Project Group F: Associated Projects, Project F2

The Arabic dialects of the Beni Guil
(North-Eastern Morocco)
Way of life, language and identity


With 50.000 members, the Beni Guil are the largest Arabic-speaking tribal confederation in Morocco. Their territory covers 25.000 in the North-Eastern part of the country. Due to progressive sedentarization over the past 30 years, their way of life and livelihood have undergone dramatic changes: more than a third of the Beni Guil, whose traditional mode of life was characterized by nomadic pastoralism, are now settled in towns and villages between Oujda and Figuig, where they are in contact with speakers of different Arabic dialects.

The Arabic-Semitic scholarship divides the Arabic dialects into two groups on the basis of phonological and lexical features, taking also into account morphological and syntactic differences: Bedouin dialects on the one hand and sedentary dialects on the other. On the Arabian Peninsula there is a considerable correspondance between linguistic features and way of life: nomads mostly speak Beduin dialects, which differ from the dialects of the sedentary population. A similar correspondance between lifestyle and language use can also be observed in parts of Israel and Egypt, where sedentarized Bedouins have even largely adopted the linguistic features of sedentary speech. In this way, the Bedouin dialects have been "sedentarized", i.e. changes in lingustic behaviour have closely followed change in the way of life. In contrast, the situation in Morocco is much more complex: e.g. the dialect of Casablanca displays "Bedouin" features.

The project aims at a first systematic description of the Arabic dialects of the Beni Guil against the background of sedentarization. A further objective is to explore the impact which these social and economic transformations have had upon the language use and self-image of the (former) nomads. In addition to the documentation of the locally spoken varieties of Arabic, the research will also focus on the dynamics of the emergence of a koiné and on the sociolinguistic factors involved in the process.


Dr. Sabine Gralla

Der arabische Dialekt von Nabk (Syrien). Wiesbaden 2006.

Oriens Christianus. Geschichte und Gegenwart des nahöstlichen Christentums. Münster 2003.

Le système vocalique du dialecte arabe de Nabk (Syrien): changements diachroniques et synchroniques. In: Ferrando, I. & Sánchez Sandoval, J. (Hgg.): AIDA 5th Conference Proceedings. Cádiz 2003, 501–509.

Tempus, Aspekt und Modalität im marokkanischen Arabisch. Unveröffentlichte Magisterarbeit, Universität Osnabrück 1995.