Libyan Arabic

The Egyptian phonology was shown before and the next country on the way around the Northern Africa is Libyan and its Arabic dialect. Arabic dialects are spoken versions of Classical written Arabic. The most part of then

This table shows the Libyan consonant sounds which are different from Classical Arabic. There are many unusual sounds and new consonant groups. The differences of the language and its dialect are shown below.

  • The Interdental, Lateral fricative and Lateral groups of the sounds.
  • Voiced Fricative sound, (v).
  • θ and ð are plain and (ðˤ) is an emphatic Interdental sounds.
  • Emphatic Dental-Alveolar have the same series of the sounds as a plain group, except “n” sound.
  • Another series of the Palatal, Uvular and Velar sounds.

As it is shown above, Libyan and Classical Arabic have very different sounds. The Libyan dialect is more emphatic and sharper than Classical. These traits are due the emphatic sounds and firm sounds. List of Libyan’s sounds and Classical Arabic is shown below. It is looked like a table of consonant shift in Libyan sounds and this shows them more carefully. Similar sounds are given here too with the mark “same”. First sound is Classical and second is Libyan’s.

  • m (Labial-Nasal, same).
  • b (voiced Stop, same).
  • f (voiceless Fricative, same).
  • (v) (voiced Fricative, Libyan).

The Labial sounds in Libyan and Classical Arabic (except (v)) are the same.

  • Θ, ð and (ðˤ) are the Libyan sounds from Interdental group and they are the same as in Dental–Fricative group of Classical Arabic.

The Interdental sounds “are produced by placing the tip of the tongue between the upper and lower front teeth” (Wikipedia).

The next group of sounds is plain Dental-Alveolar.

  • “n” (Nasal, same).
  • “t” (voiceless Stop, same).
  • “d” (voiced Stop, same).
  • “s” (voiceless Fricative, same).
  • “z” (voiced Fricative, same).
  • “r” (Trill, Libyan, Tap in Classical).
  • “l” (Approximant, Libyan, Lateral in Classical).

Emphatic Dental-Alveolar,

  • “tˤ” (voiceless Stop, same).
  • “dˤ” (voiced Stop, Libyan).
  • “sˤ” (voiceless Fricative, same ).
  • “zˤ” (voiced Fricative, same).
  • “rˤ” (Trill, Libyan).
  • “lˤ” (Approximant, Libyan).

Many sounds of the Libyan dialect formed the series of the emphatic sounds.

The Palatal sounds,

  • “ʃ” (voiceless Fricative, Libyan).
  • “ʒ” (voiced Fricative, Libyan),
  • “j” (Approximant, same).

The Velar sounds,

  • “k” (voiceless Stop, same).
  • “g” (voiced Stop, Libyan).
  • “w” (Approximant, same).

The Uvular sounds,

  • “(q)” (voiceless Stop, same).
  • “χ” (voiceless Fricative, same).
  • “ʁ” (voiced Fricative, same).

The Pharyngeal sounds,

  • “ħ” (voiceless Fricative, same).
  • “ʕ” (voiced Fricative, same).

The Glottal sounds,

  • “(ʔ)” (voiceless Stop, same).
  • “h” (voiceless Fricative, same).

The second stage is forming of series of true Libyan sounds. The collected sounds are shown below together with their groups’ names.

(v), Θ, ð, (ðˤ), r, l, dˤ, rˤ, lˤ, ʒ, g.

Information below is my own research and it can be contradictory.

The series of the changed sounds show that the Libyan language had its own way of development that is based on the Classical Arabic language. And its phonology shows that there are many unusual for Arabic sounds. The changes are in all sounds’ groups and the most part of the new sounds show that this language had close communications with other languages.

As noticed, the voiced Fricative sounds are the most common in the Libyan dialect. Consonant sound shifts are shown below and they are based on Libyan itself.

  • Θ, ð, (ðˤ) : Dental sounds (Ar) -> Interdental (Lib).
  • r: Tap (Ar) -> Trill (Lib).
  • l: Lateral (Ar) -> Approximant (Lib).
  • dˤ: plain Dental-Alveolar (Lib) -> emphatic D-A. (Lib) or

Lateral-Fricative (Ar) -> voiced Stop.

  • rˤ: plain Dental-Alveolar (Lib) -> emphatic D-A. (Lib) or

Tap (Ar) -> Trill (Lib).

  • lˤ: plain D-A. (Lib) -> emphatic D-A. (Lib) or

Lateral (Ar) -> Approximant (Lib).

  • ʒ: voiceles Fricative -> voiced Fricative.
  • g: Palatal -> Velar.

Here are shown number of sound shift and the ways of pronounces are shown here too. This information was given by Wikipedia.

Dental-Interdental sounds,

Dental sounds (Ar.) — “…tongue against the upper teeth, such as /t/, /d/, /n/, and /l/…”

Interdental (Lib.) – “…are produced by placing the tip of the tongue between the upper and lower front teeth…”

Dental-Alveolar sounds

“ a consonant that is articulated with a flat tongue against the alveolar ridge and upper teeth, such as /t/ and /d/…”,


“…are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate (the middle part of the roof of the mouth)…”


“…are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth…”


“…are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants…”


“…is a consonant that is articulated primarily in the pharynx…”

Glottal sounds

“…are consonants using the glottis as their primary articulation…”

The three most common types of the Arabic and Libyan consonants are shown below.


“…produced with a lowered velum, allowing air to escape freely through the nose…”


“…is a consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases…”


“…are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together…”

According that the most part of the Arabic and Libyan sounds are Fricative, there is a difference that Arabic consonants are voiceless but Libyan otherwise, voiced.  The difference between them is that voiceless consonants are pronounced without the larynx and voiced with it.

Resources: Wikipedia

This article was written by Ilya Duchanin.

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