinitive form of the verb can. Baqdar means I can, I can't is Baqdareş, adding an eş or and ış to the end of a verb makes it negative; if the word ends in a vowel then a ş should be enough.
An in-depth example of the negation: Baqdarelhomm figuratively means I can handle them, Baqdarelhommeş means I cannot handle them, the same statement meaning can be achieved by Baqdareş l'ıl homm
Legal status and writing systems
The Jordanian Levantine is not regarded as the official language even though has diverged significantly from Classic Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), or even the colloquial MSA. A large number of Jordanians, however, will call their language "Arabic" while they will refer to the original Arabic language as Fusħa. This is common in many countries that speak languages or dialects derived from Arabic and can prove to be quite confusing. The writing system varies; whenever a book is published, it is usually published in English, French, or in MSA and not in Levantine. There are many ways of representing Levantine Arabic in writing. The most common is the scholastic Jordanian Latin alphabet system which uses many accents to distinguish between the letters (this system is used within this article). Other Levantine countries, however, use their own alphabets and transliterations, making cross-border communication inconvenient.
British English has a great influence on Jordanian Levantine, depending on the region. English is widely understood in many regions, especially in the western part of the country. English vocabulary has been adopted replacing native Arabic vocabulary in many cases. Literary Arabic is spoken in formal TV programs, and in Modern Standard Arabic classes, it is used to quote poetry and historical phrases. It is also the language used to write and read in formal situations if English is not being used. However, formal Arabic is never spoken during regular conversations, and can prove to be difficult because it removes loan words from English or French origins and replaces them with a proper Standard Arabic-derived nouns and verbs. Modern Standard Arabic is taught in most schools and a large number of the Jordanian citizens are proficient in reading and writing formal Arabic. However, foreigners residing in Jordan who learn the Levantine language generally find it difficult to comprehend formal MSA, particularly if they did not attend a school that teaches it.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20111201025138/http://alarabalyawm.net/pages.php?articles_id=16756. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011. Missing or empty
- 'New dialect formation - the focusing on -kum in Amman', Enam el Wer, in 'Social dialectology: in honour of Peter Trudgill', John Benjamins Pub Co (2003)
- Jordanian Arabic phrasebook – iGuide. Iguide.travel. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
- Ethnologue report for language code: ajp. Ethnologue.com. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
- iTunes – Podcasts – Jordanian Arabic Language Lessons by Peace Corps. Itunes.apple.com (16 February 2007). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
- Syria – Diana Darke – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
- (PDF) https://web.archive.org/web/20111008153258/http://www.lit.az/ijar/pdf/jes/2/JES2010(2-5).pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011. Missing or empty
- Jordanian Arabic phrasebook travel guide from Wikivoyage