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This paper surveys several linguistic aspects of the varieties of the Omani Arabic dialect (OA). It starts with a discussion of the sociolinguistic situation in Oman and the factors that shaped it, as well as discussing the OA varieties and the languages spoken in the country. This is followed by a presentation of the OA consonant and vowel phonemes and their allophones. The paper also presents phonological aspects such as syllable structure and word stress as well as examples of processes like assimilation and emphasis spreading. Then, it presents the OA personal, demonstrative, possessive, and interrogative pronouns, as well as morphological issues such as subject agreement affixes, verbal forms, passive formation, and pluralization patterns. Next, it presents syntactic patterns including word order, negation, question formation, and relative clauses. Besides the survey, the paper provides examples that reveal similarity between some OA dialects and those of the pre-Islamic era, as evidenced by some of the documented and approved readings of the Holy Qurʔān. There is also discussion of some cases of grammaticalization and pronominal copulas.
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double-blind peer reviewed paper doi: 10.26478/ja2016.4.4.5
80 Macrolinguistics Vol.4, No.4 (2016) (80-125) ©2016 by The Learned Press
Omani Arabic: More than a Dialect
Rashid Al-Balushi 
(Sultan Qaboos University, Oman)
Abstract: This paper surveys several linguistic aspects of the varieties of the Omani Arabic
dialect (OA). It starts with a discussion of the sociolinguistic situation in Oman and the
factors that shaped it, as well as discussing the OA varieties and the languages spoken in
the country. This is followed by a presentation of the OA consonant and vowel phonemes
and their allophones. The paper also presents phonological aspects such as syllable
structure and word stress as well as examples of processes like assimilation and emphasis
spreading. Then, it presents the OA personal, demonstrative, possessive, and interrogative
pronouns, as well as morphological issues such as subject agreement affixes, verbal forms,
passive formation, and pluralization patterns. Next, it presents syntactic patterns including
word order, negation, question formation, and relative clauses. Besides the survey, the
paper provides examples that reveal similarity between some OA dialects and those of the
pre-Islamic era, as evidenced by some of the documented and approved readings of the
Holy Qurʔān. There is also discussion of some cases of grammaticalization and pronominal
copulas.
Keywords: Omani Arabic dialects, phonemes and phonological processes, pronouns, verb
structure, negation particles.
0. Introduction
This paper aims to demonstrate the richness and complexity of OA by presenting many
of the properties and patterns of its various dialects and the differences between those
dialects. Where possible, the paper also highlights the similarities and differences between
OA and other varieties of Arabic, including Standard Arabic (SA), with respect to the
I would like to thank Clive Holes for providing some of the readings necessary for this survey. Thanks
are also due to Khalsa Al-Aghbari for comments on an earlier version of the paper, as well as to my
students for help with the data.
 Rashid Al-Balushi: Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Department of English Language and Literature,
College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. E-mail: rash5222@yahoo.com,
rash5222@squ.edu.om.
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81
examined structures and properties, with the goal of making OA available for comparative
linguistic analysis. The OA dialects have almost the same syntax. The differences in terms
of phonetics, phonology, and morphology are more noticeable. The discussion of the
various linguistic issues will make reference to OA as one dialect, but it will mention which
variety is relevant to the issue under discussion, and where the various varieties differ.
Given its scope, the paper will not provide theoretical accounts of the data. Instead, it will
highlight the potential areas for future investigation.
The Bāṭina sedentary dialect is the author’s own, and the Dhofāri sedentary dialect is the
author’s spouse’s. The following abbreviations are used:
Acc: accusative, d: dual, f: feminine, Gen: genitive, Impf: imperfective, Impr:
imperative, Ind: indicative, Interro: interrogative, m: masculine, Mod: modal, Nom:
nominative, NPI: negative polarity item, Nu: nunation, p: plural, Part: participle, pron:
pronominal, Prog: progressive, Pst: past, s: singular, 1 2 3: 1st 2nd and 3rd person.
1. Background
Like the other modern dialects of Arabic, OA differs from Classical Arabic (CA) to
varying degrees in how sounds, morphemes, and words are combined, as well as in the
sound inventory. Since this paper is not on the origin of OA or its relationship to CA, I will
just assume that the two varieties are similar at least by virtue of belonging to the same
language family, Semitic.
I will also assume with Ryding (2005:4) and Holes (2004a:5)
that CA and SA are different only in terms of phraseology and vocabulary. Thus, for
purposes of comparison and contrast, I will be referring to SA.
1.1 Oman’s location and the current linguistic situation
Glover (1988:1-2) states that the OA varieties emerged in the 2nd century A. D. when
some nomadic Arabian tribes migrated from central (Najd) and southern (Yemen) parts of
Arabia eastward (to present-day Oman), seeking water. Oman’s geography (surrounded by
Persia, the Indian Subcontinent, east African coasts, and Arabia) shaped much of its history,
which had implications for the varieties of Arabic and languages its people speak. Given
the commercial and cultural contacts that the Omani Arabs established with other nations in
On the relationship between the modern colloquial dialects of Arabic and CA, see Ferguson (1959),
Holes (2004a), and Benmamoun Hasegawa-Johnson (2013).
For an overview of the emergence, spread, and development of SA and the other modern dialects, see
Watson (2002:6-9) and references therein. For an overview of the development of Arabic and views on
when the modern varieties evolved as well as on their general characteristics, see Ryding (2005:1-6) and
references therein.
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Arabia and the Indian Ocean, the Omani linguistic context became quite rich given the
relatively small population of Oman; the November 2015 census speaks of 4,301,825
people, 44% percent of whom are expatriates. Besides OA, which is also spoken in Kenya,
Tanzania, and parts of the United Arab Emirates (Al-Aghbari, 2004a:17), some Omanis
speak a number of indigenous (Modern South Arabian) languages like Mehri and
Jibbāli/Šaħri (each with several thousand speakers), as well as Hobyōt, Baṭħari and Ħarsūsi
(each with a few hundred speakers). In addition, some Omanis speak non-indigenous
languages including Baluchi (from Baluchistan), Fārsi/Persian, ʕajmi, Kumzāri (from Iran),
Zidjāli (from Pakistan), Kojki/Luwāti (from India), and Swahili (from East Africa).
Zanzibar and Baluchistan as well as parts of Kenya, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates
were parts of the Omani Empire (18th-19th century). The vast majority of the native
speakers of these languages also speak a variety of OA, and they have assimilated into the
Omani society, and are now Omani citizens. Moreover, the non-Arabic speaking workforce
speak at least one of these languages: Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Sindhi,
Urdu, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Gujarati, Bengali, Tagalog, Korean, Thai, Nepalese, Chinese, and
Indonesian, as well as English, French, German, and Dutch, on oil fields. The Arabic
speaking expatriates speak other dialects of Arabic including Egyptian, Moroccan, Algerian,
Tunisian, Sudanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, and Palestinian. These
non-indigenous languages as well as Arabic dialects, including SA, have caused changes in
OA.
1.2 Omani Arabic in contact with other dialects and languages
OA has long been influenced by other languages. The coastal varieties were much
different from SA due to centuries-long contact with merchants and settlers from foreign
countries, like Persia and the Indian Subcontinent. Some of the interior dialects were also
influenced by Swahili since the Omanis returning from Zanzibar settled in the interior, but
this happened in the latter half of the last century. The linguistic changes in OA in the last
four decades are due to contact with expatriates, Arabs and non-Arabs alike. The policies
adopted by the Omani leaders prior to 1970 had isolated the Omanis from the rest of the
(Arab) world. In 1970, a new regime with different policies came to power. These policies
included, for the first time in Oman, open economy, large-scale education, health services,
and media. Thus dialect change was also caused by education/literacy programs (run in SA)
as well as by contacts with speakers of other dialects of Arabic who spread all over the
country, working in schools and hospitals.
The booming economy caused many Omanis from the interior to move to the coastal
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areas, especially the Capital area, to take advantage of the available economic opportunities.
This resulted in changes in the interior dialect to conform to the coastal one, this being the
variety of the majority, as well as in the coastal one being influenced by that of the new
comers, both interior people and expatriates. The school teachers came from different Arab
countries, which exposed the Omani youngsters to other Arabic dialects as well as to SA
outside the mosque. Furthermore, exposure to SA in the media resulted in OA gaining
some new vocabulary and losing some of the old words used by older generations, like
ʕrūq blood vessels which was replaced with šarāyīn w ʔawridah arteries and veins.
Moreover, Holes (1989:449) states that the educated generations of Oman follow Gulf
dialect tendencies like replacing feminine plurals with masculine ones, and also replacing
the internal passive (section 4.8) with the /in/-passivizing prefix, as in y-in-ktib ‘it is (being)
written’ instead of yi-ktab. This is seen most vividly in the Capital area as well as in the
media (Holes, 2014), where expressions like Gulf-coast tšīh ‘like this’ and ʕan jadd
‘seriously’ are common. Although SA is the official language of Oman that is used in mass
media, official ceremonies, public and religious speeches, as well as education and
government written transactions, very few people learn it before school, in some educated
households and mosque (Qurʔān) schools.
Shaaban (1977:11) states that “the linguistic contacts with Indians, Persians, Baluchis,
and Africans have left traces in the speech of Omani Arabs, especially in the vocabulary.
These foreign languages left phonological, morphological, and syntactic traces as well in
the Arabic speech of the members of those foreign communities, creating communal
dialects based on ethnic background rather than on religion or race”. The effect of these
languages on OA is most vividly seen in the vocabulary, with borrowings like gūniyyah
‘sack’ and bigli ‘electrical torch’ from Hindi, drīšah ‘window’ and sāmān ‘stuff’ from
Persian, sēkal ‘bicycle’, batri/bētri ‘battery’, swīk ‘switch’, and bēb ‘pipe’ from English,
and bandērah ‘flag’ and mēz ‘table’ from Portuguese (Holes, 2014:9-10); the Portuguese
occupied some coastal Omani towns between 1507-1624. The Swahili words in OA are
food item names, like mandāzi ‘buns’. OA assigns these borrowings either sound feminine
or broken plural forms.
The following table provides the plural forms assigned to these borrowings.
Monosyllabic words receive sound feminine plural forms, and bi-syllabic words receive
broken plural forms. Tri-syllabic words may follow either pattern.
Table 1. Plural Forms Assigned to the Borrowings
Language Borrowed from
Plural Form
1
English
bēb-āt
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2
English
swīk-āt
3
English
sayākil
4
English
batāri
5
Hindi
gawāni
6
Hindi
bagāli
7
Persian
darāyiš
8
Persian
9
Portuguese
bandērāt
10
Portuguese
mēzāt
Glover (1988) notes that the overall development (oil industry, introduction of
automotives, construction, etc.) that Oman witnessed introduced into OA words from other
languages, mainly English, and, conversely, the extensive exposure to SA resulted in
replacing words borrowed from other languages by ones from SA. These include kandēšan
‘air conditioner’, which was later replaced with mkayyәf, mōtar ‘car’, which was later
replaced with siyyārah, ʔōtēl ‘restaurant’, which was later replaced with maṭʕam, and ħafīs
‘office’, which was later replaced with maktab.
Besides being a lingua franca that the minority language speakers use for communication,
OA, with various dialects (to be discussed in the next section), is used for the
documentation of popular folklore and poetry. For the last four decades, besides being
widely used in commercial transactions, which usually involve non-Arabs, as well as being
the only foreign language taught in public schools, English has been another lingua franca
in Oman.
1.3 The Omani dialects of Arabic
The literature on the OA dialects consists mainly of descriptive and sociolinguistic
accounts carried out by orientalists, grammarians, sociolinguists, and interested foreign
personnel. The OA dialects that have been examined include the Muscat dialect (Praetorius,
1880; Jayakar, 1889; Shaaban, 1977; Glover, 1988; Al-Aghbari, 2004a), the Musandam
dialect (Jayakar, 1903), the Dhofāri dialect (Rhodonakis, 1908, 1911), the Al-Buraimi
dialect (Johnstone, 1967), the interior sedentary dialect (Reinhardt, 1894; Galloway, 1977),
the Al-Xābūrah dialect (Brockett, 1985), the Al-Ristāq dialect (Prochazka, 1981), the
Āl-Wahība Bedouin dialect (Webster, 1991), a Šawāwi (nomadic pastoralists in the
northern mountainous interior) dialect (Eades, 2009a), and the Bedouin dialect of the
Hidyīwī tribe in Al-Muaybi (Eades, 2009b). Besides, Clive Holes’ various writings (e.g.
1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2004b, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) investigate and document
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various linguistic properties of OA.
Shaaban (1977:12) states that “the most important sociolinguistic distinction holds
between coastal and interior OA” dialects, which coincides with the sedentary vs. Bedouin
distinction. This criterion, nonetheless, he notes, has failed to stand the test of time as a
result of dialect change. Holes (1989) proposes that the OA dialects spoken in northern and
central Oman can be classified into four major varieties, two Bedouin, further divided into
Bedouin 1 and Bedouin 2, and two Ħaḍari or sedentary, further divided into Ħaḍari 1 and
Ħaḍari 2. Holes’ division does not include the dialects spoken in Muscat (the Capital area)
and Dhofār (southern Oman). He states that while the Ħaari/sedentary dialects are spoken
in “the towns and villages in and around the mountain massifs of the Jabal Akhdar and
Eastern Ħajar”, the Bedouin dialects are spoken by “the Badu nomadic or semi-settled
populations of the western desert, the Jaddat al-Ħarāsīs, and Wahība Sands” (p. 447). He
though states that this “mountain/desert dialect distinction, within which there are
important subdialects is not always clear-cut: there are transitional areas where the
population is a mix of Ħaḍar and Badu groups, and in which both dialect types, or a
‘mixed’ dialect, can be heard” (p. 447). A good example of such an area is the Bāina coast,
which is inhabited by speakers of Bedouin dialects (e.g. Al-Yaħmadi, Al-Mālki, Al-Whībi,
and Al-Mbēħsi tribes, originally from eastern Oman), where the people refer to themselves
as Badu, and also based on certain linguistic variables. It is also inhabited by speakers of
sedentary dialects since many of the Omanis in the Bāṭina towns of uħār, Ṣaħam,
Al-Xābūrah, and Al-Suwaiq descend from the northern mountains (e.g. Al-Bādi,
Al-Miqbāli, Al-ħōsni, and Al-Maʕmari tribes). There are also Omanis who originally came
from Persia or the Indian subcontinent; these tribes are Al-Balūshi, Al-Fārsi, Al-ʕajmi, and
Al-Luwāti. This is also the case in another two Bāṭina towns, Barkā and Al-Muunʕah.
