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About Sudanese Arabic Language

Sudanese Arabic is the variety of Arabic spoken throughout northern Sudan. It has much borrowed vocabulary from the local languages (El Rutana). This has resulted in a variety of Arabic that is unique to Sudan, reflecting the way in which the country has been influenced by both African and Arab cultures. Some of the tribes in the eastern part of Sudan still have similar accents to the ones in Saudi Arabia.

Unique phonological characteristics

Sudanese Arabic is distinct from Egyptian Arabic and does not share some of the characteristic properties of that dialect despite the overall similarity of the two dialects.

The Arabic letter ج maintains an archaic pronunciation [ɡʲ] in Sudanese (other dialects typically have [dʒ], [ʒ] or [j], while Egyptian Arabic has [g]).

Sudanese Arabic also maintains an archaic rendering of qaf as [ɢ] (Voiced uvular plosive) while Egyptian (like some other modern Urban dialects) renders it as [ʔ]. The voiced uvular rendering of qaf has been lost in nearly every other Arabic dialect and is also considered a relic.

Also peculiar to Sudanese is the quality of the Arabic vowel transliterated as u/ū; this is usually transliterated as o in materials on Sudanese because the sound ranges from ɵ~o rather than the typical ʊ~u.

In addition to differences in pronunciation, Sudanese Arabic also uses different words when compared to Egyptian Arabic. For example, the interrogative pronoun "what" in Sudan is shino rather than "ēh" as in Egyptian Arabic.

Influence of Nubian languages

In northern and central parts of Sudan, Sudanese colloquial Arabic has been influenced by the Nubian language, which in ancient times was the dominant language in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. Many of the agricultural and farming terms in Sudanese Arabic were adopted from Nubian.

Regional variation

Because of the varying influence of local languages in different parts of Sudan, there is considerable regional variation in Arabic spoken throughout the country. Sudanese Arabic typically refers to Arabic spoken mostly in northern parts of Sudan. The other most commonly mentioned derviate of Arabic in Sudan is Juba Arabic, a pidgin of Arabic, which is much more heavily influenced by other local languages.

Greetings in Sudanese Arabic

In northern Sudan, greetings are typically extended, and involve multiple questions about the other persons health, their family etc. When greeting someone you know, it is common to begin with the word o, followed by the person's first name: Ō, Babiker or Ō, kēf ya Babiker.

Formal greetings often begin with the universal As-salām ˤalaykom and the reply, Wa ˤalaykom as-salām, an exchange common to Muslims everywhere. However, other greetings typical to Sudan include Izzēyak (to men) or Izzēyik (to women) "How are you", Inta shadīd? Inti shadīda? "Are you well? (to a male and a female, respectively)", the response to which is usually al-Hamdo lillāh "Praise God" assuming you are indeed feeling well, ma batal "not bad" or nosnos "half-half)" if feeling only okay or taˤban showayya "a little tired" if not so well.

Other everyday greetings include kwayyis(a) "Good", Kēf al-usra? "how is the family?" or kēf al awlād? "how are the children" (though it generally refers to one's spouse and children). For friends, the question Kēf? can also be formed using the person's first name, prefixed by ya, for example; kēf ya Yōsof? "How are you, Joseph?". Another standard response in addition to al-hamdo lillāh is Allāh barik fik "God's blessing upon you". Additional greetings are appropriate for particular times and are standard in most varieties of Arabic, such as Sabāh al-khēr? / Sabāh an-Nōr.

Sudanese that know each other well will often use many of these greetings together, sometimes repeating themselves. It is also common to shake hands on first meeting, sometimes simultaneously slapping or tapping each other on the left shoulder before the handshake (particularly for good friends). Handshakes in Sudan can often last as long as greetings.

Assenting - saying yes

The Sudanese Arabic word for "yes" is typically ay, though aywa or na‘am are also sometimes used. Some people (often those from southern Sudan) will also click their tongue when assenting (sometimes more than once) to something rather than using a particular word. Clicking, depending on the tone, can also be used when expressing sympathy with some (usually minor) problem a person has.


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