Algerian Arabic

Algerian Arabic (known as Darja in Algeria) is a dialect derived from the form of Arabic spoken in northern Algeria. It belongs to the Maghrebi Arabic language continuum and is partially mutually intelligible with Tunisian and Moroccan.

Algerian Arabic
Dziria, دزيرية
Native toAlgeria
Native speakers
42.5 million (2020)[1]
3 million L2 speakers in Algeria (no date)[2]
Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3arq

Like other varieties of Maghrebi Arabic, Algerian has a mostly Semitic vocabulary.[3] It contains Berber and Latin (African Romance)[4] influences and has numerous loanwords from French, Andalusian Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and Spanish.

Algerian Arabic is the native dialect of 75% to 80% of Algerians and is mastered by 85% to 100% of them.[5] It is a spoken language used in daily communication and entertainment, while Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is generally reserved for official use and education.


The Algerian language includes several distinct dialects belonging to two genetically different groups: pre-Hilalian and Hilalian dialects.

Hilalian dialects

Hilalian dialects of Algeria belong to three linguistic groups:[6]

  • Eastern Hilal dialects: spoken in the Hautes Plaines around Sétif, M'Sila and Djelfa;[7]
  • Central Hilal dialects: of central and southern Algeria, south of Algiers and Oran;[8]
  • Mâqil dialects: spoken in the western part of Oranais (noted for the third singular masculine accusative pronoun h, for example, /ʃʊfteh/ (I saw him), which would be /ʃʊftʊ/ in other dialects).[9]

Modern koine languages, urban and national, are based mainly on Hilalian dialects.

Pre-Hilalian dialects

Pre-Hilalian Arabic dialects are generally classified into three types: Urban, "Village" Sedentary, and Jewish dialects. Several Pre-Hilalian dialects are spoken in Algeria:[6][10]

  • Urban dialects can be found in all of Algeria's big cities. Urban dialects were formerly also spoken in other cities, such as Azemmour and Mascara, Algeria, where they are no longer used.
  • The lesser Kabylia dialect (or Jijel Arabic) is spoken in the triangular area north of Constantine, including Collo and Jijel (it is noteworthy for its pronunciation of [q] as [k] and [t] as [ts] and characterized, such as other Eastern pre-Hilalian dialects, by the preservation of the three short vowels).
  • The traras-Msirda dialect is spoken in the area north of Tlemcen, including the eastern Traras, Rachgoun and Honaine (it is noted for its pronunciation of [q] as [ʔ]) ;
  • Judeo-Algerian Arabic is no longer spoken after Jews left Algeria in 1962, following its independence.



Consonant phonemes of Algerian Arabic [11]
Labial Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emphatic  plain  emphatic
Nasal m () n ()
stop voiceless (p) t k q (ʔ)
voiced b () d ɡ
Affricate voiceless (t͡ʃ) 1
voiced d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ χ ħ h
voiced (v) z ʒ ʁ ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l ɫ j w

In comparison to other Maghrebi dialects, Algerian Arabic has retained numerous phonetic elements of Classical Arabic lost by its relatives;[11][12] In Algiers dialect, the letters /ðˤ/􏰣􏰄 ذ ,ظ /ð/ and ث /θ/ 􏰝􏰌are not used, they are in most cases pronounced as the graphemes د ,ضand ت respectively.[11] This conservatism concerning pronunciation is in contrast to Algerian Arabic grammar which has shifted noticeably.[12] In terms of differences from Classical Arabic, the previous /r/ and /z/ phonemes have developed contrastive glottalized forms and split into /r/ and /rˤ/; and /z/ and /zˤ/. Additionally /q/ from Classical Arabic has split into /q/ and /ɡ/ in most dialects. The phonemes /v/ and /p/ which are not common in Arabic dialects arise almost exclusively from (predominantly French) loanwords[11]

^1 The voiceless "Ch" (t͡ʃ) is used in some words in the Algerian dialect like "تشينا" /t͡ʃinaː/ (orange) or "تشاراك" /t͡ʃaːraːk/ (A kind of Algerian sweet) but remains rare.


