• Dounia Bennekrouf

The Algerian dialects

Dounia gives us a historical recap of the many dialects in Algeria.

Language is the first method of communication that we use to converse with each other, and it distinguishes us from other living things.

As for the dialects, they arose after the development of the main Algerian language. Dialects can also differ within the same country since each region can be distinguished by different dialects. Interestingly, Algeria's regional dialects can help people identify which region someone is from simply based on their dialect. Records of these dialects and the grammar rules are neither written nor included in educational systems. Dialects are organic, devoid of rules and strict boundaries.

Before its independence and even before its liberation onset in 1954, Algeria adopted Arabic as its official language. To be clear, Arabic is different from the general Algerian dialect, which developed later. Algeria was under French colonial rule for about one hundred and thirty years. During the French colonial period, Algerians were among the most Arab peoples who fought to preserve Arab membership. After Algeria gained independence on July 5, 1962, it approved Arabic as the country's official language in its first constitution.

The Algerian dialect, derived from Arabic, is the primary language of communication in Algeria, and its speakers call it Darija. It began to change and develop gradually after Algeria came under the control of other countries, the most important of which were the Ottomans, the Spanish, and the French.

"Despite the diversity and complexity of dialects in Algeria, it is considered a beautiful touch that creates regional cultures and atmospheres."

Let us move from one Algerian region to another. The inhabitants of eastern Algeria have their dialect, which has striking convergence with the Tunisian dialect, since Tunisia is just to the east of Algeria. Western Algeria inhabitants have similar convergences with the Moroccan dialect, since Morocco is to the west. Thus, dialects heavily depend on the geographical location of a region.

To summarize, the Algerian dialect can be divided into different groups:

  • Oriental dialects: spoken in Setif, Biskra, and other high plateaus

  • Central dialects: spoken in central and southern Algeria, south of Algiers and Oran

  • Al-Magal dialects: spoken in western region of the Oran sector

  • Urban dialects: spoken in all significant Algerian cities, such as Algiers, Tlemcen, Mostaganem, Constantine, Annaba, etc.

  • Rural or village dialects: originated from a mixture of exchanges between towns, spoken in villages and rural areas

Despite the diversity and complexity of dialects in Algeria, it is considered a beautiful touch that creates regional cultures and atmospheres. The variety in the way of speaking and communicating develops creativity, art and generates thriving cultures.