Arabic—Tunisian Dialect

Notes on a few words familiar from MSA, but slightly different in Tounsi.

TCA includes many words familiar to students of MSA, but sometimes these words take on a different meaning in TCA, or they require different grammar. I will review here a few Tounsi words that come up very regularly, but which require special attention for students of MSA.

هذا/هذي

Like its MSA counterpart هذا/هذه, the Tunisian هذا/هذي means “this.” The main difference in Tounsi—other than a slightly different pronunciation of the feminine form—is that the word behaves like a regular adjective, coming after the word being modified. So we say:

حصلت جريمة في البلاصة هذي

“A crime happened in this place

 

الدواء هذا باهي لألم المعدة

This medicine is good for stomach aches”

الكل

In its indefinite form, كل is used in TCA exactly as it is used in MSA: before the noun being described.

Example

يخدم بحار و كل يوم يخرج بالفلوكة للبحر.

“He works as a sailor, and every day he goes out in his felucca to sea”

However, when modifying a definite noun, things get a bit different: كل takes the definite article, and is placed after the noun, as if it were a regular adjective.

Examples

شاف الإمكانيات الكل آما ما لقا حتى حل

“He looked at all the possibilities but he did not find a single solution.”

 

أنا و خواتي الكل نقراو في الجامعة

All my siblings and I study at the university.”

Sometimes you will see الكل even with an indefinite noun. This is often seen with the noun نهار:

Example

نهار الكل في القهوة يلعب في الشكبة

All day in the café he is playing chkobba.”

كان

All students of MSA will be familiar with the verb كان. In TCA, it also means “to be,” but it has another meaning too. This second meaning is hard to translate, but it approximates the English word “only” or “except.” This meaning is typically conveyed in the negative.

Examples

ما جا كان توا

“He only just now came” (literally: “He did not come except just now”)

 

المقرونة ما تجي كان بالرند

“Pasta is only good with a bay leaf”  (literally: “Pasta is not good except with a bay leaf.”)

Combining two of our new words, كان and الكل, we can now translate:

ما قريتش النص الكل قريت كان جملة

“I did not read the whole book; I read only a sentence”

 

 

 

 

 

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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.