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Arabic Dialectology


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages and Cultures, specialisation Arabic Studies, the Research Master Area Studies: Asia and the Middle East, specialization Middle Eastern Studies, is required. Students must hold a BA in Arabic Studies or have an equivalent level of proficiency in Arabic. Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Dr. R. de Jong, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of one of the above-mentioned MA programmes and/or you are not sure whether your level of Arabic is sufficient.


This course consists of two parts: an introductory section in which concepts of linguistic description are treated and illustrated with examples from spoken dialects of Arabic. The second part focuses on textual analysis of the spoken dialects of the Arabic speaking regions.

  1. Theoretical issues
  • “Dialect Classification” in the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics

  • “Dialect Geography” in the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics

  • Naima Boussofara- Omar, “Neither third language…,” Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik 45, 2006

  • Enam Al-Wer: The formation of the dialect of Amman. In : Arabic in the City (Edited by Catherine Miller e.a.).

  • Prof. Woidich’s MA dialectology course materials

Course objectives

  • Learn to listen and transcribe a text in a broad phonological transcription

  • Learn about concepts used in linguistic description

  • Identify interesting dialectal characteristics, write report on these in terms of concepts taught in class or treated in literature (paper)

  • Learn about various issues in: dialect classification, dialect geography, the socio-linguistic approach


This course is (provisionally) scheduled on Mondays, 11-13 hs.Timetables

Mode of instruction

Part 1: Lectures (introductory section)
Part 2: Tutorials. Students will have to prepare small dialect descriptions to be presented (ca. 20 mins) and discussed in class. A choice (t.b.a.) of 5 or 6 dialect descriptions listed below will be treated in class.

Weekly attendance and participation are required for parts 1 and 2. Students are allowed to miss two classes for a good reason (at the discretion of the teacher/convener). Students who miss more than two classes will fail the course.

Assessment method

  • Oral presentation in class (20%)

  • Participation in class (10%)

  • Final paper (written; between 3,000 to 4,000 words) (40%) to be completed before the end of the course. A printed draft version is to be presented and discussed during the course; the feedback given by the instructor and fellow students must be integrated into the final printed version (due in August). The paper should contain at least the following elements:

  1. A short sample text (ca. 250 words) in phonological transcription of the dialect described, a translation in English or Dutch of this text.
  2. A description of interesting characteristics (of phonology/stress/phonotactics/ morphology) of the dialect studied, illustrated with examples in the sample dialect text
  3. A concise bibliography of sources relevant for the dialect described and of dialects of (directly) surrounding/neighbouring area(s)
    NOTE: No topics dealing with MSA of CA; only linguistic issues and dialect texts + explanatory text will be accepted.
  • Final written test (in June? Precise date t.b.a.) (30%)


Reading list

  • The chapter “Dialects of Arabic” in K. Versteegh, The Arabic Language, Edinburg

  • A choice (t.b.a.) of 5 or 6 dialect descriptions in the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics:

  • Sinai (Northwestern Bedouin Arabic)

  • Maltese

  • Uzbekistan

  • Najdi Bedouin Arabic

  • Damascus

  • Yemen

  • Morocco

  • Egypt


Registration is compulsory uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. R. de Jong