The Info List - Hassaniya Arabic

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HASSāNīYA ( Arabic
: حسانية‎‎ Ḥassānīya; also known as Hassaniyya, Klem El Bithan, Hasanya, Hassani, Hassaniya) is a variety of Maghrebi Arabic
Maghrebi Arabic
. It was spoken by the Beni Ḥassān Bedouin tribes, who extended their authority over most of Mauritania
and Morocco
's southeastern and Western Sahara
Western Sahara
between the 15th and 17th centuries. Hassaniya Arabic
was the language spoken in the pre-modern region around Chinguetti

The language has now almost completely replaced the Berber languages that were originally spoken in this region. Although clearly a western dialect, Hassānīya is relatively distant from other Maghrebi variants of Arabic. Its geographical location exposed it to influence from Zenaga-Berber and Wolof . There are several dialects of Hassānīya which differ primarily phonetically. Today, Hassānīya is spoken in Algeria
, Libya
, Morocco
, Mauritania
, Mali
, Niger
, Senegal
and the Western Sahara
Western Sahara


* 1 Phonology * 2 Code-switching * 3 Speakers distribution * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links


The phonological system of Hassānīya is both very innovative and very conservative. All phonemes of Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic
are represented in the dialect, but there are also many new phonemes. As in other Bedouin dialects , Classical /q/ corresponds mostly to dialectal /ɡ/, /dˤ/ and /ðˤ/ have merged into /ðˤ/ and the interdentals /θ/ and /ð/ have been preserved. In common with most Maghrebi Arabic
Maghrebi Arabic
varieties, the equivalent of Modern Standard Arabic
Modern Standard Arabic
/d͡ʒ/ is realised as /ʒ/.

However, there is sometimes a double correspondence of a classical sound and its dialectal counterpart. Thus classical /q/ is represented by /ɡ/ in /ɡbaðˤ/ 'to take' but by /q/ in /mqass/ 'scissors'. Similarly, /dˤ/ becomes /ðˤ/ in /ðˤəħk/ 'laugh (noun)', but /dˤ/ in /mrˤədˤ/ 'to be sick'. Some consonant roots even have a double appearance: /θaqiːl/ 'heavy (mentally)' vs. /θɡiːl/ 'heavy (materially)'. Some of the "classicizing" forms are easily explained as recent loans from the literary language (such as /qaː.nuːn/ 'law') or from sedentary dialects in case of concepts pertaining to the sedentary way of life (such as /mqass/ 'scissors' above). For others, there is no obvious explanation (like /mrˤədˤ/ 'to be sick'). Etymological /ðˤ/ appears constantly as /ðˤ/, never as /dˤ/.

Nevertheless, the phonemic status of /q/ and /dˤ/ as well as /ɡ/ and /ðˤ/ appears very stable, unlike in many other Arabic
varieties. Somewhat similarly, classical /ʔ/ has in most contexts disappeared or turned into /w/ or /j/ (/ahl/ 'family' instead of /ʔahl/, /wak.kad/ 'insist' instead of /ʔak.kad/ and /jaː.məs/ 'yesterday' instead of /ʔams/). In some literary terms, however, it is clearly preserved: /mət.ʔal.lam/ 'suffering (participle)' (classical /mu.ta.ʔal.lim/).

Hassānīya has innovated many consonants by the spread of the distinction emphatic/non-emphatic. In addition to the above-mentioned, /rˤ/ and /lˤ/ have a clear phonemic status and /bˤ fˤ ɡˤ mˤ nˤ/ more marginally so. One additional emphatic phoneme /zˤ/ is acquired from the neighbouring Zenaga Berber language along with a whole palatal series /c ɟ ɲ/ from Niger–Congo languages
Niger–Congo languages
of the south. At least some speakers make the distinction /p/–/b/ through borrowings from French (and Spanish in Western Sahara). All in all, the number of consonant phonemes in Hassānīya is 33, or 39 counting the marginal cases.