A study of Northwestern Algerian Arabic (specifically around Oran) showed that laterals /l/ or /ɫ/ or the nasal consonant /n/ would be dissimilated into either /n/ in the case of /l/ or /ɫ/; or /l/ or /ɫ/ in the case of n when closely preceding a corresponding lateral or nasal consonant.[13] Thus /zəlzla/ (earthquake) has become /zənzla/, conversely /lʁənmi/ "mutton" becomes /lʁəlmi/.[13]


The same study also noted numerous examples of assimilation in Northwestern Algerian Arabic, due to the large consonant clusters created from all of the historical vowel deletion: examples include /dəd͡ʒaːd͡ʒ/ "chicken", becoming /d͡ʒaːd͡ʒ/ and /mliːħ/ "good", becoming /mniːħ/.[13] An example of assimilation that occurs after the short vowel deletion is the historical /dərˤwŭk/ "now" becoming /drˤuːk/ and then being assimilated to /duːk/,[13] illustrating the order in which the rules of Algerian Arabic may operate.


Monophthong phonemes of Algerian Arabic
Short Long
Front Central Back Front Back
Close ə u

The phonemic vowel inventory of Algerian Arabic consists of three long vowels: //, //, and // contrasted with two short vowels: /u/ and /ə/.[11][13] Algerian Arabic Vowels retains a great deal of features in relation to Classical Arabic Arabic phonology, namely the continued existence of 3 long vowels: //, //, and //,[12] Algerian Arabic also retains the short close back vowel /u/ in speech, however the short equivalents of // and // have fused in modern Algerian Arabic, creating a single phoneme /ə/.[13] Also notable among the differences between Classical Arabic and Algerian Arabic is the deletion of short vowels entirely from open syllables[12] and thus word final positions,[11] which creates a stark distinction between written Classical Arabic, and casually written Algerian Arabic. One point of interest in Algerian Arabic that sets it apart from other conservative Arabic dialects is its preservation of phonemes in (specifically french) loanwords that would otherwise not be found in the language: /[[Nasal vowel|ɔ̃]]/, /y/, and /ɛ/ are all preserved in French loanwords such as /syʁ/ (sure) or /kɔnɛksiɔ̃/ (connection).[11]


Nouns and adjectives

EnglishAlgerian Arabic
woman / womenmra / nsa
man / menrajel / rjal
daynhar / yum
winter / rainšta / mṭar
toilet / bathroombit-el-ma / bit-er-raḥa / Twalat

Conjunctions and prepositions

EnglishAlgerian ArabicNotes of usage
butbeṣṣaḥis also used "wa lakin"
ifila, ida, lakan, kunused for impossible conditions and comes just before the verb
iflukan, kunfor possible conditions, Also used is "ida" and "kan"
so that, thatbaš, bah
as ifki šγul, tquši, tqul, tgul
becausexaṭar, xaṭrakeš, εlaxaṭer
whenila / wakta
beforeqbel ma / gbel maused before verbs
withoutbla ma / blachused before verbs
whetherkaš maused before verbs
over, on top offuq or fug
aftermur / mura / Baεd / wra
beforeqbel / gbelused only for time
next to, besidequddam or guddamis also used "ḥda"
atεend / εla
among, betweenbin, binat (plural)
same as, as much asεla ḥsab, qed, ged, kimaamount
oh, oh so muchya, ah

Some of them can be attached to the noun, just like in other Arabic dialects. The word for in, "fi", can be attached to a definite noun. For example, the word for a house has a definite form "ed-dar" but with "fi", it becomes "fed-dar".


Algerian Arabic uses two genders for words: masculine and feminine. Masculine nouns and adjectives generally end with a consonant while the feminine nouns generally end with an a.


  • [ħmɑr] "a donkey", [ħmɑrɑ] "a female donkey".


Hilalian dialects, on which the modern koine is based, often use regular plural while the wider use of the broken plural is characteristic to pre-Hilalian dialects.

The regular masculine plural is formed with the suffix -in, which derives from the Classical Arabic genitive and accusative ending -īna rather than the nominative -ūna:

mumen (believer) → mumnin

For feminine nouns, the regular plural is obtained by suffixing -at:

Classical Arabic: bint (girl) → banat
Algerian Arabic: bent → bnat

The broken plural can be found for some plurals in Hilalian dialects, but it is mainly used, for the same words, in pre-Hilalian dialects:

Broken plural: ṭabla → ṭwabəl.


