Lebanese Arabic

Lebanese Arabic
اللهجة اللبنانية
Native toLebanon
Native speakers
5.47 million (2015)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Arabic chat alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3apc
Lebanese Arabic Map.png
  North Lebanese Arabic
  North-Central Lebanese Arabic
  Beqaa Arabic
  Jdaideh Arabic
  Sunni Beiruti Arabic
  South-Central Lebanese Arabic
  Iqlim-Al-Kharrub Sunni Arabic
  Saida Sunni Arabic
  South Lebanese Arabic
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Lebanese Arabic, or simply Lebanese, is a variety of North Levantine Arabic, indigenous to and spoken primarily in Lebanon, with significant linguistic influences borrowed from other Middle Eastern and European languages and is in some ways unique from other varieties of Arabic. Due to multilingualism among Lebanese people (a majority of the Lebanese people are bilingual or trilingual), it is not uncommon for Lebanese people to mix Lebanese Arabic, English and French into their daily speech.

Differences from Standard Arabic[]

Lebanese Arabic shares many features with other modern varieties of Arabic. Lebanese Arabic, like many other spoken Levantine Arabic varieties, has a syllable structure very different from that of Modern Standard Arabic. While Standard Arabic can have only one consonant at the beginning of a syllable, after which a vowel must follow, Lebanese Arabic commonly has two consonants in the onset.


An interview with Lebanese singer Maya Diab; she speaks in Lebanese Arabic.

Not Arabic?[]

Several non-linguist commentators, including Nassim Taleb, have claimed that the Lebanese vernacular is not in fact a variety of Arabic at all, but rather a separate Central Semitic language, descended from Aramaic with the many Arabic and Turkish loanwords and use of the Arabic alphabet disguising the language's true nature.[6] Taleb recommended that the language be called Northwestern Levantine or neo-Canaanite.[7][8][9] This classification is not widely accepted by linguists.[10][11][12]

In contemporary times, Lebanese with pan-Phoenician and pan-Arab views (although certainly not restricted to each group) in Lebanon usually have quite conflicting opinions about the state of Lebanese Arabic; while pan-Arabs emphasise its Arabic influence and some might claim a near resemblance to MSA, pan-Phoenicians emphasise its Aramaic influence and some might claim that it is an Aramaic language in reality.



Lebanese Arabic Consonants
  Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar/
Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emphatic
Nasal m n          
Stop voiceless (p) t (t͡ʃ)   k   ʔ
voiced b d   (ɡ)    
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x ħ h
voiced (v) z ʒ ɣ ʕ  
Tap/trill   r          
Approximant   l    j w    

Vowels and diphthongs[]

Lebanese Arabic vowel chart.


This table shows the correspondence between general Lebanese Arabic vowel phonemes and their counterpart realizations in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and other Levantine Arabic varieties.

Lebanese Arabic MSA Southern Central Northern
/æ/ [a] [ɑ] or [ʌ] [ɑ] or [ʌ] [ɔ] or [ɛ]
/ɪ/ [i] or [u] [e] [ə] [e] or [o]
/ʊ/ [u] [o] or [ʊ] [o] [o]
/e/1 [a] [e]1 [e]1 [e]1
/ɛ:/ [a:] [a:] [æ:] [e:]
/ɔ:/ [a:] [a:] [ɑ:] [o:]
/e:/ [a:] [a] [e] [e]
/i/: [i:] [i:] [i:] [i:]
/i~e/ [i:] [i] [i] [i]
/u:/ [u:] [u:] [u:] [u:]
/eɪ~e:/ [aj] [e:] [e:] [e:]
/oʊ~o:/ [aw] [o:] [o:] [o:]

^1 After back consonants this is pronounced [ʌ] in Lebanese Arabic, Central and Northern Levantine varieties, and as [ɑ] in Southern Levantine varieties


Regional varieties[]

Although there is a modern Lebanese Arabic dialect mutually understood by Lebanese people,[14] there are regionally distinct variations with, at times, unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.[15]

Widely used regional varieties include:

Writing system[]

Lebanese Arabic is rarely written, except in novels where a dialect is implied or in some types of poetry that do not use classical Arabic at all. Lebanese Arabic is also utilized in many Lebanese songs, theatrical pieces, local television and radio productions, and very prominently in zajal.

