Al Hoceima region Arabic

The province of Al Hoceima is a border zone between the Berber-speaking Rif and the Arabic-speaking Jbala. Consequently, a bilingual population and interaction between different Arabic and Berber varieties exist within the region.

The douar called Jnanate is an Arabic-speaking enclave located in a mostly Berber-speaking region in Beni Bou Frah (Al Hoceima province).

The Jnanate Arabic is a pre-Hilalian-type dialect and shares some features with the Jebli-type varieties described for the region of Jbala. Nonetheless, while Berber nowadays is not the common daily language, inhabitants in this region are quite familiar with this language revealing in their Arabic variety a higher influence than in others spoken in the north of the country.

Jnanate Arabic: Young people near the river

Árabe Jnanate. Jóvenes cerca del rio.

  • Informante 1 (1): la la, ġīr hād l-ʕām u ṣāfi.
  • Informante 2 (2): hād l-ʕām w әl-ʕām әlli fāt.
  • Informante 1 (3): la, l-ʕām l-lŭwwәl žāt bәkri.
  • Informante 2 (4): l-ʕām әlli fāt yǝʕni ṭāḥәt šwĭyya, wāxxa mʕәṭṭla yәʕni fhәmţ…
  • Younes Hmimsa (5): āha.
  • Informante 2 (6): hād әl-ʕām mʕәṭṭla fhәmţ, ḥţa hād l-ʕām mʕәṭṭla šwĭyya... žāt mʕәṭṭla šwĭyya.
  • Younes Hmimsa (7): hākdāk.
  • Informante 2 (8): yәʕni l-fīlāḥa, fhәmţ, mǝlli ḥәrtna, yәʕni l-fīlāḥa ḥәrtna f-әš-šәḥḥ ma-kān-š әṛ-ṛwa w mәlli ḥәrtna yәʕni l-fīlāḥa ma kbәṛ-š.
  • Informante 1 (9): b-ǝl-ḥǝqq l-ʕām l-lŭwwәl kānt šwĭyya d-š-šta... zāyda ʕla hād әl-ʕām, hād әl-ʕām ma ṭāḥәt-š f-maṛṛa fhәmţ, ṭāḥәt šī ḥāža qlīla.
  • Jules Arsenne (10): w žāt mʕәṭṭla šwĭyya aw la?
  • Informante 1 (11): wah.
  • Youne Hmimsa (12): w b-әn-nәsba l-fīlāḥa šnu әlli ka-tdīru f-әl-fīlāḥa? ʕәndkŭm kāmla l-fīlāḥa әlli ka-tdīru hnāya f-әd-dwār?
  • Informante 1 (13): l-fīlāḥa?
  • Younes Hmimsa (14): māši ġīr әlli ka-tdīru nţūma, ḥәtţa lli ka-tdīr n-nās uxṛēn zǝʕma dyāl d-dwār kāmәl.
  • Informante 1 (15): ka-ndīru kŭll-ši ḥna hnāya.
  • Younes Hmimsa (16): šnu әlli ka-tdīru?
  • Informante 1 (17): ka-ndīru l-bṭāṭā u ka-ndīru... ṃāṭēša, mūhĭmm... fīlāḥa kāmla, gāʕ hāḏ-ǝš-ši dyāl l-fīlāḥa ka-ndīrūha.
  • Jules Arsenne (18): l-fūl?
  • Informante 1 (19): kŭll-ši l-fūl kīma qāl, žĭlbāna…
  • Informante 2 (20): ibāwәn, žĭlbāna…
  • Informante 1 (21): ž-žәʕda.
  • Informante 2 (22): fәlfla.
  • Informante 1 (23): l-ḅәṣla.
  • Informante 2 (24): ibāwәn, ḍ-ḍṛa.
  • Informante 1 (25): ḍ-ḍṛa kīma qāl lǝk.
  • Informante 2 (26): qmәḥ u zrǝʕ.
  • Informante 1 (27): qmәḥ u zrǝʕ... mūhĭmm... š-šīfrōn... kŭll-ši.
  • Informante 1 (1): No, no, solamente este año.
  • Informante 2 (2): Este año y el año pasado.
  • Informante 1 (3): No, el año pasado llegó temprano.
  • Informante 2 (4):El año pasado llovió un poco, aunque llegó tarde, ¿entiendes?
  • Younes Hmimsa (5): Sí.
  • Informante 2 (6): Este año llega tarde, ¿entiendes? También este año llega un poco tarde. Vino un poco tarde.
  • Younes Hmimsa (7): Así es.
  • Informante 2 (8): Es decir, la agricultura, ¿sabes?, cuando labramos, labramos la tierra seca, no hubo lluvias, y cuando labramos, no ha crecido nada.
  • Informante 1 (9): Para decir la verdad, el año pasado hemos tenido algo de lluvia. Más que este año. Este año no ha llovido en absoluto, ¿sabes?, ha llovido muy poco.
  • Jules Arsenne (10): ¿y llegó con algo de retraso o no?
  • Informante 1 (11): Sí.
  • Younes Hmimsa (12): Y en cuanto a los cultivos ¿qué cultiváis aquí en el pueblo?, ¿tenéis todo tipo de cultivos en lo que hacéis aquí en el pueblo?
  • Informante 1 (13): ¿Los cultivos?
  • Younes Hmimsa (14): No solamente lo que hacéis vosotros, sino también lo que hacen los demás, el pueblo entero.
  • Informante 1 (15): Nosotros hacemos de todo aquí.
  • Younes Hmimsa (16): ¿Qué hacéis?
  • Informante 1 (17): Cultivamos patatas, tomates… en fin… todos los cultivos, todo lo relacionado con los cultivos, lo hacemos.
  • Jules Arsenne (18): ¿Habas?
  • Informante 1 (19):De todo, habas, como ha dicho, guisantes…
  • Informante 2 (20): Habas, guisantes.
  • Informante 1 (21): Zanahorias.
  • Informante 2 (22): Pimientos.
  • Informante 1 (23): Cebollas.
  • .Informante 2 (24): Habas, maíz.
  • Informante 1 (25): Maíz, como te ha dicho.
  • Informante 2 (26): Trigo.
  • Informante 1 (27): Trigo, en fin… coliflor… de todo.
  • Metadata file