The article el is indeclinable and expresses a definite state of a noun of any gender and number. It is also prefixed to each of that noun's modifying adjectives.

It follows the solar letters and lunar letters rules of Classical Arabic: if the word starts with one of these consonants, el is assimilated and replaced by the first consonant:

t, d, r, z, s, š, , , , l, n.


rajel → er-rajel "man" (assimilation)
qeṭṭ → el-qeṭṭ "cat" (no assimilation)

Important Notes:

  • When it is after lunar letters consonant we add the article le-.


qmer → le-qmer "moon"
ḥjer → le-ḥjer "stone"
  • We always use the article el with the words that begin with vowels.


alf → el-alf "thousand"


Verbs are conjugated by adding affixes (prefixes, postfixes, both or none) that change according to the tense.

In all Algerian Arabic dialects, there is no gender differentiation of the second and third person in the plural forms, nor is there gender differentiation of the second person in the singular form in pre-Hilalian dialects. Hilalian dialects preserve the gender differentiation of the singular second person.

Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st - t - na n - n(e) - u
2nd (m) - t - tu t - t - u
2nd (f) - ti - tu t - i t - u
3rd (m) - - u i/y(e) - i/y(e) - u
3rd (f) - t - u t(e) - i/y(e) - u
  • Example with the verb kteb "To write":
Person Past Present
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu
2nd (m) ktebt ktebtu tekteb tekketbu
2nd (f) ktebti ktebtu tekketbi tekketbu
3rd (m) kteb ketbu yekteb yekketbu
3rd (f) ketbet ketbu tekteb yekketbu
Person Past Present Future Present continuous
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu Rayenekteb Rayḥin nekketbu Rani nekteb Rana nekketbu
1st (f) ktebt ktebna nekteb nekketbu Rayḥa nekteb Rayḥin nekketbu Rani nekteb Rana nekketbu
2nd (m) ketbt ktebtu tekteb tekketbu Rayetekteb Rayḥin tekketbu Rak tekteb Rakum tekketbu
2nd (f) ktebti ktebtu tekketbi tekketbu Rayḥa tekketbi Rayḥin tekketbu Raki tekketbi Rakum tekketbu
3rd (m) kteb ketbu yekteb yekketbu Rayeyekteb Rayḥin yekketbu Rah yekteb Rahum yekketbu
3rd (f) ketbet ketbu tekteb yekketbu Rayḥa tekteb Rayḥin yekketbu Raha tekteb Rahum yekketbu

Future tense

Speakers generally do not use the future tense above. Used instead is the present tense or present continuous.

Also, as is used in all of the other Arabic dialects, there is another way of showing active tense. The form changes the root verb into an adjective. For example, "kteb" he wrote becomes "kateb".


Like all North African Arabic varieties (including Egyptian Arabic) along with some Levantine Arabic varieties, verbal expressions are negated by enclosing the verb with all its affixes, along with any adjacent pronoun-suffixed preposition, within the circumfix ma ...-š (/ʃ/):

  • « lεebt » ("I played") → « ma lεebt-š /ʃ/ » ("I didn't play")
  • « ma tṭabbaεni-š » ("Don't push me")
  • « ma yṭawlu-l-ek-š hadu le-qraεi » ("Those bottles won't last you long")
  • « ma sibt-š plaṣa » ("I couldn't get a seat / parking place")
Person Past Present Future Present continuous
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st (m) ma ktebt ma ktebna ma nekteb-š ma nekketbu ma Rayeḥ-š nekteb ma Rayḥin-š nekketbu ma Rani-š nekteb ma Rana-š nekketbu
2st (f) ma ktebt ma ktebna ma nekteb-š ma nekketbu ma Rayḥanekteb ma Rayḥin-š nekketbu ma Rani-š nekteb ma Rana-š nekketbu
2nd (m) ma ketbt ma ktebtu ma tekteb-š ma tekketbu ma Rayeḥ-š tekteb ma Rayḥin-š tekketbu ma Rak-š tekteb ma Rakum-š tekketbu
2rd (f) ma ktebti ma ktebtu ma tekketbi ma tekketbu ma Rayḥatekketbi ma Rayḥin-š tekketbu ma Raki-š tekketbi ma Rakum-š tekketbu
3rd (m) ma kteb-š ma ketbu ma yekteb-š ma yekketbu ma Rayeḥ-š yekteb ma Rayḥin-š yekketbu ma Rah-š yekteb ma Rahum-š yekketbu
3rd (f) ma ketbet ma ketbu ma tekteb-š ma yekketbu ma Rayḥatekteb ma Rayḥin-š yekketbu ma Raha-š tekteb ma Rahum-š yekketbu

