nl en

Ottoman Turkish (Spring)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies or to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research). Proficient reading skills in modern Turkish (level B2 European Common Framework, i.e. having had approximately 80 EC = 2240 hrs of language training courses) and a good basic knowledge of Ottoman Turkish (level of the course: Ottoman Turkish Fall). Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programs and/or are not sure whether they meet the language requirement are requested to contact the convener Dr. H.P.A. Theunissen.

  • To assess the level of interested MA students, they are urgently requested to contact the teacher, Dr. H.P.A. Theunissen well in advance before the start of the semester.

  • Students can opt to take this course for either 5 or 10 EC.

  • The 5 EC version is the same as the BA Course Osmaans 2.


Ottoman Turkish as a written language was the direct predecessor of modern Turkish spoken today in Turkey and a large geography outside of Turkey that used to form a part of the Ottoman Empire. The word ‘Ottoman’ is derived from the name Osman, founder of the dynasty, which ruled the empire between c. 1300 and 1922. As all languages do, Ottoman Turkish underwent all kinds of changes during its 600 years of existence, and the grammatical forms and vocabulary of the older phases of the language eventually transformed or disappeared, and were replaced by more modern variants. Ottoman Turkish was written in the Arabo-Persian alphabet borrowed mainly from the Persian cultural sphere in the fourteenth century. This went together with the adoption of a great many loanwords from Arabic and Persian and incorporation of Arabic and Persian grammatical constructions into the language. From the nineteenth century onward, a policy of “language reform” started to gain ground that aimed to remove the non-Turkish grammar and loanwords from the language. Under the presidency of Atatürk, this process culminated whereby the old script was replaced in 1928 by the Latin alphabet.
The principles of Turkish grammar and syntax will be frequently reviewed. The students will also be introduced to the more difficult Arabic and Persian elements incorporated into Ottoman Turkish. Another important aspect of this course is to familiarize the students with the use of Lexiqamus to solve problems encountered in the assigned texts. The text material consists mainly (but not exclusively) of handwritten material. There will be weekly homework assignments throughout the course. The final exam consists of a 3,500-word paper which includes a transliteration and translation of handwritten Ottoman text material (ca. 2500 words) and an introduction and an evaluation/contextualization of the texts (as a primary source). In addition a student who takes the 10 EC course makes 5 (5x28 hour) extra individual assignments during the semester.

Course objectives

Students who have taken this course will:

  • be able to read more difficult Ottoman-Turkish texts (including handwritten—manuscript and document—material);

  • to interpret them and;

  • to put them into historical and cultural perspective;

  • have acquired the ability to use the relevant primary and secondary literature;

  • have acquired various skills including independent academic thinking and acting, analyzing complex issues; and be able to report academically sound;

  • be able to identify and formulate an original research question, to analyze primary and secondary sources, and to draw conclusions;

  • have the ability to gauge scholarly publications in the field critically;

  • be able to present the result of independent research not only in writing but also through oral presentations both for a general and professional public;

  • be able to contribute to a public debate communicating the conclusions of their scholarly research, knowledge and understanding of the Middle East to an audience beyond traditional academia;

  • have learned to academically contribute to the field of research;

  • have knowledge and understanding of Ottoman history and culture.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar
    Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Completion of homework (transliteration and translation of texts as well as grammar exercises) and active participation and response during the reading of the material in class 60%
Final Paper 40%

In case of 10 EC Course:

Partial Assessment Weighing
Course grade (see above) 50%
5 individual assignments (each of 28 hours) 50%

Final Take-Home Examination
Transliteration and translation of a set of handwritten texts in Ottoman Turkish, a 4,000-word paper discussing the significance and historical context of the materials assigned for the exam. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a tentative date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower), a resit of the individual assignments and the final take-home examination is possible (60% in total).

A resit of the other partial assessment is not possible.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Will be chosen in consultation with the teacher.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.