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Tunisian Arabic, or Tunisian, is the set of dialects of Maghrebi Arabic spoken in Tunisia. This dialect is spoken in the main variety of communication in Tunisia and it is used in Medias and Arts. Developed from Classical Arabic, this dialect has submitted language contact due to the political and historical situation of the country and became quite different from Modern Standard Arabic as it has distinctive features, a particular phonology and morphology and even a particular vocabulary. In this Wikipedia Review, an overview about all the aspects of Tunisian Arabic is given as well as an explanation of the historical development of this Arabic dialect. To access to this Wikipedia Review: To prove the intellectual property of the work: The work is published in Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0. Houcemeddine Turki (User:Csisc), Rafik Zribi (User:Tounsimentounes), Maik Gibson (User:Drmaik) and Emad Adel (User:GeekEmad) are the authors making the most of edits to this work. We thank Dr. Mohamed Maamouri (LDC, University of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lameen Souag (INALCO, Université Sorbonne Paris Cité), Dr. Ines Dallaji (University of Vienna), Ms. Ines Zribi (Université de Sfax), Ms. Karen McNeil (University of Virginia) and Dr. Nizar Habash (New York University Abu Dhabi) as well as the members of WikiProject Tunisia, the Languages in Peril Project of Rutgers University and WikiProject Linguistics and the participants to WikiCup and GA Cup for their reviews and helpful comments that have significantly contributed to the promotion of this final output. We also acknowledge the contributions of these WMF committees and projects to the work: • WikiProject Linguistics (Kwamikagami, Largoplazo, Exacrion, Abjiklam) • Wikimedia Morocco (Omar-toons) • Rutgers University Languages in Peril Project (Mdm260, Chuck Haberl)
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Tunisian Arabic
Houcemeddine Turki
Rafik Zribi
Maik Gibson
Emad Adel
Tunisian Arabic
Customized Citation: Turki, H., Zribi, R., Gibson, M., & Adel, E. (2015). Tunisian Arabic.
In Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
Houcemeddine Turki: was born in May 24th, 1994 in Sfax, Tunisia and he is currently a B.Sc. Student, Faculty of Medicine of
Sfax, University of Sfax, Sfax, Tunisia. His fields of interest are Scientometrics and Computational Linguistics.
Rafik Zribi is a B.B.A. Student, IESEG School of Management, Lille, France. His field of interest is Tunisian Arabic.
Maik Gibson is a consultant in SIL International, Texas, United States of America. His fields of interest are language contact
and language literacy.
Emad Adel is a student in Sbikha 1979 High School, Sbikha, Kairouan, Tunisia. His field of interest is Maghrebi Arabic
Standardization issue.
To contact the authors:
Keywords: Tunisian Arabic, Arabic dialect, morphology, phonology, language contact.
Chapters: Tunisian Arabic - Tunisian Arabic morphology - Help:IPA for Tunisian Arabic - Judeo-Tunisian Arabic - Music in Tunisian
Arabic - Tunisian Arabic phrasebook.
Acknowledgements: We thank Dr. Mohamed Maamouri (LDC, University of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lameen Souag (INALCO, Université
Sorbonne Paris Cité), Dr. Ines Dallaji (University of Vienna), Ms. Ines Zribi (Université de Sfax), Ms. Karen McNeil (University of
Virginia) and Dr. Nizar Habash (New York University Abu Dhabi) as well as the members of WikiProject Tunisia, the Languages in
Peril Project of Rutgers University and WikiProject Linguistics and the participants to WikiCup and GA Cup for their reviews and
helpful comments that have significantly contributed to the promotion of this final output.
Adopted Script: We used in this work a modified version of the Tunisian CODA guidelines as defined by Zribi et al. in 2014 to
transcribe Tunisian Arabic in Arabic Script and a modified version of the modified DMG transcription as defined by Turki et al. in 2015.
Edition Period: June 2015 - June 2016
Main Work
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tunisian Arabic
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tunisian Arabic
 Tounsi
[tu:nsi] ( listen)
Native to
Tunisia, North-easternAlgeria
Native speakers
11.2 million native (2014 census)[1]
Language family
Central Semitic
Maghrebi Arabic
Tunisian Arabic
Writing system
Arabic script, Latin script
Signed forms
Tunisian Sign Language
Official status
language in
As a variety of Maghrebi Arabic on 7 May 1999
(Not ratified due to several Constitutional
Matters):[2][3] France
Language codes
ISO 639-3
tuni1259 [4]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without
proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or
other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Tunisian Arabic, or Tunisian, is a set of dialects of Maghrebi Arabic spoken in Tunisia.[5] It is
known by its 11 million speakers as Tounsi [ˈtuːnsi] ( listen),[6] "Tunisian",[7][8] or Derja,[9] "colloquial
dialect" to distinguish it from standard Arabic, the official language of Tunisia.
As part of a dialect continuum, Tunisian merges into Algerian Arabic and Libyan Arabic at the
borders of the country. Tunisian Arabic's morphology, syntax, pronunciation, and vocabulary are
quite different from standard or classical Arabic.[6] Like other Maghrebi dialects, it has a
vocabulary that is mostly Arabic with a significant Berber substratum. However, Tunisian has also
a significant Latin component,[10][11] as well as many loanwords
from French,[12] Turkish,[12]Italian[12] and Spanish.[12]
Tunisian Arabic is mostly intelligible to speakers of other Maghrebi dialects but is hard to
understand or is unintelligible for speakers of Middle Eastern Arabic.[10] Multilingualism within
Tunisia and in the Tunisian diaspora makes it common for Tunisians to code-switch, mixing
Tunisian with French, English, Standard Arabic or other languages in daily speech.[13] Within
some circles, Tunisian Arabic has thereby integrated new French and English words, notably in
technical fields, or replaced old French and Spanish loans with standard Arabic words.[13][14]
However, code-switching between Tunisian Arabic and modern standard Arabic is mainly done
by more educated and upper-class people and has not negatively affected the use of more recent
French and Spanish loanwords in Tunisian.[13]
Moreover, Tunisian Arabic is closely related to Maltese,[15] which is not considered to be a dialect
of Arabic for sociolinguistic reasons.[16]
Tunisian Arabic is part of the Arabic languages family and is by that an Afroasiatic family.[1] It
belongs, particularly, to the Semitic languages branch.[1] Furthermore, it is part of the Maghrebi
Arabic dialects like Moroccan Arabic and Algerian Arabic which are mostly unintelligible
to standard or middle eastern Arabic.[8] It is also considered to be a mostly Hilalian set of dialects,
because it was affected by the immigration of Banu Hilal in the 11th century, as were other
Maghrebi dialects.[17][18]
As a part of the Arabic dialect continuum, it is reported that Tunisian Arabic is partly mutually
intelligible with Algerian Arabic,[8] Libyan Arabic[8] and Maltese.[16]However, it is slightly intelligible
or even not intelligible with Moroccan Arabic,[8] Egyptian Arabic,[19] Levantine Arabic,[19] Iraqi
Arabic,[19] and Gulf Arabic.[19]
See also: History of Tunisia
Linguistic situation of Ancient Tunisia
See also: History of early Tunisia, History of Carthage, and History of Roman-era Tunisia
During the Antiquity, Tunisia's population spoke old forms of Tamazight languages, close
to Numidian.[20] However, the languages progressively lost their function as main languages of
Tunisia since the 12th century BC, and their usage became restricted mainly to the western
regions of the country until their disappearance or evolution into other languages.[20]
Indeed, migrants from Phoenicia settled Tunisia during the 12th to the 2nd century BC,
founded Carthage and progressively mixed with the local population.[21] The migrants brought,
with them, their culture and language that progressively spread from Tunisia's coastal areas to
the rest of the coastal areas of North Africa, Hispania and Mediterranean islands along
the Carthaginian Empire.[22] From the 8th century BC, most of Tunisia's inhabitants spoke
the Punic language, a variant of the Phoenician language, influenced by the local Numidian
language.[23] Also, already at that time, in the regions near to Punic settlements, the Berber that
was used evolved considerably. In the urban centers such as Dougga, Bulla
Regia, Thuburnica or Chemtou, Berber lost its Maghrebi phonology but kept the essential of its
vocabulary. The word « Africa », which gave its name to the continent, is possibly from the name
of the Berber tribe of the Afri that was one of the first to enter in contact with Carthage.[24] Also,
during this period and up to the 3rd century BC, the Berber Tifinagh alphabet developed from
the Phoenician alphabet.[25][26]
After the arrival of Romans, following the fall of Carthage in 146 BC,[27][28] the coastal population
spoke mainly Punic, but that influence decreased away from the coast.[23] From Roman
period until the Arab conquest, Latin, Greek and Numidian further influenced the language, called
Neo-Punic to differentiate it from its older version.[29][30] This also progressively gave birth
to African Romance, a Latin dialect, influenced by Tunisia's other languages and used along with
them.[31][32] Also, as it was the case for the other dialects,[30][31][33] Punic probably survived the Arabic
conquest of the Maghreb: the geographer al-Bakrī described, in the 11th century, people
speaking a language that was not Berber, Latin or Coptic in rural Ifriqiya, a region where spoken
Punic survived well past its written use.[34]However, it may be that the existence of Punic
facilitated the spread of Arabic in the region,[35] as Punic and Arabic are both Semitic languages
