Lebanese Arabic shares many features with other modern varieties of Arabic. Lebanese Arabic, like many other spoken Levantine Arabic varieties, has a syllable structure very different from that of Modern Standard Arabic. While Standard Arabic can have only one consonant at the beginning of a syllable, after which a vowel must follow, Lebanese Arabic commonly has two consonants in the onset.
An interview with Lebanese singer Maya Diab; she speaks in Lebanese Arabic.
The following example demonstrates two differences between Standard Arabic (Literary Arabic) and Spoken Lebanese Arabic: Coffee (قهوة), Literary Arabic: /ˈqahwa/; Lebanese Arabic: [ˈʔahwe]. The voiceless uvular plosive/q/ corresponds to a glottal stop[ʔ], and the final vowel ([æ~a~ɐ]) commonly written with tāʾ marbūtah (ة) is raised to [e].
The exception for this general rule is the Druze of Lebanon who, like the Druze of Syria and Israel, have retained the pronunciation of /q/ in the centre of direct neighbours who have substituted the /q/ for the [ʔ] (example: "Heart" is /qalb/ in Literary Arabic, becomes [ˈʔaleb] or [ʔalb], which is similar in Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Maltese. The use of /q/ by Druze is particularly prominent in the mountains and less so in urban areas.
Unlike most other varieties of Arabic, a few dialects of Lebanese Arabic have retained the classical diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ (pronounced in Lebanese Arabic as [eɪ] and [eʊ]), which were monophthongised into [eː] and [oː] elsewhere, although the majority of Lebanese Arabic dialects realize them as [oʊ] and [eɪ]. In urban dialects (i.e. Beiruti) [eː] has replaced /aj/ and sometimes medial /aː/, and [e] has replaced final /i/ making it indistinguishable with tāʾ marbūtah (ة). Also, [oː] has replaced /aw/; [o] replacing some short /u/s. In singing, the /aj/, /aw/ and medial /aː/ are usually maintained for artistic[specify] values.
The /θ/ sound from Modern Standard Arabic is sometimes replaced with /t/ in words from MSA like /θa:nija/, (second as in the number) when it becomes /te:njə/. Other times, it may be replaced with /s/ in words like /θa:nija/ (second as in the time measurement) when it becomes /se:njə/. It is assumed that this is to maintain an audible difference between the two words which were originally homophones. In some dialects, the /θ/ sound is replaced with /t/ for both words.
Several non-linguist commentators, including Nassim Taleb, have claimed that the Lebanese vernacular is not in fact a variety of Arabic at all, but rather a separate Central Semitic language descended from older languages including Aramaic; those who espouse this viewpoint suggest that a large percentage of its vocabulary consists of Arabic loanwords, and that this compounds with the use of the Arabic alphabet to disguise the language's true nature. Taleb has recommended that the language be called Northwestern Levantine or neo-Canaanite. Linguists reject this classification on the basis that it is easily disproved by the comparative method and other tools known to historical linguistics, and that attempts to claim another ancestor for Lebanese are motivated more by nationalist politics than by a desire for linguistic impartiality..
More recently, Ahmad Al Jallad confirms that the so-called Arabic vernaculars do not descend from Arabic, but have followed a parallel evolution, what is called Classical Arabic is a more recent language with newer innovations than the so-called dialects.
Although there is a modern Lebanese Arabic dialect mutually understood by Lebanese people, there are regionally distinct variations with, at times, unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
Lebanese Arabic is rarely written, except in novels where a dialect is implied or in some types of poetry that do not use classical Arabic at all. Lebanese Arabic is also utilized in many Lebanese songs, theatrical pieces, local television and radio productions, and very prominently in zajal.
Formal publications in Lebanon, such as newspapers, are typically written in Modern Standard Arabic, French, or English.
While Arabic script is usually employed, informal usage such as online chat may mix and match Latin letter transliterations. The Lebanese poet Saïd Akl proposed the use of the Latin alphabet but did not gain wide acceptance. Whereas some works, such as Romeo and Juliet and Plato's Dialogues have been transliterated using such systems, they have not gained widespread acceptance. Yet, now, most Arabic web users, when short of an Arabic keyboard, transliterate the Lebanese Arabic words in the Latin alphabet in a pattern similar to the Said Akl alphabet, the only difference being the use of digits to render the Arabic letters with no obvious equivalent in the Latin alphabet.
There is still today no generally accepted agreement on how to use the Latin alphabet to transliterate Lebanese Arabic words. However, Lebanese people are now using latin numbers while communicating online to make up for sounds not directly associable to latin letters. This is especially popular over text messages and apps such as WhatsApp.
7 for ح
3 for ع
2 for ء or ق (qaf is often pronounced as a glottal stop)
In 2010, The Lebanese Language Institute has released a Lebanese Arabic keyboard layout and made it easier to write Lebanese Arabic in a Latin script, using unicode-compatible symbols to substitute for missing sounds.
Said Akl's orthography
Capitalization and punctuation are used normally the same way they are used in the French and English languages.
Some written consonant-letters, depending on their position, inherited a preceding vowel. As L and T.
Emphatic consonants are not distinguished from normal ones, with the exception of /zˤ/ represented by ƶ. Probably Said Akl did not acknowledge any other emphatic consonant.[contradictory]
Stress is not marked.
Long vowels and geminated consonants are represented by double letters.
Ç which represents /ʔ/ was written even initially.
All the basic Latin alphabet are used, in addition to other diacriticized ones. Most of the letters loosely represent their IPA counterparts, with some exceptions: