WikiJournal Preprints/Tunisian Arabic: Normalized Orthography and Morphology

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Authors: Houcemeddine Turki[i], Imed Adel, Rafik Zribi, Maik Gibson

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Nouns and adjectives in Tunisian Arabic are classified into nouns that have a regular plural and nouns that have an irregular plural.[1][2] Several nouns in Tunisian Arabic even have dual forms.[1][3][4] Irregular or broken plurals are broadly similar to those of Standard Arabic.[1][2] gender shift is achieved for singular nouns and adjectives by adding an -a suffix.[1][3] However, this cannot occur for most plural nouns.[1][2]

Tunisian Arabic has five types of pronouns: personal, possessive, demonstrative, indirect object and indefinite pronouns.[1][2] Unlike in Standard Arabic, there is a unique pronoun for the second person singular and a unique pronoun for the second person in plural.[1][3] Furthermore, there are three types of articles: definite, demonstrative and possessive articles.[1][2] Most of them can be written before or after the noun.[1][3]

As for verbs, they are conjugated in five tenses: perfective, imperfective, future, imperative, conditional present and conditional past Tenses and in four forms: affirmative, exclamative, interrogative and negative forms.[1][3] They can be preceded by modal verbs to indicate a particular intention, situation, belief or obligation when they are conjugated in perfective or imperfective tenses.[1][3] Questions in Tunisian Arabic can be āš (wh question) or īh/lā (yes/no question).[1][2]

The question words for āš questions can be either a pronoun or an adverb.[1][2] As for negation, it is usually done using the structure mā verb+š.[1][3]

There are three types of nouns that can be derived from verbs: present participle, past participle and verbal noun. There are even nouns derived from simple verbs having the root fʿal or faʿlil.[1][3] The same is true in Standard Arabic. Tunisian Arabic also involves several prepositions and conjunctions.[1][2] These structures ultimately derive from those of Standard Arabic, even if they are radically different in modern Tunisian because of heavy influence from Berber, Latin and other European languages.[1][3]

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Second Heading

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Arabic script

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The Arabic script used for Tunisian is largely the same as for Arabic. However, it includes additional letters to support /g/ (ڨ), /v/ (ڥ) and /p/ (پ).[5][6]

The first known use of Arabic script for Tunisian was recorded in the 17th century, when Sheykh Karray wrote several poems in Tunisian Arabic for mystic purposes.[7] However, transcription of Tunisian Arabic was not common until 1903, when the Gospel of John was transcribed in Tunisian Arabic using Arabic script.[8][9] After the World War I, the use of Arabic script to Tunisian Arabic became very common with the works of Taht Essour.[10][11] Nowadays, it has become the main script used for Tunisian Arabic, even in published books,[12][13] but writing conventions for Tunisian Arabic are not standardized and can change from one book to another.[5][12][13]

In 2014, Ines Zribi et al. proposed a Conventional Orthography for Tunisian Arabic based on the principles of CODA as proposed in 2012. The orthography is based on eliminating phonological simplifications by comparing the words and structures of Tunisian Arabic by their correspondent etymological equivalent in Modern Standard Arabic.[5] Although the convention is quite important, the orthography does not differentiate between [q] and [g] and does not involve several important phonemes that are mainly used in loanwords.[5]

Latin script

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Phonemic transcription method of Tunisian Arabic and Algerian Arabic into Latin script used by William Marçais in 1908[14]

Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft Umschrift

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In 1845, the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft or DMG, a German scientific association dedicated to the studies and the languages of the orient, was formed in Leipzig.[15] Soon, the organization developed a transcription system for Arabic in Latin script.[16] Its system was a phonemic transcription of Arabic written with an extended Latin alphabet and macrons for long vowels.[16] However, this Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft transcription was first tried on Tunisian only after the establishment of the French Protectorate of Tunisia in 1881.[3]

The first linguistic study about Tunisian to be completed was of German linguist Hans Stumme, who, from 1893 to 1896, transcribed Tunisian Arabic with the DMG transcription.[17][18] In addition, from 1897 to 1935, a series of linguistic works were conducted by several French members of the DMG, like William Marçais,[19][20] Philippe Marçais,[21][22] David Cohen[23] and Alfred Nicolas.[24] These works included corpuses,[19][20] grammar books,[21] dictionaries,[24] or studies.[23] By 1935, the DMG transcription included many unique letters and diacritics for Tunisian not used for Arabic,[25] such as, à, è, ù and ì, for short and accentuated vowels.[14] This is the reason why the XIXth international congress of orientalists held in Rome, from 23 to 29 September 1935, adopted a modified simplified version of the DMG transcription specifically for Arabic dialects.[25] From 1935 to 1985, most of the linguists working on Tunisian Arabic such as Gilbert Boris,[26] Hans Rudolf Singer,[3][27] Lucienne Saada[28][29][30] and others,[1][31] adopted the modified DMG.

As of 2016, the modified DMG is still used by institutions such as SIL International or the University of Vienna for Tunisian Arabic written corpuses and linguistic books.[1][32][33]

Additional scripts

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Even if the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft transcription was abundantly used in early linguistic researches about Tunisian,[14][33] some trials were performed in order to create alternative Latin scripts and writing methods.[34][35] The purpose of the trials was to have a simpler and more intuitive Latin Script Writing system than DMG or to try to solve the lack of interconvertibility between scripts as the transcription of Tunisian with the German DMG method was phonetic and not syntactic.[5][36][6]

The first successful trial to create a specific Latin script and writing method for Tunisian was the Practical Orthography of Tunisian Arabic, created by Joseph Jourdan in 1913.[37][38] Its principle was to use French consonant and vowel digraphs and phonology to transcribe non-Latin sounds.[37] In this method, kh is used to transcribe /χ/, ch to transcribe /ʃ/, th to transcribe /θ/, gh to transcribe /ʁ/, dh to transcribe /ð/ or /ðˤ/ and ou to transcribe /u:/, a to transcribe /a:/ and /ɛː/, i to transcribe /i:/ and e to transcribe the short vowels.[39] The layout was successful because it did not involve additional Latin letters and could be transcribed efficiently. It was used in the later linguistic works of Joseph Jourdan about Tunisian Arabic until 1956.[36][40][41] Moreover, it is still presently used in French books to transcribe Tunisian Arabic.[39] The method was used in 1995 by the Tunisian Arabizi, an Arabic chat alphabet, converting the consonant digraphs into digits.[42][43][44] It uses 2 to transcribe a glottal stop, 3 to transcribe /ʕ/, 5 to transcribe /χ/, 6 to transcribe /tˤ/, 7 to transcribe /ħ/, 8 to transcribe /ʁ/ and 9 to transcribe /q/.[44][34] The ch, dh, and th digraphs were kept in Tunisian Arabizi.[44] Vowels are transcribed according to their quality and not to their length as a is used to transcribe short and long [ɐ] and [æ], e is used to transcribe short and long [ɛ] and [e], u is used to transcribe short and long [y], eu is used to transcribe short and long [œ], o is used to transcribe short and long [o], ou is used to transcribe short and long [u] and i is used to transcribe short and long [i] and [ɪ].[34][45] Sometimes, users differentiate between short and long vowels by dropping short ones.[34][45] Like all other Arabic chat alphabets, its use spread considerably during the 1990s mainly with the Tunisian young people.[42][43][46] Nowadays, it is used principally on social networks and mobile phones.[44][34] Also, during the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, Tunisian Arabizi was the main script used for message transmission on internet.[47][48] After 2011, more interest was given to Tunisian Arabizi[45][49] and in 2013, a concise grammar book about Tunisian, written with Tunisian Arabizi, was issued.[50] In 2016, Tunisian Arabizi has been recognized by Ethnologue as an official informal script for writing Tunisian.[51] However, this chat alphabet is not standardized and is seen as informal as the Arabic sounds are transcribed as numbers and letters at the same time.[49][52] The use of digits as numerals and letters at the same time made transcribing Tunisian difficult to users and did not linguistically solve the matters that were faced by the Practical Transcription.[53]

Although they are popular, both methods have problems such as the possibility of ambiguity between digraphs,[54] the absolute certainty of getting a rate of graphs per phoneme that is significantly superior to 1 and of getting independent consonants having the same transliteration as the digraphs,[54] and the lack of disambiguation between /ð/ and /ðˤ/.[39]