These mixed areas result from “the longstanding contact between the H [sedentary] people
of the mountains, and the mixed population of the coastal region. Permanent and
semi-permanent immigration into the lusher coastal areas from the coastal hinterland and
the mountains has been going on for many generations” (Holes, 1989:452).
Indeed, Holes
(2007:1) states that the “Bāṭina coast is a ‘mixed’ area where both types of dialect are
encountered”. This variation also results from ‘transitional’ systems which Holes observes
As for the other two towns on the Bāṭina coast, Luwa and Šināṣ, I think they are (mainly) Bedouin
dialect areas. Even the population segments that have descended from the northern mountains speak a
Bedouin dialect. This is probably because they have been in the coastal area for a long time, and also
because of the socioeconomic contacts and relations with the UAE people, most of whom speak Bedouin
dialects.
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in Ibrā and Al-Kāmil at the northern edge of the Wahība Sands, where the speakers have
preserved the SA /q/ (a feature of sedentary dialects), but, due to contact with Bedouins,
have replaced /g/ with /y/, see Eades (2011) for a report on a transitional dialect in northern
Oman. Also, many of the communities have settled down and the dialects have been
influenced by other OA and Arabic dialects. This shows that the OA dialects are merging,
which calls for investigation and documentation of their properties before these are lost in
the process of modernization.
According to Holes, the two Bedouin dialect types have the same syllable structure, and
the two sedentary ones share the same syllable structure. However, each of the four dialect
types behaves differently in terms of how they realize the SA consonants /q/, /k/, and /ǰ/ (p.
449-452). Besides these two phonological variables, there are four morphological variables.
First, while the Bedouin varieties have - as the imperfective prefix, as in -kil ‘he eats’,
the sedentary varieties have yō- (or -), as in yō-kil (or -kil). Second, while the Bedouin
varieties have -ūn and -īn for plural and singular feminine suffixes, as in -kl-ūn ‘they.m
eat’ and -kl-īn ‘you.sf eat’, the sedentary varieties have -u and -i, respectively, as in
yō-kl-u and tō-kl-i. Third, the object and possessive suffix in the Bedouin dialects is -ah, as
in y-kitb-ah ‘he writes it’ and ktāb-ah ‘his book’, but it is -uh (or -oh) in the sedentary
varieties, as in y-kitb-uh and ktāb-uh. Fourth, the first person plural prefix is nti- in the
Bedouin dialects, as in nti-xabbar ‘we ask’, but it is nit- in the sedentary dialects, as in
nit-xabbar. The division also points out dialectal similarities between the four types and
other Arabic dialects spoken in the Arabian penisula.
While I accept Holes’ classification of Omani dialects (as Bedouin and sedentary), I
would like to stress his observation that each type, Bedouin vs, sedentary, comprises more
than one variety. Therefore, I will assume that there are various dialects that could go under
each dialect type. Thus, the OA sedentary varieties include the Bāṭina sedentary dialect, the
northern Oman sedentary dialect (in the northern mountains and valleys, Jabal ʔaxar), and
the Dhofāri sedentary dialect (in the towns and mountains, similar to the bordering Yemeni
one). The Bedouin varieties include the eastern Bedouin dialect (spoken in Ṣūr), the
western Bedouin dialects (similar to those of southern Najd), the northwest and southeast
Bedouin dialects (similar to those spoken on the Gulf coast), and the Dhofāri Bedouin
dialect. As for the dialect spoken in the Musandam peninsula (farthest north), Šiħħi, I think
it is a mixed dialect, spoken in sedentary communities (mountains, valleys, and coasts), but
shares properties with the Bedouin dialect spoken in the UAE. The variety spoken in the
Capital area (Muscat) is mainly sedentary, but Bedouin varieties are also encountered as the
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population of Muscat is mixed. As Holes (1989:447) notes, the topography of Oman
(mountains, deserts, coasts, plains) suggests dialectal variation. Besides these OA varieties,
there has also developed a pidgin as a means of communication between the OA speakers
and the non-Arabic speaking expatriates, especially those from the Indian Subcontinent.
This pidgin is characterized by simplified word and clause structure and vocabulary taken
from Arabic, English, Hindi, and Urdu. Most of the data and discussion will be based on
the Bāṭina sedentary dialect (BSD), the Dhofāri sedentary dialect (DSD), and the Muscat
dialect (MD). The following sections survey various phonetic, phonological, morphological,
and syntactic aspects of the OA dialects spoken in the 61 towns and cities of Oman, each
with several villages and neighborhoods.
2. Phonetics
2.1 Consonants
The various OA dialects have the 29 consonants in table 2 (Shaaban, 1977:35; Glover,
1988:37; Al-Aghbari, 2004a:25; Holes, 2007:2). The SA forms will be in parentheses, and
phonetic transcription will be in brackets.
Table 2. OA Consonants
Bilabial
Labiodental
Dental
Alveolar
Palatal
Velar
Uvular
Pharyngeal
Glottal
Stops
b
t d
k g
q
ʔ
Fricatives
f
θ ð
ð̣
s z
š
x ɣ
ħ ʕ
h
Affricates
č ǰ
Nasals
m
n
Lateral
l
Trill
r
Glides
w
y
2.1.1 The emphatics
The SA /ð̣
/, //, and //, the so-called emphatic (pharyngealized or velarized) consonants,
are retained in all the OA dialects. The SA voiced alveolar emphatic stop // is available in
the Šiħħi dialect only (spoken in the towns of Xaab, Dibā, Madħā, and Buxā in the
It is worth mentioning that Muscat is the name of both the Capital city and the Capital governorate/area,
the latter includes other cities and towns.
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Musandam peninsula), and occurs in free variation with /ð̣
/ and //, the latter not available
elsewhere in OA. In the town of Xaab variety, // appears in SA words with //, as in
arab hit (araba), as well as in SA words with /ð̣
/, as in alōm darkness(ð̣alām) and
alēt -ḍәhr the noon prayer’ (alāt-u ð̣-ð̣uhr). The // consonant (found in Egyptian
Arabic) is also heard in this dialect replacing /ð̣
/ and //, so one can hear some native
speakers of Šiħħi (which is the main tribe in the four towns) say ʔәẓ-ẓәhr noon(ʔað̣-ð̣uhr)
and ʔәẓ-aɣṭ blood pressure(ʔa-aɣṭ). The variety spoken in the town of Dibā has the /ð̣
/
sound, so one can hear ṣalāt ð̣-ð̣әhr the noon prayer’. In all the other OA dialects, // is
replaced with /ð̣
/.
2.1.2 The glottal stop
Like other modern Arabic dialects, most OA dialects have largely lost the glottal stop
word-initially. For example, the imperative verb in all the OA varieties has lost the prefix
ʔV- of SA (ʔu- or ʔi-). Holes (2007) also mentions examples of /ʔ/ in initial position being
replaced with /w/, as in waxxәr ‘go out of the way!’ and wakkad ‘to be certain of/to know
well’ (but ʔaxxar ‘to postpone’ and ʔakkad ‘to confirm’ also exist in some sedentary
varieties), as well as with /y/, as in yadab ‘discipline/manners’ (ʔadab) and yāl ‘offspring
of’ (ʔāl Saʕd ‘offspring of Saʕd’). Most OA dialects preserve the glottal stop word-initially
in contexts like the 1st person verb forms, as in ʔa-qūl ‘I say’ and ʔa-rīd ‘I want’, but
dropped it in the 2nd person pronouns, so they have ntah ‘you.sm’ (ʔanta). Some sedentary
varieties (both in Jabal ʔaxḍar mountains and Bāṭina) have preserved the glottal stop
word-initially in certain words, like ʔumūr/ʔamūr ‘matters’ and ʔašya ‘things’.
Except for borrowings from SA, like traʔʔas ‘chaired (a meeting)’, the OA dialects have
also lost the glottal stop word-medially and replaced it with either vowel length, as in rās
‘head’ (raʔs), fās ‘axe’ (faʔs), and yākil ‘he eats’ (ya-ʔkul), which applies in most dialects,
or /y/, as in wrāyak ‘behind you’ (SA warāʔak) in DSD. In other dialects, the glottal stop is
completely lost, as in warāk ‘behind you’.
This replacement of the glottal stop with vowel length word-medially is also observed in
some readings of the Holy Qurʔān, like that of Warš (by way of Nāfiʕ), as the verses in
(1-2) show. In most readings, li-ta-akul-ū and yu-umin-ūna are pronounced as li-ta-ʔkul-ū
and yu-ʔmin-ūna, respectively. Vowel length is achieved by adding a short vowel, a or u,
identical to the already available short vowel in the prefix, ta- and yu-, respectively. The
verse in (2) also shows a case of glottal stop loss word-medially; bi-l-āxirat-i is
pronounced as bi-l-ʔāxirat-i in most readings.
(1) wa huwa l-laðī saxxara l-baħr-a
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and He the-who Pst.subject.3sm the-sea-Acc
li-ta-akul-ū min-hu laħm-an ariyy-ā … (14:16)
so-2-eat-pm from-it meat-Acc fresh-Acc
‘It is He Who has made the sea subject, that you may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender …’
(2) fa-l-laðīna lā yu-umin-ūna bi-l-āxirat-i
as-the-those Neg Impf-believe-pm in-the-hereafter-Gen
qulūb-u-hum munkirat-un wa hum mustakbir-ūn (22:16)
hearts-Nom-their rejecting-Nom and they arrogant-Nom
‘As to those who believe not in the Hereafter, their hearts refuse to know, and they are arrogant.’
Similarly, except for borrowings from SA, like ʔaħʔ ‘biology’, the glottal stop is
largely lost word-finally where it is realized as /y/ or /w/, as in māy water(ʔ) and
ð̣aww fire(awʔ), as well as in verbs where the third radical is a glottal stop (hamzated),
as in y-qary-u ‘they read’ (ya-qraʔ-ūn), y-giyy-u ‘they come’ (ya-jīʔ-ūn).
2.1.3 The reflexes of /q/
While the Bedouin dialect speakers pronounce /q/ as /g/, as in y-gūl ‘he says’ (ya-qūl-u)
and gaṣīr/gәṣīr ‘short’ (qaṣīr), the speakers of DSD (alālah city) and some ina
varieties (e.g. the center of oħār city), as well as other sedentary dialect speakers,
pronounce /q/ as /q/, as in ħaqqūti ‘my/mine’, qāl-it what did she say?’, and
yi-twahhaq ‘he gets into trouble’. Speakers of sedentary dialects spoken in and around the
northern mountains pronounce /q/ as /k/, as in t-kūl what are you.sm saying?’ (māðā
ta-qūl-u) and kahwah ‘coffee’ (qahwah). Holes (2014) states that /q/ is pronounced as /ǰ/ in
Ṣūr (Bedouin) as well as in oħār and aħam (Bāṭina coast), as in ǰiddām ‘in front of’
(quddām) and ǰirīb ‘near’ (qarīb).
Based on personal observation, /q/ is also pronounced as /ɣ/ in Ṣūr, as in ɣara ‘read’
(qaraʔa) and ɣaryah ‘village’ (qaryah), this also happens in some Kuwaiti Arabic varieties,
as in ɣә ‘shark’ (qirš), as well as in Sudanese Arabic, as in ʔanaɣɣil I move (ʔu-nqqil-u).
Many of the eastern dialect speakers (Bedouin) as well as those of the dialect spoken in the
mountains of Dhofār pronounce / as /q/, as in qurāb ‘crow’ (ɣurāb) and qazāl ‘gazelle’
(ɣazāl) from Dhofār and ʔa-bqi ‘I want’ (ʔa-bɣi), qāli ‘expensive’ (ɣāli), and qarīb
‘stranger’ (ɣarīb) from Ṣūr. Glover makes similar observations about /q/ and / in MD (p.
39).
2.1.4 The palatal affricates
The voiced palatal affricate /ǰ/ of SA is available in some OA dialects, mainly Bedouin,
as in Al-Buraimi, Ṣūr, Ṣoħār, and aħam (section 2.1.3). It also appears in some northern
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sedentary varieties, as in ǰāǰ ‘chicken’ from Al-Ħamrā town. Glover (1988:38) states that in
MD “the voiced palatal affricate /ǰ/ is a free variant of /g/ in most words”, but that /ǰ/ is
starting to be restricted to speech with foreigners (sophisticated/educated) and for
borrowings from SA. As for most dialects, /ǰ/ is replaced with the velar stop /g/.
The voiceless palatal affricate, /č/, which is not available in SA, is heard in loanwords,
like lanč ‘motorboat’, as well as in the Al-Buraimi dialect, replacing /k/, as in bāčәr
‘tomorrow’ (bākir). This phenomenon is referred to as kashkasha; see Holes (1991).
