|Native speakers||68,000,000 (2020)|
|Writing system||Arabic alphabet|
Egyptian Arabic is mainly influenced by the Egyptian Coptic language in its grammar structure which was the native language of the vast majority of Nile Valley Egyptians prior to the Islamic conquest and later it had small influences by European and foreign languages such as French, Italian, Greek, Turkish and English.
The 100 million Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects, among which Cairene is the most prominent.
It is also understood across most of the Arabic-speaking countries due to broad Egyptian influence on the region.
These factors help to make it the most widely spoken and by far the most widely studied variety of Arabic.
While it is primarily a spoken language, the written form is used in novels, plays and poems (vernacular literature), as well as in comics, advertising, some newspapers and transcriptions of popular songs.
In most other written media and in television news reporting, Literary Arabic is used.
The Egyptian vernacular is almost universally written in the Arabic alphabet for local consumption, although it is commonly transcribed into Latin letters or in the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics text and textbooks aimed at teaching non-native learners.
Egyptians generally call their vernacular "Arabic" (عربى, [ˈʕɑrɑbi) when juxtaposed with non-Arabic languages; "Colloquial Egyptian" (العاميه المصريه, [el.ʕæmˈmejjæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ) or simply "'Aamiyya" (عامية, colloquial) when juxtaposed with Standard Arabic and the Egyptian dialect (اللهجه المصريه, [elˈlæhɡæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ) or simply Masri (مَصرى, [ˈmɑsˤɾi, Egyptian) when juxtaposed with other vernacular Arabic dialects.
Sometimes it is also called Modern Egyptian language (اللغه المصريه الحديثه, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [elˈloɣæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ l.ħæˈdiːsæ).
The term Egyptian Arabic is usually used synonymously with "Cairene Arabic", which is technically a dialect of Egyptian Arabic.
The country's native name, Maṣr, is often used locally to refer to Cairo itself.
As is the case with Parisian French, Cairene Arabic is by far the most prevalent dialect in the country.
The total number of Egyptian Arabic users in all countries is over 51 million, 49 million of whom are native speakers in Egypt, including several regional dialects.
Among the spoken varieties of Arabic, Standard Egyptian Arabic (based on the dialect of the Egyptian capital) is the only one to have become a lingua franca in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world for two main reasons: the proliferation and popularity of Egyptian films and other media in the region since the early 20th century as well as the great number of Egyptian teachers and professors who were instrumental in setting up the education systems of various countries in the Arabian Peninsula and also taught there and in other countries such as Algeria and Libya.
Also, many Lebanese artists choose to sing in Egyptian and Lebanese.
Standard Egyptian Arabic when used in documents, broadcast media, prepared speeches and sometimes in liturgical purpose, is Cairene Arabic with loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic origin or code-switching between Cairene Arabic and .
Egyptian Arabic has no official status and is not officially recognized as a language.
Standard Arabic is the official language of the state as per constitutional law .
For many decades to follow, questions about the reform and the modernization of Arabic were hotly debated in Egyptian intellectual circles.
Proposals ranged from developing neologisms to replace archaic terminology in Modern Standard Arabic to the simplification of syntactical and morphological rules and the introduction of colloquialisms to even complete "Egyptianization" (tamṣīr) by abandoning the so-called Modern Standard Arabic in favor of Masri or Egyptian Arabic.
Proponents of language reform in Egypt included Qasim Amin, who also wrote the first Egyptian feminist treatise, former President of the Egyptian University, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, and noted intellectual Salama Moussa.
It was only in 1966 that Mustafa Musharafa's Kantara Who Disbelieved was released, the first novel to be written entirely in Egyptian Arabic.
Other notable novelists, such as Ihsan Abdel Quddous and Yusuf Idris, and poets, such as Salah Jahin, Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi and Ahmed Fouad Negm, helped solidify vernacular literature as a distinct literary genre.
Amongst certain groups within Egypt's elite, Egyptian Arabic enjoyed a brief period of rich literary output.
That dwindled with the rise of Egyptian Arab nationalism, which had gained wide popularity in Egypt by the final years of the Muhammad Ali dynasty, as demonstrated vividly by Egypt's involvement in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War under King Farouk of Egypt.
The importance of Modern Standard Arabic was reemphasised in the public sphere by the revolutionary government, and efforts to accord any formal language status to the Egyptian vernacular were ignored.
Though the revolutionary government heavily sponsored the use of the Egyptian vernacular in films, plays, television programmes, and music, the prerevolutionary use of Modern Standard Arabic in official publications was retained.
Linguistic commentators have noted the multi-faceted approach of the Egyptian revolutionaries towards the Arabic language.
Whereas Egypt's first president, Mohammed Naguib exhibited a preference for using Modern Standard Arabic in his public speeches, his successor, Gamal Abdel Nasser was renowned for using the vernacular and for punctuating his speeches with traditional Egyptian words and expressions.
Conversely, Modern Standard Arabic was the norm for state news outlets, including newspapers, magazines, television, and radio.
That was especially true of Egypt's national broadcasting company, the Arab Radio and Television Union, which was established with the intent of providing content for the entire Arab world, not merely Egypt, hence the need to broadcast in the standard, rather than the vernacular, language.
The Voice of the Arabs radio station, in particular, had an audience from across the region, and the use of anything other than Modern Standard Arabic was viewed as eminently incongruous.
As the status of Egyptian Arabic as opposed to Classical Arabic can have such political and religious implications in Egypt, the question of whether Egyptian Arabic should be considered a "dialect" or "language" can be a source of debate.