A translation of Le Petit Nicolas by Dominique Caubet uses a phonetic transcription.[55]

Logo of Peace Corps

Separately, another Latin script transcription method was created by Patrick L. Inglefield and his team of linguists from Peace Corps Tunisia and Indiana University in 1970.[35] Letters in this method can be written in lowercase letters only, and even T and S are not equivalent to t and s as T is used to transcribe /tˤ/ and S is used to transcribe /sˤ/.[35] Moreover, three additional Latin letters are used in this writing method that are 3 (/ʕ/), ø (/ð/) and ħ (/ħ/).[35] Four common English digraphs are used that are dh (/ðˤ/), gh (/ʁ/), th (/tˤ/) and sh (/ʃ/).[35] In order to distinguish the digraphs from the independent letters written like the digraphs, the digraphs are underlined.[35] As for the vowels, they are written as å (glottal stop or /ʔ/), ā (/æ/), ā: (/ɛ:/), a (Short an or /a/), a: (long an or /a:/), i (short i or /i/), i: (long i or /i:/), u (short u or /u/), u: (Long u or /u:/).[35] This method was used in the Peace Corps books about Tunisian Arabic until 1993, when Peace Corps Tunisia became inactive.[56][57][58]

After years of works on a phonetic transliteration of Tunisian, linguists decided that the transliteration should be mainly syntactic.[59] Timothy Buckwalter created an orthography-based transcription of Arabic texts during his work for Xerox.[60] Buckwalter transcription was created in order to avoid the effect of phoneme simplification of spoken Modern Standard Arabic on the morphological analysis of the language.[59] In 2004, Tunisian linguist Mohamed Maamouri proposed to use the same transliteration for Arabic dialects and mainly Tunisian.[61] This idea was later developed by Nizar Habash and Mona Diab in 2012 into CODA-based Buckwalter transliteration that eliminates phonological simplification in the Arabic dialects through doing comparisons between dialectal structures and their Modern Standard Arabic equivalents.[62][63] In 2013, a complete work about the regulations of the use of the Buckwalter transliteration for Tunisian was issued by Ines Zribi and her team from the University of Sfax.[64] In fact, a morphological analysis method and a conventional orthography for Tunisian Arabic using this method were posted by 2014.[5][65] However, the method is currently used for computer operations only[5] and it is not used by people, as it involves some ASCII non-alphanumeric graphs as letters, and S, D and T do not correspond respectively to the same phonemes as s, d and t.[66][67] Furthermore, p does not correspond to /p/ but to ﺓ.[68] Even the modified version of Buckwalter transliteration that was proposed by Nizar Habash et al. in 2007 and that substitute ASCII non-alphanumeric graphs by additional Latin letters did not solve the other problems of the original Buckwalter transliteration.[68] That is why both versions of Buckwalter transliteration were not adopted for daily use in writing Tunisian Arabic and are adopted only for NLP purposes.[67]

Third Heading, etc

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Template:Testcases other Template:Cleanup lang The grammar, the conjugation and the morphology of Tunisian Arabic is very similar to that of other Maghrebi Arabic varieties.[1] It is based on Classical Arabic and influenced by Berber languages and Latin, with some morphological inventions. The Berber influence is more noticeable in Pre-Hilalian dialects.[1]


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Personal pronouns

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Tunisian Arabic has 7 personal pronouns since gender differentiation of the 2nd person in the singular form is absent.[1][3][57][69]

Person[1][3][57][69] Singular[1][3][57][69] Plural[1][3][57][69]
1st ānā آنا aḥnā أحنا
2nd intī إنتِي intūmā انتوما
3rd (m) hūwa هوة hūma هومة
3rd (f) hīya هية hūma هومة

Example : آنا زادة « Āna zāda. » — "Me too."[1][3][57][69]

Possessive pronouns

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The possessive pronouns are used as possessive articles when put as a suffix to a preposition or a noun.[1][3][57][69] When it is used after a verb, their functions are rather direct object pronouns.[1][3][57][69] The ones between parenthesis are the ones used after a structure finishing by a vowel.[1][3][57][69]

Person[1][3][57][69] Singular[1][3][57][69] Plural[1][3][57][69]
1st -ī (-yā) ي- -nā نا-
2nd -ik (-k) ك- -kum كم-
3rd (m) -ū (-h) ه- -hum هم-
3rd (f) -hā ها- -hum هم-

Note, that with feminine words which are generally finished with an ة a, a ت t is added before the suffixes which become tī, tik, tū, thā, tnā, tkum and thum[3][57]

Indirect object pronouns

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Indirect Object Pronouns are used as a suffix after the verb and before the ش- -š of the negation.[1][3][57][69] When there is a combination of direct and indirect object pronouns, indirect object pronouns are always written in the end.[69][2] Furthermore, the first short i for the indirect Object pronoun is always dropped when it is written after a vowel.[57][4]

Person[1][3][57][69] Singular[1][3][57][69] Plural[1][3][57][69]
1st -lī لي- -ilnā لنا-
2nd -lik لك- -ilkum لكم-
3rd (m) -lū له- -ilhum لهم-
3rd (f) -ilhā لها- -ilhum لهم-

Indefinite pronouns

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Indefinite pronouns are used as a subject to explain general ideas or to report the facts which were done by an unknown person:[1][57][69][4]

  • واحد wāḥid (m.), واحدة waḥda (f.), وحود wḥūd (pl.) “Someone”
  • الواحد il-wāḥid “The individual”
  • فلان flān, Fem. فلانة flāna “such”
  • أيّ eyy “Any”
  • إلّي يجي illī yjī, Fem. إلّي تجي illī tjī “Anyone”
  • كل واحد kull wāḥid “Everyone”
  • حاجة ḥāja “Something”
  • حتّى واحد ḥattā wāḥid “No one”
  • آخر āxir (m.), أخرة uxra (f.), أخرين uxrīn (pl.) “Other”
  • الكل il-kull “Everybody”

Interrogative pronouns

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The next interrogative pronouns are used when asking a question in Tunisian Arabic.[57][69]

Tunisian Arabic English Notes
شنوة šnūwa (m.), شنية šnīya (f.), شنومة šnūma (pl.) What šnīya is used with feminine words. šnūma is used with plural words.
آش āš or ش- š- What Used with verbs and some nouns.
شكون škūn Who
آما āmā Which
وقتاش waqtāš When
علاش ɛlāš Why
لواش lwāš What for
وين wīn or فين fīn Where
منين mnīn Where ... from
لوين lwīn Where ... to
كيفاش kīfāš How
قدّاش qaddāš How many
بقدّاش bqaddāš How much
فاش fāš What ... in
مناش mnāš What ... of
آناهو ānāhū (m.), آناهي ānāhī (f.), آناهم ānāhum (pl.) Which one(s)


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Definite articles

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Translated in English as "The" Article, "il-" (ال) is used as an added prefix to denote nouns as definite.[1][3][57][2] If the defined nouns begins with a Sun Consonant (n, ṇ, t, ṭ, d, dz, s, ṣ, š, z, ẓ, j, ŧ, đ, ḑ, l, r and ṛ), "il-" would be pronounced as i + the Sun Consonant with which the noun begins.[1][3][57][2] For example:

  • الجريدة il-jarīda [ɪʒ:æri:dæ] meaning the Newspaper[57][4]
  • الكرسي il-kursī [ɪlkʊrsi] meaning the chair[57][4]

Demonstrative articles

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Like in Standard Arabic, Demonstrative Articles can be used as demonstrative pronouns when they are put alone as subjects.[3][57] When they are articles, they can be written before or after the considered noun which should be definite by "il-".[3][57]

Demonstrative Articles Tunisian Arabic[1][3][57][70] Pronunciation[1][3][57][70]
This (near the speaker) هاذا or هاذاية (m), هاذي or هاذية (f) hāđa or hāđāya (m), hāđī or hāđīya (f)
This (far from the speaker) هاكا or هاكاية (m), هاكي or هاكية (f) hāka or hākāya (m), hākī or hākīya (f)
That هاذاكة (m), هاذيكة (f) hāđāka, hāđīka
These هاذومة hāđūma
Those هاذوكم hāđūkum

