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About Lebanese Arabic Language

Lebanese or Lebanese Arabic is the variety of Levantine Arabic spoken mainly in Lebanon though some consider Lebanese a language in its own right. Many Lebanese usually mix French, English, Italian, and Russian to some extent into their Lebanese dialect for example, talfinli for call me or telephone me and fraize instead of the arabic farawila for the word strawberry or fraise in French.

Differences from Standard Arabic

Lebanese Arabic shares many featural similarities with other modern varieties of Arabic. Lebanese Arabic, like many other Arabic varieties, has a very different syllable structure from Standard Arabic. While Standard Arabic can have only one consonant at the beginning of a syllable, after which a vowel must follow, Lebanese commonly has two consonants in the onset.

  • Syntax: has become simpler, losing both mood and case markings.
  • Number: verbal agreement regarding number and gender is required for all subjects, whether already mentioned or not.
  • Gender: plural inanimate nouns are treated as feminine.
  • Vocabulary: The vocabulary has been driven by large borrowings from other languages, such as prominently Phoenician, Aramaic / Syriac, Ottoman Turkish language / Modern Turkish, Greek, Hebrew and French languages, and less prominently but very notably from English, Italian, Uzbek language, and Kurdish.

Other Influences

French also had a great influence on Lebanese Arabic, as the educated class tend to mix French during conversation.

Examples

  • The following example demonstrates two differences between Standard Arabic and Spoken Lebanese: Coffee (قهوة), pronounced /qahwa/ in Standard Arabic, is pronounced /ahwe/ in Lebanese Arabic. The letter Voiceless uvular plosive [q] (qaaf ق) is not pronounced, and the letter taa marbuta (ة) becomes a softer /e/ sound.
  • As a general rule of thumb, the Voiceless uvular plosive [q] is dropped from the words in which it appears, and is replaced instead with glottal stop [ʔ] (hamza), e.g., /daqiqa/ "minute" becomes /daʔiʔa/. Dropping of [q] is a feature shared with most accents of Egyptian Arabic.
  • The exception for this general rule is the Druze of Lebanon who, like the Druze of Syria and Israel, have retained the pronunciation of [q] in the centre of direct neighbours who have substituted the [q] for the [ʔ] (example: "Heart" is /qalb/ in Modern Standard Arabic, becomes /ʔaleb/ or /ʔalb/ in Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian. The use of [q] by Druze is particularly prominent in the mountains and less so in urban areas.
  • Unlike most other varieties of Arabic, Lebanese has retained the classical diphthongs [aɪ] and [aʊ] (/aj/ & /aw/), which were monophthongised into /e/ and /o/ elsewhere. This has changed over time, and today the /e/ has replaced the /aj/, /a/ and /i/ in everyday conversation, and the /o/ has replaced the /aw/ and /u/. In singing, the /aj/ and /aw/ are maintained for artistic values.

Regional Lebanese Arabic Dialects

Although there is a common Lebanese Arabic dialect mutually understood by most Lebanese, there are regional distinct variations in various parts of the country with at times unique pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.
Widely used regional dialects include:

  • Beiruti dialects, further distributed according to various quarters, and notably Achrafieh dialect, Basta dialect, Ras Beirut dialect etc.
  • Northern dialects, further distributed regionally, and most notably Tripoli dialect, Zgharta dialect, Bsharri dialect, Koura dialect, Akkar dialect
  • Southern dialects
  • Beqaa dialects, further divided into various dialects notably Zahle dialect
  • Mount Lebanon dialects, further divided into various regional dialects like the Keserwan dialect, the Druze dialect etc.

Spelling reform

Lebanese Arabic is rarely written, except in novels where a dialect is implied or in some types of poetry that do not use classical Arabic at all. Lebanese Arabic is also utilized in many Lebanese songs, theatrical pieces, local television and radio productions and very prominently in zajal.

Lebanese Arabic has been popularized throughout the Arab World particularly through Lebanese pan-Arab singers including Fairuz, Sabah, Wadih El Safi and many others.

Formal publications in Lebanon, such as newspapers, are typically written in Modern Standard Arabic.

While Arabic script is usually employed, informal usage such as online chat may mix and match Latin letter transliterations. The anti-Arabist poet Saïd Akl proposed the use of the Latin alphabet but did not gain wide acceptance. Whereas some works, such as Romeo and Juliet and Plato's Dialogues have been transliterated using such systems, they have not gained widespread acceptance. Yet, now, most Arabic web users, when short of an Arabic keyboard, transliterate the Arabic words in the Latin alphabet in a pattern almost identical to the Said Akl alphabet, the only difference being the use of numbers to point at the Arabic letters not found in the Latin alphabet.

 

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