Hadhrami Arabic

Hadrami Arabic
Native to Saudi Arabia, Oman, South Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia
Native speakers
400,000 (ca. 1995)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ayh
Glottolog hadr1236[2]

Hadhrami or Ḥaḍrami Arabic is a variety of Arabic spoken by the Hadhrami people (Arabic Ḥaḍārima) living in the Ḥaḍramawt. It is also spoken by many emigrants who migrated from the Ḥaḍramawt to the Horn of Africa (Somalia and Eritrea), East Africa (Comoros, Zanzibar, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique), Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore) and, recently, to the other Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Below is a brief account of the different linguistic levels of the dialect.


The dialect in many towns and villages in the Wādī (valley) and the coastal region is characterised by its ج //-yodization, i.e. changing Classical Arabic reflex // to the approximant ي [j]. In this it resembles some Eastern Arabian and Gulf dialects including the dialects of Basra in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the dialects of the other Arab Emirates. In educated speech, ج is realised as a voiced palatal plosive [ɟ] or affricate [] in some lexical items which are marked [+ religious] or [+ educated] (see ق /q/ below).

The ق /q/ reflex is pronounced as a voiced velar [ɡ] in all lexical items throughout the dialect. In some other Arabic dialects, /q/ is realised as a voiceless uvular plosive [q] in certain lexemes which are marked [+ religious], [+ educational] etc., e.g. /qurʔaːn/ “Qur’an”. With the spread of literacy and contact with speakers of other Arabic dialects, future sociolinguistic research may reveal whether HA is going to witness innovation like using the uvular /q/ in certain lexemes while retaining the velar /ɡ/ for others.

Wādī HA makes ث, ت /t/, /θ/ and ذ, د /d/, /ð/ distinction but ض // and ظ /ðˤ/ are both pronounced ظ [ðˤ] whereas Coastal HA merges all these pairs into the stops د, ت and ض ([t], [d] and []) respectively.

In non-emphatic environments, /aː/ is realised open front (slightly raised) unrounded [æ]. Thus /θaːniː/ “second; psn. name” which is normally realised with an [ɑː]-like quality in the Gulf dialects is realised with an [æː] in HA.

This dialect is characterised by not allowing final consonant clusters to occur in final position. Thus Classical Arabic /bint/ “girl” is realised as /binit/. In initial positions, there is a difference between the Wādī and the coastal varieties of HA. Coastal HA has initial clusters in /bɣaː/ “he wants”, /bsˤal/ “onions” and /briːd/ “mail (n.)” while Wādī HA realises the second and third words as /basˤal/ and /bariːd/ respectively.


When the first person singular comes as an independent subject pronoun, it is marked for gender, thus /anaː/ for masculine and /aniː/ for feminine. As an object pronoun, it comes as a bound morpheme, thus /-naː/ for masculine and /-niː/ for feminine. The first person subject plural is naḥnā.

The first person direct object plural is /naħnaː/ rather than /-naː/ which is the case in many dialects. Thus, the cognate of the Classical Arabic /dˤarabanaː/ “he hit us” is /ðˤarab naħnaː/ in HA.

Stem VI, tC1āC2aC3, can be umlauted to tC1ēC2aC3, thus changing the pattern vowel ā to ē. This leads to a semantic change as in /tʃaːradaw/ “they ran away suddenly” and /tʃeːradaw/ “they shirk, try to escape”

Intensive and frequentative verbs are common in the dialect. Thus /kasar/ “to break” is intensified to /kawsar/ as in /koːsar fi l-lʕib/ “he played rough”. It can be metathesized to become frequentative as /kaswar min iðˤ-ðˤaħkaːt/ “he made a series (lit. breaks) of giggles or laughs”.


The syntax of HA has many similarities to other Peninsular Arabic dialects. However, the dialect contains a number of unique particles used for coordination, negation and other sentence types. Examples in coordination include /kann, laːkan/ “but; nevertheless, though”, /maː/ (Classical Arabic /ammaː/) “as for…” and /walla/ “or”.

Like many other dialects, apophonic or ablaut passive (as in /kutib/ "it was written") is not very common in HA and perhaps is confined to clichés and proverbs from other dialects including Classical Arabic.

The particle /qad/ developed semantically in HA into /kuð/ or /ɡuð/ “yet, already, almost, nearly” and /ɡad/ or /ɡid/ “maybe, perhaps”.


There are a few lexical items that are shared with Modern South Arabian languages, which perhaps distinguish this dialect from other neighbouring Peninsular dialects. The effect of Hadrami migration to Southeast Asia (see Arab Indonesians and Arab Singaporeans), the Indian subcontinent and East Africa on HA is clear in the vocabulary especially in certain registers like types of food and dress, e.g. /sˤaːruːn/ "sarong". Many loan words are listed in al-Saqqaf (2006).[3]


  1. Hadrami Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Hadrami Arabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Al-Saqqaf, Abdullah Hassan (15 January 2006). "The Linguistics of Loanwords in Hadrami Arabic". International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 9 (1): 75–93. doi:10.1080/13670050608668631.

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