For example: "This book" could be written in Tunisian as هٰاذا الكتاب hāđā il-ktāb or even as الكتاب هٰاذا il-ktāb hāđā.[70]

When the demonstrative article is before the noun, it can be substituted by an abbreviated form which is ها for this and these, هاذْ hāđ for this and هٰاكْ hāk for that and those.[1][70]

For example, "This book" could be written in Tunisian as ها الكتاب hā il-ktāb.[70]

Possessive articles

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Possessive article[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
my متاعي mtāɛī
your (in Singular) متاعك mtāɛik
his متاعه mtāɛū
her متاعها mtāɛhā
our متاعنا mtāɛnā
your (in Plural) متاعكم mtāɛkum
their متاعهم mtāɛhum

Although they do exist, possessive articles in Tunisian Arabic are not used the same way as in English. They mainly show possession valorization in a sentence. Furthermore, they are only used after a definite noun.[3][57][4][31]

For example: الكورة متاعك "il-kūra mtāɛik"- "Your ball"

Indeed, as in Arabic and other languages, possessive pronouns replaces them when there is not a valorization and a stress of the fact of possessing the item. These suffixes are the same as the ones used for conjugation of some verbs, and represent the ending sound of the possessive articles.[1][3]

For example: كورتك "kūrtik"- "Your ball"

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Differently from English which uses base form for the second verb (invariable for all pronouns), Tunisian Arabic uses present (or rather imperfect) form for it.[3][71] However, the second verb could be in the past (or rather perfect) form for the three modal verbs راه rāh, حقّه Haqqū and ماذابيه māđābīh (لوكان lūkān should be written before the second verb) which do not have a past form.[57][71] Moreover, قاعد qāɛid could be used before an active participle.[3][57][69][2] Furthermore, all the modal verbs could be in negative form as in Standard English excepting راهه rāhū and ماذابيه māđābīh.[57][71] For example, ماذابينا نمشيوا māđābīnā nimšīū becomes in negative form ماذابينا ما نمشيوش māđābīnā mā nimšīūš and راهه تكلّم Rāhū tkallim becomes in negative form راهه ما تكلّمش Rāhū mā tkallimš.[57][71]

Hāhū (To be, drawing attention to the presence of the referent)

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Person[69][31] Tunisian Arabic[1][72] Pronunciation[1][72]
I am هاني hānī
You are (in Singular) هاك hāk
He is هاهه hāhū
She is هاهي hāhī
We are هانا hānā
You are (in Plural) هاكم hākum
They are هاهم hāhum

Example: هاني هوني « Hānī hūnī. » "I'm here."

Ṛāhū (To be, with more intensity by emphasizing it)

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Person[69][31] Tunisian Arabic[69][31] Pronunciation[69][31]
I am راني ṛānī
You are (in Singular) راك ṛāk
He is راهه ṛāhū
She is راهي ṛāhī
We are رانا ṛānā
You are (in Plural) راكم ṛākum
They are راهم ṛāhum

Example : راني هوني « Ṛānī hūnī. » — "attention, I'm here."

Māhū (To be, as an evidence marker or in a questioning manner as in tag questions)

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Person[69][31] Tunisian Arabic[73][74] Pronunciation[73][74]
Am I not ماني mānī
Are you not ماك māk
Is he/it not ماهه māhū
Is she not ماهي māhī
Are we not مانا māna
Are you not (in Plural) ماكم mākum
Are they not ماهم māhum

Example : ماني هوني « Mānī hūnī. » — "Am I not, here ?." or « Māchīn, māhū ?. » — "We are going, isn't it?."

Qāɛid (To be, at the immediate moment)

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Person[3][57][69][4] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][69][4] Pronunciation[3][57][69][4]
I am قاعد Qāɛid
You are (in Singular) قاعد Qāɛid
He is قاعد Qāɛid
She is قاعدة Qāɛda
We are قاعدين Qāɛdīn
You are (in Plural) قاعدين Qāɛdīn
They are قاعدين Qāɛdīn

Example : قاعدين ناكلوا « Qāɛdīn nāklū. » — "we are eating."

Najjam (Could)

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Person[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
I could نجّمت najjamt
You could (in Singular) نجّمت najjamt
He could نجّم najjam
She could نجّمت najjmit
We could نجّمنا najjimnā
You could (in Plural) نجّمتوا najjimtū
They could نجّموا najjmū

Example : نجموا ياكلوا « najjmū yāklū. » — "They could eat."

Ynajjam (Can, To be able to)

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Person[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
I can نَّجّم nnajjam
You can (in Singular) تنجّم tnajjam
He can ينجّم ynajjam
She can تنجّم tnajjam
We can نَّجّمُوا nnajjmū
You can (in Plural) تنجّموا tnajjmū
They can ينجّموا ynajjmū

Example : ينجّموا ياكلوا « Ynajjmū yāklū. » — "They can eat."

Ḥaqū (Should)

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Person[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
I should حقني ḥaqnī
You should (in Singular) حقك ḥaqik
He should حقه ḥaqū
She should حقها ḥaqhā
We should حقنا ḥaqnā
You should (in Plural) حقكم ḥaqkum
They should حقهم ḥaqhum

Example : حقه يتكلّم « Ḥaqū yitkallim. » — "He should speak."

Kaṛū (Would better, stronger intensity than should)

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Person[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
I would better كارني kaṛnī
You would better (in Singular) كارك kaṛik
He would better كاره kaṛū
She would better كارها kaṛhā
We would better كارنا kaṛnā
You would better (in Plural) كاركم kaṛkum
They would better كارهم kaṛhum

Example : كارني تتكلّم « kaṛnī tkāllimt. » — "I would better have spoken."

Yilzmū (Have to)

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Person[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
I have to يلزمني yilzimnī
You have to (in Singular) يلزمك yilzmik
He has to يلزمه yilzmū
She has to يلزمها yilzimhā
We have to يلزمنا yilzimnā
You have to (in Plural) يلزمكم yilzimkum
They have to يلزمهم yilzimhum

Example : يلزمنا نمشيوا « Yilzimnā nimšīū. » — "We have to go."

Lāzmū (Must)

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Person[3][57][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[3][57][4][31] Pronunciation[3][57][4][31]
I must لازمني lāzimnī
You must (in Singular) لازمك lāzmik
He must لازمه lāzmū
She must لازمها lāzimhā
We must لازمنا lāzimnā
You must (in Plural) لازمكم lāzimkum
They must لازمهم lāzimhum

Example : لازمنا نمشيوا « Lāzimnā nimšīū. » — "We must go."

Māđābīh (Had better)

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Person[57][2][4][31] Tunisian Arabic[57][2][4][31] Pronunciation[57][2][4][31]
I had better ماذابيا māđābīyā
You had better (in Singular) ماذابيك māđābīk
He had better ماذابيه māđābīh
She had better ماذابيها māđābīhā
We had better ماذابينا māđābīnā
You had better (in Plural) ماذابيكم māđābīkum
They had better ماذابيهم māđābīhum

Example : ماذابينا نمشيوا « Māđābīnā nimšīū. » — "We had better go."

Discourse markers

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Tunisian Arabic involve Discourse markers that are used to emphasize some facts in discussions.[73] These facts could be even evidences and conclusions.[73]

Evidence markers

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Evidence markers are mainly modal verbs. ṛāhū راهه is used to mark a fact as evident in the affirmative form.[73] It is substituted by ṃāhū ماهه when asking about a supposed evident fact.[73]

Conclusion markers

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Conclusion markers are mainly conjunctions. yāxī ياخي is used to mark a fact as a conclusion in the affirmative form.[73] It is substituted by mālā مالا when asking to approve supposed conclusion.[73]

Preverbal markers

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Preverbal markers or auxiliaries are verbs that are used to denote the status of a given action. They are conjugated as Subject + Preverbal marker (Any tense and form) + Action Verb (In present unless the preverbal marker is in imperative.[75] The verb is in imperative in this situation).[75][76] For example, qūm ixdim قوم اخدم meaning go to work.

