Sherine Abdel-Wahab

Sherine Abdeil-Wahab (popularly known as Sherine) is a renowned Egyptian singer, not only in Egypt, but all over the Arab World. Whether you are riding a bus in the streets of Sana’a, strolling in some busy street in Amman, enjoying a chat with friends in a local café in Cairo, or clubbing with friends in Beirut, you could certainly hear her music playing one way or another.

This post is not about her biography. Rather, apart from enjoying a piece of Arabic music by a spectacular singer, it is to highlight some of the actual linguistic differences between Egyptian dialect and Modern Standard Arabic using one of her latest songs. It is called حُبُه جَنَّة ‘his love is heaven’, and it is taken from a recent album of hers entitled نَسَّاي ‘the one who forgets me.’ This album includes twelve songs.

Lyrics (Egyptian Dialect)                  MSA equivalentsLinguistic Difference between MSA and Egyptian

حبه جنة أنا عشت فيها

His love is a heaven I lived in

قربه فرحة حلمت بيها

Being closed to him is an elation I always dreamt of.

ده اللي بيه إحلو عمري

This is the one because of whom my life became sweet

ده اللي أنا هديله عمري

This is the one to whom I will give my life

ياما ليالي بستنى لقاه

So many nights I take my time to meet him

حُبُه جَنَّة أَنَا عِشْتُ فِيْهَا

قُرْبُه فَرْحَة حَلَمْت بِهَا

هَذَا الَّذِي اِحْلَوَلى بِه ِ عُمْرِي

هَذَا الَّذِي أَدِّي لَهُ عُمْرِي

كَمْ مِنْ لِيَالِي أَتْأنَّى لِقَائَهُ

 

 

Sounds:

(1) Egyptians always pronounce جَ as ق, as in the words: جَنه, جَماله, أجمل, and حاجَات.  (2) Egyptians always pronounce قَ as أ, as in the words: قربه, لقاه, قلتله, رقه, قلبي, ألقى, سرقني, اتعلقت, هلقى, لقيته, and قبليه. (3) For words that start with fatHah in MSA, Egyptians opt for kasrah instead as they find it easier as in the words: حِلِمْت, اِيْدِيه, يعمل, اِتْعَلقت. With اِيْدِيه and اِتْعَلقت, the alif wasl is added as holder for the kasrah because it is hard to add a kasrah to يـ or to a letter that is followed by another with fatHah, as in اِتْعَلقت. (4) Egyptian often end prepositions that have attached pronouns with an extended kasrah pronounced as ـيـ, as in:

– بِها becomes بِيْهَا

– بِه becomes بِيْه

– لَه becomes لِيه (see below)

قَبْلُه becomes قَبْلِيه (see below)

–  more examples are: تَحْتِيْهم for تحَتَهُم; فَوْقِيْه for فَوْقُه; مِنَّيْه for مِنْهُ; عَنِّيْهَا for عَنَّيْهَا and so forth.  (5) ث is always pronounced as ت in Egyptian, so ثَانِي is pronounced as تاني. (6) يَوْم, يـ with fatHah in MSA, is pronounced as يُوْم, يُـ with DHammah in Egyptian. (7) The ئـ in ضَائِع in MSA is pronounce as يـ in Egyptian, as in ضَايع, شَايفه. In most Arabic dialects the ئـ is pronounced as يـ, hence قَائل, بَائِع, نَائِم in MSA are قَايل, بايع, and نايم in dialects. (8) alif al-qaT‘ (i.e. the alif with hamzahأ or إ) is always treated as alif wasl (alif without hamzah) in Egyptian, as in هَديله (i.e. هَأدِيْ له), بستنى (i.e. بأستنى), هَخَبِي (i.e. هأخَبِّي), هلقى (i.e. هألقى), ودَادي (i.e. وأدَاري), وياه (i.e. وإياه). Note that alif al-wasl is written but not pronounced in both MSA and dialects. (9) مَعَاه is for مَعَه in MSA. The fatHah on the عَ is extended that it becomes a long vowel. (10) Egyptian tend to shorten the alif in the middle of words that it becomes more like a fatHah, as in نَداني for نَادَاني.

 

Prefixes:

(1) In هخبي , هلقى , هديله , Egyptian use هـ at the beginning of verbs to indicate the future action. The equivalent of it in MSA is سـ. (2) Egyptian use بـ at the start of verbs to indicate that the action is continuous as in بتنده. (3) Egyptian use اتِـ at the beginning of verbs to indicate that the verb is passive, as in اِتْحكاله for حُكِيَ in MSA.