Holes (2014) states that the Al-Buraimi dialect (west) as well as the Ṣūr and Jaʕlān ones
(east), all Bedouin, have /č/ replacing /k/, as in simač ‘fish’ (samak) and čiswәh ‘bride’s
clothes’ (kiswah); this, however, does not apply to all Bedouin dialects in Oman, certainly
not the one in Dhofār (south). He also provides examples of /č/ in Wādi Saħtan (sedentary),
including yčūn ‘be’ (ya-kūn-u), ʔačil ‘food’ (ʔakl), and ʔačθar ‘more’ (ʔakθar). The same is
found in the nearby town of Al-Ħamrā, in which Al-ʕabri tribe people say čēčah ‘cake’
(kēkah), čēf ħālač ‘how are you.sm?’ (kayfa ħāluka), čēf ħāliš ‘how are you.sf?’ (kayfa
ħāluki), and ččān ‘shop’ (dukkān), whereas Al-Ṣubħi tribe people, in the same town,
pronounce ‘cake’ as ḳēḳ. Thus /č/ seems to be used in free variation with /k/. Nonetheless,
while this affrication (from /k/ to /č/) occurs in the Bedouin dialects in the vicinity of front
vowels, it is unconditional in the sedentary dialects (Holes, 2013).
2.2 Vowels
The vowel phonemes of OA are in table 3. Unlike SA, which has 6 vowels only, OA also
has /ō/ and /ē/. These long mid vowels have historically been derived from diphthongs
(Shaaban, 1977; Glover, 1988; Holes, 2007); thus bēt and lōn have come from bayt ‘house’
and lawn ‘color’, respectively. Al-Aghbari (2004a:27) also proposes that “both mid round
vowels /o:/ and /ɔ:/ [/ō/ and ɔ
̄] are possible and can occur in free variation.
Table 3. OA Vowels
Front
Central
Back
Short
Long
Short
Long
Short
Long
High
i
ī
u
ū
Mid
ē
ō
Besides kashkasha, which is turning /k/ to /š/ or to /č/, there is also the opposite process. This is seen in
BSD words like kūlah kerosene camp stove, which is šōlah in the Indian Pidgin as well as in DSD, and
which refers to šuʕlah fire torch in SA. Examples also include kāhi tea (in some BSD varieties), which
is šāhi in other OA dialects including DSD, and šāy in SA; also there is kabāte, which is čabāti bread in
Hindi. This process also applies to borrowings from English, as in lank lanch, swīk key/switch, and
sandawīkah sandwich.
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Low
a
ā
Shaaban (1977:43-44) and Holes (2007) discuss the allophones of these phonemes. The
vowel /u/ has two more allophones, [ʊ], which occurs in unstressed syllables, as in yi-ktub
[yi-ktʊb] ‘he writes’ and kurfāyah [kʊrfāyah] ‘bed’, and a lower one occurring in the
vicinity of emphatic sounds, which is [ɔ], as in ubb [ṭɔbb] ‘magic/superstition’ and ubb
[ṣɔbb] ‘pour!’; [u] occus in words like kull all, as pronounced in DSD.
As for /a/, it seems to have different variants in different environments. Next to
emphatics, this vowel is realized as a low back variant [ɑ], as in marað̣ [mɑ
̩ṛɑ
̩ð̣
] to become
sickand alab [ṭɑ
̩ḷɑ
̩b] request’; the emphasis even reaches /l/. When flanked by laryngeals
(ħ, ʕ, ʔ, and h) and uvular /q/, it is realized as a slightly different low back variant [a], as in
ʕaraq [ʕaraq] ‘sweat’, ħaraq [ħaraq] ‘he burnt (something)’, and qalam [qalam] ‘pen’. The
elsewhere variant is the low front/central ], shorter than the English counterpart, as in
ganb [gæmb] ‘side’ and kalb [kælb] ‘dog’.
There is also the tendency of replacing /a/ with the mid-front variant [e] in word-final
position when not preceded by emphatics or uvulars. Examples include baʕad-na [baʕadne]
‘after us’, ʔahal-na [ʔahalne] our relatives, and kūrat-ha [kūrat-he] ‘her ball’. This also
applies to country names that end in /a/ in SA, like lībye (Lībya), kīnye (Kīnya), and rūsye
(Rūsya). Holes (2007) discusses this tendency (known as ʔimālā) and states that /a/ may
even be replaced with [i] in this context, as in mistašfi ‘hospital’ (SA mustaš, and OA
mistašfa and mәstašfa) and ħikam-hi he ruled it’ (SA ħakama-hā). In some dialects tmassi
bi-l-xēr ‘have a good evening!’ is addressed to a man; in others, it is tmassa bi-l-xēr, where
tmassi bi-l-xēr is addressed to a woman. This is common in Bedouin and sedentary dialects
in ina.
This ʔimālā phenomenon found in some OA varieties is also witnesed in some readings
of Holy Qurʔān, as in the verse in (3), according to the reading of Xalaf (by way of
Ħamzah), and the verse in (4), according to the reading of Ħaf (by way of ʕāṣim). Other
readers pronounce qalē in (3) as qalā’; in other SA contexts, ‘majrē-hā’ in (4) is
pronounced as majrā-hā’.
(3) mā waddaʕa-ka rabb-u-ka wa mā qalē (3:93)
Neg Pst.leave.3sm-you lord-Nom-your and Neg Pst.hate.3sm
Your Guardian-Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He displeased (with you).’
(4) wa qāla ʔ.rkab-ū -hā bi-sm-i Allāh-i majrē-hā
and Pst.say.3sm Impr.2.ride-pm in-it in-name-Gen God-Gen moving-its
wa mursā-hā (41:11)
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and at.rest-its
‘So he [Noah] said: “Embark you on the Ark, In the name of Allah, whether it move or be at
rest! …”’
Likewise, /i/ is realized as retracted [ɪ] in medial position, as in bint [bɪnt] girl’, and
gimbi [gɪmbi] my side in DSD. In word-final position, it is the close front [i], as in bēti
[bēti] my house’. Holes also states that “before /b, m, f, r, q/ and the emphatics,
particularly when these are in final position, it is backed and (with the labials) rounded, e.g.
[za:hʊb] ready’” (p. 3). While this is true of the sedentary varieties in and around the
Capital area, it is realized as /ә/ or even /i/ in other sedentary varieties, especially those in
ina; the same word may be heard as [za:hәb] or [za:hib]. In and around the Capital area,
one hears proper names like SA ʕāmir and Sālim as [ʕāmʊr] and [sālʊm]; in other parts of
the country, they are heard as [ʕāmәr] and [sālәm] or even [ʕāmir] and [sālim].
Besides backing, emphatics (as well as /r/ and uvulars) lower /ū/ to /ō/, when in the same
syllable. So the SA sūq ‘market’ is ōq in MD (Glover, 1988:55); ōq is also heard in DSD.
However, in ina, one can hear sūq and sōq (as in oħār), sūg (as in all coastal
communities, Bedouin), and both sūk and sōḳ (by speakers originally descending from
northern mountains). Emphatics also lower /ī/ to /ē/, as in y-ēħ he cries and y-ēħ he falls
down’, this is not an effect of the guttural /ħ/, since this lowering also happens in y-ṭēr he
flies and y-ṣēr it works. Finally, [ә] is a possible variant in different dialects for all three
short vowels when they are in unstressed syllables (Shaaban, 1977:44).
3. Phonology
3.1 Syllable structure
Syllables in OA must begin with a consonant. With the exception of /ʔ/, any consonant
may occur syllable-initially, -medially, or -finally. Syllables with three consonants in the
onset may occur word-initially, as (11-12) in table 4 show, but never word-medially or
-finally (Al-Aghbari, 2004a:31). In word-medial position, a single consonant is syllabified
with the following syllable, thus katab ‘write’ is syllabified as ka#tab. However, a
word-medial cluster of two or three consonants is broken such that only one consonant is
left for the onset of the following syllable (Glover, 1988:59). While Glover’s example for a
medial cluster of two consonants, gar#gūr ‘shark’, is good for the case since OA has
syllables where /r/ is followed by /g/, as in rgaʕ ‘come back!’, her example of a cluster of
three consonants, xubz#ha ‘her bread’, may be accounted for based on the fact that the
accepted syllable boundary is also a morpheme boundary; the same applies to bint#kum
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your.pm daughter.
While geminates may occur word-medially, as in ħassab ‘think’, they do not occur
word-finally except in active participial forms, as in mādd ‘extending’ and lāmm
‘gathering’. Their occurrence in word-initial position is usually a result of assimilation, as
in l+rās ‘the head’ becoming rrās, and l+tәffāħah ‘the apple’ becoming ttәffāħah. OA has
the syllable types illustrated in table 4, from Shaaban (1977:45) and Holes (2007:3). The
types 6-11 occur only word-initially. Shaaban states that form (12) is restrictive, occurring
only with the stated consonants in the onset. Similarly, the form in (13) is restricted to the
active participle form of geminate verbs. These syllable forms are allowed in OA as a
collection of dialects; each variety exhibits some or all of them.
Table 4. OA Syllables
Syllable Shape
Free Form
Word-initial
Word-medial
Word-final
1
CV
qa#rūh
‘they read it’
ma#ʕa#mak
‘your restaurant’
bē#ti
‘my house’
2
CVC
kil
‘eat!’
laʕ#bu
‘they played’
sā#baq#hum
‘he raced them’
ktā#bak
‘your book’
3
CVCC
ħarb
‘war’
šuft#hum
‘I saw them’
ð̣
a#rabt#na
‘you have hit us’
ka#bart
‘I have grown up’
4
CV
̅
‘what?’
gā#lis
‘he is sitting’
qa#rū#ha
‘they read it’
rā#ħū
‘they went’
5
CV
̅C
ħ
‘he went’
sēf#hum
‘their sword’
bat#rūħ#loh
‘she will go to him’
bat#sīr
‘will you go?’
6
CCV
mša
‘he went/walked’
šta#ɣal
‘he got a job’
7
CCVC
ð̣
rub
‘hit!’
ħtar#rit
‘it got hot’
8
CCV
̅
mšī
‘walk!’
mqā#bar
‘grave yards!’
9
CCV
̅C
blād
‘a country’
ṣṭāb#it
‘she got sick’
10
CCVCC
ħtart
‘I was confused’
xtart#ha
‘I chose it’
11
CCCVC
štɣil
stlum#ha
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‘work!’
‘receive it!’
12
stCV
̅C
stqām
‘it straightened’
strāħ
‘he rested’
13
CV
̅CC
rādd
‘returning’
rādd l-bēt
‘returning home’
3.2 Word stress
Shaaban (1977:77) states that “stress in OA is fixed and predictable”. It falls on the long
syllable in a word, where a long syllable is one with a long vowel followed by at least one
consonant (CV
̅C), or one with a short vowel and at least two consonants in the coda
(CVCC). Thus the first syllable is stressed in kā́t#bah she is writing and zā́r#hum he has
visited them, whereas the second is stressed in ka#tbt I have written and xab#brt I
have informed (someone). If a word is mono-syllabic, whether the syllable is long, like
šayy thing, or short, like min from, stress falls on that single syllable/vowel, resulting in
šyy and mn. If a word is bi-syllabic and both syllables are long, stress falls on the second
(ultimate) syllable, as in kāt#bī́n we are writing and rāy#ħā́t we.f are leaving. If the
bi-syllabic word has no long syllables, then stress falls on the first (penultimate) syllable,
as in mg#mar incense burner and k#tab he has written. If a word is poly-syllabic with
one long syllable, then that syllable is stressed, as in ð̣a#rbt#na you have hit us and
da#šā#dī́š#hum their clothes. If the poly-syllabic word has no long syllables, like
mr#ka#bak your boat, b#ra#kah a blessing, and s#ma#kah a fish, then stress falls
on the antepenultimate syllable. As Holes (2007:4) observes, such forms are reduced by
deleting the second vowel, resulting in bi-syllabic ones, mrk#bak, br#kah, and sm#kah,
respectively.
3.3 Phonological processes
This section discusses examples of assimilation, spread of emphasis, metathesis, and
ablaut. As Holes (2007:4) points out, all the OA dialects behave like SA with regard to
assimilation of the /l/ of the definite article (ʔal-) to the first consonant in the noun, this
also applies to adjectives. Thus, the definite of gdīd ‘new’ is ʔil-gdīd (or -gdīd), and the
definite of šams ‘sun’ is ʔ-šams. In this regard, OA behaves differently from Egyptian
Arabic where the defintie of gidīd ‘new’ is ʔig-gidīd, and the definite of kalb ‘dog’ is
ʔik-kalb. Another interesting tendency he mentions is the assimilation of the /h/ of the
feminine possessive pronoun -ha to the /t/ in the nominal form. While in most OA dialects
‘its price’ is qīmit-ha, it is qīmat-te (or qīmat-ta, or even gīmat-te) in some ina Bedouin
varieties, the same applies to ʔaxat-ha ‘her sister’ which is pronounced as ʔaxat-te. In some
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Levantine Arabic varieties, ‘its price’ is pronounced as ʔīmit-. The definite article in OA
has two forms, (ʔi)l- and (ʔa)l-. It is l- in connected speech, unless the first syllable of the
noun is open with an unstressed /i/ or /u/, in which case the definite article is -; for
example, the definite form of kitāb is -ktāb. This is also the case if the word is
monosyllabic with the form CCV
̅C, as in wlād childrenwhose definite form is lә-wlād,
and byūt ‘houses’, whose definite form is -byūt.
In addition, obstruents assimilate in voicing when in a cluster of two obstruents,
resulting in two voiced or voiceless obstruents. For example, ʔiǰtimāʕ ‘meeting’ becomes
ʔičtimāʕ (or ʔtimāʕ), masgid ‘mosque’ becomes mazgid, tzawwag ‘he got married’
becomes dzawwag, and mugtahid ‘hardworking’ becomes muktahid in some BSD varieties.