Tunisian Arabic English Status
kān كان + Action Verb[75] to be doing something Finalization
bdā بدا + Action Verb[75] to begin doing something Initiation
qɛad قعد + Action Verb[75] to stay doing something Progression
ɛāwid عاود + Action Verb[75] to return doing something Repetition
ḥabb حب + Action Verb[75] to like doing something Passion
jā جا + Action Verb[75] to come doing something Intention
qām قام + Action Verb[75] to stand up to do something Intention
ṣār صار + Action Verb[76] to become doing something Initiation
wallā ولى + Action Verb[4] to become doing something Initiation
mšā مشى + Action Verb[75] to be going to do something Intention
bqā بقى + Action Verb[76] to remain doing something Progression
rjaɛ رجع + Action Verb[75] to return doing something Repetition
jarrib جرب + Action Verb[75] to try doing something Experimentation
ittilizim اتلزم + Action Verb[75] to engage oneself in doing something Engagement
kammal كمل + Action Verb[76] to finish doing something Finalization

Verb conjugation

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Perfective and imperfective tenses

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Regular verbs

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There are significant differences in morphology between Tunisian and Standard Arabic.[1][3][77] Standard Arabic marks 13 person/number/gender distinctions in the verbal paradigm, whereas the dialect of Tunis marks only 7 (the gender distinction is found only in the third person singular).[1][3][77] Nomadic Tunisian Arabic dialects also mark gender for the second person in singular, in common with most spoken varieties of Arabic elsewhere in the Arabic world.[1][77]

In general, the regular verbs are conjugated according to the following pattern:[1][3][69][2][77]

k-t-b "to write"
singular plural singular plural
1st person ktibt كتبت ktib كتبنا niktib نكتب niktbū نكتبوا
2nd person ktibt كتبت ktib كتبتوا tiktib تكتب tiktbū تكتبوا
3rd masculine ktib كتب kitbū كتبوا yiktib يكتب yiktbū يكتبوا
feminine kitbit كتبت tiktib تكتب

The second-person singular of the three Nomadic Tunisian Arabic dialects has distinct masculine and feminine forms, with the masculine forms being as above كتبت ktibt and تكتب tiktib, and the feminine forms being كتبتِ ktibtī (perfective) and تكتبي tiktbī (imperfective).[1]

Weak verbs

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Verbs with a final semivowel ā, known as "weak" verbs, have a different pattern.[1][78] This pattern is determined according to the third letter in the root of the verb.[1][78] Moreover, the verbs having a glottal stop as a first letter of their root are also considered as weak verbs.[3][2][23][17][79]

Nomadic dialects have a different third-person singular feminine perfective form as in مشيت [mʃit], حبيت [ħbit], بديت [bdit] and خذيت [χðit][1][79][32] and delete the stem vowel in the plural imperfective forms, giving forms such as نمشوا [nimʃu], نحبوا [niħbu], نبدوا [nibdu] and نوخذوا [nu:χðu].[1][79] Furthermore, Sahil and Southeastern dialects tend to use Template:IPAslink in place of Template:IPAslink in the perfective conjugation. For example, تمشيوا timcīū is pronounced as [timʃe:u] in Sahil and southeastern dialects.[1]

[j] as a third letter of the root (y aspect)
m-ʃ-j mšā "to go"[1][3]
singular plural singular plural
1st person īt مشيت īnā مشينا niī نمشي niīū نمشيوا
2nd person ītū مشيتوا tiī تمشي tiīū تمشيوا
3rd masculine ā مشى āū مشاوا yiī يمشي yiīū يمشيوا
feminine āt مشات tiī تمشي
[w] as a third letter of the root (w aspect)
ħ-b-w ḥbā "to crawl"[1][3]
singular plural singular plural
1st person ḥbīt حبيت ḥbūnā حبونا niḥbū نحبو niḥbāū نحباوا
2nd person ḥbītū حبيتوا taḥbū تحبو taḥbāū تحباوا
3rd masculine ḥbā حبا ḥbāū حباوا yaḥbū يحبو yaḥbāū يحباوا
feminine ḥbāt حبات taḥbū تحبو
[ʔ] as a third letter of the root
b-d-ʔ bdā "to begin"[2][79]
singular plural singular plural
1st person bdīt بديت bdīnā بدينا nibdā نبدا nibdāū نبداوا
2nd person bdītūبديتوا tibdā تبدا tibdāū تبداوا
3rd masculine bdā بدا bdāū بداوا yibdā يبدا yibdāū يبداوا
feminine bdāt بدات tibdā تبدا
[ʔ] as a first letter of the root
ʔ-χ-ð xđā "to take"[78][79]
singular plural singular plural
1st person īt خذيت īnā خذينا xđ ناخذ ū ناخذوا
2nd person ītū خذيتوا xđ تاخذ ū تاخذوا
3rd masculine ā ٰخذا āū خذاوا xđ ياخذ ū ياخذوا
feminine āt خذات xđ تاخذ

Irregular verbs

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Pronoun ɛandū “to have”[69][4] ḥājtū “to need”[69][4]
ānā آنا ɛandī عندي ḥājtī حاجتي
intī إنتِي ɛandik عندك ḥājtik حاجتك
hūwa هوة ɛandū عنده ḥājtū حاجته
hīya هية ɛandhā عندها ḥājthā حاجتها
aḥnā أحنا ɛandnā عندنا ḥājtnā حاجتنا
intūmā إنتوما ɛandkum عندكم ḥājtkum حاجتكم
hūma هومة ɛandhum عندهم ḥājthum حاجتهم

Future tense

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The future tense in Tunisian Arabic is also similar to Berber, more precisely Zenata Berber[80] that was spoken by the majority of Tunisians ancestors:[1]

  • باش bāš + verb → "will" + verb (ex: باش تتكسّر /baːʃ titkassir/ → it will break)[1][57]
  • ماش māš or باش bāš + verb → "will" + verb (ex: ماش نكسّرها /maːʃ nkassirha/ → I will break it)[1][57]

Taw or Tawwa can be used as a time indicator with a verb in present to mean "being going to do something".[57][4]

Imperative tense

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The imperative form is considered the stem for the present tense.[57][4]

Singular Plural
ušrub اُشْرُبْ ušrbū اُشْرْبوا
aɛṭī اَعْطي aɛṭīū اَعْطِيوا

Conditional tenses

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Conditional present

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The conditional present is conjugated as Kaṛū or Ḥaqqū + Verb in Present tense.[3][69] This tense is generally used to show regret.[3][69]

Pronoun Auxiliary Verbs
ānā آنا kāṛnī كارني ḥaqqnī حقّني
intī إنتِي kāṛik كارك ḥaqqik حقّك
hūwa هوة kāṛū كاره ḥaqqū حقّه
hīya هية kāṛhā كارها ḥaqqhā حقّها
aḥnā أحنا kāṛnā كارنا ḥaqqnā حقّنا
intūmā إنتوما kāṛkum كاركم ḥaqqkum حقّكم
hūma هومة kāṛhum كارهم ḥaqqhum حقّهم

Conditional past

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I should have done something

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For the past conditional, the same structures seen above are used, but instead of the present tense, the past tense is used.[57][4]

I could have done something

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This structure is conjugated as kān ynajjam + Verb in the present tense.[69][4]

Pronoun Auxiliary Verb
ānā آنا kunt nnajjam كنت نّجّم
intī إنتي kunt tnajjam كنت تنجّم
hūwa هوة kān ynajjam كان ينجّم
hīya هية kānit tnajjam كانت تنجّم
aḥnā أحنا kunnā nnajjmū كنّا نّجّموا
intūmā إنتوما kuntū tnajjmū كنتوا تنجّموا
hūma هومة kānū ynajjmū كانوا ينجّموا

I would have done something

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This structure is conjugated as ṛāhū + Verb in the present tense.[69][4]

Verb derivation

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Verb derivation is done by adding prefixes or by doubling consonants to the simple verb having the root al (Triconsonantal) or faɛlil (Quadriconsonantal). The verb's root determines the possible derivations.[1][57][4][21] Generally, the patterns used in Verb Derivation are the same as in Standard Arabic.[1][57]