In sociolinguistics, Egyptian Arabic can be seen as one of many distinct varieties that, despite arguably being languages on abstand grounds, are united by a common dachsprache in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).
During the early 1900s many portions of the Bible were published in Egyptian Arabic.
These were published by the Nile Mission Press.
By 1932 the whole New Testament and some books of the Old Testament had been published in Egyptian Arabic in Arabic script.
It carries little prestige nationally but continues to be widely spoken, with 19,000,000 speakers.
The traditional division between Upper and Lower Egypt and their respective differences go back to ancient times.
Egyptians today commonly call the people of the north baḥarwa ([bɑˈħɑɾwɑ]) and those of the south ṣaʿayda ([sˤɑˈʕɑjdɑ]).
The differences throughout Egypt, however, are more wide-ranging and do not neatly correspond to the simple division.
Despite the differences, there are features distinguishing all the Egyptian Arabic varieties of the Nile Valley from any other varieties of Arabic.
Such features include reduction of long vowels in open and unstressed syllables, the postposition of demonstratives and interrogatives, the modal meaning of the imperfect and the integration of the participle.
Northwest Arabian Arabic is also distinct from Egyptian Arabic.
In contrast to CA and MSA, nouns are not inflected for case and lack nunation (with the exception of certain fixed phrases in the accusative case, such as شكراً [ˈʃokɾɑn], "thank you").
In sound plurals and dual forms, where, in MSA, difference in case is present even in pausal forms, the genitive/accusative form is the one preserved.
Fixed expressions in the construct state beginning in abu, often geographic names, retain their -u in all cases.
|CVCCVVC||CaCaCCa||occupational nouns||tilmiiz, talamza "student"; ʔustaaz, ʔasatza "teacher"; simsaaṛ, samasṛa "broker"; duktoor, dakatra "doctor"|
|CaCVVC||CawaaCiiC||qamuus, qawamiis "dictionary"; maʕaad, mawaʕiid "appointment"; ṭabuuṛ, ṭawabiiṛ "line, queue"; meʃwar, maʃaweer "Walk, Appointment"|
|CaCaC||CiCaaC||gamal, gimaal "camel"; gabal, gibaal "mountain, hill"|
|CaCC||ʔaCCuC||ʃahṛ, ʔaʃhur "month"|
|CiCaaC, CaCiiC(a)||CuCuC||kitaab, kutub "book"; madiina, mudun "city"|
|CaCC(a)||CaCaaCi||maʕna, maʕaani "meaning"; makwa, makaawi "iron"; ʔahwa, ʔahaawi "coffee"; ʔaṛḍ, ʔaṛaaḍi "ground, land"|
|CaaCa, CaaCi, CaCya||CawaaCi||ḥaaṛa, ḥawaaṛi "alley"; naadi, nawaadi "club"; naḥya, nawaaḥi "side"|
|CaCaC, CiCaaC||ʔaCCiCa/ʔiCCiCa||ḥizaam, ʔaḥzima "belt"; masal, ʔamsila "example"; sabat, ʔisbita "basket"|
|CiCiyya||CaCaaya||hidiyya, hadaaya "gift"|
|CaaC||CiCaaC||faaṛ, firaan "mouse"; gaaṛ, giraan "neighbor"; xaal, xilaan "maternal uncle"|
A common set of nouns referring to colors, as well as a number of nouns referring to physical defects of various sorts (ʔaṣlaʕ "bald"; ʔaṭṛaʃ "deaf"; ʔaxṛas "dumb"), take a special inflectional pattern, as shown in the table.
Note that only a small number of common colors inflect this way: ʔaḥmaṛ "red"; ʔazraʔ "blue"; ʔaxḍaṛ "green"; ʔaṣfaṛ "yellow"; ʔabyaḍ "white"; ʔiswid "black"; ʔasmaṛ "brown-skinned, brunette"; ʔaʃʔaṛ "blond(e)".
The remaining colors are invariable, and mostly so-called nisba adjectives derived from colored objects: bunni "brown" (< bunn "coffee powder"); ṛamaadi "gray" (< ṛamaad "ashes"); banafsigi "purple" (< banafsig "violet"); burtuʔaani "orange" (< burtuʔaan "oranges"); zibiibi "maroon" (< zibiib "raisins"); etc., or of foreign origin: beeع "beige" from the French; bamba "pink" from Turkish .
