The Use of Dialectal Tanwin in Qatari Arabic

  • Simone Bettega Università degli Studi di Torino
Keywords: Arabic dialectology, Gulf dialects, Indefiniteness, Qatar, Tanwīn


The aim of the present paper is to analyse the use of dialectal tanwīn in the Arabic dialect of Qatar. Section (1) provides a brief description of the linguistic situation in Qatar and attempts a definition for the general label “Qatari Arabic”. Section (2) examines the function and contexts of use of the tanwīn in other dialects of the area: dialects are taken into account for which material is available in the current literature, and that can be related to Qatari Arabic in terms of either common origin or geographical proximity. Section (3) describes the use of dialectal tanwīn in Qatari Arabic by presenting original examples drawn from oral interviews gathered on the field with Qatari natives: these examples cover a variety of syntactic contexts, all involving an indefinite nominal (namely a noun or an active participle) followed by some modifying element (an adjective, an adverb, a direct object or a prepositional phrase). Some examples are also provided concerning the use of dialectal tanwīn in set phrases and idiomatic expressions. Finally, section (4) tries to assess the position of Qatari Arabic within the frame of the other peninsular dialects with regard to the use of tanwīn, and gives some insight on the evolution of this phenomenon over time.

Author Biography

Simone Bettega, Università degli Studi di Torino
Simone Bettega is a Ph.D. student in Linguistics at the University of Torino. He took his degree in Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Torino, and studied Arabic language in the universities of Torino, Jerusalem and Damascus. He presented papers in international conferences at the universities of Doha (Qatar) and Austin (Texas). His main research interests are Arabic dialectology and Arabic sociolinguistics, as well as general and applied linguistics. He is currently working on a research project about Arabic dialects in the Arabian Gulf.


Al-Amadidhi D. (1985), Lexical and Sociolinguistic Variation in Qatari Arabic, Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh

Al-Easa N. (1993), A Morphological Descriptive Analysis of Qatari Arabic Nouns, in “Bulletin of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences”, 16: 19-45

Al-Muhannadi M.K. (2006), A Guide to the Idioms of Qatari Arabic with Reference to English Idioms, Doha, University of Qatar

Anscombe, F. F. (1997), The Ottoman Gulf. The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, New York (NY), Columbia University Press

Durand, O. (2008), Osservazioni sul tanwīn in arabo, in O. Durand, A.D. Langone, Il filo di seta. Studi arabo-islamici in onore di Wasim Dahmash, Roma, Nuova Cultura

Feghali H. (2008), Gulf Arabic. The Dialects of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and Oman. Grammar, Dialogues, and Lexicon, Hyattsville (MD), Dunwoody Press

HolesC. (1983), Bahraini Dialects: Sectarian Differences and the Sedentary/Nomadic Split, in “Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik”, 10: 7-38

HolesC. (1990), Gulf Arabic, London, Routledge

Holes C. (2004), Tanwīn in the Arabic Dialects of Easern and South-Eastern Arabia, in “Estudios de Dialectlogía Norteafricana y Andalusí”, 8: 89-97

Holes C. (2006), The Arabic Dialects of Arabia, in “Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies”, 36: 25-34

Holes C. (2007), Gulf States, in K. Versteegh et. al. (eds.), Encyclopaedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Vol. II, Leiden, Brill

Holes C. (2011), A Participial Infix in the Eastern Arabian Dialects. An Ancient Pre-Conquest Feature?, in “Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam”, 38: 75-98

Ingham B. (1982), North East Arabian Dialects, London, Kegan Paul International

Ingham B. (1986), Notes on the Dialect of the Āl Murra of Eastern and Southern Arabia, in “Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies”, 49: 271-291

Ingham B. (1994), Najdi Arabic. Central Arabian, Amsterdam and Philadelphia (PA), John Benjamins Publishing Company

Ingham B. (2010), Information Structure in the Najdi Dialects, in J. Owens, A. Elgibali (eds.), Information Structure in Spoken Arabic, London and New York, Routledge: 75-92

Johnstone T. (1961), Some Characteristics of the Dōsiri Dialect of Arabic as Spoken in Kuwait, in “Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies”, 24: 249-297

Johnstone T. (1967), Eastern Arabian Dialect Studies, London, Oxford University Press

Johnstone T., Wilkinson J. (1960), Some Geographical Aspects of Qatar, in “The Geographical Journal”, 126: 442-450

Lorimer J.G. (1915), Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia, Vol. I, Calcutta, Superintendent Goverment Printing

Prochazka T. (1988), The Spoken Arabic of Abū Thōr in al-Ḥasa, in “Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik”, 18: 59-76

Prochazka T. (1990), The Spoken Arabic of al-Qaṭīf, in “Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik”, 21: 63-70

Qafisheh H. (1975), A Basic Course in Gulf Arabic, Tucson (AZ), Librairie du Liban & University of Arizona Press

Versteegh K. et. al. (2006-9) (eds.), Encyclopaedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Leiden, Brill