and share many common roots.[36][37]
Middle Ages
See also: History of early Islamic Tunisia and History of medieval Tunisia
Classical Arabic began to be installed as a governmental and administrative language in Tunisia
that was called then Ifriqiya from its older name Africa when it became an Umayyad territory in
673.[38][39] The people of several urban cities were progressively influenced by Arabic.[39][40] By the
11th century, by contact of local dialects such as African Romance or Berber with Classical
Arabic, some urban dialects appeared in the main coastal cities of Tunisia.[33][41][42] The dialects
were slightly and characteristically influenced by several common Berber structures and
vocabulary like negation because Tamazight was the language of contact for citizens of that
period.[43][44] The new dialects were also significantly influenced by other historical
In fact, many Tunisian and Maghrebi words, like qarnīṭ, have a Latin etymology.[11][46] The dialects
were later called Pre-Hilalian Arabic dialects and were used along Classical Arabic for
communication in Tunisia.[47][48] Also, Sicilian, an Italian-Arabic dialect, was spoken in several
islands near Tunisia like Sicily, Malta or Sardinia and entered into contact with the Tunisian pre-
hilalian dialects.[47][49] Consequently, it ameliorated the divergence in grammar and structures of all
the concerned dialects from Classical Arabic.[30][42] By the mid-11th century, Banu Hilal immigrated
to northern and central Tunisia and Banu Sulaym immigrated to southern Tunisia.[18][30][45] The
immigrants played a major role in spreading the use of Tunisian Arabic in an important part of the
country.[30][45][50] However, they brought some of the characteristics of their local Arabic dialects as
well.[18][45] In fact, central and western Tunisian Arabic speakers began using the voiced velar
plosive [ɡ] instead of the voiceless uvular plosive [q] in words such as qāl "he said".[18][50] Main
linguists working about Hilalian dialects like Veronika Ritt-Benmimoum and Martine Vanhove
supposed that even the replacement of the diphthongs /aw/ and /aj/ respectively by /uː/ and /iː/
vowels was a Hilalian influence.[17][18][50]Furthermore, the phonologies brought to the new towns
speaking Tunisian Arabic are those of the immigrants and not Tunisian phonology.[18] The Sulaym
even spread a new dialect in southern Tunisia, Libyan Arabic.[18][50][51]
However, some dialects avoided the Hilalian influence: Judeo-Tunisian Arabic, a vernacular
spoken by Tunisian Jews and known for the conservation of foreign phonemes in loanwords and
slightly influenced by Hebrew phonology,[52][53][54] Sfax dialect[55] and Tunisian urban woman
By the 15th century, after the decline of Arabic-speaking Andalusia, many Andalusian people
immigrated to the Tunisian main coastal cities. These migrants brought some of the
characteristics of Andalusian Arabic to the sedentary urban dialects spoken in Tunisia. Among
others, it led to the reuse of the voiceless uvular plosive[q] instead of the nomadic hilalian voiced
velar plosive [ɡ] and to speech simplification in Tunisian,[51][57][58] which further differentiated the
language from Classical Arabic.[51] Furthermore, the changes were recognized by
the Hafsid scholar Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimah in 1377. He said that language contact
between classical Arabic and local languages caused the creation of many Arabic varieties very
distinct from formal Arabic[59][60][61]
Ottoman period
See also: Ottoman Tunisia
During the 17th to the 19th centuries, Tunisia came under Spanish, then Ottoman rule and
hosted Morisco then Italian immigrants from 1609.[45][60] That made
Tunisian, Spanish, Italian and Turkish languages connected.[60] Tunisian acquired several new
loanwords from Spanish and Turkish[45][60] and even some structures like the Turkish - suffix
added to several nouns to mean professions like kawwāṛjī, qahwājī...[40][57][60] During the mid-19th
century, Tunisian Arabic was studied by several European scientists.[62] In 1893, a first linguistic
study was completed by the German linguist Hans Stumme. That began a still ongoing research
trend on Tunisian Arabic.[6][63]
Modern history
See also: History of French-era Tunisia and History of modern Tunisia
During the French protectorate of Tunisia, the country encountered the Standard French
language.[44][57][64] That affected Tunisian considerably, as new loanwords, meanings and structures
were drawn from French.[65] The unintelligibility of Tunisian to Middle Eastern Arabic speakers was
worsened [19][44][64]
Geographic distribution of Tunisian Arabic as of 1960 (in blue). The fields in dark blue and light blue were
respectively the geographic dispositions of Algerian and Libyan Arabic[66][67][68]
Tunisian leader Habib Bourguiba usually delivered his speeches in Tunisian even for religious
However, the same period was characterized by the rise of interest toward Tunisian Arabic.
Indeed, this period was the beginning of the spread of the formal use of Tunisian Arabic as
by Taht Essour.[71] Also, more research about Tunisian was produced, mainly by French and
German linguists.[52] Tunisian Arabic became even taught in French high schools, as an optional
By the Tunisian independence in 1956, Tunisian Arabic was spoken only in coastal Tunisia while
the other regions spoke Algerian Arabic, Libyan Arabic or several Berber dialects.[73][74] The
profusion is from many factors including the length of time the country was inhabited, its long
history as a migration land and the profusion of cultures that have inhabited it,[75][76]and the
geographical length and diversification of the country, divided between mountain, forest, plain,
coastal, island and desert areas.[77]
That is why Tunisian leader Habib Bourguiba began a trial of Arabization and Tunisification of
Tunisia and spread free basic education for all Tunisians.[44][78][79] That contributed to the
progressive and partial minimisation of code-switching from European languages in Tunisian and
the use of code-switching from Standard Arabic.[44][61] Furthermore, the establishment
of Établissement de la Radiodiffusion-Télévision Tunisienne in 1966 and the nationwide spread of
television with the contact of dialects led to a dialect leveling by the 1980s.[80][81]
By then, Tunisian Arabic reached nationwide usage and became composed of six slightly
different but fully mutually intelligible dialects: Tunis dialect, considered the reference Tunisian
dialect; Sahil dialect; Sfax dialect; southwestern dialect; southeastern dialect and northwestern
dialect.[82] Older dialects became less commonly used and began disappearing.[80][83]Consequently,
Tunisian became the main prestigious language of communication and interaction within the
Tunisian community[82][84] and Tunisia became the most linguistically homogeneous state of
the Maghreb.[85] However, Berber dialects, Libyan and Algerian Arabic as well as several Tunisian
dialects like the traditional urban woman dialect, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic or even several Tunisian
structures like noun, also practically disappeared from Tunisia.[80][83][86]
The period after Tunisian independence was also marked by the spread of Tunisian Arabic usage
in literature and education. In fact, Tunisian Arabic was taught by the Peace Corps from 1966
until 1993[87][88] and more researches on it were made. Some which used new methods like
computing operations and the automated creation of several speech recognition-based
and Internet-based corpuses.[89][90][91][92] Others, more traditional, were also made about the
phonology, the morphology, the pragmatic and the semantics of Tunisian.[6][57] The language was
also used to write several novels since the 1990s[71] and even a Swadesh list in 2012.[93] Now, it is
taught by many institutions like the Institut national des langues et civilisations
orientales (in Paris with Tunisian Arabic courses since 1916)[94] and the Institut Bourguiba des
Langues Vivantes (in Tunis with Tunisian Arabic courses since 1990).[3][95][96] or in French high
schools as an optional language.[97] In fact, 1878 students sat for the Tunisian Arabic examination
in the 1999 French Baccalaureate.[97] Nowadays, the tendency in France is to
implement Maghrebi Arabic dialects and mainly Tunisian Arabic more in basic education.[3]
But, those were not the only trials of Tunisian Arabic in education. A project to teach basic
education for the elderly people using Tunisian Arabic was proposed in 1977 by Tunisian linguist
Mohamed Maamouri. It aimed to ameliorate the quality and intelligibility of basic courses for
elderly people who could not understand Standard Arabic as they did not learn it. However, the
project was not implemented.[98][99]
Nowadays, the linguistic classification of Tunisian Arabic causes controversies between
interested people.[71][100] The problem is caused because of the Arabic dialect
continuum.[101][102] Some linguists, such as Michel Quitout and Keith Walters, consider it an
independent language,[45][71][82] and some others, such as Enam El-Wer, consider it a divergent
dialect of Arabic that is still dependent of Arabic morphology and structures.[50]
Moreover, its political recognition is still limited as it is only recognized in France as a minority
language part of Maghrebi Arabic according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages of May 1999. However, even the charter was not agreed on by the Constitutional
Council of France because its conflicts with the Article 2 of the French Constitution of
1958.[2][3] Also, no official recognition or standardization in Tunisia was provided for Tunisian
Arabic until 2015.[82]
Distinctive features
Tunisian Arabic is a variety of Arabic, and as such shares many features with other modern
varieties, especially the Maghrebi varieties of Arabic. Some of its distinctive features (compared
to other Arabic dialects) are listed here.
