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Topics in Arabic Linguistics (2013)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Arabic Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) 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. Al-Jallad, 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.


The topic of this year’s course is Old Arabic and the language of the Quran. This course explores the earliest stages of the Arabic language based on documentary evidence from the pre-Islamic period and its relevance to the debate surrounding the language and composition of the Qurʾān. We will begin with a survey of the corpus of Old Arabic inscriptions, transcriptions of Arabic in other languages, accounts of the language by contemporary authors, and the development of the Arabic script, with a goal of sketching a linguistic history of Arabic in the pre-Islaimic period. In this light, we will critically examine both medieval and modern theories on the language of the Qurʾān.

Theoretical issues:

  • Phonology and phonetics

  • Writing systems

  • Language classification

  • Language change and diversification

  • Language contact

Course objectives

  • Gain familiarity with the documentary sources of Old Arabic

  • Learn to read early Arabic and Ancient North Arabian epigraphy

  • Be able to critique linguistic and philological arguments regarding the nature of Old Arabic

  • Be familiar with the state-of-the-art in the linguistic study of the Qurʾān and its development



Mode of instruction

Weekly attendance is mandatory. Two unexcused absences will result in a failing grade.

Course Load

1) College: 4 contact hours per week = 13×4: 52 hours
2) Literature reading: 10 hours reading for ca. 12 classes: 120 hours
3) Weekly assignment: 2X12: 24
4) Preparing presentation: 8 hours
5) Preparation of the two paper assignments: 2×38 hours: 76 hours
= 280 hrs.

Assessment method

  • Paper followed by class presentation (20%). Deadline paper: ## October.

  • Participation in class (10%)

  • Term paper (40%) to be completed before the end of the course. In this paper, students will critique a theory on the language of the Qurʾān.

  • Weekly assignments (30%)


A Lesson Plan will appear weekly on Blackboard with literature and assignments.

Reading list

Will be posted weekly on Blackboard.


Registration through uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:


Dr. A. Al-Jallad


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).