|Meaning||Subject||Direct object/Possessive||Indirect object|
|After vowel||After 1 cons.||After 2 cons.||After vowel||After 1 cons.||After 2 cons.|
|Normal||+ ʃ||+ l-||Normal||+ ʃ||+ l-||Normal||+ ʃ||+ l-||Normal||+ ʃ||Normal||+ ʃ||Normal||+ ʃ|
|"my" (nominal)||—||- ́ya||-i||—|
|"I/me" (verbal)||ána||- ́ni||-íni||- ́li||-íli|
|"you(r) (masc.)"||ínta||- ́k||-ak||- ́lak||-ílak|
|"you(r) (fem.)"||ínti||- ́ki||-ik||-ki||-ik||-iki||- ́lik||-lkí||-lik||-likí||-ílik||-ilkí|
|"he/him/his"||huwwa||- ́||-hu||-u||-hu||-u||-uhu||- ́lu||-ílu|
|"she/her"||hiyya||- ́ha||-áha||- ́lha||-láha||-ílha|
|"we/us/our"||íḥna||- ́na||-ína||- ́lna||-lína||-ílna|
|"you(r) (pl.)"||íntu||- ́ku||-úku||- ́lku||-lúku||-ílku|
|"they/them/their"||humma||- ́hum||-úhum||- ́lhum||-lúhum||-ílhum|
|"your (masc.) ..."||béet-ak||biyúut-ak||bánk-ak||sikkínt-ak||miṛáat-ak||ʔabúu-k||ʔidée-k|
|"your (fem.) ..."||béet-ik||biyúut-ik||bánk-ik||sikkínt-ik||miṛáat-ik||ʔabúu-ki||ʔidée-ki|
|"your (pl.) ..."||bét-ku||biyút-ku||bank-úku||sikkinít-ku||miṛát-ku||ʔabúu-ku||ʔidée-ku|
"by, in, with"
"in the possession of, to have"
|"... you (masc.)"||fíi-k||bíi-k||líi-k, l-ak||wayyáa-k||ʕalée-k||ʕánd-ak||mínn-ak|
|"... you (fem.)"||fíi-ki||bíi-ki||líi-ki, li-ki||wayyáa-ki||ʕalée-ki||ʕánd-ik||mínn-ik|
|"... him"||fíi-(h)||bíi-(h)||líi-(h), l-u(h)||wayyáa-(h)||ʕalée-(h)||ʕánd-u||mínn-u|
|"... her"||fíi-ha||bíi-ha||líi-ha, la-ha||wayyáa-ha||ʕalée-ha||ʕand-áha||minn-áha, mín-ha|
|"... us"||fíi-na||bíi-na||líi-na, li-na||wayyáa-na||ʕalée-na||ʕand-ína||minn-ína|
|"... you (pl.)"||fíi-ku||bíi-ku||líi-ku, li-ku||wayyáa-ku||ʕalée-ku||ʕand-úku||minn-úku, mín-ku|
|"... them"||fíi-hum||bíi-hum||líi-hum, li-hum||wayyáa-hum||ʕalée-hum||ʕand-úhum||minn-úhum, mín-hum|
Egyptian Arabic object pronouns are clitics, in that they attach to the end of a noun, verb, or preposition, with the result forming a single phonological word rather than separate words.
Clitics can be attached to the following types of words:
- A clitic pronoun attached to a noun indicates possession: béet "house", béet-i "my house"; sikkíina "knife", sikkínt-i "my knife"; ʔább "father", ʔabúu-ya "my father". Note that the form of a pronoun may vary depending on the phonological form of the word being attached to (ending with a vowel or with one or two consonants), and the noun being attached to may also have a separate "construct" form before possessive clitic suffixes.
- A clitic pronoun attached to a preposition indicates the object of the preposition: minno "from it (masculine object)", ʕaleyha "on it (feminine object)"
- A clitic pronoun attached to a verb indicates the object of the verb: ʃúft "I saw", ʃúft-u "I saw him", ʃuft-áha "I saw her".
With verbs, indirect object clitic pronouns can be formed using the preposition li- plus a clitic.
Both direct and indirect object clitic pronouns can be attached to a single verb: agíib "I bring", agíb-hu "I bring it", agib-húu-lik "I bring it to you", m-agib-hu-lkíi-ʃ "I do not bring it to you".
Verbs in Arabic are based on a stem made up of three or four consonants.
The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb.
Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes and/or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person, and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive.
To the former stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number, and gender, while to the latter stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added.
(Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.)
The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English (Arabic has no infinitive).
For example, the verb meaning "write" is often specified as kátab, which actually means "he wrote".
In the paradigms below, a verb will be specified as kátab/yíktib (where kátab means "he wrote" and yíktib means "he writes"), indicating the past stem (katab-) and non-past stem (-ktib-, obtained by removing the prefix yi-).
The verb classes in Arabic are formed along two axes.
For example, from the root K-T-B "write" is derived form I kátab/yíktib "write", form II káttib/yikáttib "cause to write", form III ká:tib/yiká:tib "correspond", etc.
The other axis is determined by the particular consonants making up the root.
For example, defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant, which is often reflected in paradigms with an extra final vowel in the stem (e.g. ráma/yírmi "throw" from R-M-Y); meanwhile, hollow verbs have a W or Y as the middle root consonant, and the stems of such verbs appear to have only two consonants (e.g. gá:b/yigí:b "bring" from G-Y-B).
Strong verbs are those that have no "weakness" (e.g. W or Y) in the root consonants.
Each verb has a given vowel pattern for Past (a or i) and Present (a or i or u).
Combinations of each exist.
Regular verbs, form I
Form I verbs have a given vowel pattern for past (a or i) and present (a, i or u).
Combinations of each exist:
|a||a||ḍárab – yíḍrab to beat|
|a||i||kátab – yíktib to write|
|a||u||ṭálab – yíṭlub~yúṭlub to order, to demand|
|i||a||fíhim – yífham to understand|
|i||i||misik – yímsik to hold, to touch|
|i||u||sikit – yískut~yúskut to be silent, to shut up|
Regular verb, form I, fáʕal/yífʕil
Example: kátab/yíktib "write"
Note that, in general, the present indicative is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of bi- (bi-a- is elided to ba-).
Similarly, the future is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of ḥa- (ḥa-a- is elided to ḥa-).