Formal publications in Lebanon, such as newspapers, are typically written in Modern Standard Arabic, French, or English.

While Arabic script is usually employed, informal usage such as online chat may mix and match Latin letter transliterations. The Lebanese poet Saïd Akl proposed the use of the Latin alphabet but did not gain wide acceptance. Whereas some works, such as Romeo and Juliet and Plato's Dialogues have been transliterated using such systems, they have not[citation needed] gained widespread acceptance. Yet, now, most Arabic web users, when short of an Arabic keyboard, transliterate the Lebanese Arabic words in the Latin alphabet in a pattern similar to the Said Akl alphabet, the only difference being the use of digits to render the Arabic letters with no obvious equivalent in the Latin alphabet.

There is still today no generally accepted agreement on how to use the Latin alphabet to transliterate Lebanese Arabic words. However, Lebanese people are now using latin numbers while communicating online to make up for sounds not directly associable to latin letters: for example, the character 7 is equivalent to a deep H sound. In 2010, The Lebanese Language Institute has released a Lebanese Arabic keyboard layout and made it easier to write Lebanese Arabic in a Latin script, using unicode-compatible symbols to substitute for missing sounds.[16]

Said Akl's orthography[]

Letter Corresponding phoneme(s) Additional information
a /a/, /ɑ/
aa //, /ɑː/
c /ʃ/
ç /ʔ/ The actual diacritic looks like a diagonal stroke on the bottom left
g /ɣ/
i /ɪ/, /i/ Represents /i/ word-finally
ii //
j /ʒ/
k /χ/
q /k/
u /ʊ/, /u/ Represents /u/ word-finally
uu //
x /ħ/
y /j/
ȳ /ʕ/ The actual diacritic looks like a stroke connected to the upper-left spoke of the letter
ƶ /zˤ/

See also[]


  1. ^ "Arabic, North Levantine Spoken". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Standard Lebanese Arabic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Languages". Come To Lebanon. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  4. ^ "You may think you're speaking Lebanese, but some of your words are really Syriac". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  5. ^ Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2018-01-02). "No, Lebanese is not a "dialect of" Arabic". East Med Project: History, Philology, and Genetics. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  6. ^ Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2 January 2018). "No, Lebanese is not a "dialect of" Arabic".
  7. ^ https://www.maronite-heritage.com/Lebanese%20Language.php
  8. ^ "Phoenicia: The Lebanese Language: What is the difference between the Arabic Language and the Lebanese language?". phoenicia.org.
  9. ^ "Lebanese Language Institute » History". www.lebaneselanguage.org.
  10. ^ سواق, Lameen Souag الأمين (4 January 2018). "Jabal al-Lughat: Taleb unintentionally proves Lebanese comes from Arabic".
  11. ^ "Lebanese and Arabic - A Post-Mortem of the Nassim Taleb kerfuffle". Twitter.
  12. ^ "How well does Nassim Taleb's evidence hold up in his piece arguing against the idea that the direct ancestor of Lebanese is not an old form of Arabic and should not be referred to as an Arabic dialect? - Quora". www.quora.com.
  13. ^ Abdul-Karim, K. 1979. Aspects of the Phonology of Lebanese Arabic. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Doctoral Dissertation.
  14. ^ "Lebanese Language - MARONITE HERITAGE". www.maronite-heritage.com. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  15. ^ Makki, Elrabih Massoud. 1983. The Lebanese dialect of Arabic: Southern Region. (Doctoral dissertation, Georgetown University; 155pp.)
  16. ^ Lebanese Language Institute: Lebanese Latin Letters The Lebanese Latin Letters


External links[]