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The Saudi Najdi Dialect
The current population of Saudi Arabia is estimated at 32.94 million (2017). As with most Arabic countries, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the formal version of the language but mainly used in newspapers, books, and the media. It is taught in schools as a secondary language.
Apart from MSA, there are three distinct dialects of Arabic within the country. There is the Hejazi Dialect, Gulf Arabic and Najdi Arabic. Najdi Arabic is spoken mainly in the central region of the country and it is the first dialect of around 4.05 million people.
There are three major dialects of Najdi Arabic. There is Northern Najdi, spoken in Ha’il Region and Al-Qassim Region in the Najd; Central Najdi (Urban Najdi), spoken in the city of Riyadh and surrounding towns and farming communities; and Southern Najdi, spoken in the city of Al-Kharj and surrounding towns, and in the Rub’ al-Khali.
In 1994, Bruce Ingham wrote of the region of Najd in Central Arabia that it had always been regarded as “inaccessible, ringed by a belt of sand deserts, the Nafud, Dahana and the Rub’ al-Khali and often with its population at odds with the rulers of the outer settled lands. It is, however, the center of a purely Arabian culture based on a partnership between bedouin camel husbandry and settled palm cultivation. Possibly as a result of overpopulation, the bedouin have periodically spread over into the lands of the Fertile Crescent. Because of their isolated position, the Najdi dialect is of a very interesting and archaic type.”
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