The i in bi- or in the following prefix will be deleted according to the regular rules of vowel syncope:
- híyya b-tíktib "she writes" (híyya + bi- + tíktib)
- híyya bi-t-ʃú:f "she sees" (híyya + bi- + tiʃú:f)
- an-áktib "I write (subjunctive)" (ána + áktib)
Example: kátab/yíktib "write": non-finite forms
|Number/Gender||Active Participle||Passive Participle||Verbal Noun|
Regular verb, form I, fíʕil/yífʕal
Example: fíhim/yífham "understand"
Boldfaced forms fíhm-it and fíhm-u differ from the corresponding forms of katab (kátab-it and kátab-u due to vowel syncope).
Note also the syncope in ána fhím-t "I understood".
Regular verb, form II, fáʕʕil/yifáʕʕil
Example: dárris/yidárris "teach"
Boldfaced forms indicate the primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab:
- The prefixes ti-, yi-, ni- have elision of i following bi- or ḥa- (all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
- The imperative prefix i- is missing (again, all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
- Due to the regular operation of the stress rules, the stress in the past tense forms darrís-it and darrís-u differs from kátab-it and kátab-u.
Regular verb, form III, fá:ʕil/yifá:ʕil
Example: sá:fir/yisá:fir "travel"
The primary differences from the corresponding forms of darris (shown in boldface) are:
- The long vowel a: becomes a when unstressed.
- The i in the stem sa:fir is elided when a suffix beginning with a vowel follows.
Defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant.
Defective verb, form I, fáʕa/yífʕi
Example: ráma/yírmi "throw away" (i.e. trash, etc.)
The primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab (shown in boldface) are:
- In the past, there are three stems: ráma with no suffix, ramé:- with a consonant-initial suffix, rám- with a vowel initial suffix.
- In the non-past, the stem rmi becomes rm- before a (vowel initial) suffix, and the stress remains on the prefix, since the stem vowel has been elided.
- Note also the accidental homonymy between masculine tí-rmi, í-rmi and feminine tí-rm-i, í-rm-i.
Defective verb, form I, fíʕi/yífʕa
Example: nísi/yínsa "forget"
This verb type is quite similar to the defective verb type ráma/yírmi.
The primary differences are:
- The occurrence of i and a in the stems are reversed: i in the past, a in the non-past.
- In the past, instead of the stems ramé:- and rám-, the verb has nisí:- (with a consonant-initial suffix) and nísy- (with a vowel initial suffix). Note in particular the |y| in nísyit and nísyu as opposed to rámit and rámu.
- Elision of i in nisí:- can occur, e.g. ána nsí:t "I forgot".
- In the non-past, because the stem has a instead of i, there is no homonymy between masculine tí-nsa, í-nsa and feminine tí-ns-i, í-ns-i.
Note that some other verbs have different stem variations, e.g. míʃi/yímʃi "walk" (with i in both stems) and báʔa/yíbʔa "become, remain" (with a in both stems).
The verb láʔa/yilá:ʔi "find" is unusual in having a mixture of a form I past and form III present (note also the variations líʔi/yílʔa and láʔa/yílʔa).
Verbs other than form I have consistent stem vowels.
All such verbs have a in the past (hence form stems with -é:-, not -í:-).
Forms V, VI, X and IIq have a in the present (indicated by boldface below); others have i; forms VII, VIIt, and VIII have i in both vowels of the stem (indicated by italics below); form IX verbs, including "defective" verbs, behave as regular doubled verbs:
- Form II: wádda/yiwáddi "take away"; ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen"
- Form III: ná:da/yiná:di "call"; dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure"
- Form IV (rare, classicized): ʔárḍa/yírḍi "please, satisfy
- Form V: itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
- Form VI: itdá:wa/yitdá:wa "be treated, be cured"
- Form VII (rare in the Cairene dialect): inḥáka/yinḥíki "be told"
- Form VIIt: itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
- Form VIII: iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
- Form IX (very rare): iḥláww/yiḥláww "be/become sweet"
- Form X: istákfa/yistákfa "have enough"
- Form Iq: need example
- Form IIq: need example
Hollow have a W or Y as the middle root consonant.
Note that for some forms (e.g. form II and form III), hollow verbs are conjugated as strong verbs (e.g. form II ʕáyyin/yiʕáyyin "appoint" from ʕ-Y-N, form III gá:wib/yigá:wib "answer" from G-W-B).
Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifí:l
Example: gá:b/yigí:b "bring"
This verb works much like dárris/yidárris "teach".
Like all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant, the prefixes differ in the following way from those of regular and defective form I verbs:
- The prefixes ti-, yi-, ni- have elision of i following bi- or ḥa-.
- The imperative prefix i- is missing.
In addition, the past tense has two stems: gíb- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and gá:b- elsewhere (third person).
Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifú:l
Example: ʃá:f/yiʃú:f "see"
This verb class is identical to verbs such as gá:b/yigí:b except in having stem vowel u in place of i.
Doubled verbs have the same consonant as middle and last root consonant, e.g. ḥább/yiḥíbb "love" from Ḥ-B-B.
Doubled verb, form I, fáʕʕ/yifíʕʕ
Example: ḥább/yiḥíbb "love"
This verb works much like gá:b/yigí:b "bring".
Like that class, it has two stems in the past, which are ḥabbé:- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and ḥább- elsewhere (third person).
Note that é:- was borrowed from the defective verbs; the Classical Arabic equivalent form would be *ḥabáb-, e.g. *ḥabáb-t.
Other verbs have u or a in the present stem: baṣṣ/yibúṣṣ "to look", ṣaḥḥ/yiṣáḥḥ "be right, be proper".
