Hassānīya (Arabic: حسانية Ḥassānīya; also known as
Hassaniyya, Klem El Bithan, Hasanya, Hassani, Hassaniya) is a variety
of Maghrebi Arabic. It was spoken by the
Beni Ḥassān Bedouin
tribes, who extended their authority over most of
Morocco's southeastern and
Western Sahara between the 15th and 17th
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.
3 Speakers distribution
4 See also
6 External links
The phonological system of Hassānīya is both very innovative and
very conservative. All phonemes of
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 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
Nevertheless, the phonemic status of /q/ and /dˤ/ as well as /ɡ/ and
/ðˤ/ appears very stable, unlike in many other
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 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 [v] (hereafter marked /v/) and [θ̬]. 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: [qː]. 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 /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
[eːʲ] and [oːʷ], respectively. Still, realisations like [aj] and
[aw] as well as [eː] and [oː] are possible, although less common.
As in most
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 [i] and /w/ by [u] 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
Many educated Hassaniya
Arabic speakers also practice code-switching.
Western Sahara it is common for code-switching to occur between
Hassaniya Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, and Spanish, as
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: 162,000 (2015)
Varieties of Arabic
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, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: 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.
^ "Mauritania". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
^ "Algeria". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
^ "The Saharan Arab of Mali". www.prayway.com. Retrieved
^ "Morocco". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
^ "Libya". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
Ethnologue Languages of the World –
Niger - Languages,
Retrieved 31 December 2017.
Ethnologue Languages of the World –
Languages, Retrieved 31 December 2017.
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.
Arabic of Mauritania", Al-Any, Riyadh S. / In:
Linguistics; vol. 52 (1969), pag. 15 / 1969
Arabic of Mauritania", Al-Any, Riyadh S. / In: Studies
in linguistics; vol. 19 (1968), afl. 1 (mrt), pag. 19 / 1968
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
Arabic (Mali) : poetic and ethnographic texts, Heath,
Jeffrey / Harrassowitz / 2003
Arabic (Mali) – English – French dictionary, Heath,
Jeffrey / Harrassowitz / 2004
Find more aboutHassaniya Arabicat's sister projects
Definitions from Wiktionary
Data from Wikidata
Arabic at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Links to related articles
Varieties of Arabic
Central Asian Arabic
Arabic (extinct ancestor of Maltese which is not part of the
Creoles and pidgins
Italics indicate extinct languages.
Languages of Algeria
South Oran and Figuig Berber
Algerian Sign Language
Languages of Mali
Toro So Dogon
Koyraboro Senni Songhay
Tondi Songway Kiini
Bamako Sign Language
Dogon Sign Language
Tebul Sign Language
Languages of Mauritania
Languages of Morocco
Sanhaja de Srair
Eastern Middle Atlas
Main liturgical languages
Main foreign languages
1 Modern Standard Arabic
2 Classical Arabic
3 Medieval Hebrew
4 Formerly native to Moriscos, extinct as native in Morocco
Languages of Senegal
Languages of the Maghreb
Central and Saharan
Eastern Middle Atlas
BNF: cb120505016 (data)
^ "Documentation for ISO 639 ident