Triconsonantal verbs

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  • Causative: is obtained by doubling consonants :
خرج /χraʒ/ "to go out" → خرّج /χarraʒ/ "to take out"[57][4]
دخل /dχal/ "to enter" → دخّل /daχχal/ "to bring in, to introduce"[57][4]
  • Adding ā between the first two radical consonants, e.g. xālaṭ “to frequent”[57][4]
  • Inchoative: Adding ā between the last two radical consonants, e.g. ḥmār “turn red”[57][4]
  • Passive: This derivation is influenced by Berber and is different from the one of Classical Arabic (the passive voice in classical Arabic uses vowel changes and not verb derivation), it is obtained by prefixing the verb with /t-/ (First letter in the root as Moon Consonant), /tt-/ (First letter in the root as Sun Consonant), /tn-/ (can efficiently substitute tt- when the verb is conjugated in Present Tense) or /n-/ (can efficiently substitute t- when the verb is conjugated in Present Tense):[1][3][57][69][4][81]
قتل /qtal/ "to kill" → تقتل /taqtal/ "to be killed"[1]
شرب /ʃrab/ "to drink" → تّشرب /ttaʃrab/ "to be drunk".[1]
  • Prefixing ist– to the verb, e.g. istaxbar “to get informed”[57][4]
  • Prefixing i- to the verb and Infixing t after the first radical consonant, e.g. اجتمع ijtmaɛ “to assemble”[57][4]

Quadriconsonantal verbs

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  • Prefixing it– to the verb, e.g. اتفركس itfarkis “to be searched” [4][21]

Verb forms

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Exclamative form

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The exclamative form can be formed by the intonation and in this particular situation, the sentence ends with an exclamation mark to distinguish it from an affirmative sentence[3][57][69][4] Furthermore, it can be formed using Qaddāš + Noun or Possessive Pronoun + Adjective or Imperfective verb + !.[3][57][69][4]

Interrogative form

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The interrogative form can be formed by two methods: The intonation and the Suffix .[69][4] When an interrogative adverb or pronoun exists, the question is an āš question that is equivalent to the English wh question and if the question does not involve any interrogative adverb or pronoun, it is an īh/lā question that is equivalent to the English Yes/No Question.[69][4][82]

  • The Intonation: Which is a variation of the spoken pitch to distinguish a question from an affirmative sentence. In writing, a question mark is used after an affirmative sentence to transform it into an interrogative sentence.[57][69][2][4][82]

Example: تحبّ تمشي لتونس tḥibb timšī l- tūnis?, Do you want to go to Tunisia?

  • The Suffix : -š or -šī can be suffixed to the verb to indicate an interrogative sentence.[57][69][2][4][82]

Example: تعرفوشي؟ taɛṛfūšī?, Do you know him?

Negative form

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  • With verbs conjugated in the present, past and conditional tenses:

To make the negative form, we put me in front of the verb and š at the end of the verb.[1][3][57][2]
[82] Example: ما فهمش الدرس mā fhimš il-dars, He didn't understand the lesson.
N.B.: With the past conditional (would have) this negative form is used with the main verb.[57][69][82]
Example: لوكان عرفت راني ما جيتش lūkān ɛṛaft rānī mā jītš, If I knew I would not have come.

  • With The Future And Present Participle:

To negate the present participles and the verbs conjugated in the future, mūš, or its conjugated form, is added in front of the verb.[1][3][57][2][82]
Example: موش باش نشوفه الجمعة هاذي mūš bāš nšūfū ij-jumɛa hāđī, I won't see him this week.
موش mūš is conjugated as follows:[57][69]

Pronoun Auxiliary Verb
ānā آنا mānīš مانيش
intī إنتي mākiš ماكش
hūwa هوة māhūš ماهوش
hīya هية māhīš ماهيش
aḥnā أحنا mānāš مناش
intūmā انتوما mākumš مكمش
hūmā هومة māhumš مهمش

Relative clause

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The only relative pronoun used in Tunisian Arabic is illī meaning who or that and its short form is lī.[2][4]


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Masculine gender

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Nouns ending either in a consonant, u, i, ū or ī are usually masculine.[69][4] For example: باب bāb “door”, كرسي kursī “chair”.[69][4] There are, however, some exceptions. Indeed, some consonant-final and some ī-final nouns are in the feminine gender (usually, names of countries and cities, and names of parts of the body, and nouns ending in –t are in the feminine).[69][4] For example: پاريز Pārīz “Paris”, بيت bīt “room”, بسكلات bisklāt “bicycle”.[69][4]

Uninflected feminine gender

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Nouns ending with a or ā vowel are usually in the feminine.[1][69]

For example: سنّة sinna “tooth”, خريطة xarīṭa “map”.

There are, however, a few exceptions: أعمى aɛmā “blind man”, ممشى mamšā “alley”, عشاء ɛšā “dinner”.[69]

Inflected feminine gender

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  • Feminization: Generally, male nouns form their feminine by the suffixation of a vowel.[69][4] For example, كلب kalb > كلبة kalba, جدّ jadd > جدّة jadda, بطل bṭal > بطلة baṭla. Some male nouns, however, do not form their feminine by the suffixation of a, but have suppletive female counterparts.[69][4] For example, راجل rājel > مرا mra, ولد wlad > طفلة ṭufla, بو bū > أمّ umm.[69][4]
  • Individual singular of collective plural and mass nouns: Similarly, collective plural and mass nouns form their feminine by the suffixation of a. For example, زيتون zītūn “olive” > زيتونة zītūna “an olive”, تمر tmar “dates” > تمرة tamra “a date”.[69]
  • Individual singular of verbal nouns: Generally, verbal nouns form their individual singulars by the suffixation of a. For example, بني bany > بنية banya, تفركيس tfarkīs > تفركيسة tfarkīsa.[69][4]

The dual

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Marking of the dual for nouns by adding -īn as a suffix to them is only used for quantity measures, for nouns having the CCVC form such as C is an ungeminated consonant and V is a short vowel and things often occurring in twos (e.g. eyes, hands, parents).[1][4] In general, these nouns have broken plurals and not regular ones.[4] Marking of the dual is also done by writing zūz before the regular or irregular plural noun.[57][4] For example:

  • سبوع sbūɛ (finger) becomes سبوعين sūbɛīn
  • ليل līl (night) becomes زوز ليالي zūz lyālī

The plural

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The plural in Tunisian can be classified according to its structure. There are mainly two types of structure: suffixed structure and internal structure.[69] However and as reported in many studies, the rate of broken plurals for Tunisian and by that the rate of the use of the Pluralization Internal Structure is more important than the one for Standard Arabic and several other Arabic dialects.[57][69][4][45][83][84][85][86][87][88] This considerable use of the Internal Structure of Pluralization is considered by most of the linguists as an influence of the Berber substratum.[89][90]

Using the Suffixed Structure, Singular nouns may form their plural by the suffixation of any of the following plural suffixes:[69]

Word end Suffix
-uw, a vowel or a consonant –āt
-iy –īn

This kind of plural is considered as regular plurals.[57][69] However, There is a suffixed structure which is considered as a broken plural which is the plural of name of the noun constituted of the name of a town or a group of people and the suffix ī.[57][69] This structure is done to attribute the person to a group or a city and its plural is obtained by adding ā after the second letter of the root and adding a as a suffix in the end of the word.[69]

Using the Internal Structure, the plural in Tunisian follows the following patterns such as C is an ungeminated consonant, V is a short vowel, C: is a geminated consonant:[69][4]

Singular pattern Plural pattern
CāC CīCān
CCaC5 CCūCāt
CāCiC or CaCC5 CCūC
CaCC, CCaC and CāCiC could have multiple patterns as plural noun patterns.[69] The criterion of the choice of the plural form for CaCC, CCaC and CāCiC is still not known.[69]


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Uninflected adjectives are masculine singular.[69] There are two main types of adjectives:[69]

  • Participial adjectives: Participles, whether real or historical, may function both as adjectives and nouns.[2]

E.g. متغشّش mtġaššaš “angry”.

  • Other adjectives: These include any non-participial adjectives.[69]

E.g. طويل ṭwīl “tall”.


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Like participles and some nouns, adjectives form their feminine by the suffixation of a.[69] For example, جيعان jīɛān > جيعانة jīɛāna “hungry”, سخون sxūn > سخونة sxūna “hot”.

In some cases, when the adjective ends with an i vowel, the i becomes a y.[69] E.g. باهي bāhi > باهية bāhya Some uninflected adjectives are in the feminine. Their masculine counterparts are either suppletive or do not exist.[69]

For example: حبلة ḥibla “pregnant”, عزوزة ɛzūza “old woman”.