Moreover, when two obstruents identical except for voicing are adjacent accross word
boundaries, the first assimilates to the second in voicing, resulting in a geminate, as in malħ
ʕrēši ‘raw salt’ which is pronounced as malʕ ʕrēši, and r-rās zēn ‘the head is good’ which is
pronounced as r-rāz zēn. Furthermore, the labials /m/, /f/, and /b/ turn a following /n/ into
/m/, as in ganb ‘side’, which becomes mb, yinfax ‘blow’, which becomes yimfax, and
min bētuh ‘from his house’, which becomes mim bētuh. Also, /n/ assimilates to /r/ when
followed by /r/, as in mәn rasab ‘who failed?’ which becomes mәr rasab.
Besides assimilation, OA dialects also exhibit the spread of emphasis, or velarization in
the vicinity of emphatics. For example, /s/ is pronounced as // when around // as in aṭħ
roof(saṭħ) and aaah ‘salad’ (salaah), as well as in the proper name uḷṭān (Suḷṭān);
these examples also show that /l/ has an emphatic allophone, //, which appears in many of
the Bedouin dialects in the vicinity of emphatics as well as uvulars, as in yә-štәɣәḷ ‘he
works’ (ya-štaɣil-u), mašxa ‘sieve’, and mәqḷāh ‘frying pan’ (miqlāh). Also, /t/ is
pronounced as // when around // as in ṭṣabbar have patience! as well as in the tribal
name ʔa-aḷṭi (it is ʔa-alti, after Imam ʔa-ṣalt bin Mālik Al-Xarūṣi); in Egyptian Arabic,
SA udāʕ headache is pronounced as uḍāʕ. Also, /n/ is pronounced as /ŋ/ before /k/ as in
ʔiŋkasar ‘it broke’ and yiŋkabb ‘it pours’, as well as before /g/, as in yiŋgraħ ‘he gets
injured’ and yiŋgāb ‘it is brought’. Moreover, Glover notes that /r/ also has an emphatic
allophone that appears in the vicinity of emphatic consonants, as in maa ‘he pulled out’ (p.
38).
Examples of metathesis in DSD include Allah y-naʕl-oh ‘may God curse him’ from
Allah y-laʕn-oh, mʕalqah ‘spoon’ from milʕaqah, and gzāz ‘glass’ from zgāg. BSD has golb
‘light bulb’ from globe, and karhaba ‘electricity’ from kahrabāʔ. In the Ṣūr dialect, there is
mityawza married from mitzawga, where /g/ is realized as /y/ in most Bedouin dialects, as
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in yib-na ‘we brought’ (gib-na) and daray ‘stairs’ (darag). The distinction between past
tense and imperative verbs is exhibited through ablaut in some OA dialects. For example,
the imperative of xāz went awayis xūz; the imperative of xað̣ tookis xoð̣; the imperative
of šāf saw is šūf; and the imperative of ħ go is ħ.
3.4 Phonotactics
Some OA dialects allow certain sound combinations that are not allowed in other
dialects. For example, MD allows clusters of 3 consonants word-initially, as in strīħ ‘rest!’
and stlim ‘receive!’, and word-medially, as in yi-strīħ ‘he rests’ and ni-stlim ‘we receive’. In
contrast, some northern mountains varieties (sedentary) break the cluster, as in sitrīħ ‘rest!’
and y-sitrīħ ‘he rests’. Also, BSD breaks the cluster, as in -stәrīħ and -stilim ‘he
receives’.
Shaaban (1977:82) observes that when the suffix starts with a consonant in MD, the first
vowel in the stem is deleted, as in qtal-ti ‘you.sf killed’ from qatal+ti. By contrast, when
the suffix starts with a vowel, the second vowel is deleted, as in qatl-it ‘she killed’ from
qatal+it. This is also true of DSD, where qtal ‘he killed’ becomes qәtl-et ‘she killed’ and
qtәl-ti ‘you.sf killed’. In BSD, however, while the vowel-initial suffix causes the stem to
lose its second vowel, as in qatl-it ‘she killed’, the consonant-initial suffix does not cause
the stem to lose the first vowel, as in qatal-ti ‘you.sf killed’. This is also true of the Jaʔlān
variety (Bedouin) where gital ‘he killed’ becomes gitl-at ‘she killed’ and gital-ti ‘you.sf
killed’. In the Ṣūr variety (Bedouin), the vowel-initial suffix does not cause the stem to lose
its second vowel, as in waal-an we arrived’ (from Holes, 2013). Another pattern is
observed in the Al-Muaybi variety (mixed) where whether the suffix is consonant-initial
or vowel-initial does not affect the stem since qtal ‘he killed’ becomes qtal-it ‘she killed’
and qtal-ti ‘you.sf killed’.
Unlike some modern Arabic dialects, the perfective form of stems with geminates, like
ħabb ‘loved’ and ħall ‘solved’, and ones with long vowels, like ām ‘fasted’ and lām
‘blamed’, does not always involve epenthesis when followed by a consonant-initial affix.
This is shown by ħabb-ni, ħabb-na, ħabb-kum, ħabb-kin, ħabb-hum, ħabb-hin, ħabb-ha,
ħabb-oh, ħabb-ak, ħabb-iš. For the 1st person, while it is ħabb-eni in Egyptian Arabic, it is
ħabb-ani in some Saudi varieties (Ħijāz).
Finally, while MD doubles the consonant in the subject affix before the vowel-initial
object suffix, as in katb-it-t-oh ‘she wrote it’, some BSD and northern mountains sedentary
varieties have katbi-t-oh. Also, while DSD deletes unstressed short vowels in open
non-final syllables, as in glast ‘I sat down’ and wqaft ‘I stood up’, BSD does not delete that
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vowel, the corresponding forms are galast and waqaft.
4. Morphology
This section presents several aspects of the morphology of OA. Forms are either
sedentary or Bedouin, sometimes the name of the town in which the form is used is
indicated. Sometimes the form is hard to identify with a specific town, but it certainly
exists in an OA dialect since I have encountered it in the 15 year-long contact with speakers
of several OA dialects. As is clear in some tables, some sedentary forms are identaical to
the corresponding Bedouin ones, which reflects the fact that the dialects are converging.
4.1 Personal pronouns
The forms in table 5 are the masculine subject and object personal pronouns; the
pronouns in table 6 are the feminine ones. Like all the modern dialects of Arabic, OA does
not mark the dual in the pronominal system. The different forms come from different
dialects; where known, the name of the city/town (in parentheses) follows the respective
form, which could also be used in other parts of the country. It should be noted that while
the subject pronouns are free morphemes, the object pronouns are suffixes.
Table 5. Masculine Personal Pronouns
1st Person
Singular
1st Person
Plural
2nd Person
Singular
2nd Person
Plural
3rd Person
Singular
3rd Person
Plural
Subject
Pronouns
Sedentary:
ʔana
ʔāni
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ħnu(h)
ħanū(h)
iħna
ħana
naħnu (Sīb)
naħna (alālah)
Sedentary:
ʔintah
nta(h)
ʔinta
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ʔintū(h)
ntū(h)
ʔintu
(alālah)
Sedentary:
huwwa
huwwo(h)
ho (alālah)
Sedentary:
humma(h)
hum
hūm
(alālah)
Bedouin:
ʔani
ʔana
Bedouin:
ħan
ħana
naħan
nәħәn
ħanna
Bedouin:
ʔint
ʔintәh
Bedouin:
(i)ntu
(i)ntaw
Bedouin:
hū(h)
hu
huwwo(h)
Bedouin:
hum
hummә(h)
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Object
Pronouns
Sedentary:
-ni
Sedentary:
-na
Sedentary:
-ak
Sedentary:
-kum
-čim
Sedentary:
-oh
-uh
Sedentary:
-hum
-him
Bedouin:
-ni
-āni
-ānyәh
Bedouin:
-na
-āna
-ānne
Bedouin:
-ak
-āk
Bedouin:
-kom
-ākum
Bedouin:
-ah
-āh
Bedouin:
-hom
-āhum
Table 6. Feminine Personal Pronouns
1st Person
Singular
1st Person
Plural
2nd Person
Singular
2nd Person
Plural
3rd Person
Singular
3rd Person
Plural
Subject
Pronouns
Sedentary:
ʔana
ʔāni
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ħnu(h)
ħanū(h)
iħna
ħana
naħnu (Seeb)
naħna (alālah)
Sedentary:
ntī(h)
ʔinti
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ʔintan
ntan
ʔintin
(alālah)
Sedentary:
hiyya(h)
hi
(alālah)
Sedentary:
hinnah
hin
hēn
(alālah)
Bedouin:
ʔani
ʔana
Bedouin:
ħan
ħana
naħan
nәħәn
ħanna
Bedouin:
nti
(i)ntay
Bedouin:
ntin
ntan
Bedouin:
hiyya(h)
hi
hī(h)
hiyyә(h)
Bedouin:
hēn
hin
hinnәh
Object
Pronouns
Sedentary:
-ni
-āni
Sedentary:
-na
-āna
Sedentary:
-iš
-āš
Sedentary:
-kin
-ākin
-čin
Sedentary:
-ha
-āha
Sedentary:
-hin
-āhin
Bedouin:
-ni
-ānyәh
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-na
-ānne
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-
-iš
-ik
-āk
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-kan
-kin
-ākin
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-he
-hi
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-hin
-āhin
(Suwaiq)
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4.2 Demonstrative pronouns
The different OA varieties have different forms for the demonstrative pronoun which
corresponds to the SA ðā ‘this’ and its forms for masculine and feminine as well as
singular and plural, as in table 7. Demonstrative pronouns in OA may also follow the noun,
as in šәf-t-oh r-riggāl hāðā I have not seen this man.
Table 7. OA Demonstrative Pronouns
Proximal Masculine
Singular
Proximal Masculine
Plural
Distal Masculine
Singular
Distal Masculine
Plural
Masculine
Sedentary:
hāða
hāði (alālah)
ha
ða
ðohoh
(northern mountains)
Sedentary:
haðēla/hāðēle
ðēla/ðēle
ha
haðōna (Ṣalālah)
ðēlhoh
(northern mountains)
Sedentary:
hāðāk
ðāk
ʔaðāk(ah)
haðāk(ah)
hāk (Ṣalālah)
haðāk-әh
(Al-Ħamra)
Sedentary:
hāðēlāk
hāðōna
hāðalāk
(Al-Ħamra)
hiyy-hum
(Al-Ħamra)
ðēlāk
haðōnak
(Ṣalālah)
Bedouin:
ðē(h)
ha
haðē (Bidiyya)
ʔaðē (Ṣūr)
hāðiya (Ṣūr)
ʔē (Ṣūr)
hāðēh (Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ʔāllā(h) Ṣūr
ha
hāðēla (Suwaiq)
ðēla
Bedouin:
hāðāk
ðāk
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ʔāllāk
hāðēlāk
ðēlāk
(Suwaiq)
Feminine
Sedentary:
ði (alālah)
ha
ði
ðihoh
Sedentary:
haðēla/hāðēle
ðēla/ðēle
ðēlhoh
(northern mountains)
haðēna (DSD)
Sedentary:
hāðīk
ðīk
ʔaðīka(h)
haðīka(h)
hāk (Ṣalālah)
haðīk-әh
(Al-Ħamra)
Sedentary:
hāðēlāk
hāðōna
ðēlāk
haðēnak
(Ṣalālah)
hiyy-hin
(Al-Ħamra)
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Bedouin:
ha
ʔīha(h)
haðīha(h)
ʔī (Al-Muaybi)
hāði
ðī
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ʔāllā(h) Ṣūr
ha
ðēla
hāðēla
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
hāðīk
ðīk
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ʔāllāk
ðēlāk
(Suwaiq)
4.3 Possessive pronouns
As in SA, possession in OA is expressed by possessive pronouns suffixed to the noun, as
table 8 shows.
Table 8. OA Possessive Pronouns
1st Person
Singular
1st Person
Plural
2nd Person
Singular
2nd Person
Plural
3rd Person
Singular
3rd Person
Plural
Masculine
Sedentary:
-i
Sedentary:
-na
Sedentary:
-ak
-
Sedentary:
-kum
Sedentary:
-oh
-eh
-uh
Sedentary:
-hum
Bedouin:
-iyәh
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-ni
Bedouin:
-әk
Bedouin:
-kum
Bedouin:
-ah
-әh
Bedouin:
-hum
Feminine
Sedentary:
-i
Sedentary:
-na
Sedentary:
-iš
Sedentary:
-kin
-kan
Sedentary:
-ha
-he
Sedentary:
-hin
Bedouin:
-iyәh
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
-ni
Bedouin:
-(Al-Buraimi)
-ik (Āl-Wahība)
Bedouin:
-kin
Bedouin:
-ha
-hi
Bedouin:
-hin
It is noteworthy that the 1st person singular possessive pronoun of the Bedouin dialect of
the town of Suwaiq on the Bāṭina coast is reminiscent of that used on words in the
Qurʔānic verses 19-20:69 and 25-26:69, “kitāb-iyah my book and “ħisāb-iyah” ‘my
account’, as well as in the verses 28-29:69, in (5-6). This ‘yah’ is called hāʔu-s-sakt in
Sībawayhi’s Kitāb (8th century).
(5) mā ʔaɣnā ʕannī māl-iyah (28:69)
Neg Pst.benefit.3sm from.me money-my
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‘My wealth has not availed me.’
(6) halaka ʕanni sulān-iyah (29:69)
Pst.perish.3sm from.me authority-my
‘My authority has abandoned me.’
It is also worth mentioning that -ak and -iš (singular possive pronouns), as used in some
Bedouin varieties, have two forms. For example, while ‘your.sm book’ is ktāb-ak, ‘your.sm
car’ is sayyārat-k. Similarly, while ‘your.sf book’ is ktāb-iš, ‘your.sf car’ is sayyārat-š. It
seems that when the last vowel in the noun stem is long, the longer (vowel-initial) form of
the pronoun is used. This is supported by the fact that ‘your.sm cars’ in these Bedouin
varieties is sayyārāt-ak and ‘your.sf cars’ is sayyārāt-iš; sayyārāt-k and sayyārāt-š are
illicit.
