Moslawi (Mosul) vs Baghdadi Iraqi Arabic Differences

Nora Nasr


Nora Nasr

Moslawi (Mosul) vs Baghdadi Iraqi Arabic Differences

Today we’re going to be comparing two Iraqi dialects: Baghdadi and Moslawi Arabic.

Both Moslawi Arabic and Baghdadi Arabic are spoken in different regions of Iraq.

The Moslawi dialect includes vocabulary from the Turkish, Persian, and Kurdish languages, reflecting Mosul's turbulent history and the surrounding Nineveh plains.

Baghdadi on the other hand is primarily spoken in Baghdad and its surrounding areas. Over the previous century, Baghdadi Arabic became the lingua franca of Iraq, as well as the language of trade and education.

Baghdadi Arabic is the most extensively spoken and understood dialect in Iraq and it is distinguished by its simplicity and clarity of speech, as well as its tendency to accentuate sounds. Due to these reasons, the Baghdadi dialect is a popular choice for those looking to learn Iraqi Arabic.

But how exactly does the Baghdadi dialect differ from the Moslawi one?

That’s what we’re going to look at below.

The two dialects & where they’re spoken

Now let’s have a look at where these two dialects are spoken:

  • Mesopotamian Arabic, also known as the gilit-group is spoken in Baghdad, Basra, and Khuzestani in Iran.
  • North Mesopotamian Arabic, also known as the qeltu-group is spoken in Mosul, eastern Syria, Anatolian Arabs, and Jewish and Christian Iraqis.

The gilit-qeltu paradigm was established on the distinct phonological systems of the two dialect groups, which can be seen in the word "I said" - which in Baghdad is: gilit; گلت, and in Mosul: qeltu قلت.

The qeltu group is representative of northern Mesopotamia and is a Bedouin dialect that differs from the surrounding Mashriq sedentary dialects in various phonological and morphological aspects. The dialect has been influenced by urban Medieval Baghdadi Arabic and foreign languages like Aramaic, Turkish, Persian, and Kurdish.

Different Pronunciations of The letter Q or ق

The Moslawi dialect has definite features that make it unique and different from the Baghdadi dialect.

For example, the letter Q / ق is pronounced Gh / گ in Baghdadi.

Here’s how to say ‘I say’ in the two Iraqi dialects:

  • Baghdadis would say ‘Aghool’ or اگوول.
  • Whereas in Moslawi they would say ‘Aqool’ or اقول.

It's also worth noting how they pronounce Q; it's difficult and comparable to how it's pronounced in some Maghrebi dialects; the most similar way is in Fus7a and Tunisian Arabic.

Note: The number 3 is used to represent the letter ع / ʿayn in the Arabic alphabet. The number 7 is used to represent ح / ha and 9 is used to represent ص / saad.

Different pronunciations of the letter R or ر

Now, one letter that’s pronounced differently in the two dialects is the letter R, or ر.

For Moslawi’s, they replace the letter ر with the letter غ.

However, this rule doesn’t apply to people's names.

Absence of vowels in Moslawi

Another characteristic of Moslawi dialect is the absence of the first vowel in some words.

For example, "my time" would be pronounced "zmani," (زماني) whereas "time" would be pronounced "zamn." (زمن) This is because the final vowel preceding a pronoun is dropped in the Moslawi dialect.

They also have a tendency to reverse things; to say ‘his sister’ a Baghdadi may say "ikhta" (أخته) whereas a Moslawi will say "khith" (خيث).

Vowels in Baghdadi

Let's have a look at vowels in Baghdadi Arabic.

The vowel phoneme /eː/, which comes from the standard Arabic /aj/, is usually pronounced as an opening diphthong.

For most speakers, this sounds like [e], but for others, it sounds more like ɪe̯.

So consider the word [lēš] (ليش), which means "why,", it will sound like [leeyesh], like an English drawl. There is a vowel phoneme that changed from the diphthong (/aw/) to a sound more like a long (/o:/) sound.

The schwa sound [ə] is mostly heard in unstressed open and closed syllables, as well as in stressed open syllables.

Vocabulary differences between the two dialects

There are vocabulary differences too between the two dialects as well.

In Moslawi, they don't say أربعة for the number 4, they say أبعة, pronounced "ōba3a".

This is due to assimilation and the way the Moslawi R / ر is spoken; according to one essay, the Moslawi lisp altered the arba3a to awba3a, which then naturally became oba3a.

Actually, the letter R / ر is dropped from a number of words.

Where R is kept, they pronounce it with the tongue on the bottom of the teeth, like in French and Hebrew.

Moslawis also say:

  • "shlonki" whereas Baghdadis would say "shlonich," for “how are you?” (in the feminine)
  • "nafsich" whereas Baghdadis would say "nefski" for “yourself” (in the feminine)
  • “abouch” whereas Baghdadis would say “abouki”  for "your father" (in the feminine)

Also, in Moslawi, a final A usually becomes an I, look at these examples:

  • My dog: kalba in Baghdadi = becomes kalbi in Moslawi
  • Big: kabira in Baghdadi = becomes kabiri in Moslawi
  • Piece of bread: khubza in Baghdadi = khebzeyi in Moslawi

Aramaic was the lingua franca in Mesopotamia from the early first millennium BC to the late first millennium AD, and Iraqi Arabic today, as expected, displays indications of an Aramaic substrate.

Today, Moslawi has more traditional characteristics than other Iraqi dialects.

For example, the word “عجايا”, in the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic dialect utilizes the alif ending for children, which is how Aramaic pluralizes nouns.

Interestingly also, the Moslawi dialect is quite similar to the speech of Iraqi Jews. To give an example, Baghdadi Jews' speech resembles Moslawi in its pronunciation of the letters ر and ق.

Also, Baghdadi native speakers can readily pronounce and master traditional Arabic phonotactics due to their dialect's proximity to Classical Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

Although these two Iraqi dialects have distinguishing features, Iraqis generally have no trouble understanding each other because the differences between the two dialects aren't major.

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