A conservative consonantal phonology (due to Berber substrates[10]), with the pre-
hilalian /q/ and interdental fricatives maintained.
The use of  ʔɪnti] in urban varieties meaning "you" when addressing both men and
women, and a concomitant loss of this gender distinction in the verbalmorphology. This
distinction is still maintained in rural varieties by using  /ʔinta/ for male and  /ʔinti/ for
The lack of an indicative prefix in the verbal system, resulting in no distinction between
indicative and subjunctive moods.[103]
The innovation of a progressive aspect by means of the participle  [ˈqɑːʕɪd], originally
meaning "sitting"; and the preposition  ['fi] "in" in transitive clauses.[103]
The distinctive usage of future tense by using the
prefixes  [ˈmɛːʃ] or  [ˈbɛːʃ] or
[ˈbəʃ] + verb that is nearly equivalent to "will" + verb.[103]
Some vocabulary such as  [ˈfiːsɑʕ] "fast",  [ˈbɛːhi] "good" and  [ˈbærʃæ] "very
much". (e.g.: [ˈbɛːhi ˈbærʃæ]="very good")[103]
Unlike most of the other Muslim countries, the greeting as-salamu alaykum is not used as the
common greeting expression in Tunisia. Tunisians use the
expression  [ʕɑsːˈlɛːmæ] (formal) or  [æhlæ] (informal) for greeting.
Also,  [bɪsːˈlɛːmæ] (formal) or the Italian ciao (informal) or more rarely the
Italian arrivederci are used as the Tunisian "goodbye" expression.[6]  [jʕɑjːʃɪk] is used as
"thank you", in lieu of  ʃʊkræn].[103] However, Tunisian people do use some expressions
from standard Arabic such as  [ˈbɑːræk ɑlˤˈlˤɑːhu ˈfiːk] and  [ʔɑħˈsænt] for thank
you. But, these expressions are used only as loan structures from standard Arabic and are
not used as they are used in standard Arabic.[6][78][103]
The passive derivation of verbs is influenced by Berber and is different from the one of
classical Arabic.[10][104] It is obtained by prefixing the verb with /t-/, /tt-/,/tn-/ or /n-/ and the
choice of one of the four prefixes depends on the used verb (ex:  /ʃræb/ "to drink"
 /ttæʃræb/ "to be drunk").[6][103][104]
Nearly all educated Tunisians can communicate in French that is widely used in business and
as the main language of communication with foreigners. That is why code switching into
French expressions and vocabulary is common in Tunisian.[32][105]
Tunisian Arabic is an SVO language and it is most of the time a Null-subject
language.[103][106] In fact, the subject is only written in order to avoid meaning ambiguity.[103]
Tunisian has more agglutinative structures than Standard Arabic or the other varieties of
Arabic,[107] a phenomenon that was further strengthened by the influence of Turkish on
Tunisian in the 17th century.[60]
Geographic disposition of the Tunisian Arabic dialects as of 2015.[80][83] The fields in blue, light blue, dark
grey, light gray, green and yellow are respectively the geographic dispositions of southwestern
Tunisian,[108][109] southeastern Tunisian,[5][110] northwestern Tunisian,[111] Sahil dialect,[112][113]Sfax dialect[55] and
Tunis dialect[6][57][114]
The Arabic dialects of Tunisia belong to either pre-Hilalian or Hilalian dialectal families.[41][115]
Before 1980, The pre-Hilalian group included old (Baldī) Urban dialects of Tunis, Kairouan, Sfax,
Sousse, Nabeul and its region Cap Bon , Bizerte, old Village dialects (Sahil dialects), and
the Judeo-Tunisian. The Hilalian set includes the Sulaym dialects in the south and the Eastern
Hilal dialects in central Tunisia. The latter were also spoken in the Constantinois(eastern
Nowadays and due to dialect leveling, the main dialect varieties of Tunisian Arabic are
Northwestern Tunisian (also spoken in Northeastern Algeria), southwestern Tunisian, Tunis
dialect, Sahil dialect, Sfax dialect and southeastern Tunisian.[6][80][83][112] All of these varieties are
Hilalian excepting the Sfax one.[55][57][80][112]
Tunis,[6][57] Sahil[112] and Sfax[55] dialects (considered sedentary dialects) use
the voiceless uvular plosive [q] in words such as  /qaːl/ "he said" while
southeastern,[108] northwestern[111] and southwestern[5] varieties (considered nomadic dialects)
substitute it by the voiced velar plosive [ɡ] as in /ɡaːl/. Moreover, only Tunis, Sfax and Sahil
dialects use Tunisian phonology.[55][57]
Indeed, northwestern[111] and southwestern[108] Tunisians speak Tunisian with Algerian Arabic
phonology, which tends to simplify short vowels as short schwas while southeastern Tunisian
speak Tunisian with the Libyan Arabic phonology.[5][80][116]
Additionally, Tunis,[6][57] Sfax[55] and Sahil[112] dialects are known for not marking the second person
gender. Hence, the otherwise feminine  /ʔinti/ is used to address both men and women, and no
feminine marking is used in verbs (inti mšīt). Northwestern,[111] southeastern[110] and
southwestern[108] varieties maintain the gender distinction found in Classical Arabic ( inta
mšīt,  inti mšītī).
Furthermore, Tunis,[6][57] Sfax[55] and Sahil[112] varieties conjugate CCā verbs like mšā and klā in
feminine third person and in past tense as CCāt. For example,  hiya mšāt. However,
Northwestern,[111] southeastern[110] and southwestern[108]varieties conjugate them in feminine third
person and in past tense as CCat For example,  hiya mšat.
Finally, each of the six dialects have specific vocabulary and patterns.[80][112]
The Tunis dialect is considered by some linguists as the standard form of Tunisian Arabic. It's
essentially spoken on the Northern East of Tunisia around Tunis , Cap Bon and Bizerte
.[6][57] However, it has a characteristic not shared with some of the other Tunisian Arabic
dialects.[6][57] It distinguishes the three short vowels[87][103] and tends to pronounce [æ] as [ɛ][57]and
the āš suffix, used in the end of question words, as an [ɛ:h].[6]
The Sahil dialect is known for the use of the singular first person ānī instead of ānā.[112][113] It is also
known for the pronunciation of wā as [wɑː] and the pronunciation ū and ī as respectively [oː] and
[eː] when it is a substitution of the common Classical Arabic diphthongs /aw/ and /aj/.[5][112][113] For
example,  jwābis pronounced as [ʒwɑːb] and  lūn is pronounced as
[lɔːn].[5][112][113] Furthermore, when ā is at the end of the indefinite or "il-" definite word, this final ā is
pronounced as [iː].[5][112][113] For example,  smā is pronounced as [smiː]. Moreover, If a word
begins with /θ/ or /ð/, these letters are pronounced respectively as [t] and [d].[112][117] For example,
 /θlaːθa/ is pronounced as [tlɛːθæ].[5][112] As well, the Sahil dialect is known for using
 miš instead of  mūš to mean the negation of future predicted action.[112] Similarly, the
conjugation of miš as a modal verb uses  mišnī instead of  mānīš,  mišk instead of
 mākš, miššū instead of  mūš and  mēhūš,  mišhā instead of  māhīš,
 mišnā instead of  mānāš,  miškum instead of  mākumš and mišhum instead
of  māhumš.[112]
The Sahil dialect is also known by the fact that female speakers tend to pronounce q as [kˤ].[112]
The Sfax dialect is known mostly for its conservation of the Arabic diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ and of
the short /a/ between two consonants[55] and its use of  wḥīd instead of  wḥūd to mean the
plural of someone.[118]
Other dialects have substituted them respectively by /iː/ and /uː/ and dropped the short /a/
between the first and second consonant of the word.[57][117][119] It is also known by the substitution of
short /u/ by short /i/, when it comes in the beginning of the word or just after the first
consonant.[55] For example,  /χubz/ is pronounced as [χibz].[55]
It is also known for the use of specific words, like baṛmaqnī meaning window.[55] Furthermore, it is
known for the substitution of [ʒ] by [z] when it comes in the beginning of a word and when that
word contains [s] or [z] in its middle or end.[55][111] For example,  /ʒazzaːrˤ/ is pronounced as
[zæzzɑːrˤ] and  /ʒarʒiːs/ is pronounced as [zærzi:s].[55]
Unlike other Tunisian dialects, Sfax dialect does not simplify the last long vowel at the end of a
word.[55][57] It is also known for some specific verbs like  aṛā (to see) and the use of the
demonstrative articles  hākūma for those and  hāka (m.) and  hākī (f.) for that
respectively instead of  hāđūkum and hāđāka (m.) and  hāđākī (f.)
