Mesopotamian Arabic

Mesopotamian Arabic
Native to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey
Region Mesopotamia, Armenian Highlands, Cilicia
Native speakers
15 million (1996)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 acm
Glottolog meso1252[2]

Khaki: Iraqi Arabic

Mesopotamian Arabic is a continuum of mutually-intelligible varieties of Arabic native to the Mesopotamian basin of Iraq as well as spanning into Syria,[3] Iran,[3] southeastern Turkey,[4] and spoken in Iraqi diaspora communities.


Aramaic was the lingua franca in Mesopotamia from the early 1st millennium BCE until the late 1st millennium CE, and as may be expected, Iraqi Arabic shows signs of an Aramaic substrate.[5] The Gelet and the Judeo-Iraqi varieties have retained features of Babylonian Aramaic.[5]

Due to Iraq's inherent multiculturalism as well as history, Iraqi Arabic in turn bears extensive borrowings in its lexicon from Aramaic, Akkadian, Persian and Turkish.


Mesopotamian Arabic has two major varieties. A distinction is recognised between Gelet Mesopotamian Arabic and Qeltu Mesopotamian Arabic, the names deriving from the form of the word for "I said".[6]

The southern (Gelet) group includes a Tigris dialect cluster, of which the best-known form is Baghdadi Arabic, and a Euphrates dialect cluster, known as Furati (Euphrates Arabic). The Gelet variety is also spoken in the Khuzestan Province of Iran.[3]

The northern (Qeltu) group includes the north Tigris dialect cluster, also known as North Mesopotamian Arabic or Maslawi (Mosul Arabic), as well as both Jewish and Christian sectarian dialects (such as Baghdad Jewish Arabic).


Both the Gelet and the Qeltu varieties of Iraqi Arabic are spoken in Syria,[3][4] the former is spoken on the Euphrates east of Aleppo, and the latter is spoken in the Upper Khabur area and across the border in Turkey.[4]

Cypriot Arabic shares a large number of common features with Mesopotamian Arabic;[7] particularly the northern variety, and has been reckoned as belonging to this dialect area.[8]


  1. Mesopotamian Arabic at Ethnologue (13th ed., 1996).
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Mesopotamian Arabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Arabic, Mesopotamian | Ethnologue
  4. 1 2 3 Arabic, North Mesopotamian | Ethnologue
  5. 1 2 Muller-Kessler, Christa (July–September 2003). "Aramaic 'K', Lyk' and Iraqi Arabic 'Aku, Maku: The Mesopotamian Particles of Existence.". The Journal of the American Oriental Society. 123 (3): 641–646.
  6. Mitchell, T. F. (1990). Pronouncing Arabic, Volume 2. Clarendon Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-19-823989-0.
  7. Versteegh, Kees (2001). The Arabic Language. Edinburgh University Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-7486-1436-2.
  8. Owens, Jonathan (2006). A Linguistic History of Arabic. Oxford University Press. p. 274. ISBN 0-19-929082-2.
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