The masculine counterpart of عزوزة ɛzūza is شايب šāyib, though, عزوز ɛzūz exists in some idiolects.[69]

Some adjectives cannot be inflected either for gender or number.[69] E.g. وردي wardi “pink”, حموم ḥmūm “disastreous”.


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Unlike nouns, adjectives are not inflected for dual. The plural is used instead.[69] Like nouns, there are two main types of structure: suffixed structure and internal structure.[69]

  • Suffixed Structure: There are two types of plural suffixes which can be suffixed to a singular adjective: –īn (when the adjective finishes with an i+Consonant) and –a (for all other situations excepting the ones having an internal form).[69]
  • Internal Structure: Generally, adjective's plural follows the following structures: CCāC (for CCīC, CCūC, CVCCūn and CVC: as singular patterns), CuCCā (for CCīC and CCiy as singular patterns), CCāCiC (for CVCâC, CVC:ūC, CCV:CV, CVCCV:C as singular patterns), CCuC (for CCīC, aCCā and aCCaC as singular patterns), CCaC (for CaCCī as a singular pattern), CCāCa (for CCīC and CVCCV as singular patterns and for adjectives finishing by an ān), CCī (for aCCaC and aCCā as singular patterns), CuCCān (for CuCāC as a singular pattern), CCaC:Ca (for CaCCūC as a singular pattern), CVC:āC (for CāCiC as a singular pattern), CūCa (for CīC as a singular pattern) and CCāCCa (for CVCCV:C as a singular pattern and for adjectives finishing by an ī).[69][4]

Adjective forms

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Comparative form

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The comparative of superiority: The comparative form is the same whether the adjective is feminine or masculine.[57][4]

  • Adjectives composed of 3 consonants with a full vowel on the second The comparative form is formed by adding a before the adjective and by replacing the full vowel with a breve vowel, plus min after the adjective. E.g. كبير kbīr > أكبر من akbir min “bigger than”[57][4]
  • Adjectives ending with a vowel The comparative is formed by adding a as a prefix, and replacing the final vowel with ā. When the first syllable of the adjective has a long vowel, this vowel is removed. E.g. عالي ɛālī > أعلى aɛlā min “higher than”.[57][4]

The comparative of inferiority: It's formed by the following structure: أقلّ aqall + noun + من min. For example, هي أقلّ طول من خوها hīya aqall ṭūl min xūha “she’s less tall than her brother”[57][4]

The comparative of equality: It is formed by using the following structure: noun (subject) + فرد fard + (comparative) noun + personal pronoun + و w + noun (compared). For example, فاطمة فرد طول هي و خوها Fāṭma fard ṭūl hīya w xūha “Fatma is as tall as her brother”. This structure can be simplified as follows: noun + و w + noun + فرد fard + noun. For example, فاطمة و خوها فرد طول Fāṭma w xūha fard ṭūl “Fatma is as tall as her brother”[57][4]

Superlative form

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It is formed by adding واحد wāḥid (m.), واحدة waḥda (f.) or وحود wḥūd (pl.) after the comparative of superiority.[57][4]

Proportion in Tunisian Arabic

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In order to denote the proportion of the participants in the given action from a greater community, the adjectives and adverbs of proportion shown here are used.[57][4]

  • کل kull (adj.) “Every”
  • جمیع or معا بعضنا jmīɛ (adj.) or mɛā bɛaḑnā (adv.) “Together”
  • بعض or شويّة baɛḑ or šwayya (adj.) “Some”
  • فرد fard (adj.) “Same”
  • وحد waḥd with possessive pronoun (adv.) “Alone”


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  • Cardinal numbers: The transcription of cardinal numbers is the same as in English and some other European languages.[4][91] The number is read from left to right.[4][91] This table provides several examples of names of cardinals in Tunisian Arabic and can give a better overview about this fact.[4][91]
Cardinal Tunisian Arabic
0 ṣfir صفر
1 wāḥid واحد
2 iŧnīn or zūz اثنين or زوز
3 ŧlāŧa ثلاثة
4 arbɛa أربعة
5 xamsa خمسة
6 sitta ستّة
7 sabɛa سبعة
8 ŧmanya ثمانية
9 tisɛa تسعة
10 ɛacra عشرة
11 ḥdāc احداش
12 ŧnāc اثناش
13 ŧluṭṭāc ثلظّاش
14 arbaɛṭāc اربعطاش
15 xumsṭāc خمسطاش
16 sutṭāc سطّاش
17 sbaɛṭāc سبعطاش
18 ŧmanṭāc ثمنطاش
19 tsaɛṭāc تسعطاش
20 ɛicrīn عشرين
21 wāḥid w ɛicrīn واحد وعشرين
30 ŧlāŧīn ثلاثين
40 arbɛīn أربعين
50 xamsīn خمسين
60 sittīn ستّين
70 sabɛīn سبعين
80 ŧmanīn ثمانين
90 tisɛīn تسعين
100 mya مية
101 mya w wāḥid مية وواحد
110 mya w ɛacra مية وعشرة
200 mītīn ميتين
300 ŧlāŧamya ثلاثة مية
1000 alf الف
1956 alf w tisɛamya w sitta w xamsīn الف وتسعة مية وستّة وخمسين
2000 alfīn الفين
10000 ɛacra lāf عشرة الاف
100000 myat elf مية الف
1000000 malyūn مليون
123456789 mya w ŧlāŧa w ɛicrīn malyūn w arbɛa mya w sitta w xamsīn alf w sabɛa mya w tisɛa w ŧmanīn مية وثلاثة وعشرين مليون وأربعة مية وستّة وخمسين الف وسبعة ميه وتسعة وثمانين
1000000000 milyār مليار
  • Nouns following a cardinal number:
    • Number one is generally not used with the single object counted unless we want to emphasize that there is only a single thing. E.g. طاولة ṭāwla “a table”, طاولة واحدة ṭāwla waḥda “one table”.[4][91]
    • For the number two, we use the dual of the noun or we use زوز zūz plus the plural of the noun.[4][91]
    • From 3 to 10, we use the number plus the plural of the noun. E.g. خمسة كتب xamsa ktub “five books”.[4][91]
    • From 11 to 19, we use the number to which we add the consonant n plus the noun in singular. E.g. سبعطاش كتاب sbaɛţācn ktāb “17 books”.[4][91]
    • From 20 to 99, we use the number plus the singular. E.g. ثمانين دينار ŧmānīn dinār “80 Dinars”[4][91]
    • For numbers ending with a like مية mya, an –at is suffixed to it when used with a noun. E.g. مية دولار myāt dolār “100 dollars”.[4][91]
    • For the other numbers, we use the number plus the singular. E.g. الف ميترو alf mītrū “1000 meters”.[4][91]
    • Number zero is generally expressed as حتّى ḥatta + noun. E.g. حتّى كرهبة ḥatta karhba “zero cars”.[4][91]

Days of the week

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Standard English[3][4] Tunisian Arabic[3][4]
Monday il-iŧnīn الإثنين
Tuesday il-ŧlāŧ الثلاث
Wednesday il-irbɛa الإربعة
Thursday il-xmīs الخميس
Friday il-jimɛa الجمعة
Saturday il-sibt السبت
Sunday il-aḥadd الأحدّ

Months of the year

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Standard English[3][4] Tunisian Arabic[3][4]
January Jānfī جانفي
February Fīvrī فيڥري
March Mārs مارس
April Avrīl أڥريل
May Māy ماي
June Jwān جوان
July Jwīlya جويلية
August Ūt أوت
September Siptumbir سپتمبر
October Uktobir أكتوبر
November Nūvumbir نوڥمبر
December Dīsumbir ديسمبر

Note, that in this case, the modern months are a tunisification of the name of the months from French, inherited from the protectorate times. The native names of the months were that of their original Latin names, following the berber calendar:

Standard English[3][4] Tunisian Arabic[3][4]
January Yennā(ye)r ينار، يناير
February Fūrā(ye)r فورار، فورسير
March Mārsū مارسو
April Abrīl أبريل
May Māyū مايو
June Yūnyū يونيو
July Yūlyū يوليو
August Awūsū أووسو
September Shtamber شتمبر
October Uktūber أكتوبر
November Nūfember نوفمبر
December Dejember دجمبر