determinants.[55] Finally, the conjugation of mūš as a modal verb uses  māhūwāš instead of
 māhūš,  māhīyāšinstead of  māhīš,  māḥnāš instead of  mānāš and
 māhūmāš instead of  māhumš.[12][120]
Sfax dialect is also known for its profusion of diminutives.[55] For example,
 qayas (little or friendly cat) for  qaṭṭūs (cat).[55]
 klayib (little or friendly dog) for  kalb (dog).[55]
The northwestern dialect is known by pronouncing r as [rˤ] when it is written before an ā or
ū.[111][121] Furthermore, it is known for the substitution of [ʒ] by [z] when it comes at the beginning of
a word and when that word contains [s] or [z] in its middle or end.[111][121] Also, it is known for the
pronunciation of ū and ī respectively as [o:] and [e:] when they are in an emphatic or uvular
environment.[111][121] As well, northwestern dialect is known for using  miš that is pronounced as
[məʃ] instead of  mānīš to mean the negation of future predicted action.[111] Similarly, the
conjugation of  miš as a modal verb uses  mišnī instead of  mānīš, mišk instead of
 mākš,  miššū instead of  mūš and  māhūš,  mišhā instead of  māhīš,
 mišnā instead of  mānāš,  miškum instead of  mākumš and  mišhum instead
of  māhumš.[111] Moreover, northwestern dialect is known for the use of  naḥnā instead of
 aḥnā as a plural second person personal pronoun[111] and the southern area of this Tunisian
dialect like El Kef is known for the use of  nāy or  nāya instead of  ānā (meaning I)
excepting Kairouan that is known for using  yāna in this situation.[111]
The southeastern dialect is known for a different conjugation of verbs ending with ā in the third
person of plural. In fact, people speaking this variety of Tunisian Arabic do not add the
regular ū suffix after the vowel ā but used to drop the ā and then add the ū.[110] For example,
 mšā is conjugated as  mšū instead of  mšāw with the third person of
plural.[110] Furthermore, it is known for the substitution of [ʒ] by [z] at the beginning of a word and
when that word contains [s] or [z] in its middle or end.[5][66][110] Moreover, it is known like the Sahil
dialect for the pronunciation /uː/ and /iː/ as respectively [oː] and [eː] when it is a substitution of the
common classical Arabic diphthongs /aw/ and /aj/.[5][6][66] Furthermore, this dialect is also known for
the use of  anā instead of  ānā (meaning I), the use of  ḥnāinstead of  aḥnā (meaning
we), the use of  intumm (masc.) and  intinn (fem.) instead of  intūma (meaning you in
plural) and the use of  humm (masc.) and  hinn (fem.) instead of  hūma (meaning
The southwestern dialect is known for a different conjugation of verbs ending with ā in the third
person of plural. In fact, people who are speaking this variety of Tunisian Arabic do not add the
regular ū suffix after the vowel ā but used to drop the ā and then add the ū.[108][109] For example,
 mšā is conjugated as  mšū with the third person of plural.[108][109] Furthermore, this dialect is
also known for the use of  nāy instead of  ānā (meaning I), the use of  ḥnī instead of
aḥnā (meaning we), the use of  intumm (masc.) and  intinn (fem.) instead of
 intūma (meaning you in plural) and the use of  humm (masc.) and  hinn(fem.) instead of
 hūma (meaning they).[108][109] Moreover, it is known for the pronunciation of ū and ī respectively
as [o:] and [e:] in an emphatic or uvular environment.[108][109]
Use and geographical distribution
Tunisian Arabic is the mother tongue of the Arabic-speaking population in Tunisia.[60] It is also the
second language of the Berber minority living in the country, particularly in Djerba.[1]
However, Tunisian Arabic has the role of the low variety in an example of classic diglossia, and
Standard Arabic is the high variety.[14] As such, the use of Tunisian Arabic is mainly restricted to
spoken domains.[1][71] as its written and cultural use began in the 17th century[124] and regularly
developed since the 20th century only.[125] Now, it is used for a wide range of purposes, including
communication, politics, literature, theatre, and music.[71][126]
From the 1990s, Tunisians began to write in Tunisian Arabic when communicating on the
Internet, especially on social networking sites, and in text messages.[127]This trend accelerated
during the 2011 street protests that brought down the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in which
text messaging and social networking played a major role.[126]
In religion, the use of Tunisian Arabic in promoting Islam is limited although there are some trial
efforts.[128] In Christianity, the use of Tunisian Arabic is significant beginning with a 1903 New
Testament translation.[1][129]
Before Tunisian independence, there was a large body of folk tales and folk poems in Tunisian
Arabic.[130] It was mainly an oral tradition, told by wandering storytellers and bards at marketplaces
and festivals.[8][131] The most important of these folktales are  "il-jāzya il-hlālīya" and 
 "ḥkāyat ummī sīsī w il-đīb".[132] A few years after independence, the most famous of
them was recorded for ERTT broadcast, in Tunisian Arabic by Abdelaziz El Aroui,[133] or translated
mainly to French and standard Arabic by other authors.[132] The recorded Tunisian folktales were
transcribed in Tunisian Arabic using Arabic script only in the 2010s, thanks to the work of the
Kelemti Association of the promotion of Tunisian Arabic in 2013[134] and the work of Karen McNeil
of 2014.[135]
As for novels and short stories, most authors who fluently know Tunisian Arabic prefer to write in
Standard Arabic or in French. But since the initiative of the Taht Essour and particularly Ali
Douagi[136] to use Tunisian Arabic in transcribing dialogues in novels and writing some
newspapers, the dialogues in the Standard ArabicTunisian novels or romans became written in
Tunisian Arabic using the Arabic script.[125][137][138]
However, since the early 1990s, Hedi Balegh initiated a new trend in Tunisian literature.[71] He
was the first to translate a novel to Tunisian Arabic in 1997[100][139]and to make collections of
Tunisian idioms and proverbs in 1994 using Arabic script.[140] Some authors, particularly Tahar
Fazaa (mainly in  Tšanšīnāt Tūnsīya)[141] and Taoufik Ben Brik (mainly when writing
 Kalb Bin Kalb[142][143] and  Kawāzākī[144][145]) followed him and used Tunisian Arabic in
order to write novels, plays and books in Tunisian Arabic.
