Major grant success for Arabic linguistics at Essex

  • Date

    Thu 8 Jun 17

Four academics from our Department of Language and Linguistics have been awarded highly prestigious research grants enabling them to further their study in the field of Arabic linguistics.

Dr Enam Al-Wer and Professor Louisa Sadler have both been awarded Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship grants.

Dr Uri Horesh has received a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship and Dr Maris Camilleri has been awarded a three year postdoctoral grant by the Maltese Ministry of Education and Employment.

Dr Al-Wer’s project, The emerging dialect of Amman: A study of new dialect formation, will continue research she first began a decade ago in a bid to decipher whether a new dialect was being made by the third generation of inhabitants in the ‘new’ capital of Jordan.

Speaking of the study Dr Al-Wer said, “Amman is an ancient city dating back to 8000 years BC that has been destroyed and resurrected many times. It never used to have an Arabic dialect of its own but at the beginning of the 20th century it became the capital of Jordan and something began to happen.

“People flooded in to the new capital form Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and other parts of Jordan, all bringing their different dialects with them. A new dialect began to emerge and I want to understand how and why certain features are emerging over and above others.”

Professor Sadler’s project, Complementation patterns in vernacular Arabic, will look at a number of grammatical constructions across a range of contemporary varieties of Arabic. Professor Sadler said, “The grammatical constructions I will look at in this project are ones which have not been studied much for Arabic, and in working on them I hope to make a contribution to the growing body of work on contemporary Arabic.

“At a more abstract level, the phenomena to be investigated can cast some light on the relation between syntax (grammar) and our conceptualisation of events and the participants in those events.”

Dr Horesh’s project, Further sociolinguistic explorations in Palestinian Arabic: Identity, religion and urbanisation, will look at urbanisation and what happens to a dialect when, for example, a village expands.

Speaking about the research, Dr Horesh said, ““As is common in sociolinguistics, I will be considering multiple linguistic and social factors, such as religion, age, gender and social class, in order to tease out which of these factors play salient roles in the process of language change.”

In addition, Dr Al-Wer and Dr Horesh will be working together on a British Academy and Leverhulme jointly funded project entitled, Religious affiliation, language variation and national identity in the Middle East. This research will further explore four linguistic features that have already been identified suggesting religious affiliation is making a difference to the way in which people are speaking.

Dr Maris Camilleri’s project, Negation in Maltese, will look at the words or expressions used to form a negative sentence in Maltese and compare it with other Arabic dialects.

On hearing of the numerous award successes, Professor Nancy Kula, Head of the Department of Language and Linguistics said, “It is excellent news that our work in the field of Arabic linguistics has been recognised in this way. The Middle East is an important area right now and the department has been gradually developing its expertise in this area for some time.

“This research also feeds into the work of the many students we have from various parts of the Arab world by way of supervision by these outstanding scholars. Essex is becoming a real world player in Arabic linguistic studies and we are very proud of this.”