 

Blended words:

In both MSA and dialects, blending short words with other longer words preceding them is common, as in:

(1) هَديله is هَدِّي له

(2) قلتله is قلت له

(3) اتحكاله is اتحكى له

(4) حصلتلي is حصلت لي

 

Words:

(1) The equivalent of the MSA هَذَا / ذا and هَذِهِ / ذي are دَه and دِي in Egyptian. The ذ is pronounced as د. The alif of ذَا is dropped and is replaced by هـ, which is also common in MSA known as هـ of devoicing (of sukuun).

(2) الَّلِي ‘who’ is common in most Arabic dialects. It replaces all other relative pronouns (i.e. الَّذِي، الَّتِي، الَّلذَان، الَّلتَان، الَّذِيْن، الَّاتِي).

(3) اِحْلُو is for اِحْلَوْلَى in MSA. Due to its twister pronunciation, the MSA word has been replaced by اِحْلَو in most Arabic dialects.

(4)  هَدِّيْلَه is for سأَدِّي لَه in MSA. The هـ is for future (see above). The أ in أَدِي is treated as alif wasl, so it is assimilated. هَدَّيْلُه seems as one word because of contextual blending of words.

(5) يَامَا is common in Egyptian, and it means ‘many a time’

(6) بَسْتَنَّى is for اِسْتَّأَنَّى in MSA. The two alif are treated as alif wasl, so they are not pronounced. The بَـ at the beginning of verbs in Egyptian indicate the action is continuous.

(7) مُش is a common negative particle in many Arabic dialects similar to لَنْ in MSA. While لن indicates negation and future, مش indicates only negation, so the verb after مش has the prefix هـ which indicates the future.

(8) إيه is the Egyptian equivalent for مَا in MSA, and it is always at the end of the question rather at the beginning.

(9) Active participles (i.e. words like كَاتِب from كَتَبَ, شَارِب from شَرِبَ, سَامِع from سَمِعَ) are used as verbs in Egyptian, as in شَايفه (i.e. شَائف + ـه). Therefore, Egyptian say أنا سامعه for سمعته ‘I heard it / I listened to it’; أنا حافظه for حفظته ‘I memorized it.’ The same is true with مطمناني which used as a verb while it is an active participle (i.e. مطمئن). Here, the hamzah is dropped; an alif is added after ن to ease pronunciation; the ن after the alif is called the ن of wiqayah (ن that prevents pronunciation from being altered which is added only with on attached pronoun, that is ـي for أنا. With other pronouns this ن is not added, hence مطمناه, مطمناك, مطمناهم and so forth.

(10) Egyptian plural for يُوم is يُومات and for ليلة is لَيلات instead of the MSA أَيَّام and لَيَالي.

In sum, learners of Arabic have the right to complain about the difference MSA and dialects. It is a high time that Egyptians (and Arabs) fixed their spoken language to match MSA. This way Arabs from different countries can communicate with each other a lot more easily. Also, foreign learners will acquire their language faster.

مهما قلتله واتحكاله

Whatever I said or said to him

مستحيل أوصف جماله

It is impossible to describe his beauty.

رقة الدنيا في عيونه

The tenderness of life is in his eyes.

قلبي كان الله في عونه

May my heart be given support.

من اللي أنا حسيته معاه

For the tantalizing love I have for him

مَهْمَا قُلْت لَه وحُكِيَ لَه

مُسْتَحِيْل أَوْصِف جَمَاله

رِقَّة الدُنْيَا فِي عُيْونُه

قَلْبِي كَانَ الله فِي عَوْنِه

مِنْ الَّذِي حَسَّيْتُه مَعَه

 

كل يوم ألقى روحي بتنده ليه

Every day, I find my soul calling him.

على العموم مش هخبي وداري عليه

At any rate, I won’t hide or humor him.

إنه غيرني وسرقني وإن أنا اتعلقت بيه

Since he’s changed me and stole my heart, and I’m so fond of him.

كُل يَوَم أَلْقَى رُوْحِي تِنْدَه لَه.

عَلَى العُمُوم لَن أَخَبِّي وأَدَارِيه

إِنْهُ غَيَّرْنِي وسَرَقْنِي وَإِنِّي تَعَلَّقْت بِه

 

اللي فات من حياتي ضايع قبليه

The passed time of my life prior to him is lost.

