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Arabic Dialectology


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.


This course explores the different historical phases of the Arabic language. Students will acquire a good knowledge of the diverse varieties of Arabic, from the epigraphic dialects to the modern spoken forms, and the ability to discuss their development in historical linguistic terms. Lectures and tutorials will be organized around case studies of key issues in the phonology and morphology of Arabic. Students will conclude the course by drawing up their own genetic sub-classification of Arabic.

  1. Theoretical issues
  • Language change and diversification

  • Wave vs. tree models of language classification

  • Areal features vs. genetic features

  • Neogrammarian sound change and phonology

  • Grammaticalization

  1. Course objectives
  • Learn Neogrammarian methods of reconstruction

  • Learn about the methods of linguistic classification

  • Understand the range of Arabic linguistic diversity (both past and present), and be able to discuss the development of key dialectal isoglosses



Mode of instruction

Part 1: Lectures (introductory section)
Part 2: Tutorials. Students will prepare a rough historical sketch on the phonology of morphology of a dialect of their choice to be presented in class. A list of possible dialects will be provided in class.
Weekly attendance is mandatory. Two unexcused absences will result in a failing grade.

Assessment method

  • Paper followed by class presentation (20%). Deadline paper: 26 October.

  • Participation in class (10%)

  • Term paper (40%) to be completed before the end of the course. The paper can deal with one of two topics: a discussion of the development of a phonological or morphological feature across many Arabic dialects or the historical description of the phonology and select topics in morphology of a single dialect. Deadline final paper: 18 January.

  • Sub-classification of Arabic (30%)



Reading list

Will be posted on Blackboard


Registration is compulsory through uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. A. Al-Jallad