As for plays in Tunisian Arabic, the first ones were made by the Tunisian-Egyptian Company just
after World War I.[146] They faced several objections.[146] However, it acquired general recognition in
Tunisia by the end of World War II.[146] After Tunisian independence, the government encouraged
the development of theater in Tunisian Arabic through the creation of supporting
institutions.[146][147] That resulted in the creation of notable plays in Tunisian Arabic following the
trends of world literature between 1965 and 2005.[146][147] The main authors of these plays were
Jalila Baccar, Fadhel Jaibi and members of the National Theature Troops of theMedina of
Tunis, El Kef and Gafsa.[146][147]
Now, plays are almost always written in Tunisian Arabic except when they are placed in a
historical setting.[146] Plays written in Tunisian Arabic are widely considered as meaningful and
valuable ones.[146]
See also: Music of Tunisia and Music in Tunisian Arabic
The oldest lyrics found written in Tunisian, dates back to the 17th century,[124] by Sheykh Abu el-
Hassan el-Karray, who died in 1693 in the medina quarter of Sfaxand wrote a poem in Tunisian
Arabic during his youth:[148]
The effective beginning of Tunisian Arabic written songs came in the early 19th century,
when Tunisian Jews in the Beylik of Tunis began writing songs in Tunisian Arabic about love,
betrayal and other libertine subjects.[124][149] The current strengthened at the beginning of the 20th
century and affected the Tunisian ma'luf and folklore.[124] Judeo-Tunisian song flowered in the
1930s, with such Jewish artists as Cheikh El Afrit and Habiba Msika.[149][150]
This tendency was promoted by the creation of Radio Tunis in 1938 and the creation
of Établissement de la radiodiffusion-télévision tunisienne in 1966,[150][151] which allowed many
musicians to better disseminate their works and helped spread the use of Tunisian Arabic in
At the same time, popular music developed in the early 19th century, using Tunisian Arabic
poems accompanied by Tunisian musical instruments like the mizwad.[149][152] This kind of music
was promoted by the National Troupe of the Popular Arts, created in 1962.[153] Later adaptation
and promotion of popular songs, especially by Ahmed Hamza and later Kacem Kefi, further
developed Tunisian music.[151] Natives of Sfax, they were both influenced by Mohamed Ennouri
and Mohamed Boudaya, leading masters of popular music in that city.[124][151] Nowadays, this kind
of music is very popular.[154]
Tunisian Arabic became the main variety used in writing lyrics of songs in Tunisia and even the
main technical words in music have their synonyms in Tunisian Arabic.[124]
In the early 1990s, underground music in Tunisian Arabic appeared.[155] This mainly consisted of
rap and was not successful in the beginning because of the lack of media coverage.[155] Tunisian
Underground music, mainly written in Tunisian Arabic, became successful in the 2000s, thanks to
its spread over the Internet, and came to involve other alternative genres like reggae and
In 2014, the first opera songs in Tunisian Arabic had appeared.[157] They were the ones of Yosra
Zekri that were written by Emna Rmilli and composed by Jalloul Ayed.[157]
Cinema and mass media
See also: Cinema of Tunisia
Of the few domestic movies produced since 1966, many tried to reflect new social dynamics,
development, identity research and modernity shock,[158][159] and were done in Tunisian
Arabic.[160][161] Some of them achieved relative success outside Tunisia, such as La Goulette (
 ḥalq il-wād, 1996), Halfaouine: Child of the Terraces ( ɛaṣfūr il-sṭaḥ, 1990),
and The Ambassadors ( il-sufaṛā, 1975).[161]
Television and radio programs in Tunisian Arabic began officially in 1966 with the establishment
of the Établissement de la Radiodiffusion-Télévision Tunisienne.[162][163] Tunisian Arabic is now
widely used for all television and radio programs, with the exception of news, religious programs
and historical dramas.[69][133] There is even several translations of cartoon series in Tunisian
Arabic, like during the 1980s  Qrīnaṭ il-šalwāš and  Mufattiš kaɛbūṛa.[164] As
well, foreign Television series begun to be translated to Tunisian Arabic in 2016.[165] The first
translation of foreign television series was entitled  qlūb il-rummān and was developed
by Nessma TV from the Turkish television series Kaderimin Yazıldığı Gün.[165][166]
Some Tunisian Arabic works acquired some honors in the broader Arab world like the ASBU
Festival First Prize in 2015.[167] and the Festival of Arab Media Creation Prize in 2008.[168]
Moreover, since the 1990s, mass media advertisements increasingly use Tunisian Arabic, and
many advertising boards have their slogans and the original or alternative company name written
in Tunisian.[13]
However, the main newspapers in Tunisia are not written in Tunisian Arabic[13][14] although there
were trials to establish humoristic newspapers in Tunisian Arabic[169] like  kull šay b-
il-makšūf that was directed by Hedi Saidi and Hechmi Bouaziz and led by Ali Douagi and that was
issued quite regularly from 23 April 1937 to 22 October 1959.[137] The leading newspapers are still
written either in Modern Standard Arabic or in Standard French, even if cartoons in most of them
can be written in Tunisian.[13][78]
Arabic script
See also: Arabic script
The Arabic script used for Tunisian is largely the same as for Arabic. However, it includes
additional letters to support /g/ (), /v/ () and /p/ ().[12][170]
The first known use of Arabic script for Tunisian was recorded in the 17th century, when Sheykh
Karray wrote several poems in Tunisian Arabic for mystic purposes.[124] However, transcription of
Tunisian Arabic was not common until 1903, when the Gospel of John was transcribed in
Tunisian Arabic using Arabic script.[1][129] After the World War I, the use of Arabic script to Tunisian
Arabic became very common with the works of Taht Essour.[125][137] Nowadays, it has become the
main script used for Tunisian Arabic, even in published books,[139][144] but writing conventions for
Tunisian Arabic are not standardized and can change from one book to another.[12][139][144]
In 2014, Ines Zribi et al. proposed a Conventional Orthography for Tunisian Arabic based on the
principles of CODA as proposed in 2012. The orthography is based on eliminating phonological
simplifications by comparing the words and structures of Tunisian Arabic by their correspondent
etymological equivalent in Modern Standard Arabic.[12] Although the convention is quite important,
the orthography does not differentiate between [q] and [g] and does not involve several important
phonemes that are mainly used in loanwords.[12]
In 2015, Houcemeddine Turki et al. proposed an Arabic Script for Maghrebi Arabic that has quite
the same guidelines as Tunisian CODA but involved several reforms in order to let the Latin
Scripts simply convertible to it and in order to let NLP analysis on Maghrebi Arabic dialects and
mainly Tunisian:[171]
The transcription of all emphatic consonants in order to avoid ambiguity in the pronunciation
of short and long fata.[171]
The separation of proclitics and prefixed prepositions from nouns after them in order to
ameliorate the tokenization for Maghrebi Arabic.[171]
The simplification of the transcription of Ta Marbūṭa that became a marker of short fatha in
the end of the word and not a marker of feminineness.[171]
The simplification of the transcription of glottal stop that became transcribed as if it is in the
end of the word and preceded by a long vowel and as in other situations.[171]
In order to disambiguate [ɪl] determinant from word beginning [ɪl], a tatweel is added between
the determinant and noun after it.[171]
Independently and in the same year, Emad Adel had proposed an informal[172] and a
formal[173] Arabic Script orthography for Maghrebi Arabic and mainly Tunisian based on the use of
Arabic Script for Maghrebi Arabic in Social networks and by getting inspired by the Tunisian,
Algerian, Maghrebi and Egyptian CODA guidelines and other created Arabic Script orthographies
for Maghrebi dialects.
Latin script
See also: Latin script and Romanization of Arabic
Phonemic transcription method of Tunisian Arabic and Algerian Arabic into Latin script used by William
Marçais in 1908[174]
Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft Umschrift
In 1845, the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft or DMG, a German scientific association
dedicated to the studies and the languages of the orient, was formed in Leipzig.[175] Soon, the
organization developed a transcription system for Arabic in Latin script.[176] Its system was a
phonemic transcription of Arabic written with an extended Latin alphabet and macrons for long
vowels.[176] However, this Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft transcription was first tried on
Tunisian only after the establishment of the French Protectorate of Tunisia in 1881.[57]
The first linguistic study about Tunisian to be completed was of German linguist Hans Stumme,
who, from 1893 to 1896, transcribed Tunisian Arabic with the DMG transcription.[63][177] In addition,
from 1897 to 1935, a series of linguistic works were conducted by several French members of the
DMG, like William Marçais,[178][179] Philippe Marçais,[180][181] David Cohen[52] and Alfred
Nicolas.[182] These works included corpuses,[178][179] grammar books,[180] dictionaries,[182] or
studies.[52]By 1935, the DMG transcription included many unique letters and diacritics for Tunisian
not used for Arabic,[183] such as, à, è, ù and ì, for short and accentuated vowels.[174] This is the
reason why the XIXth international congress of orientalists held in Rome, from 23 to 29
September 1935, adopted a modified simplified version of the DMG transcription specifically for
Arabic dialects.[183] From 1935 to 1985, most of the linguists working on Tunisian Arabic such as
Gilbert Boris,[67] Hans Rudolf Singer,[57][184] Lucienne Saada[185][186][187] and others,[6][87] adopted the
modified DMG.
