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Knafeh or Chnafa? How Dialects Have Evolved Throughout Palestine Overtime

The infamous question that arabs across the entirety of the Middle East like to ask as a vibe check... Kanfeh or Chnafa?! Some would argue that there is no way it could be knafeh because the word sounds too "soft", and others like to argue that it can't be pronounced chnafa because the Arabic alphabet does not have the letter "ch-a." So the undying question remains up for discussion, which dialect pronounces this delicious delicacy the "right" way? Let's talk all about dialects and the evolution of them throughout Palestine as the years have gone by.

Dialects remain a topic of discussion for most arabs, and if you carry a civil and mature conversation about it, it's a quite interesting conversation! The evolution started by the early bedouins residing in Palestine. Yup you read the right! The bedouins are the one we have to thank for our long lived heated point in discussion with everyone we meet. The dialect that a Palestinian speaks with is heavily dependent on the region and social group they come from. With the three main dialects being urban, rural, and bedouin, there are a lot of pronunciation variations across the land. Let’s take a closer look at the three main dialects spoken across Palestine.

Palestinian Urban Dialects

The Palestinian urban dialect (madani) resembles the northern levanitinan arabic spoken throughout Lebanon and Syria. The urban dialect is mostly known for its “hamza” pronunciation of the “qaf” sound in the Arabic language.

Rural Varieties

The rule or farmer (falahi) variation of Arabic is closely related with rural dialects in the outer southern Levant and in Lebanon. There is a clear distinction between masculine and feminine plural pronouns. Even in the rural varieties of Palestinian dialects, it all goes further to break down into three more rural groups depending upon region. The three rule groups are North Galilean and Rural dialect, Central Rural Palestinian dialect, and Southern Outer Rural Levantine Arabic. The distinction between the languages are the pronunciation of feminine and masculine sounds that vary across the spoken language.

Bedouin variety

The Bedouin variety is mostly shown and commonly heard of within the Gaza Strip, Hebron and in Jerusalem. Their vocabulary is very distinct and they maintain interdental consonants which make it very easy to tell them apart from any other dialect in Palestine. The Bedouin variety is in fact the oldest known dialect in the region.

The current evolution of dialects have evolved in connection to closer rural neighborhoods. The variety comes from the introduction of different dialects in the Levant region. I know, all of this gets really confusing but it all makes sense. It’s important to recognize that the displacement of Palestinians has also affected the “Palestinian dialect” as many Palestinians were introduced to other dialects of the Arabic language upon entry to different countries during displacement.

At the end of the day it is important to remember that we are all Palestinian and whether you like to call it Chanafa or Knafeh, we all have one goal and that is to see the day that there is a Free Palestine.


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