In light of all that has been happening in Yemen these past few years, and how the situation has only worsened, I thought it would be appropriate to publish an article on Yemeni Arabic.

Thanks to Adam F.who assisted me in writing this article.Check out his Instagram page.TheadamFaid

Having said that, let's discuss Yemeni Arabic as a language group.See what I mean by "group"?

Yemeni Arabic is NOT a Language But Rather a GROUP of Languages

For any non-native who’s studied Arabic or dabbled with it, you’re probably familiar with the fact that Arabic has so many dialects, and that some of them are in fact just groups of similar dialects.Moroccan Arabic is far different from Levantine Arabic (Iraqi, Palestinian, Syria) in the same way UK English is different from American English (Btw, American English has sub-dialects as well such as Ebonics/AAVE).It is not easy for most Westerners to comprehend Arabic, which is one of the reasons why learning "Arabic" is so challenging.

In this case, Yemeni Arabic is a group of somewhat similar Arabic dialects each with their own differences and some with different phonology and grammar from other dialects.

Listed below are the language families from which the group originates.

What are the dialects of Yemeni Arabic?

Since there are few English resources, our primary focus will be on the Sanaani dialect since it is the most popular (*7.6 million speakers).

Other Peninsular Arabic Languages / Dialects

These dialects are part of the Peninsular Arabic group:

They all use different phonology, vocabulary, and syntax to varying degrees.

Who Speaks Yemeni Arabic and Where is it Spoken?

According to the 2011 census, roughly 15 million Yemenis speak Yemeni Arabic (remember, it is a language group).There are speakers of the language in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and even Somalia.


A Little Bit About Sanaa and Sanaani Arabic

With somewhere around 7.6 million speakers, Sanaani Arabic (San'ani) is considered one of the most widely spoken dialects. However, estimates say that it may reach up to 11 million.Sanaa, Yemen's capital city, is home to most speakers of this dialect.

Yemeni legend credits Shem, one of Noah's sons, with founding Sanaa, which has been inhabited for thousands of years. Although a definitive date for its founding is unknown, Yemeni legend indicates that the city was founded by one of Noah's sons.Before Islam took over, Sanaa (and other parts of Yemen) were both inhabited by Christians and Jews.

Ottoman Rule Over Sanaa

Throughout the Ottoman period, Sanaa and Yemen as a whole (between the mid-16th and 19th centuries) was subject to various conquests.Even after the Ottomans captured Sanaa in 1872, however, various revolts made Ottoman rule difficult.In 1911, the Ottoman Empire and the ruling Imans of Sanaa autonomous community signed an agreement.

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Yemen's capital became Sanaa.In spite of their short reign, some linguists argue that a portion of Turkish can be heard in the Sanaani dialect.

Sanaani Arabic

Arabic often places a glottal sound on /Q/, so the Qur'an is not said as "ko'ran" but rather as "Qur'an" with emphasis on Q coming from the back of the throat.

A Q sounded in Sanaani Arabic, however, becomes a G sound.These are the sounds of early or classical Arabic.The /Q/ is used throughout.The Q is called a "Qaaf" (Q - independent form) in Arabic.

These are some words you should know how to pronounce:

Sanaani Arabic PronunciationEnglish Meaning

The Glottal Stop is Fixed in Sanaani Arabic

In Egyptian, Gulf, and Levantine Arabic, glottal stops are not used, so oral speech tends to lack them.Even though in Sanaani Arabic it is used in all positions/simplifications EXCEPT in rapid speech.When the glottal stop (‘) comes after a word preceding with the long "aa", the stop is dropped.

Gladtal stops are basically micro-slowdowns or blocks in airflow.It's called a consonant in Modern Standard Arabic (those who have studied Modern Standard Arabic know what I mean!)

Review the following words:

Yemeni Arabic (Sanaani) Phrases

‘ismi (name). Maa ‘ismak?My name is…, what is yours? (talking to a male)
min ‘ayn ‘ant?Where are you from? (masc., sing.)
‘ana min al-‘amrikaI am from America
kayf ant?How are you? (masc., sing.)
kayf anti?How are you? (fem., sing.)
bi-khayrGood, alright
naahi, w-‘ant?Fine, and you? (masc., sing.)
naahiya, w-‘anti?Fine, and you? (fem., sing.)
‘antYou (masc., sing.)
‘antiYou (fem., sing.)

Yemeni Arabic Adds Sheen (ش) to their Negations

Yemeni Arabic has the habit of adding Sheen, sh, (pronounced with a sh sound) to the end of a negated verb.

Also, it is not uncommon to see MSA sentences begin with the word "no.".

Here are some examples: (la afMsh) - I do not understand, or (ana mish 'amrika) - I am not American.

How Can I Learn Yemeni Arabic?

Unfortunately, this is a tough question to answer.Nevertheless, with the right background knowledge, you'll be able to succeed in learning the "language" or a specific dialect.

As a matter of fact, there aren't many English-language resources available to teach Yemeni Arabic. That is why it's a tough question.In a bit, we'll list a few Amazon books to buy, but most books are written in Arabic (not very helpful if you're a beginner).Listed below is a short guide on Yemeni Arabic, for those who aren't sure where to start.

Start With Modern Standard Arabic

.You'll want to start with FusHa (sometimes Fus7a, with a more hissy version of the H) or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) if you're only interested in learning Arabic for personal reasons.

When you understand the standard dialect, you may find it easier to jump into a dialect of your choice, such as Egyptian Arabic or Sanaani.There may be differences in vocabulary, grammar, and phonology among dialects, but once you can read MSA and understand a good chunk of it, you can dive into textbooks of other dialects in the native language.

Spelling matters a lot!

It's very important to note that spelling is not always consistent in different dialects, whether they are Levantine, Yemeni, Saudi, etc.Due to the wide range of dialects, there is no systematic way to spell words, although some may argue that Egyptian Arabic has the most consistent spelling due to its popularity in the Arab world.

Therefore, don't be surprised if some textbooks spell words differently.

If You MUST Learn Yemeni Arabic Here Are Some Resources

There are a few books you can buy on Amazon if you're really desperate to learn Yemeni Arabic.

Try These Free Yemeni Arabic Resources

The following are a bit dated, but still provide gems for learners:


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