As for the other forms:
- Form II, V doubled verbs are strong: ḥáddid/yiḥáddid "limit, fix (appointment)"
- Form III, IV, VI, VIII doubled verbs seem non-existent
- Form VII and VIIt doubled verbs (same stem vowel a in both stems): inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted", itʕádd/yitʕádd
- Form VIII doubled verbs (same stem vowel a in both stems): ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
- Form IX verbs (automatically behave as "doubled" verbs, same stem vowel a in both stems): iḥmárr/yiḥmárr "be red, blush", iḥláww/yiḥláww "be sweet"
- Form X verbs (stem vowel either a or i in non-past): istaḥáʔʔ/yistaḥáʔʔ "deserve" vs. istaʕádd/yistaʕídd "be ready", istamárr/yistamírr "continue".
Assimilated verbs have W or Y as the first root consonant.
Most of these verbs have been regularized in Egyptian Arabic, e.g. wázan/yíwzin "to weigh" or wíṣíl/yíwṣal "to arrive".
Only a couple of irregular verbs remain, e.g. wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (see below).
Doubly weak verbs
"Doubly weak" verbs have more than one "weakness", typically a W or Y as both the second and third consonants.
This term is in fact a misnomer, as such verbs actually behave as normal defective verbs (e.g. káwa/yíkwi "iron (clothes)" from K-W-Y, ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen" from ʔ-W-Y, dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure" from D-W-Y).
The irregular verbs are as follows:
- ídda/yíddi "give" (endings like a normal defective verb)
- wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (áʔaf, báʔaf, ḥáʔaf "I (will) stop"; úʔaf "stop!")
- kal/yá:kul "eat" and xad/yá:xud "take" (kalt, kal, kálit, kálu "I/he/she/they ate", also regular ákal, etc. "he/etc. ate"; á:kul, bá:kul, ḥá:kul "I (will) eat", yáklu "they eat"; kúl, kúli, kúlu "eat!"; wá:kil "eating"; mittá:kil "eaten")
- gé/yí:gi "come". This verb is extremely irregular (with particularly unusual forms in boldface):
Example: gé/yí:gi "come": non-finite forms
|Number/Gender||Active Participle||Verbal Noun|
Table of verb forms
In this section all verb classes and their corresponding stems are listed, excluding the small number of irregular verbs described above.
Verb roots are indicated schematically using capital letters to stand for consonants in the root:
- F = first consonant of root
- M = middle consonant of three-consonant root
- S = second consonant of four-consonant root
- T = third consonant of four-consonant root
- L = last consonant of root
Hence, the root F-M-L stands for all three-consonant roots, and F-S-T-L stands for all four-consonant roots.
(Traditional Arabic grammar uses F-ʕ-L and F-ʕ-L-L, respectively, but the system used here appears in a number of grammars of spoken Arabic dialects and is probably less confusing for English speakers, since the forms are easier to pronounce than those involving ʕ.)
The following table lists the prefixes and suffixes to be added to mark tense, person, number and gender, and the stem form to which they are added.
The forms involving a vowel-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAv or NPv, are highlighted in silver.
The forms involving a consonant-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAc, are highlighted in gold.
The forms involving a no suffix, and corresponding stem PA0 or NP0, are unhighlighted.
The following table lists the verb classes along with the form of the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun, in addition to an example verb for each class.
- Italicized forms are those that follow automatically from the regular rules of vowel shortening and deletion.
- Multisyllabic forms without a stress mark have variable stress, depending on the nature of the suffix added, following the regular rules of stress assignment.
- Many participles and verbal nouns have acquired an extended sense. In fact, participles and verbal nouns are the major sources for lexical items based on verbs, especially derived (i.e. non-Form-I) verbs.
- Some verb classes do not have a regular verbal noun form; rather, the verbal noun varies from verb to verb. Even in verb classes that do have a regular verbal noun form, there are exceptions. In addition, some verbs share a verbal noun with a related verb from another class (in particular, many passive verbs use the corresponding active verb's verbal noun, which can be interpreted in either an active or passive sense). Some verbs appear to lack a verbal noun entirely. (In such a case, a paraphrase would be used involving a clause beginning with inn.)
- Outside of Form I, passive participles as such are usually non-existent; instead, the active participle of the corresponding passive verb class (e.g. Forms V, VI, VIIt/VIIn for Forms II, III, I respectively) is used. The exception is certain verbs in Forms VIII and X that contain a "classicized" passive participle that is formed in imitation of the corresponding participle in Classical Arabic, e.g. mistáʕmil "using", mustáʕmal "used".
- Not all forms have a separate verb class for hollow or doubled roots. When no such class is listed below, roots of that shape appear as strong verbs in the corresponding form, e.g. Form II strong verb ḍáyyaʕ/yiḍáyyaʕ "waste, lose" related to Form I hollow verb ḍá:ʕ/yiḍí:ʕ "be lost", both from root Ḍ-Y-ʕ.
Main article: Negation in Arabic
One characteristic of Egyptian syntax which it shares with other North African varieties as well as some southern Levantine dialect areas is in the two-part negative verbal circumfix /ma-...-ʃ(i)/
- Past: /ˈkatab/ "he wrote" /ma-katab-ʃ(i)/ "he didn't write" ما كتبشِ
- Present: /ˈjik-tib/ "he writes" /ma-bjik-tib-ʃ(i)/ "he doesn't write" ما بيكتبشِ
/ma-/ comes from the Classical Arabic negator /maː/.
/-ʃ(i)/ is a development of Classical /ʃajʔ/ "thing".
The structure can end in a consonant /ʃ/ or in a vowel /i/, varying according to the individual or region.
