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Talenpanorama van het Midden Oosten: taal, cultuur en politiek in het Midden-Oosten


Admission requirements



This course introduces students to the linguistic diversity of the Middle East across space and time, from the earliest attested languages, such as Sumerian and Ancient Egyptian, to modern Turkish and Persian. Throughout this survey, we will focus on how these languages relate to each other, evolve, and go extinct. Students will also be introduced to genetic linguistics and methods of language classification. In addition to this, we will examine relevant socio-linguistic topics, such as the development of language ideologies, the development of communal dialects, socio-, and religiolects, and the connection between language, identity, and ethnicity. Upon completing this course, the student will have a holistic understanding of the linguistic history of the Middle East and will be conversant in historical linguistics.

Course menu

  1. Sumerian and the first Semitic speakers

  2. The Afro-Asiatic languages

3.The ancient Indo-European languages of the Middle East

4.The Alphabetic Semitic languages

5.The rise of Aramaic

  1. The linguistic map of the Middle East on the eve of the Arab conquests

7.The transformation of Arabic into the language of a civilization

8.Hebrew in the Arabophone world

9.The rebirth of Persian

10.The languages of the Ottoman Middle East

  1. Language and Identity: the Turkish language reforms; the resuscitation
    of Arabic (the Nahda, etc.); the revival of Hebrew

  2. Minority languages in the period of nation states: Kurdish;
    Neo-Aramaic; Modern South Arabian; Armenian; Berber

  3. Arabic as a minority language

Course objectives

Students gain an understanding of the linguistic diversity of the Middle East across space and time. They will be able to describe this diversity in historical linguistic terms, and discuss the relevant sociolinguistic issues.



Mode of instruction


Assessment method

(1) Mid-term constituting 40% of the final grade; (2) Final exam constituting 60% of the final grade; (3) an optional extra credit assignment will be available following the mid-term worth a maximum of 20%.



Reading list

  • See Blackboard

  • Harry Stroomer, In de schaduw van het Arabisch, Leiden 2002



Contact information

Dhr Dr. A.M. Al-Jallad