As of 2016, the modified DMG is still used by institutions such as SIL International or
the University of Vienna for Tunisian Arabic written corpuses and linguistic books.[6][108][188]
Additional scripts
Phonetic Transcription:
Even if the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft transcription was abundantly used in early
linguistic researches about Tunisian,[174][188] some trials were performed in order to create
alternative Latin scripts and writing methods.[127][189] The purpose of the trials was to have a simpler
and more intuitive Latin Script Writing system than DMG or to try to solve the lack of
interconvertibility between scripts as the transcription of Tunisian with the German DMG method
was phonetic and not syntactic.[12][72][170]
The first successful trial to create a specific Latin script and writing method for Tunisian was
the Practical Orthography of Tunisian Arabic, created by Joseph Jourdan in 1913.[190][191] Its
principle was to use French consonant and vowel digraphs and phonology to transcribe non-Latin
sounds.[190] In this method, kh is used to transcribe /χ/, ch to transcribe /ʃ/, th to transcribe
/θ/, gh to transcribe /ʁ/, dh to transcribe /ð/ or /ðˤ/ and ou to transcribe /u:/, a to transcribe /a:/ and
/ɛː/, i to transcribe /i:/ and e to transcribe the short vowels.[192] The layout was successful because
it did not involve additional Latin letters and could be transcribed efficiently. It was used in the
later linguistic works of Joseph Jourdan about Tunisian Arabic until 1956.[72][193][194] Moreover, it is
still presently used in French books to transcribe Tunisian Arabic.[192] The method was used in
1995 by the Tunisian Arabizi, an Arabic chat alphabet, converting the consonant digraphs into
digits.[8][60][126] It uses 2 to transcribe a glottal stop, 3 to transcribe /ʕ/, 5 to transcribe /χ/, 6 to
transcribe /tˤ/, 7 to transcribe /ħ/, 8 to transcribe /ʁ/ and 9 to transcribe /q/.[126][127] The ch, dh, and
th digraphs were kept in Tunisian Arabizi.[126] Vowels are transcribed according to their quality and
not to their length as a is used to transcribe short and long [ɐ] and [æ], e is used to transcribe
short and long [ɛ] and [e], u is used to transcribe short and long [y], eu is used to transcribe short
and long [œ], o is used to transcribe short and long [o], ou is used to transcribe short and long [u]
and i is used to transcribe short and long [i] and [ɪ].[127][195]Sometimes, users differentiate between
short and long vowels by dropping short ones.[127][195] Like all other Arabic chat alphabets, its use
spread considerably during the 1990s mainly with the Tunisian young people.[8][60][196] Nowadays, it
is used principally on social networks and mobile phones.[126][127] Also, during theTunisian
Revolution of 2011, Tunisian Arabizi was the main script used for message transmission on
internet.[197][198] After 2011, more interest was given to Tunisian Arabizi[195][199] and in 2013, a concise
grammar book about Tunisian, written with Tunisian Arabizi, was issued.[200] In 2016, Tunisian
Arabizi has been recognized by Ethnologue as an official informal script for writing
Tunisian.[201] However, this chat alphabet is not standardized and is seen as informal as the Arabic
sounds are transcribed as numbers and letters at the same time.[199][202] The use of digits as
numerals and letters at the same time made transcribing Tunisian difficult to users and did not
linguistically solve the matters that were faced by the Practical Transcription.[203]
Although they are popular, both methods have problems such as the possibility of ambiguity
between digraphs,[204] the absolute certainty of getting a rate of graphs per phoneme that is
significantly superior to 1 and of getting independent consonants having the same transliteration
as the digraphs,[204] and the lack of disambiguation between /ð/ and /ðˤ/.[192]
Logo ofPeace Corps
Separately, another Latin script transcription method was created by Patrick L. Inglefield and his
team of linguists from Peace Corps Tunisia and Indiana University in 1970.[189] Letters in this
method can be written in lowercase letters only, and even T and S are not equivalent to t and s as
T is used to transcribe /tˤ/ and S is used to transcribe /sˤ/.[189] Moreover, three additional Latin
letters are used in this writing method that are 3 (/ʕ/), ø (/ð/) and ħ (/ħ/).[189] Four common English
digraphs are used that are dh (/ðˤ/), gh (/ʁ/), th (/tˤ/) and sh (/ʃ/).[189] In order to distinguish the
digraphs from the independent letters written like the digraphs, the digraphs are underlined.[189] As
for the vowels, they are written as å (glottal stop or /ʔ/), ā (/æ/), ā: (/ɛ:/), a (Short an or /a/), a:
(long an or /a:/), i (short i or /i/), i: (long i or /i:/), u (short u or /u/), u: (Long u or /u:/).[189] This
method was used in the Peace Corps books about Tunisian Arabic until 1993, when Peace
Corps Tunisia became inactive.[88][205][206]
Syntactic Transliteration:
After years of works on a phonetic transliteration of Tunisian, linguists decided that the
transliteration should be mainly syntactic.[207] Timothy Buckwalter created an orthography-based
transcription of Arabic texts during his work for Xerox.[208] Buckwalter transcription was created in
order to avoid the effect of phoneme simplification of spoken Modern Standard Arabic on the
morphological analysis of the language.[207] In 2004, Tunisian linguist Mohamed Maamouri
proposed to use the same transliteration for Arabic dialects and mainly Tunisian.[209] This idea was
later developed by Nizar Habash and Mona Diab in 2012 into CODA-based Buckwalter
transliteration that eliminates phonological simplification in the Arabic dialects through doing
comparisons between dialectal structures and their Modern Standard Arabic equivalents.[210][211] In
2013, a complete work about the regulations of the use of the Buckwalter transliteration for
Tunisian was issued by Ines Zribi and her team from the University of Sfax.[212] In fact, a
morphological analysis method and a conventional orthography for Tunisian Arabic using this
method were posted by 2014.[12][213] However, the method is currently used for computer
operations only[12] and it is not used by people, as it involves some ASCII non-alphanumeric
graphs as letters, and S, D and T do not correspond respectively to the same phonemes as s, d
and t.[214][215] Furthermore, p does not correspond to /p/ but to .[216] Even the modified version of
Buckwalter transliteration that was proposed by Nizar Habash et al. in 2007 and that substitute
ASCII non-alphanumeric graphs by additional Latin letters did not solve the other problems of the
original Buckwalter transliteration.[216] That is why both versions of Buckwalter transliteration were
not adopted for daily use in writing Tunisian Arabic and are adopted only for NLP purposes.[215]
Phonosyntactic Transcription:
- Writing systems inspired from the Maltese orthography guidelines:
As Maltese was developed from Tunisian Arabic, several linguists were convinced that Maltese
orthography guidelines are the most appropriate Latin Script common orthography guidelines for
Tunisian and have used them to create writing systems for Tunisian.[217] Like the original Maltese
writing method, these methods are mainly phonological transcriptions of Tunisian that eliminates
assimilation and centralization of short vowels and add a hyphen after il- determinant and an
apostrophe after prefixed prepositions and proclitics to avoid reading problems.[217]
In fact, Dominique Caubet have applied Maltese writing guidelines on Arabizi when translating Le
Petit Nicolas in Maghrebi Arabic dialects including Tunisian in 2013.[217][218]
Similarly, Ramzi Hachani had the idea in 2016 to adopt Maltese Latin Script Writing system for
Tunisian Arabic.[217] He added graphs for common phonemes in Tunisian that had disappeared
from Maltese to create his method that is entitled "the Elyssa Writing method".[217] This system is
used to teach Tunisian Arabic for the young Tunisian diaspora in Europe and North America.[217]
- Phonosyntactic transcriptions of Turki et al.:
In 2015 and 2016 and by getting inspired from the principles of DMG Transcription and