The fuller ending /ʃi/ is considered rural, and nowadays Cairene speakers usually use the shorter /ʃ/.
However, /ʃi/ was more common in the past, as attested in old films.
The negative circumfix often surrounds the entire verbal composite including direct and indirect object pronouns:
- /ma-katab-hum-ˈliː-ʃ/ "he didn't write them to me"
However, verbs in the future tense typically instead use the prefix /miʃ/:
- /miʃ-ħa-ˈjiktib/ (or /ma-ħa-jikˈtibʃ/ "he won't write"
Interrogative sentences can be formed by adding the negation clitic "(miʃ)" before the verb:
- Past: /ˈkatab/ "he wrote"; /miʃ-ˈkatab/ "didn't he write?"
- Present: /ˈjiktib/ "he writes"; /miʃ-bi-ˈjiktib/ "doesn't he write?"
- Future: /ħa-ˈjiktib/ "he will write"; /miʃ-ħa-ˈjiktib/ "won't he write?"
Addition of the circumfix can cause complex changes to the verbal cluster, due to the application of the rules of vowel syncope, shortening, lengthening, insertion and elision described above:
- The addition of /ma-/ may trigger elision or syncope:
- A vowel following /ma-/ is elided: (ixtáːr) "he chose" → (maxtárʃ).
- A short vowel /i/ or /u/ in the first syllable may be deleted by syncope: (kíbir) "he grew" → (makbírʃ).
- The addition of /-ʃ/ may result in vowel shortening or epenthesis:
- A final long vowel preceding a single consonant shortens: (ixtáːr) "he chose" → (maxtárʃ).
- An unstressed epenthetic /i/ is inserted when the verbal complex ends in two consonants: /kunt/ "I was" → (makúntiʃ).
- In addition, the addition of /-ʃ/ triggers a stress shift, which may in turn result in vowel shortening or lengthening:
- The stress shifts to the syllable preceding /ʃ/: (kátab) "he wrote" → (makatábʃ).
- A long vowel in the previously stressed syllable shortens: (ʃáːfit) "she saw" → (maʃafítʃ); (ʃá:fu) "they saw" or "he saw it" → (maʃafú:ʃ).
- A final short vowel directly preceding /ʃ/ lengthens: (ʃáːfu) "they saw" or "he saw it" → (maʃafú:ʃ).
In addition, certain other morphological changes occur:
- (ʃafúː) "they saw him" → (maʃafuhúːʃ) (to avoid a clash with (maʃafúːʃ) "they didn't see/he didn't see him").
- (ʃáːfik) "He saw you (fem. sg.)" → (maʃafkíːʃ).
- (ʃúftik) "I saw you (fem. sg.)" → (maʃuftikíːʃ).
In contrast with Classical Arabic, but much like the other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic prefers subject–verb–object (SVO) word order; CA and to a lesser extent MSA prefer verb–subject–object (VSO).
For example, in MSA "Adel read the book" would be قرأَ عادل الكتاب Qaraʾa ʿĀdilu l-kitāb IPA: [ˈqɑɾɑʔɑ ˈʕæːdel ol keˈtæːb whereas EA would say عادل قرا الكتاب ʕādil ʔara l-kitāb IPA: [ˈʕæːdel ˈʔɑɾɑ lkeˈtæːb.
Also in common with other Arabic varieties is the loss of unique agreement in the dual form: while the dual remains productive to some degree in nouns, dual nouns are analyzed as plural for the purpose of agreement with verbs, demonstratives, and adjectives.
Thus "These two Syrian professors are walking to the university" in MSA (in an SVO sentence for ease of comparison) would be "هذان الأستاذان السوريان يمشيان إلى الجامعة" Haḏān al-ʾustāḏān as-Sūriyyān yamšiyān ʾilā l-ǧāmiʿah IPA: [hæːˈzæːn æl ʔostæːˈzæːn as suːrejˈjæːn jæmʃeˈjæːn ˈʔelæ lɡæːˈmeʕæ, which becomes in EA "الأستاذين السوريين دول بيمشو للجامعة" il-ʔustazēn il-Suriyyīn dōl biyimʃu lil-gamʕa, IPA: [el ʔostæˈzeːn el soɾejˈjiːn ˈdoːl beˈjemʃo lelˈɡæmʕæ.
Unlike most other forms of Arabic, however, Egyptian prefers final placement of question words in interrogative sentences.
This is a feature characteristic of the Coptic substratum of Egyptian Arabic.
Coptic is the latest stage of the indigenous Egyptian language spoken until the mid-17th century when it was finally completely supplanted among Egyptian Muslims and a majority of Copts by the Egyptian Arabic.
Some features that Egyptian Arabic shares with the original ancient Egyptian language include certain prefix and suffix verbal conjugations, certain emphatic and glottalized consonants, as well as a large number of biliteral and triliteral lexical correspondences.
Two syntactic features that are particular to Egyptian Arabic inherited from Coptic are:
- postposed demonstratives "this" and "that" are placed after the noun.
- Examples: /ir-rˤaːɡil da/ "this man" (lit. "the man this"; in Literary Arabic /haːðaː r-raɡul/) and /il-bitt di/ "this girl" (lit. "the girl this"; in Literary Arabic /haːðihi l-bint/).
- Wh words (i.e. "who", "when", "why" remain in their "logical" positions in a sentence rather than being preposed, or moved to the front of the sentence, as in Literary Arabic or English).
