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Ottoman Turkish (fall)


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. A.T. Sen.


The course aims at introducing the student to the principles of Ottoman Turkish and to the texts written in this language. 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 1924. 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 Persian grammatical constructions into the language. From the nineteenth century onward, a policy of “language purification” 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 students participating in the course will first learn how to read and write in the old script before starting to work on simple texts. The fundamental principles of Turkish grammar and syntax will be frequently reviewed. The students will also be introduced to the Arabic and Persian elements incorporated into Ottoman Turkish. Another important aspect of this course is to familiarize the students with the use of dictionaries to solve problems encountered in the assigned texts. There will be weekly short-quizzes in the first part of the course when more attention will be paid upon grammatical structures and Arabo-Persian elements. The second part will be more reading-intensive that will be concluded by a longer written examination. This examination consists of producing a 5000-word paper, which basically is a scholarly edition and translation of a text assigned by the instructor.

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.
Graduates of the programme have attained the following learning outcomes, listed according to the Dublin descriptors:

Graduates will:

a1. Knowledge and understanding
a. possess comprehensive knowledge of and skills in the area of history, literature, culture or religion of the Middle-East;
b. possess the ability to use the relevant primary and secondary literature;
c. have acquired various skills including independent academic thinking and acting, analyzing complex issues; and be able to report academically sound;
d. have acquired academic knowledge, insight, and skills in theories and methods used in various fields such as social sciences, literary studies, and anthropology, and be able to apply this knowledge to the field of Middle Eastern Studies.

a2. Applying knowledge and understanding
a) have the ability to make use of knowledge acquired at different courses in their specific field in their theses, but also in their further career with tasks such as teaching, supervising, consulting, writing, translating and editing;
b) have the ability to use the knowledge in policy making and public relations, as the majority of graduates of a non-European language and culture in their professional career deal with foreign people;
c) have acquired knowledge and understanding, geared towards problem-solving in new or unfamiliar environments within a broader scholarly and applied context.

a3. Judgment
a) are able to identify and formulate an original research question, to analyze primary and secondary sources, and to draw conclusions;
b) have the ability to gauge scholarly publications in the field critically;
c) are able to write and present orally clarifications and explanations of implicit issues related to the state of the art of the field of research: concepts, ideas, theses and hypotheses;
d) are able to integrate the knowledge and understanding they have acquired during the study for handling complexity, and formulating judgments;
e) have the ability to reflect on the academic, social and ethical responsibilities that arise from the field of Middle Eastern Studies.

a4. Communication
a) are able to present the result of independent research not only in writing but also through oral presentations both for a general and professional public;
b) are 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;
c) have learned to academically contribute to the field of research.

a5. Learning skills have developed abilities to follow post-master’s professional training or a PhD training of a largely self-determined or autonomous nature.
In addition to the achievement levels above, the following achievement levels per specialisation apply:

B5. Turkish Studies
Knowledge and understanding of Turkish history and culture and Turkey’s relation to Europe, viewed against its transition from the multi-ethnic Ottoman state to a nation state.



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 = 26 hours

  • Time spent preparing homework, including the written exam: 10 hours per week x 12 weeks = 120 hours

  • Time spent writing the 5000-word term paper = 134 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. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.) 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.



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. A.T. Sen


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).