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The spelling rules in  Levantine Arabic

Because of the use of Fusha in formal contexts, the variety of prestige dialects in Levantine Arabic, and the use informal of Levantine dialect in  texting and social media comments, there is little standardisation of Levantine spelling.

Arguably, there are two competing aims for spelling spoken dialects in Arabic script:

One aims to keep spelling the same as the Fusha spelling to help maintain a closeness between the spoken dialect and the classical written form.

The other  aims to represent the spoken word’s pronunciation most accurately. The following table illustrates this contrast:

English
Phonetic spelling
Fusha spelling
with him
مَعو
مَعهُ
water
ماي
ماء
minutes
دَقايَق
دَقَاْئِق
you (feminine)
إِنْتي
أَنْتِ

Notice how the ‘Phonectic spelling’ column more accurately maps the spoken word. Natives texting in dialect using Arabic script sometimes change the spelling phonetically for more common words but seem to maintain the classical spelling for more complex vocabulary.

We aim for a pragmatic middle ground between these two aims and tend to adopt the following spelling conventions:

Rule and reasoning
Our usage
What we avoid
Separate out prepositions to help beginners recognise them.
ب لبنان
بلبنان
Drop the unpronounced hamzas at the end of word.
جِز
جِزء
Retain the ة at the end of words. This helps the identification of grammatical gender despite pronunciation variations and avoids confusion with connected pronouns.
الحرب الأهليّة
الحرب الأهليي
Preference for phonetic pronouns. Pronouns are common, so correct pronunciation is important.
مَعو
مَعهُ

This approach is my no means exhaustive and we’d love to hear from you if you think we should treat the issue differently!