That this is on the right track is supported by words like markab ‘boat’, ‘your.sm boat’ is
markab-k and ‘your.sf boat’ is markab-š. By contrast, the two possessive pronouns have the
same form in the sedentary dialelcts, as in ktāb-ak, markab-ak, siyyārt-ak, and siyyārāt-ak;
this also applies to -iš.
Ownership is expressed in OA by the free morpheme māl, which takes the possessive
pronoun as a suffix, thus (ʔi)l-ktāb māl-i means ‘my book’ or ‘the book of mine’, ħāl has
the same meaning of māl, but it is used differently, we say (ʔi)l-ktāb bū ħāl-i ‘the book of
mine/the book which belongs to me’. (ʔi)l-ktāb ħāl-i means ‘the/this book is mine’, a full
sentence.
The southern dialects have the free morpheme ħaqq (also found in some of the Yemeni
dialects), thus ‘the book of mine/my book’ is (ʔi)l-ktāb ħaqq-i. While māl in the northern
dialects realizes plural number and feminine gender optionally, as in māl-t-i (ʔis-siyyārah
māl-i/māl-t-i ‘my car’) and māl-ā-t-i (ʔis-siyyārāt māl-i/māl-ā-t-i ‘my cars’), it must realize
both number and gender of the possessee in DSD, thus there is māl-i, māl-t-i, and māl-ū-t-i,
as in (ʔi)l-ʔawrāq māl-ū-t-i ‘my papers’. Likewise, ħaqq must realize gender and number
of the possessee, thus ‘the car of mine’ is ʔis-siyyārah ħaqq-әt-i, and ‘the cars of mine’ is
ʔis-siyyārāt ħaqq-ū-t-i. It is possible that māli comes from SA, analyzed as mā-l-i, where
mā is a relative pronoun meaning ‘what’, -l- is the preposition meaning ‘for/of’, and -i is
the 1st person singular possessive pronoun, together amounting to ‘what is for me/what
belongs to me’, māl-i and ħaqq-i correspond to SA xāṣṣatī.
4.4 Interrogative pronouns
This section presents the different interrogative pronouns in the various OA dialects, in
table 9. Some of the interrogative pronouns corresponding to ‘what’ are composed of ʔa-
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(whose glottal stop has transformed into either w- or y- or h- in different varieties), which
may be the first syllable of the SA ʔa-yyu ‘which’, and -š, which may arguably be a
grammaticalization of the OA noun šay thing (šayʔ in SA). Thus what is basically
which thing. Likewise, some of the pronouns corresponding to why are composed of the
same structure of what plus the prefixal preposition l-, meaning for, or the possessive
ħāl, which means for (as in l-ktāb bū ħāli my book/the book which is for me’),
amounting to what for. Other patterns are observed in the other pronoun forms.
Table 9. OA Interrogative Pronouns
Wh-word
OA Equivalents
What
ʔēš; wēš; hēš; šū; mū(h); yīš; mhu; kūn (Suwaiq)
Who
min; mәn; man; min-hu; min-u
Where
wēn; hēn
When
mata; mәta; mita; miti (Suwaiq)
Why
lēš; ħāl-mū(h); ħāl-hēš; ħāl-wēš; min-wēš; ʕala-mū;
ħāl-kūn (Suwaiq); ʔa-mūh (Al-Ħamra)
How
kēf; kama-mū (like what)
How many
kam; kam-min; š-gadd (what amount/size)
Whose
ħāl-min; māl-min; b-ħāl-min (Al-Ħamra)
Which of
hēn-min(-hum/-hin); wēn-min(-hum/-hin); mū-min(-hum/-hin);
hēš-min(-hin); kūn-min(-hin) (Suwaiq)
4.5 Plural marking in OA nouns
Many of the nouns in OA have both a sound plural form and a broken one. For example,
the sound plural form of siyyārah ‘car’ is siyyārāt (sound plural feminine), but it also has
the form sayāyīr (broken); the sound plural form of sāʕah ‘watch’ is sāʕāt, but there is also
syaʕ; ħurmah ‘woman’ has four plural forms ħurmāt (when with numerals), ħarīm, ħrīm,
and ħram. The singular form for ‘seashells’ in BSD is maħħārah and the plural is maħħār;
the singular in DSD is also maħħārah but the plural is maħāħīr; the singular in MD is
muħħār and the plural also is maħāħīr. The plural of ʔinsān/ʔansān ‘human being’ is nās in
all the OA dialects, but DSD also has nīs. DSD and MD are probably the most peculiar
with regard to their pluralization patterns, a topic which lends itself to thorough
examination and analysis; table 10 presents some of the most notable examples.
Table 10. Notable Pluralization Patterns
Singular and Meaning
DSD
MD
ina
Other Dialects
1
ʔustāð ‘teacher’
ʔustāð-īn, ʔasātīð
ʔasātīð
ʔasāah, ʔasātīð
ʔasātīd, ʔustādīn
2
šurṭi ‘policeman’
šuriyy-īn, šurah
šurṭah, šurṭiyy-īn
šurah
šarah
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3
bāb ‘door’
DSD: bāb; bīb
bībān, bwīb
bībān
bībān
(ʔa)bwāb
4
Zgāg ‘glass’
zgīg (pieces)
zgāg
zgāg
zgāg
5
dgāgah ‘chicken’
DSD: dgāgah; dgōgah
Bedouin: dyāyah
dәgīg, dgōg
dgāg
dgāg, dyāy
dyāy, diyāy
6
gdār ‘wall’
gidwār
gidrān
gidrān
gidәr
7
ħaṣāh; ħṣāh ‘stone’
DSD: ħәgārah
ħәgwār
ħәṣyāt, ħuṣyāt
ħaa
ħṣi
8
nʕāl ‘shoes’
naʕālāt
nuʕlān
niʕil
niʕlān, nʕūl
9
mabax ‘kitchen’
mṭābax
maṭābax, maṭābox
maābәx
maṭābox
10
θallāgah ‘fridge’
θallāgāt
θalālīg
θallāgāt
11
kōb ‘cup’
kōbāt, kwīb, kūbīt
kībān
kōbāt
(ʔa)kwāb
12
ħaṣīr ‘mat’
DSD: ħaṣīr; simmah
ħәṣrān, smām
ħaṣāyar
ħәṣrān
ħәṣәr
13
gabal ‘mountain’
gbal, gbāl
gbāl
gbāl
14
gamal ‘camel’
gmal, gmāl, ʔibil
gmāl
gmāl, bōš
hīn (SA hiǰin,
higin in OA)
15
zlāɣ ‘sock’
DSD: dәɣ
MD: dlāɣ
dalāɣāt
dilɣān
zlāɣāt
16
ktāb ‘book’
kutbāt, kutub
ktub
kutub, kitib
17
qalam ‘pen’
qalmāt
qlāmah
ʔaqlām, qlāmah
18
ʕors; ʕirs ‘wedding’
DSD: ʕoros
ʕarsāt
ʕrūsāt
ʕrūsāt
ʔaʕrās
19
nāqah ‘female camel’
nāq
nūg, nāqāt
20
riggāl ‘man’
DSD: riggīl; riggāl
rgīl
rgāl
rgāl, rgāgīl
ragāgīl, riyāyīl
4.6 Verb forms and structure
Unlike SA, which has 15 trilateral verb forms and 4 quadrilateral forms, OA has 9
trilateral forms (lacking 4 and 11-15) and 2 quadrilateral ones (lacking 3 and 4). Shaaban
(1977:51-52) states that MD lacks Form IX, and that Form IV verbs are rare, except for
borrowings from SA. Though rare, Form IX is available in BSD, which lacks Form IV.
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Form IX is sometimes replaced with participles, and Form IV by Form I verbs, unless
borrowed from SA. Table 11 provides the forms with examples.
Table 11. OA 11 Verb Forms
Forms
SA Metrics
OA Examples
Tri-Form I
faʕala
katab ‘write’; laʕab ‘play’
Tri-Form II
faʕʕala
kallam ‘talk to’; rawwaħ ‘leave’
Tri-Form III
fāʕala
šārak ‘participate’; sāmaħ ‘forgive’
Tri-Form V
tafaʕʕala
tšawwaf ‘see’; twassaʕ ‘widen’
Tri-Form VI
tafāʕala
thāwan ‘recover’; tʕāwan cooperate
Tri-Form VII
ʔinfaʕala
ʔinqalab ‘flip’; ʔinsaħab ‘withdraw’
Tri-Form VIII
ʔiftaʕala
ʔigtahad ‘work hard’; ʔimtaħan ‘take a test’
Tri-Form IX
ʔifʕalla
ʔiftarr ‘skid/slide’; ʔiṣṭamm ‘become deaf’
Tri-Form X
ʔistafʕala
ʔistaxdam ‘use’; ʔistaʕba ignore’
Quadri-Form I
faʕlala
zaxraf ‘decorate’; sayar ‘control’
Quadri-Form II
tafaʕlala
tʔaqlam ‘get used to’; txarba ‘mess up’
Shaaban (1977:126) states that the basic perfective stem in MD is always CaCaC, thus
the perfective form for kataba ‘write’ in MD is katab. By contrast, it is kitab in some
ina Bedouin varieties, ktab in DSD, and both kitab and ktab are found in different
eastern varieties. The basic imperfective stem takes the form CCVC. For a tri-consonantal
verb (sound), like katab, the imperfective is either yi-ktib, as in most OA dialects, or yi-ktob,
as in DSD and some northern mountains varieties. Shaaban (1977:141-142) states that the
MD imperfective form of glide-initial verbs (assimilated) like waal ‘arrive’ and yabas ‘dry
up’ is yū-al and yī-bas, respectively, where the glide turns into a long vowel. DSD and
BSD, however, allow the glide to surface, as in yu-wal/yә-wal and yә-ybas. As for
bi-consonantal verbs with a glide/long vowel in between (hollow), like ṭāl ‘lengthen’, while
the imperfective in MD is y-ṭūl, it is -wal in other dialects. As for verbs with the form
CaCa and a glide as the third radical when inflected in SA (defective), like nasa ‘forget’,
the imperfective in MD is yi-ns-u ‘they forget’, whereas it is y-nisy-u in other dialects, like
the one spoken in Sīb in the Capital area. While the BSD imperfective form of ga ‘come’ is
y-g-u ‘they come’ and of tɣadda ‘take lunch’ is yi-tɣadd-u ‘they are taking lunch’, the MD
variety spoken in Sīb city has y-giyy-u and yi-t-ɣaddy-u, and one northern mountains
dialect (sedentary) has yi-t-ɣadday-u, allowing the glide to surface; Holes (2007, 2014)
states that the preservation of /y/, a feature not available in many other Omani and Arabic
dialects, is only found in OA sedentary dialects. The fact that some dialects allow a glide to
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surface in assimilated, hollow and defective verbs argues against Shaaban (1977:125) who
states that the superficially bi-consonantal forms are actually formed of two consonants,
without a glide in their underlying representation “since there is no independent motivation
synchronically for positing underlying glides”.
4.7 Subject agreement affixes
This section presents the subject agreement affixes in perfective, imperfective, and
active participle paradigms for both genders, in tables 12, and 13, respectively. Since
different dialects have slightly different verbal forms, and also different affixes, the subject
affixes are presented affixed to the verb katab write. See Shaaban (1977:125-207) for the
suffixes of all the verbal form patterns in MD. Some forms appear in both dialect groups,
sedentary and Bedouin, reflecting dialect convergence and mixing.
Table 12. Masculine Subject Agreement Affixes
1st Person
Singular
1st Person
Plural
2nd Person
Singular
2nd Person
Plural
3rd Person
Singular
3rd Person
Plural
Subject
Affixes in the
Imperfective
Sedentary:
ʔa-ktib
ʔa-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ni-ktib
nә-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ti-ktib
tә-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
t-kitb-u
t-kitb-ūn
(alālah)
Sedentary:
yi-ktib
yi-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
y-kitb-u
yi-kitb-u
y-kitb-ūn
(alālah)
Bedouin:
ʔa-ktib
Bedouin:
na-ktib
ni-ktib
Bedouin:
ta-ktib
ti-ktib
Bedouin:
t-kitb-ūn
t-katb-ūn
t-katb-u
Bedouin:
ya-ktib
yi-ktib
Bedouin:
y-kitb-ōn
y-katb-u
y-katb-ūn
y-kitb-ūn
Subject
Affixes in the
Perfective
Sedentary:
katab-t
ktab-t
ktib-t
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab-na
ktab-na
ktib-na
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab-t
ktab-t
ktib-t
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab-tu
ktab-tu
kәtb-u
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab
ktab
ktәb
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katb-u
ktab-u
kәtb-u
(alālah)
See Shaaban (1977:54) and Glover (1988:165) for the perfective and imperfective verb forms and
affixes in MD. As for most of the other dialects, the verbal forms and affixes will differ mainly in whether
consonant clusters, gemination, vowel lengthening, or epenthesis is involved.