Other negative words (walu, etc.) are used in combination with ma to express more complex types of negation. ʃ is not used when other negative words are used

  • ma qult walu ("I didn't say anything")
  • ma šuft tta waḥed ("I didn't see anyone")

or when two verbs are consecutively in the negative

  • ma šuft ma smeεt ("I neither saw nor did I hear").

Verb derivation

Verb derivation is done by adding suffixes or by doubling consonants, there are two types of derivation forms: causative, passive.

  • Causative: is obtained by doubling consonants :
xrej "to go out" → xerrej "to make to go out"
dxel "to enter" → dexxel "to make to enter, to introduce".
  • Passive:It is obtained by prefixing the verb with t- / tt- / tn- / n- :
qtel "to kill" → tneqtel "to be killed"
šreb "to drink" → ttešreb "to be drunk".

The adverbs of location

Things could be in three places hnaya (right here), hna (here) or el-hih (there).

Personal pronouns

Most Algerian Arabic dialects have eight personal pronouns since they no longer have gender differentiation of the second and third person in the plural forms. However, pre-Hilalian dialects retain seven personal pronouns since gender differentiation of the second person in the singular form is absent as well.

Person Singular Plural
1st ana ḥna
2nd (m) n'ta n'tuma
2nd (f) n'ti n'tuma
3rd (m) huwwa huma
3rd (f) hiyya huma

Example: « ḥatta ana. » — "Me too."

Person Algerian Arabic
I am rani
You are (m) rak
You are (f) raki
He is rah or Rahu
She is Rahi or Raha
We are rana
You or Y'all are raku or rakum (m)and (f)
They are rahum (m)and (f)

Example: « Rani hna. » — "I'm here." and « Waš rak. » "How are you." to both males and females.

Possessive pronouns

Dar means house.

Person Singular Plural
1st i (Dari) na (Darna)
2nd (e)k (Dar(e)k) kum (Darkum)
3rd (m) u (Daru) (h)um (Dar(h)um)
3rd (f) ha (Darha) (hum) (Dar(h)um)

Example : « dar-na. » — "Our house" (House-our) Possessives are frequently combined with taε "of, property" : dar taε-na — "Our house.", dar taε-kum ...etc.


taε-i = my or mine

taε-ek = your or yours (m, f)

taε-u = his

taε-ha = hers


taε-na = our or ours

taε-kum = your or yours (m, f)

taε-hum = their or theirs (m, f)

"Our house" can be Darna or Dar taε-na, which is more like saying 'house of ours'. Taε can be used in other ways just like in English in Spanish. You can say Dar taε khuya, which means 'house of my brother' or 'my brother's house'.

Interrogative pronouns

Interrogatives Algerian Arabic
What ? waš ?
When ? waqtaš ? / wektaš ? / wektah ? / wekket ?
Why? 3lah ? / 3laš ? / llah ?
Which ? waš-men ? / aš-men ? / ama ?
Where ? win ?
Who ? škun ? / menhu ?
How ? kifaš ? / kifah ?
How many ? šḥal ? / qeddaš ? / gueddaš ? / gueddah ?
Whose ? taε-men ?