- /rˤaːħ masˤrI ʔimta/ (راح مصر إمتا؟) "When (/ʔimta/) did he go to Egypt?" (lit. "He went to Egypt when?")
- /rˤaːħ masˤrI leːh/ (راح مصر ليه؟) "Why (/leːh/) did he go to Egypt? (lit. "He went to Egypt why?")
- /miːn rˤaːħ masˤr/ or /miːn illi rˤaːħ masˤr/ (مين [اللى] راح مصر؟) "Who (/miːn/) went to Egypt/Cairo? (literally – same order)
- The same sentences in Literary Arabic (with all the question words (wh-words) in the beginning of the sentence) would be:
- متى ذهب إلى مصر؟ /mataː ðahaba ʔilaː misˤr/
- لِمَ ذهب إلى مصر؟ /lima ðahaba ʔilaː misˤr/
- من ذهب إلى مصر؟ /man ðahaba ʔilaː misˤr/
Also since Coptic lacked interdental consonants it could possibly have influenced the manifestation of their occurrences in Classical Arabic /θ/ /ð/ /ðˤ/ as their dental counterparts /t/ /d/ and the emphatic dental /dˤ/ respectively.
Egyptian Arabic is used in most social situations, with Modern Standard and Classical Arabic generally being used only in writing and in highly-religious and/or formal situations.
However, within Egyptian Arabic, there is a wide range of variation.
El-Said Badawi identifies three distinct levels of Egyptian Arabic based chiefly on the quantity of non-Arabic lexical items in the vocabulary: ʿĀmmiyyat al-Musaqqafīn (Cultured Colloquial or Formal Spoken Arabic), ʿĀmmiyyat al-Mutanawwirīn (Enlightened or Literate Colloquial), and ʿĀmmiyyat al-'Ummiyīn (Illiterate Colloquial).
Cultured Colloquial/Formal Spoken Arabic is characteristic of the educated classes and is the language of discussion of high-level subjects, but it is still Egyptian Arabic; it is characterized by use of technical terms imported from foreign languages and MSA and closer attention to the pronunciation of certain letters (particularly qāf).
It is relatively standardized and, being closer to the standard, it is understood fairly well across the Arab world.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Illiterate Colloquial, common to rural areas and to working-class neighborhoods in the cities, has an almost-exclusively Arabic vocabulary; the few loanwords generally are very old borrowings (e.g. جمبرى gambari, [ɡæmˈbæɾi] "shrimp", from Italian gamberi, "shrimp" (pl.)) or refer to technological items that find no or poor equivalents in Arabic (e.g. تلفزيون tel(e)vezyōn/tel(e)fezyōn [tel(e)vezˈjoːn, tel(e)fezˈjoːn], television).
Enlightened Colloquial (ʿĀmmiyyat al-Mutanawwirīn) is the language of those who have had some schooling and are relatively affluent; loanwords tend to refer to items of popular culture, consumer products, and fashions.
In contrast to MSA and most other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic has a form of the T-V distinction.
In the singular, انت enta/enti is acceptable in most situations, but to address clear social superiors (e.g. older persons, superiors at work, certain government officials), the form حضرتك ḥaḍretak/ḥaḍretek, meaning "Your Grace" is preferred (compare Spanish usted).
This use of ḥaḍretak/ḥaḍretek is linked to the system of honorifics in daily Egyptian speech.
The honorific taken by a given person is determined by their relationship to the speaker and their occupation.
|Honorific||IPA||Origin/meaning||Usage and notes|
|seyattak||[seˈjættæk]||Standard Arabic siyādatuka, "Your Lordship"||Persons with a far higher social standing than the speaker, particularly at work. Also applied to high government officials, including the President. Equivalent in practical terms to "Your Excellency" or "The Most Honourable".|
|saʿattak||[sæˈʕættæk]||Standard Arabic saʿādatuka, "Your Happiness"||Government officials and others with significantly higher social standing. Equivalent in governmental contexts "Your Excellency", or "Your Honor" when addressing a judge.|
|maʿalīk||[mæʕæˈliːk]||Standard Arabic maʿālīka, "Your Highness"||Government ministers. Equivalent in practical terms to "Your Excellency" or "The Right Honourable".|
|ḥagg/ḥagga||[ˈħæɡ(ɡ)]/[ˈħæɡɡæ]||Standard Arabic ḥāǧ||Traditionally, any Muslim who has made the Hajj, or any Christian who has made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Currently also used as a general term of respect for all elderly.|
|bāsha||[ˈbæːʃæ]||Ottoman Turkish pasha||Informal address to a male of equal or lesser social status. Roughly equivalent to "man" or "dude" in informal English speech.|
|bēh||[beː]||Ottoman Turkish bey||Informal address to a male of equal or lesser social status. Essentially equivalent to but less current than bāsha.|
|afandi||[æˈfændi]||Ottoman Turkish efendi||(Archaic); address to a male of a less social standard than bēh and bāsha.|
|hānem||[ˈhæːnem]||Ottoman Turkish hanım/khanum, "Lady"||Address to a woman of high social standing, or esteemed as such by the speaker. Somewhat archaic.|
|sett||[ˈset(t)]||Standard Arabic sayyida(t) "mistress"||The usual word for "woman". When used as a term of address, it conveys a modicum of respect.|