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Bedouin:
kitab-t
ktab-t
kitab-it
Bedouin:
kitab-na
ktab-na
kitab-ni
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
kitab-t
kitab-it
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ktab-taw
ktab-tu
kitab-tu
kitab-taw
Bedouin:
ktab
kitab
Bedouin:
ktab-u
ktab-aw
ktib-u
(i)ktib-aw
katb-aw
(Suwaiq)
Table 13. Feminine Subject Agreement Affixes
1st Person
Singular
1st Person
Plural
2nd Person
Singular
2nd Person
Plural
3rd Person
Singular
3rd Person
Plural
Subject
Affixes in the
Imperfective
Sedentary:
ʔa-ktib
ʔa-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ni-ktib
nә-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
t-kitb-i
t-kutb-īn
(alālah)
Sedentary:
t-kitb-in
t-kitb-an
t-kutb-en
(alālah)
Sedentary:
ti-ktib
tә-ktob
(alālah)
Sedentary:
y-kitb-in
y-kitb-an
yә-kutb-en
(alālah)
Bedouin:
ʔa-ktib
Bedouin:
na-ktib
n-katib
ni-ktib
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
t-kitb-ay
(Ṣūr)
t-katb-i
t-katb-īn
t-kitb-īn
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
t-katb-an
t-kitb-an
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ta-ktib
t-katib
ti-ktib
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
y-katb-an
y-kitb-an
(Suwaiq)
Subject
Affixes in the
Perfective
Sedentary:
katab-t
ktab-t
ktib-t
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab-na
ktab-na
ktib-na
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab-ti
ktab-ti
ktәb-ti
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katab-tin
katab-tan
ktab-tin
ktab-tan
ktәbt-en
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katb-it
katab-it
katb-at
kutb-et
(alālah)
Sedentary:
katb-in
katb-an
ktab-in
kutb-en
(alālah)
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Bedouin:
ktab-t
kitab-t
kitab-it
Bedouin:
ktab-na
kitab-na
kitab-ni
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ktab-ti
kitab-ti
ktab-tay
kitab-tay
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ktab-tan
kitab-tan
Bedouin:
ktab-it
(i)ktib-at
kitb-at
katb-at
(Suwaiq)
Bedouin:
ktib-an
ktab-an
katb-an
(Suwaiq)
Table 14 presents some of the active participial subject and object suffixes.
As Holes
(2007) points out, -in(n) is infixed if the participle has verbal force. If it is used as a noun,
the infix is not used, e.g. Ali mʕallminn-oh Ali has taught him vs. Ali mʕallm-oh Ali is
his teacher. There are, however, some OA dialects where this infix is not used, as in the
DSD form; see also Holes (2011) for a discussion of this morpheme.
Table 14. Participial Subject and Object Affixes
ina and
Muscat
Northern Mountains
Sedentary Dialects
DSD
Bedouin
Masculine Subject and
Masculine Object
kātb-inn-oh
kātb-inn-eh
kātb-inn-uh
kātb-u(h)
kātb-inn-eh
kātb-inn-әh
(Suwaiq)
Masculine Subject and
Feminine Object
kātb-in-ha
kātb-in-ha
kātib-ha
kātb-in-ha
kātb-in-hi
(Suwaiq)
Feminine Subject and
Masculine Object
kātib-t-inn-oh
kātib-t-inn-eh
kātb-it-n-oh
kātbit-inn-uh
kātb-āt-u(h)
kātib-t-inn-eh
kātib-t-inn-әh
(Suwaiq)
Feminine Subject and
Feminine Object
kātib-t-in-ha
kātbit-in-ha
kātb-it-in-ha
kātb-āt-ha
kātib-t-in-ha
kātib-t-in-hi
(Suwaiq)
4.8 The passive form
The apophonic passive (internally derived by transfixing the vowels u-i in SA) was
documented in Reinhardt (1894). A century later, Holes (1998) documents examples from
three sedentary OA dialects, those spoken in Wādi Saħtan, Al-Muaybi, and Qalhāt. The
examples include forms like yisamma ‘it’s called’, yigāb ‘it’s brought’, yibāʕ ‘it’s sold’,
This is when the subject is singular; when it is plural, dialects vary. According to Holes (2007), the
plural masculine participial form is kātbīnn-uh. Nonetheless, this consonant doubling, though present in
other sedentary varieties, does not take place in my BSD variety, where the form is kātbīn-oh.
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and yilag-an ‘they (camels) are released’. Eades (2009b) finds examples of the apophonic
passive in the Bedouin dialect of the Hidyīwī tribe in the town of Al-Muaybi, as in yiyāb
‘is brought’, ðibħat ‘was slaughtered’, yiayyan ‘clay is applied’, and yišabb ‘set on fire’. A
brief survey indicates that the internal passive is available in many Omani cities and towns
in central Oman (as also pointed out by Holes p.c.), as in Samāyil (y-qalla ‘it’s fried’,
yi-ṭʕam ‘it’s fed’), Al-Ħamra (y-wadda ‘it’s taken’, y-sawwa ‘it’s made’), Nizwa (yi-ṭħan
‘it’s ground’, y-ʕallaq ‘it’s hung’), Naxal (y-ʕaqq ‘it’s thrown’, y-allaħ ‘it’s repaired’,
y-šarrax ‘it’s torn’), Snāw (y-abb ‘it’s poured’, yi-šwa ‘it is grilled’, t-qaṣṣ ‘it is cut’,
y-ākal ‘it is eaten’), and Manaħ (yi-trak ‘it’s left’, y-šall ‘it’s carried’, y-xāz ‘it’s removed).
Besides the apophonic passive, many OA dialects use verb Forms V and VII to express
the passive, depending on the number of consonants in the root. If the verb is trilateral, like
katab ‘write’, its passive is formed by prefixing ʔin- to it (Form VII), as in ʔin-katab; the
passive of ð̣arab hitis ʔin-ð̣arab. If the verb is trilateral-plus, whether by gemination like
wazzaʕ ‘distribute’ or quadrilateral, the passive is expressed by prefixing t- to the stem
(Form V). The passive of wazzaʕ is t-wazzaʕ and of allaħ ‘repair’ is t-allaħ. The passive
of quadrilateral stems like daħrag ‘roll’ is t-daħrag, and of kahrab ‘electrify’ is t-kahrab.
The passive of superficially bi-consonantal stems like šara ‘buy’ and qara ‘read’ is
expressed by prefixing ʔin-, giving ʔin-šara and ʔin-qara, respectively, or by the passive
participle, mašrāy and maqrāy, respectively, the latter strategy being common in the OA
sedentary dialects (Holes, 2014). The passive of trilateral stems with a long vowel, like
ʕad ‘help’ and sāmaħ ‘forgive’ is expressed by the active equivalent construction; thus
the passive of ʕad is ħadd sāʕd-oh ‘someone helped him’, or alternatively by the active
participle with object pronominal agreement, as in msāʕdīn-oh ‘he has been helped’.
Shaaban (1977) also notes that the passive is also expressed by a combination of the copula
stawa ‘became’ and the passive participle form of the verb, so ‘was cut’ is stawa maqṭūʕ,
literally ‘became cut’. He states that his consultants accepted the non-apophonic OA
passive forms to mean ‘got + past participle’ rather than ‘was + past participle’. I accept
this judgment.
4.9 Other verbal forms
This section presents how the future, the causative, the imperative, and the intensified
forms of the verb are formed in OA. Many OA dialects mark futurity on the verb by
prefixing ha- to the imperfective stem; Egyptian Arabic has ħa-. Thus the future of katab
‘write’ is ha-yi-ktib, and the future of nām ‘sleep’ is ha-y-nām. BSD as well as other
dialects marks futurity with the prefix ba-, thus the future of kal ‘eat’ is ba--kil, and the
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future of qara ‘read’ is ba-yi-qra.
Besides, some northern mountains dialects (sedentary)
use ʔa-, as in mata ʔa-t-sēr-o ‘when will you go?’.
A rare pattern of causation in OA follows SA in doubling the middle consonant (Form II).
Thus the causative of katab is kattab, and of qara is qarra. Nonetheless, most OA dialects
express causation by combining verbs with the causative verb xalla ‘make’. Thus the
causative of sāq ‘drive’ is sawwaq in some dialects and xalla-ah y-sūq ‘made him drive’ in
many others; the causative of rakab is xalla-ah yi-rkab ‘made him ride’. Different OA
dialects have different causative forms; while some have nawwam and qawwam for nām
‘sleep’ and qām ‘stand up’, respectively, others have nayyam and qayyam.
The imperative verb in all the OA varieties has lost the affix ʔV- of SA, which is ʔu- if
the root vowel is u, as in ʔu-ktub ‘write!’, or ʔi- if the root vowel is i or a, as in ʔi-ħmil
‘carry!’ and ʔi-lʕab ‘play!’, respectively. The imperative form of katab write in both
Bedouin and sedentary OA dialects is ktib, except for DSD where it is ktob. Some of these
dialects may have the ʔi- prefix only in careful formal speech.
The imperative of qāl ‘say’
is qūl and kūl in the sedentary dialects, but gūl and gәl in the Bedouin dialects.
Also, partial reduplication is used for the purpose of intensification. For example, y-miss
‘touch’ becomes y-massis or even y-masmis to mean ‘touch a lot/on purpose’; y-ħiss ‘feel’
becomes y-ħassis ‘to feel by touching’ or even ‘to be sensitive’; y-hizz ‘to rock’ becomes
y-hazhәz to mean ‘to rock/shake continuously’; y-fәrr ‘throw/flip’ becomes y-farfәr to
mean ‘flip quickly/continuously’.
5. Syntax
5.1 Word order
Like many other modern dialects, as well as SA, OA allows both the VSO and SVO
orders, as (7-8) respectively show. Unlike SA, and like many modern dialects, OA verbs
surface with full subject agreement (person, gender, and number) marking in both orders.
(7) katb-inn-oh l-banāt l-wāgib
Pst.write-3pf-3sm the-girls.Nom the-homework.Acc
‘The girls wrote/have written the homework.’
(8) l-banāt katb-inn-oh l-wāgib
the-girls.Nom Pst.write-3pf-3sm the-homework.Acc
On the various functions of the b- prefix in the Gulf dialects, including OA, see Persson (2008) who
argues that it is “a generalized marker of the irrealis mood” (p. 26) that also denotes futurity.
See the imperative verb forms of MD in Glover (1988:182).
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‘The girls wrote/have written the homework.’
Al-Aghbari (2004b), who is a native speaker of MD, points out that SVO is more
frequent than VSO in daily conversation,
and that objects never surface sentence-initially
in OA, as (9-10) show. While these observations are also true of BSD and DSD, thematic
objects can surface sentence-initially, but as left-dislocated elements, as (11-12) show,
dislocation being signaled by the resumptive pronoun on the verb.
(9) *kum-t-oh Ali fasax
cap-f-his Ali.Nom Pst.take.off.3sm
(10) *kum-t-oh fasax Ali
cap-f-his Pst.take.off.3sm Ali.Nom
(11) -ṣɣēr-īn ʔumm-hum ð̣
arb-it-hum
the-child-p.Nom mother.Nom-their.m Pst.hit-3sf-3pm
‘The children, their mother hit them.’
(12) -ṣɣēr-īn ð̣
arb-it-hum ʔumm-hum
the-child-p.Nom Pst.hit-3sf-3pm mother.Nom-their.m
‘The children, their mother hit them.’
Like those of other colloquial Arabic dialects, OA nouns do not carry morphological case.
Despite this, I will assume that they carry the same Case values that their SA counterparts
realize. Also, like those of most modern Arabic dialects, OA singular nouns have largely
lost the final -n, so-called tanwīn/nunation. Nonetheless, remnants of tanwīn can be seen in
the slow sophisticated speech of some especially Bedouin dialects, as (13-14) illustrate, as
well as in poetry, on this, see Holes (2013, 2014).
(13) štarē-na siyyār-t-in gdīd-ah/-t-in
Pst.buy-1p car.Acc-f-Nu new.Acc-f/-f-Nu
‘We bought a new car.’
(14) Salim ʕind-eh bʕīr-in rakkāð ̣
/-in
Salim.Nom with-him male.camel.Nom-Nu running.Nom/-Nu
‘Salim has a fast-running male camel.’
In addition to full subject agreement, OA verbs realize full object agreement marking in
both orders and in the presence of a lexical DP object, as (15-16) show; this is also shown
in (7-8). Thus OA differs from SA, where object agreement does not co-exist with a lexical
object, as the contrast between (17) and (18) illustrates.
(15) katb-ū-hin l-ʔawlād wāgb-ā-t-hum
This contrasts with the situation in Egyptian Arabic, which is predominantly VSO (Tucker, 2010:8).
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Pst.write-3pm-3pf the-boys.Nom homework.Acc-p-f-their.m
‘The boys wrote/have written their homework.’
(16) l-ʔawlād katb-ū-hin wāgb-ā-t-hum
the-boys.Nom Pst.write-3pm-3pf homework.Acc-p-f-their.m
‘The boys wrote/have written their homework.’
(17) *kataba- l-ʔawlād-u wājib-ā-t-i-hum SA
Pst.write.3sm-3sf the-boys-Nom homework-p-f-Acc-their.m
(18) kataba-hā l-ʔawlād-u SA
Pst.write.3sm-3sf the-boys-Nom
‘The boys wrote/have written them.f.’
5.2 Negation
This section surveys the negative particles used in various OA dialects. The negation
system in the OA dialects is quite rich, which calls for a theoretical analysis. Most dialects
use in deictic, generic/habitual, past tense, future time, verbless sentences, and tenseless
conditionals, as (19-24) respectively show; these examples are from BSD.
(19) Ahmad mā yi-ktib l-wāgib
Ahmad.Nom Neg Impf-write.3sm the-homework.Acc
‘Ahmad is not writing the homework.’
(20) mā yi-ktib Ahmad wāgb-ā-t-oh
Neg Impf-write.3sm Ahmad.Nom homework.Acc-p-f-his
‘Ahmad does not write his homeworks.’
(21) Ahmad ħ l-madrasah
Ahmad.Nom Neg Pst.go.3sm the-school.Acc
‘Ahmad did not go to school.’
(22) Ahmad ba-y-ħ l-madrasah
Ahmad.Nom Neg Fut-Impf-go.3sm the-school.Acc
‘Ahmad will not go to school.’
(23) Ahmad mā marīð ̣
Ahmad.Nom Neg sick
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(24) ʔā mā tākәr ba-ti-sqa
if Neg 2-study.sm Fut-2-fail.sm
‘If you do not study, you will fail.’
