Liesbeth Zack is Assistant Professor in Arabic language and linguistics. Her research interests include historical sources of the Egyptian Arabic dialects, Middle Arabic, modern Egyptian Arabic, Arabic sociolinguistics, and Egyptian dialect literature.
She is currently working at the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication on a research project entitled "The making of a capital dialect: Language change in 19th century Cairo", with a Veni grant from NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research).
The language situation in the Arab world is known as diglossia, which means there is a high variety (Classical Arabic / Modern Standard Arabic) used for official purposes, and a low variety (dialect) used for informal communication. In Ottoman Egypt the language situation was complicated further because the language of the government and the elite was Turkish.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Arabic dialect of Cairo changed in many respects: some features which the dialect until then shared with the surrounding rural dialects, disappeared, while other features were replaced by innovative ones.
Structural properties of the language alone cannot explain the change in the dialect, because the features that started to disappear then, had been part of the language for centuries. Therefore, the social context also has to be taken into account. In the 19th century, dramatic changes in the social structure of the city took place. Cairo in that period attracted many labourers from the rural regions of Egypt. The mixing of urban and rural dialects led to linguistic changes and the emergence of a different dialect known as modern Cairene.
The change of the official language of the government from Turkish to Arabic also had its impact on the dialect, since the elite who spoke Turkish until then, switched to Arabic. The urban population and the Turkish elite wanted to dissociate themselves from the speech of peasants and, accordingly, avoided stigmatized 'rural' features.
This project aims at analyzing the characteristics of this dialect and the changes that took place, explaining these changes by studying the language in its social context, and producing a digitalized corpus that can be used in future studies.
1998, MA (doctoraal) in Arabic Studies, cum laude, from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The subject of my thesis was an analysis of the Egyptian dialect used by the Egyptian novelist Yūsuf al-Qaʿīd in his novel Laban ilʿaṣfūr ("The milk of the bird").
1997-2006, Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, Assistant Arabic Studies.
2006-2009, Lecturer of Arabic at the University of Amsterdam.
2009, PhD thesis: Egyptian Arabic in the seventeenth century: a study and edition of Yūsuf al-Maġribī's "Dafʿ al-iṣr ʿan kalām ahl Miṣr".
2009-present, Assistant Professor in Arabic Language and Culture at the University of Amsterdam.
2012-present, project: "The making of a capital dialect: Language change in 19th century Cairo". Veni-grant 2012-2015 from NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research).
In recent scholarship, the connection between Middle Arabic and Mixed Arabic
is studied in a more systematic way. The idea of studying these two varieties in
one theoretical frame is quite new, and was initiated at the conferences of the
International Association for the Study of Middle and Mixed Arabic (AIMA). At
these conferences, the members of AIMA discuss the latest insights into the
definition, terminology, and research methods of Middle and Mixed Arabic.
Results of various discussions in this field are to be foundin the presentbook,
which contains articles describing and analysing the linguistic features of
Muslim, Jewish and Christian Arabic texts (folklore, religious and linguistic
literature) as well as the matters of mixed language and diglossia.
Contributors include: Berend Jan Dikken, Lutz Edzard, Jacques Grand'Henry, Bruno Halflants, Benjamin Hary, Rachel Hasson Kenat, Johannes den Heijer, Amr Helmy Ibrahim, Paolo La Spisa, Jérôme Lentin, Gunvor Mejdell, Arie Schippers, Yosef Tobi, Kees de Vreugd, Manfred Woidich, and Otto Zwartjes.
Publisher: Brill, Leiden.
Series: Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics 64.
Publication date: April 2012.
Dafʿ al-iṣr ʿan kalām ahl Miṣr دفع الإصر عن كلام أهل مصر " Removing the burden from the speech of the Egyptians", was written in 1606 by Yūsuf al-Maġribī يوسف المغربي (d. 1611), and provides its readers with valuable information about the Egyptian dialect used in the 17 th century. The work is unique because it was one of the earliest attempts to study colloquial Arabic. It is a list of Egyptian Arabic words, which al-Maġribī checked for consistency with Classical Arabic. His aim was to prove that many Egyptian dialect terms, which were considered to be "incorrect"Arabic, in fact had their roots in the Classical Arabic language. Al-Maġribī focused on the words used in daily Egyptian life, such as the names of tools and utensils and food and drink, as well as the speech of traders and artisans. These entries are often adorned by anecdotes and lines of colloquial poetry and therefore, provide the reader with insight into the culture and daily life of Egypt in this period. This volume, which was published in 2009, consists of two parts: the first is a study of aspects of daily life, the colloquial poetry, the linguistic characteristics of the dialect of this period, and a glossary of the words which are mentioned by al-Maġribī. The second parts is the edition of the Arabic text, based on the autograph.
Last update: May 2019
In deze module leren studenten Egyptisch Arabisch. Tevens leren zij in de tweede helft het Arabische alfabet en de elementaire regels van het schrijven. Ook maken de studenten kennis met Arabisch in transcriptie en met de westerse benadering van de Arabische grammatica.
This course focuses on "Language and Politics in the Arab world" and on the dichotomy between Modern Standard Arabic and the dialects, which often manifests itself in the language used in political texts such as speeches. Radio and television broadcasts of politicians in the Arab world will be analysed, e.g. the speeches of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and other Arab leaders, but also historical material will be used, such as the speeches of Nasser. Written material, for instance political commentaries, blogs, and slogans used during demonstrations, will also be analysed during the course. At the end of this course, the student will have gained a deeper insight into the language situation in the Arab world and in the way Modern Standard Arabic and the dialects interact in political texts.
Zie de studiegids van de opleiding Arabisch voor meer informatie: