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Colloquial use of Arabic is associated with mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, and word-formation. This is not new; it’s been around since the early days of Islam, mainly in the speech of non-Arabs. It first emerged in the wrong assignment of final diacritical marks, that is parsing or I‘raab إِعْرَاب. Except for borrowed words, colloquial usage in all Arabic varieties is derived from Classical Arabic. This post highlights an aspect of colloquialism in Egyptian dialect—blending or النَّحْت.
Contrary to the common belief, especially by many learners of Arabic, Egyptian Dialect of Arabic is not hugely different and separate from Modern Standard Arabic. Besides I‘raab إِعْرَاب, which it has almost completely lost and replaced by taskeen تَسْكِين, i.e. regular assignment of sukuun to word endings, it varies in the pronunciation of certain speech sounds, assignment of internal diacritics, and word formation, such as blending النَّحْت.
Blending النَّحْت is a way of creating new words in many world languages. Take the case of smog and brunch in English, which derived from two words, namely smoke and fog and breakfast and lunch, respectively. It is essentially taking one part of a word and combining it with one part from another word to form a new word.
In Arabic, blending النَّحْت is triggered by the desire to be swift and concise particularly while speaking. It occurs between two or more words. Following are explanations of some commonly used blends in Egyptian dialects. (note: all examples are in colloquial Egyptian).
كَمَان means ‘also’ or ‘too’. It is taken from كَمَا and إِنَّ / إَنَّهُ ‘and certainly also’, as in these examples:
إِيْوَه means ‘yes’. It is taken from إِي ‘yes’ and و ‘preposition for swearing, i.e. I swear’ and the هـ at the end is for pausing, called haa al-saktah هَاء السَّكْتَة in Arabic grammar, as in these examples:
إِشْمِعْنَا means ‘why’. It is taken from إِيْش المَعْنَى ‘what’s the meaning’, as in these examples:
إِزَّيَّك means ‘how are you?’. It is taken from إِيْش زَيَّك ‘what are your wearing’ and used to mean how is your health, as in these examples:
بَعْدِين means ‘later’. It is taken from بَعْدًا ‘later’ (Classical Arabic form) or بَعْد إِنَّه or بَعْد أَيْن depending on the context, as in these examples:
بَيِنَّك means ‘you seem ..’.It is taken from بَايِنْ أَنَّك ‘your certainly seem’, as in these examples:
عَلَشَان and عَشَان mean ‘in order to’ or ‘for’. Both are taken from عَلَى شَأن ‘idiomatic expression from Modern Standard Arabic that mean in order to’, as in these examples:
أَنْهُو / إِنْهُو means ‘which one / where is he/it’. It is taken from أَيْن هُو or أَيّ هُو, both used in Modern Standard Arabic to mean ‘where is it / he’, as in these examples:
أَنْهِي and أَنْهُم are variation of أَنْهُو in (8). They are for أَيْن هِي / أَيّ and أَيْن هُم / أَيّ هُم, respectively.
بَلاش means ‘for free’ or ‘with little money’. It is taken form بِلا شَيء ‘without anything in return’. This word is common in many Arabic dialects, and dates back to centuries ago.
مَا عَلِيْهش / مَاعَلِيْش means ‘never mind’ or ‘apologies’ depending on the context. It is taken from مَا عَلِيْه شِيء ‘he’s nothing to do with it’.
أُمَّال has multiple meanings depending on the context. It means ‘then/ therefore’, ‘sure!’, ‘why not’ and ‘how’. It is taken from إِنْ مَالا ‘you must’ (in Classical Arabic)’
مَفِيْش / مَافِيْش means ‘nothing’ or ‘no’. It is taken from مَا فِي شَيء / مَا فِيْه شَيء ‘there’s nothing’.
أَجْرَنَّك means ‘because you are’. It is taken from مِنْ أَجْل أَنَّ ‘so that / because’.
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