فيه حاجات حلوة حصلتلي على إيديه

Many sweet things have happened to me because of him.

كل لحظة تزيد غلاوتة وناوي يعمل تاني إيه

His dearness increases by every moment, what more sweet things will he do?

الَّذِي فَات مِنْ حَيَاتِي ضَائِع قَبْلُه

فِي حَاجَات حُلْوَة حَصَلَت عَلى يَدَيْه

كُل لَحظَة تِزِيْد غَلاوَتَه وما َنَاوِي يَعْمَل ثانِي؟

لما أغمض قلبي شايفه

When I close my eyes, my heart sees him.

اسمي غنوة ما بين شفايفه

My name is a song between his lips.

صوته أجمل صوت نداني

His voice is the most beautiful voice calling me

ابتسامته مطمناني

His smile makes me feel secure.

يوماتي بالي عليه مشغول

In my days, my mind is preoccupied with him.

بالأمانة وبصراحة

Frankly and honestly

كنت عمري ما هلقى راحة

Not ever would I have found rest.

لولا بالصدفة لقيته

If I didn’t run into him by coincidence.

اللي بالغالي اشتريته

The one whom I bought at a price.

منايا أعيش وياه على طول

My hope is to live with him forever.

لَمَا أَغْمض، قَلْبِي يَشُوفه

اسمي غنوة ما بين شَفايفه

صَوْتُه أَجْمَل صَوت نَادَانِي

اِبْتِسَامَتُه مُطَمْئِنَة لي

كل أَيَامِي بَالِي عَلِيَه مِشْغُول

بِالأَمَانَة والصَّرَاحَة

كُنْت عُمْرِي ما سَألْقَى رَاحَة

لَوْلا بِالصُّدْفَة لَقَيْتُه

الذي اِشْتَرِيتُه بَالغَالِي

مَنَايَ أَعِيْش وإِيَاه عَلَى الدَّوَام.

كل يوم ألقى روحي بتنده ليه

Every day, I find my soul calling him.

على العموم مش هخبي وداري عليه

At any rate, I won’t hide or humor him.

إنه غيرني وسرقني وإن أنا اتعلقت بيه

Since he’s changed me and stole my heart, and I’m so fond of him.

اللي فات من حياتي ضايع قبليه

The passed time of my life prior to him is lost.

فيه حاجات حلوة حصلتلي على إيديه

Many sweet things have happened to me because of him.

كل لحظة تزيد غلاوتة وناوي يعمل تاني إيه

His dearness increases by every moment, what more sweet things will he do?

كُل يَوْم أَلْقَى رُوحِي تْندَه لُه

عَلَى العُمُوم لن أَخَبِّي وأَدَارِي عليه

إنه غَيْرَنِي وسَرَقنِي وإنْي تَعَلَقت به

الَّذِي فَات مِن حَيَاتِي ضَائِع قَبْلُه

فِيْه حَاجَات حِلْوَة حَصَلَتْ لِي عَلى يَدَيْه

كُل لَحْظَة تزِيد غَلاوَتة وما ناوِي يِعمَل ثَانِي؟

كل يوم ألقى روحي بتنده ليه

Every day, I find my soul calling him.

على العموم مش هخبي وأداري عليه

At any rate, I won’t hide or humor him.

إنه غيرني وسرقني وإن أنا اتعلقت بيه

Since he’s changed me and stole my heart, and I’m so fond of him.

اللي فات من حياتي ضايع قبليه

The passed time of my life prior to him is lost.

فيه حاجات حلوة حصلتلي على إيديه

Many sweet things have happened to me because of him.

كل لحظة تزيد غلاوتة وناوي يعمل تاني إيه

His dearness increases by every moment, what more sweet things will he do?

كُل يَوْم أَلْقَى رُوحِي تْندَه لُه

عَلَى العُمُوم لن أَخَبِّي وأَدَارِي عليه

إنه غَيْرَنِي وسَرَقنِي وإنْي تَعَلَقت به

الَّذِي فَات مِن حَيَاتِي ضَائِع قَبْلُه

فِيْه حَاجَات حِلْوَة حَصَلَتْ لِي عَلى يَدَيْه

كُل لَحْظَة تزِيد غَلاوَتة وما ناوِي يِعمَل ثَانِي؟

Note: the pronoun him in the song refers to الحَبِيْب ‘the beloved’ who can be a man or a woman. So, this song is meant for both. The word حَبِيْبِي is masculine but is can used for both genders.
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