On the phonetic level, the classical consonants /f/ and /θ/ are usually realised as voiced (hereafter marked /v/) and . The latter is still, however, pronounced differently from /ð/, the distinction probably being in the amount of air blown out (Cohen 1963: 13–14). In geminated and word-final positions both phonemes are voiceless, for some speakers /θ/ apparently in all positions. The uvular fricative /ʁ/ is likewise realised voiceless in a geminated position, although not fricative but plosive: . In other positions, etymological /ʁ/ seems to be in free variation with /q/ (etymological /q/, however varies only with /ɡ/).

Vowel phonemes come in two series: long and short. The long vowels are the same as in Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic
/aː iː uː/, and the short ones extend this by one: /a i u ə/. The classical diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ may be realised in many different ways, the most usual variants being and , respectively. Still, realisations like and as well as and are possible, although less common.

As in most Maghrebi Arabic
Maghrebi Arabic
dialects, etymological short vowels are generally dropped in open syllables (except for the feminine noun ending /-a/): */tak.tu.biː/ > /tə.ktbi/ 'you (f. sg.) write', */ka.ta.ba/ > */ka.tab/ > /ktəb/ 'he wrote'. In the remaining closed syllables dialectal /a/ generally corresponds to classical /a/, while classical /i/ and /u/ have merged into /ə/. Remarkably, however, morphological /j/ is represented by and /w/ by in a word-initial pre-consonantal position: /u.ɡəft/ 'I stood up' (root w-g-f; cf. /ktəbt/ 'I wrote', root k-t-b), /i.naɡ.ɡaz/ 'he descends' (subject prefix i-; cf. /jə.ktəb/ 'he writes', subject prefix jə-). In some contexts this initial vowel even gets lengthened, which clearly demonstrates its phonological status of a vowel: /uːɡ.vu/ 'they stood up'. In addition, short vowels /a i/ in open syllables are found in Berber loanwords, such as /a.raː.ɡaːʒ/ 'man', /i.vuː.kaːn/ 'calves of 1 to 2 years of age', and /u/ in passive formation: /u.ɡaː.bəl/ 'he was met' (cf. /ɡaː.bəl/ 'he met').


Many educated Hassaniya Arabic
speakers also practice code-switching . In Western Sahara
Western Sahara
it is common for code-switching to occur between Hassaniya Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic
Modern Standard Arabic
, and Spanish , as Spain
had previously controlled this region ; in the rest of Hassaniya-speaking lands, French is the additional language spoken, except Libya, where Italian is spoken by educated speakers.


According to Ethnologue, there are approximately three million Hassaniya speakers, distributed as follows:

* Mauritania: 2,770,000 (2006) * Algeria: 150,000 (1985) * Western Sahara: unknown * Mali: 175,800–210,000 (2000) * Morocco: 195,000 (1995) * Libya: 40,000 (1985) * Niger: 10,000 (1998) * Senegal: 7,190 (2006)


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This article includes a list of references , but ITS SOURCES REMAIN UNCLEAR because it has INSUFFICIENT INLINE CITATIONS . Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (June 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message )

* ^ Hassaniyya at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) * ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Hassaniyya". Glottolog 2.7 . Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. * ^ Raymond G. Gordon, Jr, ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics. * ^ Languages of Mauritania * ^ Languages of Algeria * ^ * ^ Languages of Morocco * ^ Languages of Libya * ^ Languages of Niger * ^ Languages of Senegal

* Cohen, David; el Chennafi, Mohammed (1963). Le dialecte arabe ḥassānīya de Mauritanie (parler de la Gəbla). Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-00150-X . * "Hassaniya, the Arabic
of Mauritania", Al-Any, Riyadh S. / In: Linguistics; vol. 52 (1969), pag. 15 / 1969 * "Hassaniya, the Arabic
of Mauritania", Al-Any, Riyadh S. / In: Studies in linguistics; vol. 19 (1968), afl. 1 (mrt), pag. 19 / 1968 * "Hassaniya Arabic
(Mali) : Poetic and Ethnographic Texts", Heath, Jeffrey; Kaye, Alan S. / In: Journal of Near Eastern studies; vol. 65 (2006), afl. 3, pag. 218 (1) / 2006 * Hassaniya Arabic
(Mali) : poetic and ethnographic texts, Heath, Jeffrey / Harrassowitz / 2003 * Hassaniya Arabic
(Mali) – English – French dictionary, Heath, Jeffrey / Harrassowitz / 2004


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