The Dhofāri dialects also have the negative particle mū and the enclitic -š, as (25-26)
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from DSD show; (26) shows that a sentence may have two negative elements; this is also
observed in other Arabic dialects, like Egyptian and Moroccan. The -š Neg enclitic in DSD
may also appear as a free morpheme, as in (27-28).
(25) Ahmad mū mrīð̣
Ahmad.Nom Neg sick
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(26) Ahmad mu-š mrīð̣
Ahmad.Nom Neg-Neg sick
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(27) Ahmad mū mrīð̣
šī
Ahmad.Nom Neg sick Neg/at all
‘It is definitely the case that Ahmad is not sick.’
(28) mā nim-t šī
Neg Pst.sleep-1s Neg/at all
‘I did not sleep at all/there was no sleeping for me...’
The eastern (Bedouin) dialects use ʔa-b, ma-b, ma-hu, and ma-hu-b, as (29-33) show.
Given comparison with negative particles used in northern Oman (sedentary) dialects (to be
discussed shortly), ʔa-b seems to be composed of the Neg particle ʔa- and the suffix -b,
These data may suggest that šī is a grammaticalized form of the noun šī ‘thing’ in the Dhofāri dialects
(šayʔ in SA), used to negate the applicability/truth of the predicate (the negation of the predicate is
asserted). This proposal, however, will have to account for negative sentences in other OA dialects
(sedentary northern) where -š appears without a negative particle, but doubled, as in (i-ii). I leave this here;
šay may also serve as an existential quantifier, as in (iii).
(i) šī-ši ɣanim
thing-Neg goats
‘Are there no goats?’
(ii) šī-š ɣanim
thing-Neg goats
‘There are no goats.’
(iii) šay siyyār-ā-t
Neg thing car-p-f
‘There are no cars.’
This -š enclitic, which also appears in Moroccan Arabic, as in (iv), couples with the Neg particle ma-.
Unlike Moroccan Arabic, the sedentary northern variety of OA may establish negation without ma-, as (v)
shows.
(iv) ma-mʕallim-š
Neg-teacher/teaching-Neg
‘I am not a teacher/teaching (at all).’
(v) ʔa-ʕraf-š
1s-know-Neg
‘I do not know/I know nothing (at all).’
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which seems to be a negative polarity item (NPI);
-b is also used in some Gulf dialects, as
(34) from Kuwaiti Arabic shows; ʔa-b also appears in expressions like ʔa-b kīh and ʔa-b
kāk (it is) not like this/not like that. The Bāṭina Bedouin dialects also have mu and ma-hu;
-hu, which is also seen in other negative particles in other dialects (to be discussed soon),
seems to be a pronominal (SA huwa), sometimes with copular functions.
Another
Bedouin variety spoken by Al-Magʕali tribe (a branch of the Al-Junaibi tribe) in the town
of Manaħ in the interior, a typical region for sedentary varieties, uses another particle, ʔam,
as in (35-36).
(29) Ahmad ʔa-b hnīh
Ahmad.Nom Neg-NPI here
‘Ahmad is not here.’
(30) ʔa-b Ahmad hnīh
Neg-NPI Ahmad.Nom here
‘It is not Ahmad who is here.’
(31) s-sayyāra-h ma-b/mā-b zēn-ah alħīn
the-car.Nom-f Neg-NPI good-f now
‘The car is not good now.’
(32) Ahmad ma-hu/mu-hu marīð ̣
Ahmad.Nom Neg-pron sick
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(33) Ahmad ma-hu-b/-hu-b marīð ̣
Ahmad.Nom Neg-pron-NPI sick
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(34) Ahmad mu-b marīð ̣
Ahmad.Nom Neg- NPI sick
Ahmad is not sick.’
(35) ʔam rāyħ-ah maʕ-ik
Neg going-sf with-you.sf
‘I am not going with you.sf.’
The suffix -b in the Bedouin OA dialects seems to have a cognate in SA, the prepositional element
prefixed to the predicate in (i), licensed by the negative particle .
(i) mā ʔa-ṭālib-u bi-mujtahid-in
Neg the-student-Nom NPI-hardworking-Gen
‘The student is not hardworking.’
Eid (1983), among others, argues that pronouns in Egyptian Arabic have copular functions.
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(36) Ahmad ʔam māši ʔalħīn
Ahmad.Nom Neg going.sm now
‘Ahmad is not going now.’
In addition to , one northern mountains sedentary dialect has -š, as a Neg particle
(enclitic), which must be phonetically attached to some element as (37-39) show. In
(39-40), -š is attached to the future morpheme/particle ha-, that ha- marks futurity is shown
by (41). This is also supported by the ungrammaticality of (42) which has two future
morphemes, as well as that of (43) since adjectives are not marked for tense/time.
(37) Ahmad marīð̣
-š
Ahmad.Nom sick-Neg
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(38) Ahmad-š mað̣
Ahmad.Nom-Neg sick
‘It is not Ahmad who is sick.’ / ‘Isn’t it Ahmad who is sick?’
(39) -š ʔa-ʕṭī-k li-ktāb
Fut-Neg 1s-give-you.sm the-book.Acc
‘I will not give you the book.’
(40) Ahmad -š y-r
Ahmad.Nom Fut-Neg Impf-go.3sm
‘Ahmad will not go.’
(41) Ahmad ha-y-r
Ahmad.Nom Fut-Impf-go.3sm
‘Ahmad will go.’
(42) *Ahmad -š ha-y-r
Ahmad.Nom Fut-Neg Fut-Impf-go.3sm
(43) *Ahmad -š marīð ̣
Ahmad.Nom Fut-Neg sick
The yes/no question negative particle in this northern sedentary dialect is ho-ʔoh, as (44)
shows; ho-ʔoh seems to be composed of the pronominal ho- and the Neg particle -ʔoh
(which corresponds to the Neg particle ʔa- seen in the eastern Bedouin dialects), where ho-
arguably comes from the first syllable of the 3rd person pronouns in Arabic. Thus (44) may
be translated as ‘Is Ahmad sick? he-not’, where ho may have copular functions. This
dialect is spoken by people in aħam and oħār cities on the Bāṭina coast, but the speakers
originally come from the northern mountains of Oman.
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(44) Ahmad mrīð ̣
? ho-ʔoh
Ahmad.Nom sick pron-Neg
‘Is Ahmad sick? No/he’s not.’
Besides, another northern sedentary dialect has the Neg particle hā-ʔah/hā-ʔoh, which
does not appear in sentential negation, but only in replies to yes/no questions, as (45)
shows; hā-ʔah and ho-ʔoh may well be the same element; mā is used for sentential
negation in this dialect. The particle hā-ʔah, too, seems to be composed of two elements,
-, the pronominal element, and the Neg particle -ʔah, which is found in the eastern
Bedouin dialects (ʔa-) as well as the one spoken in aħam and oħār.
(45) Ahmad mrīð ̣
? hā-ʔah/hā-ʔoh
Ahmad.Nom sick pron-Neg
‘Is Ahmad sick? No/he’s not’
The Šiħħi OA dialect exhibits a different negation pattern, as (46) shows, where the Neg
particle follows the predicate; (46) can also take the same structure observed in the other
OA dialects, as (47) shows. The structure in (46) is more common among older generations.
With a verbal predicate, as in (48), the Neg particle could be either one, but only can
follow the verb, as (49) shows.
(46) Ahmad marēḍ lā
Ahmad.Nom sick Neg
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(47) Ahmad marēḍ
Ahmad.Nom Neg sick
‘Ahmad is not sick.’
(48) Ahmad mā/lā qare lә-ktēb
Ahmad.Nom Neg/Neg Pst.read.3sm the-book.Acc
‘Ahmad did not read the book.’
(49) Ahmad qare *mā/lā lә-ktēb
Ahmad.Nom Pst.read.3sm Neg/Neg the-book.Acc
‘Ahmad did not read the book.’
As for negative imperatives, while most OA dialects use the prohibitive particle ,
others, like the northern sedentary dialects, use and ʕan, as (50) shows, and yet others
use a more elaborate/assertive form, as in (51). The Šiħħi dialect uses the structure in (50)
with only as well as the one in (52), with two occurrences of the Neg la.
(50) //ʕan t-kitb-u ʕa lә-gdār
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Neg.Impr 2-write-pm on the-wall.Gen
‘Don’t (you.pm) write on the wall!’
(51) ʕan t-b-u t-kitb-u ʕa lә-gdār
Neg.Impr 2-want-pm 2-write-pm on the-wall.Gen
‘Don’t (you.pm) even attempt to write/think about writing on the wall!’
(52) ti-ktib la ʔa lә-gdōr la
2-write.sm Neg on the-wall.Gen Neg
‘Don’t (you.sm) write on the wall!’
As indicated earlier, this paper will not include a theoretical account of these facts; this is
left for another venue. Now, we move to question formation.
5.3 Question formation
Like SA as well as the other dialects of Arabic, OA varieties exhibit wh-movement (to
Spec, CP) in forming wh-questions, as (53-56) show.
(53) min kal l-mōzah?
who Pst.eat.3sm the-banana.Acc
‘Who ate the banana?’
(54) mū kal-u
what Pst.eat-3pm
‘What did they eat?’
(55) wēn ħaṭē-t lә-ktāb
where Pst.put-2sm the-book.Acc
‘Where did you put the book?
(56) mita ba-y-gi Ahmad
when Fut-Impf-come.3sm Ahmad.Nom
‘When will Ahmad come?’
Besides wh-movement, OA forms wh-question in-situ, as (57) shows. When the
wh-question is embedded under an ECM predicate, the wh-word may stay in-situ, or
undergo wh-movement to the embedded Spec, CP, or even to the matrix Spec, CP, as
(58-60) respectively show.
(57) kal-u mūh
Pst.eat-3pm what
‘What did they eat? / They ate what?’
(58) ti-ʕtiqid [-ṣɣēr-īn kal-u ʔēš]
2-believe.sm the-children.Nom Pst.eat-3pm what
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‘What do you believe the children ate?’
(59) ti-ʕtiqid [ʔēš -ṣɣēr-īn kal-u t]
2-believe.sm what the-children.Nom Pst.eat-3pm
‘What do you believe the children ate?’
(60) ʔēš ti-ʕtiqid [-ṣɣēr-īn kal-u t]
what 2-believe.sm the-children.Nom Pst.eat-3pm
‘What do you believe the children ate?’
OA does not have the SA yes/no question particles, hal and the bound morpheme ʔa-.
Holes (2007:8) mentions some particles that feature in some northern mountains varieties,
like šay/ši and the clitic -ә, as well as the tag-question particle (or lāh) when attached to
the end of a sentence, as (61-62) show.
(61) qūm-i gīb-ī-h, šī
Impr.get.up-sf Impr-bring-sf-it, Interro.Neg
‘Get up and bring it, won’t you?’
(62) ʔabū-k ba-y-gī, lāh
father-your Fut-Impr-come.3sm, Interro.Neg
‘Your father is coming, no/isn't he?’
For most OA dialects, the declarative sentence in (63) and the interrogative one in (64)
seem to have the same structure, the difference being only in intonation.
(63) qafl-it l-bāb
Pst.lock-3sf the-door.Acc
‘She locked/has locked the door.’
(64) qafl-it l-bāb
Pst.lock-3sf the-door.Acc
‘Did she lock/Has she locked the door?’
While most OA varieties use naʕam (SA yes) as a positive reply to yes/no questions,
some dialects use hēh, hīh, whereas others use hēwah and ʔaywa, and yet others use ʔē(h)
and ʔilla. Holes (2007) also mentions ī, ē, kē, ila, hi, and ē naʕam. Negative replies include
la, lāla, ʔah, hoʔoh, bhaww and ʔabhaww; ħaša ‘not at all’ (SA ħāšā) is also used as a
stronger form of negation.
5.4 Relative clauses
Unlike SA, whose relative pronouns inflect for number, gender and case, the OA dialects
have two relative pronouns, ʔilli and bu, which do not inflect; Holes (2007:7), who states
that bu is more common in sedentary varieties, also mentions illaði, which is the SA one
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(ʔallaðī), as well as il, which is like a contracted form of ʔilli. Both ʔilli and bu carry the
default agreement specification, 3rd person singular masculine; (65-68) provide examples
of ʔilli and bu.
(65) ga l-walad ʔilli/bu ʔa-ʕarf-oh
Pst.come.3sm the-boy.Nom whom/whom 1s-know-3sm
‘The boy whom I know came.’
(66) g-u l-walad-ēn/ l-ʔawlād ʔilli/bu nagħ-u
Pst.come-3pm the-boy-d.Nom/the-boys.Nom who/who Pst.succeed-3pm
‘The two boys/boys who succeeded came.’
(67) gā-t l-bint ʔilli/bu ʔa-ʕarf-ha
Pst.come-3sf the-girl.Nom whom/whom 1s-know-3sf
‘The girl whom I know came.’
(68) g-in l-bint-ēn/ l-banāt ʔilli/bu nagħ-in
Pst.come-3pf the-girl-d.Nom/the-girls.Nom who/who Pst.succeed-3pf
‘The two girls/girls who succeeded came.’
As for bu, it seems to be a grammaticalization of the SA noun meaning ‘father, ʔabū;
(69) is a question addressed to me by a sedentary dialect speaker from Suwaiq on the
ina coast.
(69) bēt-ak ʔabu fi lmaʕbēleh zahab?
house-you which in Mabela Pst.complete.3sm
‘Your house, which is (you are building) in Mabela, is it completed/ready?’
Besides, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) nicknamed one of his companions (ʕabdur-Raħmān
bin axr ʔad-dūsī) ʔabū Hurayrah (the one with a cat) because that companion used to
carry a small cat around and play with it during the day-time. SA has another pronoun
which can be used in relative clauses, ðū, as (70) shows.