Buckwalter transliteration, Houcemeddine Turki et al. had the idea of creating transcriptions that
have two patterns in the same time:[171]
1. The representation of all the Maghrebi phonemes including foreign phonemes
like [p] and [v] as in DMG transcription.[171]
2. The elimination of phonological simplification through the comparison of the words and
structures of the dialects with Modern Standard Arabic root and patterns so that these
created writing systems can be interconvertible to Arabic Script without using a corpus-
based software as in Buckwalter transliteration.[171]
They have developed a modified phonosyntactic DMG transcription[171] and have also created a
simplified phonosyntactic transcription.[172]
These transcriptions also involved some innovations in the transcription of Arabic dialects that
were done to let NLP analysis of Maghrebi Arabic and mainly Tunisian easier. In fact,
prefixed prepositions and proclitics are separated from the nouns next to them to improve the
tokenization of the dialects, the word beginning with il and the il- determinant are differentiated by
adding a hyphen to the determinant, all emphatic letters are represented to avoid difficulties in
vowel transcription, the suffix of the conjugation of verbs in present in plural and the singular third
person direct object pronouns are differentiated by transcribing them differently, and the
transcriptions of glottal stop and of Ta Marbūṭa are simplified.[172][171]
The most immediately apparent difference between Tunisian and Standard Arabic is the
extensive use of words borrowed from Italian, Spanish, French, Berber andTurkish.[57] For
example, electricity is  /kahrabaːʔ/ in standard Arabic. It is  trīsītī in Tunisian Arabic (a
word used mainly by older people), from the Frenchélectricité.[57][219] Other loans from French
include  buṛtmān (flat), and  byāsa (coin).[57] Furthermore, there are words and structures
that came from Turkish, such as  bālik (perhaps),  gāwrī (European) (Gavur) as well as
the suffix of occupation /-ʒi/ as in  būṣṭājī (post officer) and 
 kawwāṛjī(football
player).[57] A sample of words derived from Latin, French, Italian, Turkish, Berber, Greek or
Spanish is below:[12]
Tunisian Arabic
Standard Arabic
Etymology of Tunisian Arabic
 aūr
 /safiːna/
Turkish:[220] vapur meaning "steamboat"
 bakū
 /sˤundu:q/
Italian:[221] pacco
 anka
 /bank/
Italian:[221] banca
 baa
 /makaːn/
 dakūrdū
 /ħasanan/
Italian:[221] d'accordo
 fišta
 /ʕiːd/
Italian:[221] festa
 kaṛṛūsa
 /ʕaraba/
Italian:[221] carrozza
 kūjīna
 /matˤbax/
Italian:[221] cucina
 kusksī
 /kuskusi/
Berber:[223] seksu
 abba
 /ħiðaːʔ/
Spanish:[222] zapatos
 qalsīta
 /jawrab/
Spanish:[222] calceta
 qaṭṭūs
 /qitˤː/
Latin:[224] cattus
 sbīṭa
 /mustaʃfa:/
Italian:[221] ospedale
 sfinārya
 /jazar/
Greek:[225] σταφυλῖνος ἄγριος
The loans are not to be confused with the actual use of French words or sentences in everyday
speech by Tunisians (codeswitching), which is common in everyday language and business
environments. However, many French words are used within Tunisian Arabic discourse, without
being adapted to Tunisian phonology, apart from the French r [ʁ], which is often replaced,
especially by men, with [r].[226] For example, many Tunisians, when asking "How are you?" will use
the French "ça va?" instead of, and in addition to the Tunisian  šnīya aḥwālik. It is difficult
in this case to establish whether it is an example of using French or borrowing.[226]
In general, loanwords are adapted to Tunisian phonology for years until they become pronounced
with basic Tunisian Arabic sounds only.[57][227] For example, the French word apartement became
 buṛtmān and the Italian word ospedale became  sbīṭāṛ.[57][228]
Shift in meanings
The greatest number of differences between Tunisian and standard Arabic is not due to the
borrowing from other languages but to a shift in meaning of several Arabic roots.[83] For
example, /x-d-m/ means "serve" in Standard Arabic but "work" in Tunisian Arabic, as opposed
to -m-l/ means "work" in Standard Arabic but was narrowed to "do" in Tunisian Arabic; and /m-ʃ-
j/ meaning in Tunisian Arabic was broadened to "go" from "walk".[6]
In general, meaning shift happens when there is a lexical implication of the society speaking the
language so the social situation and thoughts of the speakers of the languages obliged them to
change the meaning of some words so their language could be adapted to their
situation[229][230] and that is just what happened in Tunisia.[83] In fact, the borrowing of rhetoric and
semantic structures from other contact languages like French helped the meaning shift in
Word fusion
In Tunisian, some new words and structures were created through the fusion of two words or
more.[6] Almost all question words fall into the latter category.[6] The question words are noticeable
by beginning or ending with the sound š or āš and are not to be confused with the negation
mark, š, which agrees verbs, as in mā mšītš  (I did not go).[6]
The table below shows a comparison of various question words in Tunisian, Standard Arabic and
Tunisian Arabic
Standard Arabic
škūn 
āš + kūn 
 /man/
šnūwa  (masc.)
šnīya (fem.) 
āš 
āš + n + (h)ūwa 
āš + n + (h)īya 
āš 
 /maːða/
waqtāš 
waqt + āš 
 /mata/
lwāš 
l- + āš 
 /limaːða/
for what reason
ɛlāš 
ɛlā + āš 
 /limaːða/
kīfāš 
kīf + āš 
 /kajfa/
qaddāš 
qadd + āš 
 /kam/
how much
mnāš 
min + āš 
 /man ʔajna/
from what
fāš 
fī + āš 
 /fi man/
in what, what
wīn 
w + ayn 
 /ʔajna/
Some of the question words can be merged with other structures such as the prepositions and
object pronouns. For example, "who are you" becomes škūnik intī or simply
 škūnik and "how much is this" becomes  b-qaddāš.[6]
Another example of word fusion in Tunisian is the spelling of numerals between 11 and 19, which
are pronounced as one word, composed of the name of the digit obtained by subtracting 10 to the
number and the suffix  ṭāš derived from the standard Arabic word
/ʕaʃara/, those numbers
are in order:  aḥdāš, ŧṇāš,  ŧlaṭṭāš,  aṛbaɛṭāš,  xmasṭāš,  sitṭāš,
 sbaɛṭāš,  ŧmanṭāš and  tsaɛṭāš.[6]
Pattern and root-based creation of new words
In Tunisian Arabic, as in other Semitic languages, the creation of new words is based on a root
and pattern system, also known as the Semitic root.[231] That means that new words can be
created through the association of a root that is composed most of the time of three letters that
have a meaning with a rhythm or pattern that informs about the position of the object in the
fact.[231] For example, K-T-B is a root meaning to write and  maūl is a pattern meaning that
the object submitted the fact. Thus, the combination of the root and the given pattern
render maKTūB, which means something that was written.[231]
See also: Help: IPA for Tunisian Arabic
There are several differences in pronunciation between Standard and Tunisian
Arabic. Nunation does not exist in Tunisian Arabic, and short vowels are frequently omitted,
especially if they would occur as the final element of an open syllable, which was probably
encouraged by the Berber substratum.[114][227][232]
However, there are some more specific characteristics related to Tunisian Arabic like the
phenomenon of metathesis.[232]
Metathesis is the shift of the position of the first vowel of the word.[232][233] It occurs when the
unconjugated verb or unsuffixed noun begins with CCVC, where C is an ungeminated consonant
and V is a short vowel.[232][233][234] When a suffix is added to this kind of noun or when the verb is
conjugated, the first vowel changes of position and the verb or noun begins with CVCC.[232][233][234]
For example:
(he) wrote in Tunisian Arabic becomes  ktib and (she) wrote in Tunisian Arabic becomes
 kitbit.[103][232]
some stuff in Tunisian Arabic becomes  dbaš and my stuff in Tunisian Arabic becomes
 dabšī.[103][232]
Stress is not phonologically distinctive[233] and is determined by the word's syllable structure.
it falls on the ultimate syllable if it is doubly closed:[233]  sirwāl (trousers).
Otherwise, it falls on the penultimate syllable,[6] if there is one:  jada (newspaper).
Stress falls on all the word if there is only one syllable within it:[233]  ma (woman).
Affixes are treated as part of the word:[233]  niktlkum (we write to you).