    Author: Jules Arsenne and Younes Hmimsa (recording), Jules Arsenne (transcription and translation).

    Title: Jnanate Arabic: Young People near the river

    Type of account: Conversation among 4 people, two informants and two researchers, the author and Dr. Younes Hmimsa.

    Length: 1’20”.

    Topic: The agriculture in Jnanate.

    Languages: Moroccan Arabic (northern variety).

    Date: 26/02/2014.

    Place: Douar Jnanate (commune Beni Bou Frah).

    Devices: Zoom recorder.

    Transcription type: Phonemic transcription.

    Translation language: Spanish.

    Comments: This recording was made during fieldwork carried out in February 2014, in the framework of the Interdisciplinary Scientific Cooperation Project (PICS): La montagne et ses savoirs, IREMAM (Aix-en-Provence) and Université Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (Fez).


    Number: 2 (below data on both informants).

    Names: Unknown

    Sex: Male.

    Age: Under 25 years old.

    Education level: Unknown.

    Occupation: Farmers.

    Origin: The informants were born and raised in the douar Jnanate where nowadays live.

    Interesting data from the sociolinguistic point of view:

    Phonology and Phonetics*

    For geographical reasons, this Moroccan Arabic variety is highly influenced by the Berber language. This can be noted in the spirantization of some consonant phonemes: /d/ > [ḏ]; /t/ > [ṯ]; /k/ > [ḵ]. Examples: brēḏēʕ ‘saddle’, hayḏēḵ ‘thus’, b-әl-ʕwāḏ ‘with wood’, әl-ḥānūṯ ‘the shop’, әl-mīkēṯ ‘the plastic bags’, bīnāṯhŭm ‘amongst them’, ḵāyәn ‘there is’, yḵbәr ‘grows’, bәḵri ‘early’, l-bāḵōr ‘green figs’.