(70) ʔar-rajul-u ðū l-qubbaʕat-i ya-lub-u l-bītzā
the-man-Nom that.has the-hat-Gen Impf-order.3sm-Ind the-pizza.Acc
‘The man in the hat has ordered a pizza.’
SA has the following relative pronouns, from Wright (1896:270-272); the underlined forms are archaic
for Nom-marked relative pronouns.
Singular masculine: ʔallaðū / ʔallaðī Singular feminine: ʔallatī
Dual masculine: ʔallaðāni / ʔallaðayni Dual feminine: ʔallatāni/ʔallatayni
Plural masculine: ʔallaðūna / ʔallaðīna Plural feminine: ʔallātī or ʔallāʔī
Arabicists know that ʔabū and ðū are members of the so-called ʔal-ʔasmāʔ-u l-xamsah ‘the five nouns’,
which also include ʔaxū brother, ħamū father-in-law, and fū mouth. These nouns form a
homoegenous group because they are Nom-marked with -ū, Acc-marked with -ā, and Gen-marked with -ī.
Omani Arabic: More than a Dialect
Macrolinguistics (2016)
119
SA ðū can be ʔabu (SA ‘father’) and ʔumm (SA ‘mother’) in OA, depending on the
gender of the possessee, as (71-72) show.
(71) ðāk r-riggāl ʔabu l-mar lә-ħmar
that the-man of the-turban the-red
‘That man in the red turban.’
(72) ðīk l-bint ʔumm ʔәl-ʕyūn z-zarqa
that.f the-girl of the-eyes the-blue
‘That girl who has blue eyes.’
5.5 Tense, aspect, and mood
OA verbs exhibit almost the same tense and aspect denotations that SA verbs have. For
example, the so-called perfective form conveys past tense as well as the English present
perfect interpretation, as (73) shows.
The so-called imperfective paradigm verbs convey
both deictic and generic interpretations, depending on word order (as well as on whether
the verb is eventive or stative). In the SVO order, the imperfective verb conveys deictic
interpretation, as (74) shows. It conveys a generic (habitual) reading in the VSO order, as
(75) shows; these examples are from BSD.
(73) katb-u -ṣɣērīn l-wāgib
Pst.write-3pm the-children.Nom the-homework.Acc
‘The children wrote/have written the homeworks.’
(74) l-ʔawlād y-kitb-u wāgb-ā-t-hum
the-boys.Nom Impf-write-3pm homework.Acc-p-f-their
‘The boys are writing their homeworks (now).’
(75) y-kitb-u l-ʔawlād wāgb-ā-t-hum
Impf-write-3pm the-boys.Nom homework.Acc-p-f-their
‘The boys write their homeworks (usually).’
The deictic reading corresponds to the progressive aspect, which can also be conveyed
by a special progressive morpheme, as in (76). The progressive morpheme is the active
participle form of the verb galas ‘to sit’, which is gālis. The Dhofāri dialects use a bound
morpheme to indicate progressive aspect, as in (77); this morpheme is also available in
Egyptian Arabic, as (78) shows. The imperfect aspect is also conveyed by a special free
morpheme baʕad ‘still/yet’, as (75) shows.
(76) l-ʔawlād gāls-īn y-kitb-u wāgb-ā-t-hum
For tense, aspect, and mood in some OA varieties, see Eades (2012), Eades and Watson (2013), and
Persson (2008).
Rashid Al-Balushi
Macrolinguistics (2016)
120
the-boys.Nom Prog-pm Impf-write-3pm homework.Acc-p-f-their
‘The boys are (in the process of) writing their homework.’
(77) naħnā b-nā-kul
we Prog-1p-eat
‘We are eating (right now).’
(78) ʔiħna b--kul ʔahoh
we Prog-1p-eat here.and.now
‘We are eating right now (see!).’
(79) l-ʔawlād baʕad-hum katb-ū wāgb-ā-t-hum
the-boys.Nom yet/still-3pm Neg Pst.write-3pm homework. Acc-p-f-their
‘The boys have not yet written their homeworks.’
Holes (2007) also mentions the use of ʕid (the active participle of the verb gaʕad ‘to
sit’ in other, usually Bedouin, OA varieties; SA qaʕada) as a means for expressing
continuous or iterative processes; ʕid is found in many Gulf varieties, as in (80) from
Kuwaiti Arabic. The perfect aspect can be conveyed by a free morpheme, xalla
‘done/finished’, followed by the active participle form, as in (81).
(80) š-gāʕd-īn t-saww-ūn
what-Prog-pm 2-do-pm
‘What are you doing?’
(81) l-ʔawlād xall-u kātb-īn wāgb-ā-t-hum
the-boys.Nom finished-3pm Part.write-pm homework.Acc-p-f-their
‘The boys have finished writing their homeworks.’
OA verbs also convey the so-called prospective aspect, as (82-83) show; rāyiħ, which is
found in the ina varieties, and qāyim, which is found in the northern sedentary varieties
(interior of Oman), are both the active participle forms of ħ ‘to go’ and qām ‘to stand up’,
respectively. Like SA participles, both rāyiħ and qāyim inflect for number and gender, but
not person. The Bedouin counterpart of (83) is in (84), where the progressive aspect is
carried out by the participle. As (85-86) show, both rāyiħ and qāyim may be the main
predicate of a sentence, but with their literal meanings.
(82) ħna mā rāyħ-īn -qra l-ktāb l-yōm
we Neg going-pm 1p-read the-book.Acc the-day
‘We are not going to read the book today.’
(83) ʔana mā qāyim ʔa-qra l-ktāb l-yōm
I Neg going.sm 1s-read the-book.Acc the-day
Omani Arabic: More than a Dialect
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121
‘I am not going to read the book today.’
(84) ʔana mә-b-gāri l-ktāb l-yōm
I Neg-NPI-reading the-book.Acc the-day
‘I am not going to read/reading the book today.’
(85) ʔana rāyiħ s-sūq
I going the-market.Acc
‘I am going to the market.’
(86) ʔana qāyim mәn n-nōm
I going from the-sleep.Gen
‘I am getting up (from bed)/ already up.’
The OA varieties differ as to whether their imperfective verb forms inflect for what
Wright (1896) calls ‘mood’ marking.
Singular present tense verbs in all the OA varieties
do not carry ‘mood’ marking; OA varieties lost the dual marking in the verbal system. As
for the plural verbal forms, while the verb in the Dhofāri and Bedouin varieties appears
with ‘indicative mood’ marking, as (87-88) show, it does not in the other varieties, as (89)
shows.
(87) l-ʔawlād yi-tʕašš-ū-n DSD
the-boys.Nom Impf-take.dinner-3pm-Ind
‘The boys are taking dinner.’
(88) lә-wlād yi-tʕašš-ō-n Eastern Bedouin
the-boys.Nom Impf-take.dinner-3pm-Ind
‘The boys are taking dinner.’
(89) l-ʔawlād y-kitb-u wāgb-ā-t-hum BSD
the-boys.Nom Impf-write-3pm homework.Acc-p-f-their
‘The boys are writing their homeworks.’
Finally, besides the ba-, ha-, and ʔa- prefixes of the future (discussed in section 4.9),
modality in OA is expressed by the particles lāzim ‘must’ and yimkin ‘may/might’, as
(90-91) show. Other modality particles include ybā-loh and its DSD counterpart bɣā-loh,
which roughly mean ‘should’, as (92-93) show.
(90) -ṭәllāb lāzim y-ħ-u l-madrasah
the-students.Nom must Impf-go-3pm the-school.Acc
‘The students must go to the school.’
See Fassi Fehri (1993) and Al-Balushi (2013) for alternative views on what these suffixes mark.
Rashid Al-Balushi
Macrolinguistics (2016)
122
(91) yimkin y-gi sēl baʕdēn
may Impf-come.3sm rain.Nom later
‘It may rain later.’
(92) -ṣɣērīn ybā-lak t-wadī-hum s-sūq
the-children.Nom should-you.sm 2-take-them the-market.Acc
‘You should take the children to the market.’
(93) bɣā-lak ti-štirī siyyārah ʔakbar
should-you.sm 2-buy.sm car.Acc bigger
‘You should buy a bigger car.’
6. Final remarks
The preceding sections have shown that the Omani dialect of Arabic is a rich one, having
several varieties. The variation, most vividly seen in negation, pluralization patterns,
personal, demonstrative, and possessive pronouns, as well as sound interactions, speaks of
a productive research program. Most of the research on the OA dialects has been of a
descriptive and sociolinguistic nature, which calls for theoretical accounts of these facts.
Theoretical treatment is required for a number of topics. For example, the preference for
SVO over VSO in MD may have implications for information structure issues. Also
important is the morphosyntactic function of full subject and object agreement on OA verbs,
investigated in Al-Balushi (to appear). Equally important is a morphosyntactic analysis of
negation in the various OA dialects, as well as the possible copular functions of pronouns.
Besides, the various pluralization patterns in OA dialects as well as those of borrowed
words may have implications for theories of morphology and phonology. Likewise, it is
important to examine the conditions regulating free variation in the phonology of the
various OA dialects (e.g. //, /ð̣
/, and // if the Šiħħi dialect is to be considered one dialect).
Also important for verb structure is the issue of glide-restoration.
In addition, it is crucial to provide description and documentation of the OA dialects
before their distinctive features are lost as a result of convergence and leveling. Also
important are the implications of the passive verb form retention for the history of the OA
dialects (being older or recent compared to other dialects in Arabia). It is also crucial to
provide descriptive accounts of the other languages and Arabic dialects spoken in Oman, as
well as theoretical accounts of their syntactic, morphological, and phonological, influences
on the OA dialects. It is, for example, recognized that the Baluchi community in Muscat
speak a variety of Baluchi slightly different from that spoken on the ina coast, which
Omani Arabic: More than a Dialect
Macrolinguistics (2016)
123
indicates that the varieties of Baluchi spoken in Oman may be slightly different from those
spoken in Baluchistan (in both Iran and Pakistan); this may also apply to the other
languages.
Furthermore, an intriguing sociolinguistic phenomenon is the slow switch from
sedentary dialects to Bedouin ones, an observation already made in Holes (2014),
witnessed in the televised media in Oman. This may be because of the predominant Gulf
and Jordanian drama (aired in the 1980s and 1990s) in which forms of Bedouin dialects are
spoken. This, however, is contradicted by the fact that not only is the Omani drama
delivered through sedentary dialects (being the dialect of the actors), but also the fact that
the royal family in Oman speaks a sedentary dialect; the question is still open nonetheless.
On the local social level, it is very common to hear some sedentary dialect speakers
pronounce words with Bedouin morphophonological features, where /q/ is pronounced as
/g/. The factors conditioning this switch make an interesting question. Also, the similarity
between the OA dialects and the pre-Islamic ones can certainly make a very interesting
question. Finally, Holes (1989) states that the word for coffee is ghawah and gahwah in
Bedouin dialects, but kahwah and qahwah in the sedentary ones. Besides these, ghawwah
is heard in the (Bedouin) dialect of Bidiyyah and ghewa is heard in the Dhofāri Bedouin
dialect, indicating the existence of other variants in the other towns/varieties. These and
other equally interesting topics are left for other occasions.
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The Traditional Arab Grammarians (TAGs) (Sībawayhi 8th century) assigned somewhat similar terminology for the inflectional states of Standard Arabic (SA) verbs and nouns. Verbs could be either marfūʕ ‘Indicative’, manṣūb ‘Subjunctive’, majzūm ‘Jussive’, or mabnī ‘uninflected for mood’, making reference to so-called ‘mood’ endings. Likewise, nouns could be either marfūʕ ‘Nominative’, manṣūb ‘Accusative’, majrūr ‘Genitive’, or mabnī ‘uninflected for case’, making reference to case endings. Thus, TAGs named Ind-marked verbs and Nom-marked nouns marfūʕ, and Sub-marked verbs and Acc-marked nouns manṣūb, in reference to the morphological similarity between the relevant nominal and verbal suffixes. Nonetheless, this similarity is observed between 10 out of the 14 sets of verbal and nominal suffixes in the Ind-Nom paradigm, and between only 4 out of the 14 sets of verbal and nominal suffixes in the Sub-Acc paradigm. In other words, the presumed morphological similarity in terms of suffixes is not perfect. Therefore, this paper aims to show that, at some stage in word formation, the two sets of verbal suffixes, indicative and subjunctive, are identical to the two sets of nominal suffixes, Nom and Acc, respectively, for the verbs and nouns that encode the same number and gender features. After that stage, verbal forms undergo certain word formation operations (feature movement and feature deletion) that affect their structure, resulting in the known surface forms. This account is based on a novel analysis of the SA imperfective paradigm. Both accounts will be presented in purely descriptive terms, without making reference to any available morphological framework.
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This book is the first comprehensive account of the phonology and morphology of Arabic. It is a pioneering work of scholarship based on the author's research in the region. Arabic is a Semitic language spoken by some 250 million people in an area stretching from Morocco in the West to parts of Iran in the East. Apart from its great intrinsic interest, the importance of the language for phonological and morphological theory lies, as the author shows, in its rich root-and-pattern morphology and its large set of guttural consonants. Dr Watson focuses on two eastern dialects, Cairene and San'ani. Cairene is typical of an advanced urban Mediterranean dialect and has a cultural importance throughout the Arab world; it is also the variety learned by most foreign speakers of Arabic. San'ani, spoken in Yemen, is representative of a conservative peninsula dialect. In addition the book makes extensive reference to other dialects as well as to classical and Modern Standard Arabic. The volume opens with an overview of the history and varieties of Arabic, and the position of Arabic within Semitic. Dialectal differences and similarities are discussed in successive chapters which cover the phoneme system and the representation of phonological features; the syllable and syllabification; word stress; derivational morphology; inflectional morphology; lexical phonology; and post-lexical phonology. The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic will be of great interest to Arabists and comparative Semiticists, as well as to phonologists, morphologists, and linguists more generally.