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The ordinals in Tunisian are from one to twelve only, in case of higher numbers, the cardinals are used.[2]

English Ordinals[2][4] Masculine[2][4] Feminine[2][4] Plural[2][4]
First أول uwwil or أولاني ūlānī أولى ūlā or أولانية ūlānīya أولين ūlīn or أولانين ūlānīn
Second ثاني ŧāni ثانية ŧānya ثانين ŧānīn
Third ثالت ŧāliŧ ثالتة ŧālŧa ثالتين ŧālŧīn
Fourth رابع rābiɛ رابعة rābɛa رابعين rābɛīn
Fifth خامس xāmis خامسة xāmsa خامسين xāmsīn
Sixth سادس sādis سادسة sādsa سادسين sādsīn
Seventh سابع sābiɛ سابعة sābɛa سابعين sābɛīn
Eighth ثامن ŧāmin ثامنة ŧāmna ثامنين ŧāmnīn
Ninth تاسع tāsiɛ تاسعة tāsɛa تاسعين tāsɛīn
Tenth عاشر ɛāšir عاشرة ɛāšra عاشرين ɛāšrīn
Eleventh حادش ḥādiš حادشة ḥādša حادشين ḥādšīn
Twelfth ثانش ŧāniš ثانشة ŧānšā ثانشين ŧānšīn


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There are special forms for fractions from two to ten only, elsewhere percentage is used.[2][4] The Fractions can be used for various purposes like the expression of proportion and the expression of time...[4] For example, the expression of 11:20 in Tunisian Arabic is il-ḥdāc w ŧluŧ and the expression of 11:40 in Tunisian Arabic is nuṣṣ il-nhār ġīr ŧluŧ.[4] Similarly, midnight is nuṣṣ il-līl and noon is nuṣṣ il-nhār.[3]

Standard English[2] Tunisian Arabic[2]
one half نصف nuṣf or نصّ nuṣṣ
one third ثلث ŧluŧ
one quarter ربع rbuɛ
one fifth خمس xmus
one sixth سدس sdus
one seventh سبع sbuɛ
one eighth ثمن ŧmun
one ninth تسع tsuɛ
one tenth عشر ɛšur

Time measurement during the day

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As said above, time measurement method and vocabulary below 1 hour is very peculiar in Tunisian and is not found in neither the other dialects of Maghrebi Arabic or standard Arabic. Indeed, Tunisian, uses fractions of 1 hour and a special unit of 5 minutes called دراج "drāj", to express time. Also, as in English as "it's 3 am/pm" or just "it's 3" and contrary to other languages such as standard Arabic, Tunisian do not precise the word "sāɛa (hour)" when expressing the time of the day as the subject is considered implied. Below is the list of the vocabulary used for time indication:

Standard English[2][4][21] Tunisian Arabic[2][4][21]
1 second ثانية ŧānya or سيڨوندة sīgūnda
1 minute دقيقة dqīqa
5 minutes درج draj
15 minutes ربع rbuɛ
20 minutes ثلث ŧluŧ or أربعة دراج arbɛa drāj
30 minutes نصف nuṣf or نصّ nuṣṣ

Basic measures

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The Basic units for Tunisian Arabic are used in the same way as in English.[2][4][21]

Standard English[2][4][21] Tunisian Arabic[2][4][21]
Three kānūn كانون
Four ḥāra حارة
Five ɛiddat īdik عدّة إيدك
Twelve ṭuzzīna طزّينة
One centimeter ṣāntī صانتي
One meter mītrū ميترو
One deciliter ɛšūrīya عشورية
Two deciliters xmūsīya خموسية
A quarter of a litre (fluid) rbuɛ ītra ربع إيترة
One litre ītra إيترة
Ten litres (fluid) dīga ديڨة
Ten liters (mass) galba ڨلبة
Twenty liters (mass) wība ويبة
Three grams ūqīya أوقية
One pound rṭal رطل
One kilogram kīlū كيلو
One ton ṭurnāṭa طرناطة
One second ŧānya or sīgūnda ثانية or سيڨوندة
One minute dqīqa دقيقة
Five minutes draj درج
One hour sāɛa ساعة
One day nhar نهار
One week jumɛa جمعة
One month šhar شهر
One year ɛām عام
One century qarn قرن

The measure units are accorded when in dual or in plural, for example:[3][2][4][21]

  • dqīqa becomes دقيقتين dqīqtīn (2 minutes) in dual
  • sāɛa becomes سوايع swāyaɛ (hours) in plural


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There are two types of prepositions: single (commonly used) and compound prepositions (rarely used).[2]

Single prepositions

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Standard English[2][4] Tunisian Arabic[2][4]
In في fi- (fī before indefinite nouns or prepositions)
With بـ b-
To (Place, Person) لـ l-
From مـ m- (من min before indefinite nouns or prepositions)
At عند ɛand
With معا mɛā
On, About عـ ɛa- (على ɛlā before indefinite nouns or prepositions)
Between بين bīn
Before قبل qbal
After بعد baɛd
Behind ورا wrā
Over فوق fūq
Under تحت taḥt
In the middle of وسط wusṭ
Inside فسط fusṭ
Like كـ ki- (kīf before indefinite nouns or prepositions)
As much as, as big as ... قدّ qadd
Without بلاش blāš
Even حتّى ḥattā
Round جيهة jīhit, شيرة šīrit
In front of قدّام quddām
Of متاع mtāɛ
About (number, quantity, distance) مدوار madwār
Approximatively تقريب taqrīb

Compound prepositions

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Compound prepositions are the prepositions that are obtained through the succession of two single prepositions.[2] وسط Wusṭ, جيهة jīhit, شيرة šīrit and متاع mtāɛ can be used as second prepositions with any single preposition before it excepting وسط Wusṭ, جيهة jīhit, شيرة šīrit and متاع mtāɛ.[2] The other prepositions are: من بين min bīn, من بعد min baɛd, من عند min ɛand, من تحت min taḥt, من قبل min qbal, من فوق min fūq, من ورا min wrā, كيف بعد kīf baɛd, كيف عند kīf ɛand, كيف تحت kīf taḥt, كيف قبل kīf qbal, كيف فوق kīf fūq, كيف ورا kīf wrā, كيف معا kīf mɛā, قبل فوق qbal fūq, على فوق ɛlā fūq, بتحت b- taḥt, في تحت fī taḥt, ببلاش b- blāš, من قدّام min quddām and حتّى قدّام ḥattā quddām.[2]


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Coordinate conjunctions

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Coordinate conjunctions link verbs, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, clauses, phrases and sentences of the same structure.[2][4]

Standard English[2][4] Tunisian Arabic[2][4]
And w و
Or w illā... wallā وإلّا.. ولّا
Either ... or ammā ... w illā/wallā أمّا و إلّا\ولّا
But lākin لكن, amā أما
Without min/mā ğīr mā من\ما غير ما
Only mā ... kān ما.. كان
The contrary of ɛaks min/mā عكس من\ما
And then hāk il-sāɛa هاك الساعة, sāɛathā ساعتها, waqthā وقتها, w iđā bīh و إذا بيه
In brief il-ḥāṣil الحاصل, il-ḥaṣīlū الحصيلو
Sometimes ... sometimes marra ... marra مرّة.. مرّة, sāɛa ... sāɛa ساعة.. ساعة, sāɛāt ساعات
As far as qadd mā قدّ ما, qadd قدّ
Before qbal قبل
Otherwise kānšī
Moreover, Besides bāra min hak
Consequently ɛal hak
In addition lī zāda
Instead lī ɛāwiđ
Overall f- il-kul
Above all else min fuq hāđa il-kul
Anyway kul f- il-kul
Also zāda

Subordinate conjunctions

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Subordinate conjunctions introduce dependent clauses only. There two types of conjunctions: single and compound.[2][4] The compound conjunctions mainly consist of prepositions that are compound with illī.[2][4] The main Subordinate conjunctions for Tunisian are Waqt illī وقت اللي “When”, m- illī ماللي “Since”, qbal mā قبل ما “Before”, īđā إذا “If”, lūkān لوكان “If”, mā ما "what", bāš باش “In order to”, (ɛlā) xāṭir على) خاطر) “because”, (ɛlā) ḥasb mā على) حسب ما) “According to”.[2][4]


