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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 hs of language training courses). 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. J. Schmidt.


The course aims at introducing the student to the principles of the Ottoman Turkish written language and Ottoman-Turkish texts. Ottoman-Turkish was the direct predecessor of modern Turkish spoken and written today in the Turkish Republic and was current in all parts 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 1924. As all languages do, Ottoman-Turkish underwent all kinds of changes during the 600 years of its existence, and in the older phases of the language we find grammatical forms and vocabulary which disappeared later and were replaced by more modern variants in the course of time. By 1800, Ottoman Turkish had basically become the Turkish we know today. Ottoman Turkish was written in the Arabo-Persian alphabet borrowed from Persian in the 14th century. This went together with the adoption of a great many loanwords from Arabic and Persian and of Persian grammatical constructions into the language. From the 19th century onward, a policy of ‘purifying’ the language and removing non-Turkish grammar and loanwords from the language gained ground. Under the presidency of Atatürk, this process culminated whereby the old alphabet was, moreover, replaced by the Latin alphabet (in 1928).

The student participating in the course will learn the old alphabet and learn, at first, to read simple texts. The most important phenomena of the language will be explained, among these some aspects of Arabic and Persian which were incorporated into Ottoman-Turkish. The students will also be taught how to use grammars and dictionaries in order to solve problems encountered in texts used in class. This part of the course is concluded by a written examination. The second part of the course is meant to further develop reading skills. Texts of the student’s choice, including texts of an older period, will be studied by the student and discussed in class. The course is concluded by 5000-word paper, which basically is a scholarly edition and translation of a text chosen by the student.

Course objectives

The main aim of the course is to develop skills which enable the student to read not too complicated Ottoman-Turkish texts, interpret them and put them into historical perspective.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be compensated by an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end paper and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

The course load is 10 ECTS equal to 280 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending the seminar: 2 hours per week x 13 weeks = 36 hours

  • Time spent preparing homework, including the written exam: 10 hours per week x 13 weeks = 130 hours

  • Time spent writing the 5000-word term paper = 114 hours

Assessment method

The final mark of this course will be composed of the following elements:

  • Active participation and response during the discussion of the topic of the week and presentation of draft papers (40%)

    *Written homework, a written exam (transcription and translation of Ottoman words and expressions as well as a transcription and translation of a simple text), reading of texts and term paper (60%). As for the term paper: 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 version. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A new version of the final assignment may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. If students take this option, they must choose a different selection of texts or an alternative topic for the term paper. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same texts or the same paper. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.
    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.



Reading list and texts to be used in term paper

Will be chosen in consultation with the teacher.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.
Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.


Dhr. dr. J. Schmidt.


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 accommodations 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).