A Trip Around the Arab World: Turkish words in Libyan Arabic

Dina Sarayra 12/1/2021
About Arabic language

The Intro

Libyan Arabic is the Libyan dialect of the Arabic language. There are so many dialects in the Arabic language. Sometimes there are multiple dialects spoken within the same Arab country. However, because of colonization, they borrowed words from Arabic. Sometimes these words are specific to a dialect. They also borrowed from Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). MSA is the ‘formal Arabic’.

Let’s Go Back in Time

During the Ottoman era in Libya, some Turkish words were borrowed into the Libyan dialect of Arabic. Some of these areas are Benghazi and Tripoli and have had Ottoman influence for more than 600 years. The Levant has borrowed some Turkish words as well. However, some borrowed words are specific to Libyan Arabic.

What Are These Words?

YYou can find all types of borrowed Turkish words such as kitchen appliances, home objects, clothes and even food! For example, kashik which means spoon. Shisha which means bottle. Kaget which means paper. Shog which means ‘plenty’. All of these words are examples of borrowed Turkish words into Libyan Arabic. Today, Libyans use them all the time.

Diving Further into History

Although the Ottoman Empire spread all over Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Arab people were influenced differently. In the case with Libyans, as we can see, they had been influenced linguistically and say words that not all Arabic speakers use or borrowed into their dialect. The Libyan dialect is also very influenced by Italian language. This is because Italy colonized Libya for a while and so some Italian words got borrowed into their dialect.

This is also a feature that no other Arabic dialect has. Certain letters can sometimes tell you that a word might have Turkish origins. For example, the letters k, sh, and j. These are ك, ش, and ج respectively. For example, sharshaf is a Turkish word that means bed sheet. Tancere is a Turkish word that means saucepan and pronounced tanjere. Kofte is fried meat balls and is also a Turkish word in Libyan Arabic. So, as you can see, there are so many Turkish words in some Arabic dialects, specifically Libyan Arabic.

There are many Arab countries with different Arabic dialects and if you are planning on learning Arabic, I suggest you choose a dialect and stick by it! However, you will find that the Arabic words are more or less the same and sometimes just pronounced differently.

Modern Standard Arabic

You will also be able to understand other Arabic speakers so don’t worry! Arabic dialects are rich and influenced differently from each other, however, they are mutually comprehensible. What you can also do is learn Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). This is fusha in Arabic. It is generally the ‘formal Arabic’ with grammar rules unlike the Arabic dialects with only vernaculars. MSA is usually in official documents and official signs across the linguistic landscape of all Arab countries. It is, however, not used in every day speech. Nevertheless people do understand and recommend them.

Understanding the origins of words is important, especially when it comes to Arabic. It gives insight on the language and all the beautiful things it saw.

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