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Adverbs can be subdivided into three subgroups: single, compound and interrogative.[4][21]

Single adverbs

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  • Adverbs of time:[2][4]
    • tawwa توة Now
    • taww تو A moment ago
    • dīmā ديما Always
    • bikrī بكري Early
    • fīsaɛ فيسع Fast, quickly
    • māzāl مازال Still
  • Adverbs of place:[2][4]
    • hnā هنا Here
    • ġādī غادي There
  • Adverbs of manner:[2][4]
    • hakka هكة Like this
    • hakkāka, hakkīka هكاكة، هكيكة Like that
  • Adverbs of measure:[2][4]
    • barša برشة Much, very
    • šwayya شوية Little
    • yāsir ياسر Very, much
    • taqrīb تقريب About
    • bark برك Only

Compound adverbs

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  • Adverbs of time:[2][4]
    • taww taww تو تو Here and now / Immediately
    • min baɛd من تو Afterwards
    • min bikrī من بكري A moment ago
    • min tawwa من توة From now on
  • Adverbs of place:[2][4]
    • l- fūq لفوق On (Up)
    • l- il-ūṭa لأوطى Bellow
    • l- dāxil لداخل In
    • l- barra لبرة Out
    • l- quddām لقدام Upwards
    • l- tālī لتالي Backwards
    • min hūnī من هوني From here
    • min ġādī من غادي From there
  • Adverbs of manner:[2][4]
    • b- il-sīf بالسيف Forcibly
    • b- il-syāsa بالسياسة gently
    • b- il-ɛānī بالعاني Purposely
    • b- il-šwaya بالشوية Slowly
    • b- il-zarba بالزربة Rapidly
  • Adverbs of measure:[2][4]
    • ɛa- il-aqall عالاقل At least

Interrogative adverbs

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  • Adverbs of the time:[2][4]
    • waqtāš وقتاش When
    • nhārāš نهاراش Which day
    • ɛāmāš عاماش Which year
  • Adverbs of place:[2][4]
    • wīn, fīn وين، فين Where
    • l- wīn لوين Where to
    • min wīn, mnīn من وين، منين Where from
  • Adverbs of manner:[2][4]
    • kīfāš كيفاش How
  • Adverbs of measure:[2][4]
    • qaddāš قداش How much

Nouns derived from verbs

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The nouns derived from verbs are the Active Participle, the Passive Participle and the Verbal Noun.[1][3][69][4]


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  • Active Participle: The Active Participle is the noun used to call the person or the object who/that did the action. It can be used as a subject and an adjective.[1][3][69][4]
    • They are obtained for the simple verb having the root al or faɛlil by adding ā between the first and the second letters of the root and changing the vowel between the last but one and the last letters of the root into i.[1][3][69][4] For example, ɛāzif عازف is instrument player in Tunisian and is obtained from the verb ɛzaf عزف.[4]
    • They are obtained for the derived verbs by adding m as a prefix and changing the vowel between the last but one and the last letters of the root into i.[1][3][69][4] For example, mšērik مشارك is a participant in Tunisian and is obtained from the verb šērik شارك.[4]
  • Passive Participle: The Passive Participle is the noun used to call the person or the object who/that received the action. It can be used as a subject and an adjective.[1][3][69][4]
    • They are obtained for the simple verb having the root al or faɛlil by adding ma as a prefix and changing the vowel between the last but one and the last letters of the root into ū.[1][3][69][4] For example, maɛzūfa معزوفة is a musical composition in Tunisian and is obtained from the verb ɛzaf عزف.[4]
    • They are obtained for the derived verbs by adding m as a prefix and changing the vowel between the last but one and the last letters of the root into a.[1][3][69][4] For example, mhaddad مهدد is threatened person in Tunisian and is derived from the verb haddad هدد.[4]

Verbal noun

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The verbal noun is the noun that indicates the done action itself.[1][3][69][2][4] Its form is known through the pattern and root of the verb from which it is derived or rather the pattern of its singular imperative conjugation.[1][3][69][2][4]

  • Simple Verb:
    • CiCC or Triconsonantal Verb: According to the root[1][69]
      • Regular: CiCC or CiCCa
      • ʔ-C-C: māCCa
      • C-C-ʔ: CCāya
      • C-C-j: CiCy, CiCyān or CiCya
      • C-w-C: CawCān
      • C-C1-C1: CaC1C1ān
    • CaCCiC or Quadriconsonantal Verb: CaCCCa[1][69]
  • Derived Verb: According to the pattern[1][69]
    • Regular: Verbal nouns for all regular derived verbs is obtained through the addition of ā between the last and the last but one letter of the root.[1][69]
    • Irregular:
      • Doubling the second letter of the root: taCCīC[1][69]
      • Adding t as a prefix and doubling the second letter of the root: tCaC1C1uC2[1][69]
      • Adding t as a prefix and ā between the first and the second letter of the root: tCāCuC[1][69]
      • Adding i as a prefix and t between the first and second letter of the root: iCtCāC[1][69]

Additional information

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Any people, organisations, or funding sources that you would like to thank.

Competing interests

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Any conflicts of interest that you would like to declare. Otherwise, a statement that the authors have no competing interest.

Ethics statement

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An ethics statement, if appropriate, on any animal or human research performed should be included here or in the methods section.


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  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 1.33 1.34 1.35 1.36 1.37 1.38 1.39 1.40 1.41 1.42 1.43 1.44 1.45 1.46 1.47 1.48 1.49 1.50 1.51 1.52 1.53 1.54 1.55 1.56 1.57 1.58 1.59 1.60 1.61 1.62 1.63 1.64 1.65 1.66 1.67 1.68 1.69 1.70 1.71 1.72 1.73 1.74 1.75 1.76 1.77 1.78 1.79 1.80 1.81 1.82 1.83 1.84 1.85 Gibson, M. (2009). Tunis Arabic. Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, 4, 563–71.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 Talmoudi, Fathi (1979) The Arabic Dialect of Sûsa (Tunisia). Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 3.27 3.28 3.29 3.30 3.31 3.32 3.33 3.34 3.35 3.36 3.37 3.38 3.39 3.40 3.41 3.42 3.43 3.44 3.45 3.46 3.47 3.48 3.49 3.50 3.51 3.52 3.53 3.54 3.55 3.56 3.57 3.58 3.59 3.60 3.61 3.62 3.63 3.64 3.65 3.66 3.67 3.68 3.69 3.70 3.71 3.72 3.73 3.74 3.75 3.76 3.77 3.78 3.79 3.80 3.81 3.82 3.83 3.84 3.85 3.86 3.87 3.88 3.89 3.90 (in German) Singer, Hans-Rudolf (1984) Grammatik der arabischen Mundart der Medina von Tunis. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
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  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named cota
  6. 6.0 6.1 Brustad, K. (2000). The syntax of spoken Arabic: A comparative study of Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, and Kuwaiti dialects. Georgetown University Press.
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named histoire
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named e18
  9. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named voix
  10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref1
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named douagi
  12. 12.0 12.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named balegh
  13. 13.0 13.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named brik
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 (in French) Marçais, W. (1908). Le dialecte arabe des Ulad Brahim de Saîda. Paris: BNF, pp. 101–102
  15. (in German) Holger Preissler: Die Anfänge der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft. In: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 145/2, Hubert, Göttingen 1995.
  16. 16.0 16.1 (in German) Guddat, T. H. (Ed.). (2010). Das Gebetbuch für Muslime. Verlag Der Islam.
  17. 17.0 17.1 (in German) Stumme, H. (1896). Grammatik des tunisischen Arabisch, nebst Glossar. Leipzig: Henrichs.
  18. (in German) Stumme, H. (1893). Tunisische Maerchen und Gedichte.. (Vol. 1). JC Hinrichs.
  19. 19.0 19.1 (in French) Marçais, W., & Guîga, A. (1925). Textes arabes de Takroûna (Vol. 2). Éditions E. Leroux.
  20. 20.0 20.1 (in French) Marçais, W., & Farès, J. (1933). Trois textes arabes d'El-Hâmma de Gabès. Impr. nationale.
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