Verbal pronouns

Person Singular Plural
1st ni na
2nd (m) (e)k kum
3rd (m) u (after a consonant) / h (after a vowel)
/ hu (before an indirect object pronoun)
3rd (f) ha hum


« šuft-ni. » — "You saw me." (You.saw-me)
« qetl-u. » — "He killed him." (He.killed-him)
« kla-h. » — "He ate it." (He.ate-it)


Unlike Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic has no dual and uses the plural instead. The demonstrative (Hadi) is also used for "it is".

Interrogatives Algerian Arabic Emphasized
This had (m), Hadi (f) hada, hadaya (m), hadiyya (f)
That dak (m), dik (f) hadak (m), hadik (f)
These hadu haduma
Those duk haduk

Sample text

The text below was translated from Kabylie, in Auguste Moulieras's Les fourberies de si Djeh'a.

Buzelluf Sheep Head
Waḥed en-nhar, jḥa med-lu baba-h frank, baš yešri buzelluf. šra-h, kla gaɛ leḥm-u. bqa γir leɛdem, jab-u l baba-h. ki šaf-u qal-lu: "waš hada?" Qal-lu: "buzelluf".

-A šmata, win rahi wedn-u?

-Kan ṭreš

-win rahum ɛini-h?

-Kan ɛma

-win rah lsan-u?

-Kan bekkuš.

- U el-jelda taɛ ras-u, win Rahi

-Kan ferṭas.
One day, Jha's father gave him one cent so he buys a sheep head. He bought it and ate all of its meat. Only an empty carcass was left. He brought it to his father. Then, when he saw it, he said: "what is that?" Jehha said: "a sheep head".

-You vile, where are its ears?

-It was deaf.

-Where are its eyes?

-It was blind.

-Where is its tongue?

-It was dumb.

-And the skin of its head, where is it?

-It was bald.

French loanwords

Algerian Arabic contains numerous French loanwords.

Algerian Arabic French loanword English meaning Algerian Arabic French loanword English meaning
feršiṭa fourchette fork pur port port
fraz fraises strawberries utal hôtel hotel
nurmalmu normalement normally frijidar réfrigérateur refrigerator
karṭa carte card bumba bombe bomb
buja (v) bouger (v) move (v) tay thé tea
farina farine flour duntist dentist dentist
tilifun téléphone phone šufur chauffeur driver
valiza valise suitcase paṣpur passport passport
trunspur transport transportation tunubil automobile car
kazirna caserne barracks cuzina cuisine kitchen
fermli infirmier (male) nurse blaṣa/plaṣa place place/seat
pyasa/byasa pièce piece šarja (v) charger (v) load (v)
karti quartier district jerda jardin garden
girra guerre war riska (v) risquer (v) risk (v)
(g)kravaṭa cravate tie zigu égout sewer
mikru micro-ordinateur computer kadre cadre frame
riẓu réseau network ridu rideau curtain
tabla table table biyyi billet ticket
vista veste jacket bulisiyya police police


See also


  1. Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Algerian Arabic at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  3. Elimam, Abdou (2009). Du Punique au Maghribi :Trajectoires d'une langue sémito-méditerranéenne (PDF). Synergies Tunisie.
  4. Martin Haspelmath; Uri Tadmor (22 December 2009). Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. p. 195. ISBN 978-3-11-021844-2.
  5. "Arabic, Algerian Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  6. K. Versteegh, Dialects of Arabic: Maghreb Dialects Archived 2015-07-15 at the Wayback Machine,
  7. The Eastern Hilal also includes central Tunisian Bedouin dialects.
  8. The Central Hilal also includes Algerian Saharan Arabic.
  9. The Mâqil family of dialects also includes Moroccan Bedouin Arabic dialects and Hassaniya. Those of the Oranais are similar to those of eastern Morocco (Oujda area)
  10. D. Caubet, Questionnaire de dialectologie du Maghreb Archived 2013-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, in: EDNA vol.5 (2000-2001), pp.73-92
  11. Harrat, Salima; et al. (2016-11-03). "An Algerian Dialect Study and Resources" (PDF). HAL Archives. p. 390. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  12. Souag, Lameen (2020-01-29). "Description of Algerian Arabic". Rosetta Project. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  13. Guerrero, Jairo (2014-01-01). "A Phonetical Sketch of The Arabic Dialect Spoken in Oran (Northwestern Algeria)". Academia. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
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