Grammar of Algerian Darja

Darja is the term most commonly used in North Africa to refer to the local dialect of Arabic/language developed from Arabic (depending basically on your political viewpoint). All the local dialects, from Morocco to Tunisia and eastern Libya at least, are easily mutually comprehensible (the Ethnologue notwithstanding); however, they are certainly not mutually comprehensible with Classical Arabic, and not immediately mutually comprehensible with, say, Gulf Arabic. Be that as it may, Darja is by far the most commonly spoken language of North Africa, and the most useful to a traveller or an immigrant/expat.

This attempt to write a grammar of it is based on a central Algerian dialect, that of Dellys (in Wilayat Boumerdes not far from Algiers) to be precise. The Dellys dialect is not very different from the more major Algiers dialect; it is slightly more conservative, though, in that (almost uniquely among old urban dialects) it retains not only qaaf but also thaa and dhaa, whereas in Algiers these become taa and daal. A few speakers still retain the pronunciation - once common in the older cities - of t as ts, believed to have originally come into Darja through Berber influence. This grammar is intended to be useful to English speakers who for some reason need to learn the language, which is why I use Roman characters; they have the disadvantage of representing less significant short vowels as full letters, but the advantage of familiarity and easy distinction of a few sounds not found in Classical Arabic.

There are certainly other and much better works on this subject, if mostly in French; however, this is the only one on the Internet at the moment. I'm currently attempting to write this without reference to other works, though, both for practice and in order to aid my own memory of the language. I'm sure there are still many errors, not to mention gaps, so if you spot them feel free to email me () with your suggestions, or sign my guestbook. Here it is so far:

And some brief vocabulary lists:

Trial version lessons (only 4 up so far.) Click here. Perhaps unfortunately, they do use a different (more English-like) transcription scheme; but then again, they do have soundfiles attached. Comments are welcome!

Download my article "Broken Plurals - or Infixes?", forthcoming in EDNA. You may need these fonts (courtesy of Prof. Caubet) to read it properly.

NEW: Join the discussion forum!

©2000-present (this page is being edited continuously) by Lameen Souag. Also check out my main home page. 1