    The affrication of phonemes /š/ > [č] and /ž/> [ǧ] occurs also out of Berber influence. These realizations are not common in Jnanate, they have been found until now in initial position and in loans to other languages. Examples: ǧilbān ‘peas’, ǧīha ‘direction’.čaḇula (<esp.) ‘shack’.

    The phoneme /q/ has a voiceless realization. Examples: wāqaʕ li ‘happened to me’, mḍәṛṛqīn ‘hidden’, qdīma ‘ancient’, l-qmәḥ ‘the wheat’, ma bqa ḥәdd ‘there is no one left’, ‘there is no more’, b-l-ḥәqq ‘actually’, ka-ysәqqīw ‘they water’.

    As regards vowels, the most significant trait is the labialization of final vowels. This feature was found in informants whose contact with Berber is more intense and who generally come from bilingual Moroccan Arabic/Berber families. Examples: ka-yḥәrtōw ‘they grow’, l-wālīdīn dyāli mātōw ‘my parents have died’, ka-yġәṛṛṣōw x-xәṛṛub ‘they plant the carob tree’.

    Verb Morphology

    One of the most remarkable traits is the confusion of gender in the second person singular of the perfective, which is realized with the suffixes -t and -ti for both genders. Examples: xīma ṣġīra, fhәmti, ka-ybīʕ fīha, fhәmt? ‘the small tent, he uses it for selling, you know?’, ġīr tʕallәmna u ṣāfi kīma qŭlt ‘we have only learnt the way you said it’, ka-nšrīw l-ḥbūb u ṣāfi m-әs-sūq u ka-nzәrʕūhŭm, wa, kīma qŭlti ‘we buy the seeds at the market and we plant them, yes, as you said’.

    The gender is also confused in the second person singular of the imperfective. Examples: wa, ka-tšūfi ka-nḥǝmmīw ġi ka-nḥǝmmīw ‘yes, you see, we heat it, we just heat it’, kāyǝn ǝl-lūz ha hūwwa nta ka-tšūf ‘there are almonds, there are some here, you see’. In both cases, ka-tšūfi in the first instance and ka-tšūf in the second refer to a man.

    Noun morphology

    Noun morphology features of the Arabic spoken in Jnanate are the same as those of other varieties of northern Moroccan Arabic, particularly of the jebli type (see Jbala Arabic).


    The influence of Berber is highly significant in the lexicon of Arabic in Jnanate, especially in the sphere of agriculture, where loans are numerous. Examples: ḏaḏqa ‘earth used to build the wood-fired oven’, iḇāwǝn ‘broad beans’, lǝġṛus ‘figs’, ṯāynūr, āyǝnnūr ‘wood-fired oven’, yaqqәbūz ‘vegetable-woven container used to store wheat or barley seeds’.

    Spanish and French too have an influence on the lexicon, with the presence of several loans. Examples: čaḇula ‘shack’, bǝndexāt ‘trays’, šīfrōn ‘cauliflower’.


    * Data used for this brief summary were compiled from: Arsenne, Jules 2015. L’arabe de Jnanate. Premiers éléments de description et de comparaison. Paris, INALCO (unpublished MA Thesis).

    Author: Jules Arsenne

    The Rif (in Arabic الريف [r-rīf]) is a geographical notion referring to a ‘border’. It originally must have referred to the Berber-speaking Mediterranean coastline and then became the modern geographical term used to refer to the Moroccan Mediterranean shore extending from the Straits of Gibraltar to the river Moulouya.

    Located in northern Morocco this mountainous area comprises, according to the latest territorial division (carried out in 2015), the region of Tangiers-Tetouan-Al Hoceima and the Oriental region, with a population of almost four million inhabitants. The western part of the Rif is mostly inhabited by the Arabic-speaking population (in Arabic referred to as žbāla, ‘people from the mountains’), while Berber-speaking people concentrate in the east (rwāfa and ṣənhāža).

