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Lecture | LUCIS What's New?! series

Between Raḥmānan and al-Raḥmān: Linguistic Transformations in Late Antique South Arabia

Thursday 30 September 2021
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What's New?! Fall Lecture Series 2021
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Detail of page from Ibn al-Nadīm's "Fihrist", Ar 3315, Chester Beatty Library

The period between 300 and 800 CE saw some of the most dramatic social and political changes in South Arabia. It witnessed both the political unification of South Arabia and its invasion and subjugation by foreign powers, the gradual displacement of polytheism by Judaism and Christianity, as well its annexation into the burgeoning Islamic polity. Similarly, the languages of the ancient inscriptions – known collectively as “Ancient South Arabian” – came to be replaced by Arabic.

Although it is often assumed that the Arabization of South Arabia occurred after the coming of Islam, the evidence indicates that this process began several centuries earlier. By comparing some of the earliest South Arabian inscriptions containing Arabic influences, comments by medieval Islamic scholars, as well as descriptions of the Arabic dialects spoken in Yemen today, we can propose a more accurate chronology of the Arabization of South Arabia.

About Imar Koutchoukali

Imar Koutchoukali completed his BA in Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University in 2015, after which he moved to Tallinn (Estonia), where he wrote his MA thesis on linguistic variation in medieval Arabic. Currently he is writing his doctoral dissertation on social and political transformations in South Arabia during the late pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods at the University of Tartu. He is also preparing a second MA thesis on Estonian loanwords in Baltic German.

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