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About Juba Arabic Language

Juba Arabic is a lingua franca spoken mainly in Equatoria Province in Southern Sudan, and derives its name from the town of Juba, Sudan. It is also spoken among communities of people from south Sudan living in towns in Northern Sudan. The pidgin developed in the 19th century, among descendants of Sudanese soldiers, many of whom were forcibly recruited from southern Sudan. Residents of other large towns in southern Sudan, notably Malakal and Wau, Sudan, do not generally speak Juba Arabic, tending towards the use of Arabic closer to Sudanese Arabic, in addition to local languages.


Juba derives from a pidgin based in 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 (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.

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. The newly autonomous government of southern Sudan has nominated English as the new official language of government in southern Sudan in preference to Arabic and / or local languages such as Juba Arabic, Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, etc.


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