For example:
 bit (She brought).[6][233]
 mā jābitš (She did not bring).[6][233]
Assimilation is a phonological process in Tunisian Arabic.[63][112][233] The possible assimilations are:
/ttˤ/ > /tˤː/
/tˤt/ > /tˤː/
/χh/ > /χː/
ʁ/ > /χː/
/tɡ/ > /dɡ/
/fd/ > /vd/
/ħh/ > /ħː/
/nl/ > /lː/
/sd/ > /zd/
/td/ > /dː/
/dt/ > /tː/
/ln/ > /nː/
/hʕ/ > /ħː/
/tð/ > /dð/
/hħ/ > /ħː/
/nr/ > /rː/
/nf/ > /mf/
/qk/ > /qː/
/kq/ > /qː/
/lr/ > /rː/
/ndn/ > /nː/
ʕ/ > /ħː/
/ʁh/ > /χː/
/ʕh/ > /ħː/
/ʃd/ > /ʒd/
/fC/1 > /vC/1
/bC/2 > /pC/2
/nb/ > /mb/
/ʕħ/ > /ħː/
/tz/ > /dz/
/tʒ/ > /dʒ/
^1 Only if C is a voiced consonant.[112][233]
^2 Only if C is a voiceless consonant.[112][233]
Tunisian Arabic qāf has [q] and [ɡ] as reflexes in respectively sedentary and nomadic
varieties: he said is [qɑːl] instead of [ɡɑːl]). However, some words have the same
form [ɡ] whatever the dialect: cow is always [baɡra].[235] Sometimes, substituting [g] by [q] can
change the meaning of a word.[103] For example, garn means "horn" and qarn means "century".[103]
Interdental fricatives are also maintained for several situations, except in the Sahil dialect.[236]
Furthermore, Tunisian Arabic merged // with /ðˤ/ .[237]
Consonant phonemes of Tunisian Arabic
n n
t t
k k
q q
(ʔ) '
b b
d d
ɡ g
(ts) ts
(dz) d
f f
θ ŧ
s s
ʃ š
χ x
h h
ð đ
z z
ʒ j
ʁ ġ
ʕ ɛ
r r
l l
j y
w w
Phonetic notes:
The emphatic consonants /mˤ, nˤ, bˤ, zˤ/ rarely occur, and most of them are found in
borrowed words.[57][87][112] Minimal pairs are not always easy to find for these contrasts, but
there are nonetheless examples, which show that these marginal forms do not
represent allophones of other phonemes.[6][227] For example:
/baːb/ [bɛːb] "door" and /bˤaːbˤa/ [ˈbˤɑːbˤɑ] "Father"[6][227]
/ɡaːz/ [ɡɛːz] "petrol" and /ɡaːzˤ/ [ɡɑːzˤ] "gas"[6][227]
These emphatic consonants occur before or after the vowels /a/ and /aː/.[6][112] A different
analysis is that the posited allophones of /a/ and /aː/ are phonemically distinct, and it is
the marginal emphatic consonants that are allophonic.[5][227][233]
/p/ and /v/ are found in borrowed words and are usually replaced by /b/, like
in ḅāḅūr and ḅāla. However, they are preserved in some words,
like pīsīn andtalvza.[6][57][233]
ʃ/ and /d
z/ are rarely used, for example tšīša, dzīṛa and dzāyir.[57][238]
The glottal stop /ʔ/ is usually dropped but tends to occur in the learned register, in
loans from Standard Arabic, often in madar (verbal noun) forms at the onset of the
word but also in other words like /biːʔa/ "environment" and /jisʔal/ "he asks", though
many (mainly less educated) speakers substitute /ʔ/ for /h/ in the latter word.[6][57]
Like in Standard Arabic, Shaddah (Gemination) is very likely to occur in Tunisian. For
example, haddad  meaning to threaten.[233]
There are two primary analyses of Tunisian vowels:
Three vowel qualities, /a, i, u/ and a large number of emphatic consonants,
namely /tˤ, sˤ, ðˤ, rˤ, lˤ, zˤ, nˤ, mˤ, bˤ/. /a/ has distinct allophones
near guttural(emphatic, uvular and pharyngeal) consonants ([ɐ]) and near non-
guttural consonants ([æ]).[6][112]
Four vowel qualities, /æ, ɐ, i, u/, and only the three phonemic emphatic
consonants /tˤ, sˤ, ðˤ/. The other emphatic consonants are allophones found in the
environment of /ɑ/.[5][57][103]
It is more likely that the first analysis is the accurate one, as the same phenomenon
happens for [u] and [i] in Algerian and Moroccan Arabic that are also Maghrebi
Arabic dialects.[180][171]
Regardless of the analysis, Hilalian influence has provided the additional
vowels /eː/ and /oː/ to the Sahil and southeastern dialects. These two long vowels are
reflexes of the diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/.[66][111][112]
Tunisian Arabic vowels. It is unclear if the vowels written a are allophones or phonemic.
ɪ i
() ü
u u
ɛː ā
(œː) ë
(ʊː) ʊ
() o
æ a
ɐ a
ɐː ā
By assuming that pharyngealisation is a property of consonants, most dialects have
three vowel qualities /a, i, u/, all also distinguished for length, as in Standard
The length distinction is suspended at the end of the word. A final vowel is realised
long in accent-bearing words of one syllable (For example,  [ʒɛː] he came),
otherwise short.[6][57]
In non-pharyngealised environments, the open vowel /a/ is [ɛ] in stressed syllables
and [æ] or [ɐː] in unstressed syllables. In pharyngealised environments, the open
vowel is [ɑ].[6][57][111]
/ɔː/ and nasal vowels are rare in native words, for most of the varieties of Tunisian
and mainly for the Tunis dialect, like  mqūba and  lgār and mainly occur
in French loans.[112][227] /yː/ and /œː/ only exist in French loanwords.[6][57]
Unlike other Maghrebi dialects,[180] short u and i are reduced to [o] and [e] when
written between two consonants unless when they are in stressed syllables.[239][240]
Syllables and pronunciation simplification
Tunisian Arabic has a very different syllable structure from Standard Arabic like all other
North African varieties.[10] While Standard Arabic can have only one consonant at the
beginning of a syllable, after which a vowel must follow, Tunisian Arabic commonly has
two consonants in the onset.[227] For example, Standard Arabic book is  /kitaːb/, while
in Tunisian Arabic it is ktāb.[6][57]
The syllable nucleus may contain a short or long vowel, and at the end of the syllable, in
the coda, it may have up to three consonants  (/ma dχaltʃ/ I did not enter).
Standard Arabic can have no more than two consonants in this position.[6][57]
Word-internal syllables are generally heavy in that they either have a long vowel in the
nucleus or consonant in the coda.[6][57]
Non-final syllables composed of just a consonant and a short vowel (light syllables) are
very rare, generally in loans from Standard Arabic. Short vowels in this position have
generally been lost (Syncope), resulting in the many initial CC clusters. For example,
 /ʒawaːb/ reply is a loan from Standard Arabic, but the same word has the natural
development /ʒwaːb/, which is the usual word for letter.[6][57]
As well as those characteristics, Tunisian Arabic is also known for differently pronouncing
words according to their orthography and position within a text.[241][242]This phenomenon is
known as pronunciation simplification[243] and has four rules:
[iː] and [ɪ], at the end of a word, are pronounced [i] and [uː]. Also, [u] is pronounced
[u] and [aː]. [ɛː], [a] and [æ] are pronounced [æ].[244][245] For example, yībdā is
practically pronounced as [jiːbdæ][246][247]
If a word finishes with a vowel and the next word begins with a short vowel, the short
vowel and the space between the two words are not pronounced
(Elision).[227][232][248] The phenomenon is seen clearly when Arabic texts are compared
to their Latin phonemic transliteration in several works.[103]
If a word begins with two successive consonants, an epenthetic [ɪ] is added at the
A sequence of three consonants, not followed by a vowel, is broken up with an
epenthetic [ɪ] before the third consonant.[87][189] For example:  yiktib, 
Main article: Tunisian Arabic Morphology
Nouns and adjectives in Tunisian Arabic are classified into nouns having a regular plural
and ones having an irregular plural.[6][112] Several nouns in Tunisian Arabic have
even duals.[6][57][103] Irregular or broken plurals are quite the same as the ones of Standard
Arabic.[6][112] gender shift is achieved for singular nouns and adjectives by adding an -a
suffix.[6][57] However, that fact cannot occur for the most of the plural nouns.[6][112]
Tunisian Arabic has five types of pronouns: personal, possessive, demonstrative, indirect
object and indefinite pronouns.[6][112] Unlike in Standard Arabic, there is a unique pronoun
for the second person in singular and a unique pronoun for the second person in
plural.[6][57] Furthermore, there are three types of
articles: definite,demonstrative and possessive articles.[6][112] Most of them can be written
before or after the noun.[6][57]
As for verbs, they are conjugated in five
tenses: perfective, imperfective, future, imperative, conditional present and conditional
past Tenses and in four
forms:affirmative, exclamative, interrogative and negative forms.[6][57] They can be
preceded by modal verbs to mean a particular intention, situation, belief or obligation
when they are conjugated in perfective or imperfective tenses.[6][57] Tunisian Arabic
questions could be āš (wh question) or īh/lā (yes/no question).[6][112]
The question words