    Those who consider themselves Riffians (rifĭyyīn or rwāfa ), at times using the term created from the geographical zone as an ethnonym, live in the area stretching out from the river Ouringa and constitute a language community of the Berber variety known as Tarifit. Furthermore, in the upper course of the river Ouargha other populations exist which are not Jbala Arabic-speaking or  Riffian Berber-speaking: they are the Senhaja of Sraïr, around the towns of Issaguen and Taghzout.

    The province of Al Hoceima (in Arabic الحسيمة [al-ḥusayma], Alhucemas in Spanish) is located in the first of the aforementioned regions, on the border between the Mediterranean and the provinces of Nador, Chefchaouen, Taounate and Taza.

    In the pre-Islamic period the Phoenicians (coming from the Levant) settled on the coast in the Mediterranean in the tenth century B.C., founding cities for trading. Later, in the fifth century B.C., the influence of Carthage expanded across northwest Africa and took in the Rif as part of its area of control. After the Battle of Carthage, in the year 149 B.C., the region of Mauritania Tingitana became part of the Roman Empire and Christianity prevailed. In the fifth century A.D., the Vandals (German people from central Europe) defeated the Romans and occupied the zone, creating an independent kingdom.

    The Kingdom of Nekor was founded in the region upon the arrival of the first Muslims in northern Africa in the seventh century. This kingdom was located near modern Al Hoceima and was founded in the year 710 by the Salih, of Yemeni origin. Its first capital was Temsamanem, followed later by Nekor. The Kingdom of Nekor is credited with the conversion to Islam of various Berber groups inhabiting the zone at the time. The city of Nekor was destroyed by the Almoravid lord Yusuf Ibn Tachfin in the eleventh century and its ruins are nowadays buried under the dam called after the renowned Riffian resistance fighter, Abd Al Krim Al-Khattabi (regarding the Kingdom of Nekor see Tahiri 2013).

    During the Middle Ages the Rif was under the dominion of the dynasties which controlled the rest of modern Morocco and also suffered the consequences of the expansion of the Christian states from the Iberian Peninsula.

    The colonization of Morocco started in the early twentieth century after the signing of the Fez treaty in 1912 which resulted in the division and occupation of the country under a Protectorate system by France and Spain. A large part of the two northern regions (Jbala and Rif) fell under Spanish dominion which stirred the resistance of Riffian peoples within the region. One of them, the tribe of the Beni Ouriaghel, was the basis for a front later led by Abd Al Krim Al-Khattabi. The Rif War began in the year 1920 and ended in 1927. In this period , the Rif Republic was created, later crushed by European imperialism and the alliance between the French and Spanish governments led by Pétain and Primo de Rivera, respectively.


    • Tahiri, Ahmed 2013. Bilād ar-Rīf wa ḥāirat Nakūr. Min faǧr at-tārīx ʔilà ʔanwār al-ʔislām (El Rif y la desaparecida ciudad de Nakur. Desde los albores de la historia hasta las luces del islam), Sevilla.

    Author: Jules Arsenne

    • Arsenne, Jules. 2015. L’arabe de Jnanate. Premiers éléments de description et de comparaison. Paris, INALCO, (unpublished MA Thesis).
    • Arsenne, Jules. 2016. “Preliminary results on the Arabic spoken in Jnanate, northern Morocco”. The Arabic Varieties: Far and Wide, G. Grigore & G. Bițună (eds.) Bucharest, Editura Universității din București, 73-78.
    • Caubet, Dominique. 2016. “The dialect of Msek – Beni Itteft (Al Hoceima), on the borders with Berber – revisited in 2014”. The Arabic Varieties: Far and Wide, G. Grigore & G. Bițună (eds.). Bucharest, Editura Universității din București, 163-173.
    • El Jattari, Khalid (forthcoming). “Contact de parlers arabe et berbère en zone du Rif : Région de Bni Itteft”. La région du Nord-Ouest marocain: Parlers et pratiques sociales et culturelles, Á. Vicente, D. Caubet & A. Naciri (eds.). Zaragoza, Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza.

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