|madām||[mæˈdæːm]||French madame||Respectful term of address for an older or married woman.|
|ānesa||[ʔæˈnesæ]||Standard Arabic ānisah, "young lady"||Semi-formal address to an unmarried young woman.|
|ostāz||[ʔosˈtæːz]||Standard Arabic ustādh, "professor", "gentleman"||Besides actual university professors and schoolteachers, used for experts in certain fields. May also be used as a generic informal reference, as bēh or bāsha.|
|osṭa/asṭa||[ˈostˤɑ]/[ˈɑstˤɑ]||Turkish usta, "master"||Drivers and also skilled laborers.|
|rayyes||[ˈɾɑjjes]||Standard Arabic raʿīs, "chief"||Skilled laborers. The term predates the use of the same word to mean "president", and traditionally referred to the chief of a village.|
|bash-mohandes||[bæʃmoˈhændes]||Ottoman Turkish baş mühendis, "chief engineer"||Certain types of highly skilled laborers (e.g. electricians).|
|meʿallem||[meˈʕællem]||Standard Arabic muʿallim, "teacher"||Most working class men, particularly semi-skilled and unskilled laborers.|
|ʿamm||[ˈʕæm(m)]||Standard Arabic ʿamm, "paternal uncle"||Older male servants or social subordinates with whom the speaker has a close relationship. It can also be used as a familiar term of address, much like basha. The use of the word in its original meaning is also current, for third-person reference. The second-person term of address to a paternal uncle is ʿammo [ˈʕæmmo]; onkel [ˈʔonkel], from French , may also be used, particularly for uncles unrelated by blood.|
|dāda||[ˈdæːdæ]||?||Older female servants or social subordinates with whom the speaker has a close relationship.|
|abē||[ʔæˈbeː]||Ottoman Turkish abi/ağabey, "elder brother"||Male relatives older than the speaker by about 10–15 years. Upper-class, and somewhat archaic.|
|abla||[ˈʔɑblɑ]||Ottoman Turkish abla, "elder sister"||Female relatives older than the speaker by about 10–15 years.|
Other honorifics also exist.
In usage, honorifics are used in the second and third person.
Egyptian Arabic has been a subject of study by scholars and laypersons in the past and the present for many reasons, including personal interest, egyptomania, business, news reporting, and diplomatic and political interactions.
Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) is now a field of study in both graduate and undergraduate levels in many higher education institutions and universities in the world.
When added to academic instruction, Arabic -language schools and university programs provide Egyptian Arabic courses in a classroom fashion, and others facilitate classes for online study.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Egyptian/Masri (Arabic script; spelling not standardised):
Franco/Arabic Chat Alphabet (has no strict standard):
IPA Phonemic transcription (for comparison with Literary Arabic):
IPA phonemic transcription (for a general demonstration of Egyptian phonology):
IPA phonetic transcription morphologically (in fast speech, long vowels are half-long or without distinctive length):
A suggested alphabet:
Sample words and sentences
- إزيك [ezˈzæjjæk] ("How are you [m.]")
- إزيك [ezˈzæjjek] ("How are you [f.]")
- إزيكو [ezzæjˈjoko] ("How are you [pl.]")
- ايه ده [ˈʔeː ˈdæ] ("What's all this?", "What's the point", "What's this?" – expression of annoyance)
- Ex.: إنتا بتقوللهم عليا كده ليه, ايه ده؟ [entæ betʔolˈlohom ʕæˈlæjjæ ˈkedæ ˈleː ˈʔeː dæ] ("Why are you telling them such things about me, what's all this?")
- خلاص [xɑˈlɑːsˤ]: several meanings, though its main meaning is "enough", often adverbial
- "Stop it!" Ex.: زهقت, خلاص [zeˈheʔte xɑˈlɑːsˤ] ("I'm annoyed, stop it!")
- "It's over!", "finally, eventually" مامتى كانت عيانه و ماتت, خلاص Ex.: [ˈmɑmti kæːnet ʕajˈjæːnæ wˈmæːtet xɑˈlɑːsˤ]| ("My mother was ill and died finally." [or "...and it's over now"])
- "Ok, then!" Ex.: خلاص, أشوفك بكرا [xɑˈlɑːsˤ ʔæˈʃuːfæk ˈbokɾɑ] ("I'll see you tomorrow then")
- خالص [ˈxɑːlesˤ] ("at all")
- ماعندناش حاجه نقولها خالص [mæʕændeˈnæːʃ ˈħæːɡæ nˈʔolhæ ˈxɑːlesˤ] ("We have nothing at all to say")
- كفاية [keˈfæːjæ] ("It's enough!" or "That's enough")
- يعنى [ˈjæʕni] ("that's to say" or "meaning" or "y'know")
- As answer to إنتا عامل إيه؟ [entæ ˈʕæːmel ˈ(ʔ)eː] ("How do you do [m.]?") (as an answer: مش أد كده [meʃ ˈʔædde ˈkedæ] "I am so so" or نص نص [ˈnosˤse ˈnosˤ] "half half" = مش تمام [meʃ tæˈmæːm] "not perfect")
- يعنى ايه؟ [jæʕni ˈʔeː] ("What does that mean?")
- إمتا هتخلص يعنى؟ [ˈemtæ hɑtˈxɑllɑsˤ ˈjæʕni] ("When are you finishing exactly, then?)
- بقى [ˈbæʔæ] (particle of enforcement → "just" in imperative clauses and "well,...then?" in questions)
- هاته بقى [ˈhæːto ˈbæʔæ] ("Just give it to me!)" عمل ايه بقى؟ [ˈʕæmæl ˈ(ʔ)eː ˈbæʔæ] or [ˈʕæmæl ˈ(ʔ)eː ˈbæʔæ] ("Well, what did he do then?")
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Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian Arabic.