Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Arabic)


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • Arabic Language 2 (ARAB2002) or an equivalent qualification to the satisfaction of the Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.


  • Arabic Language 4 (ARAB3012)

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Persian I (ARAB2041)


  • The major theme underlying this module is: ‘What is Arabic?’. This module introduces students to the linguistic structure of Arabic, including sounds (phonetics and phonology), word and sentence structure (morphology and syntax), lexis (lexicology and terminology), semantics, and dialectal and sociolinguistic variation (including the phenomenon of diglossia).
  • The module covers the development of the Arabic language from its Afroasiatic roots through to the variant dialects of today.


  • The module focuses on linguistic varieties that may be thought of as ‘Arabic’, as linguistic systems, from both diachronic and synchronic perspectives. Broad areas covered are therefore socio- and historical linguistics, and core areas of linguistics with specific reference to Arabic. Topics typically include the following:
  • The historical development of Arabic, its relation to the Semitic language family and dialect classification
  • The development of linguistics; the development of Arabic language studies; the development of Arabic linguistics; major debates in the literature (including the monogenetic myth; the creolisation theory; ‘Middle Arabic’; the diglossia debate, etc.)
  • Arabic varieties historically and synchronically
  • Core areas of linguistics are introduced and then applied to Arabic, including: lexis and terminology (lexical structure; historical borrowings and loanwords; morpho-semantic development), phonetics and phonology (sounds and sound systems), morphology (word-building; derivation and inflection), syntax and grammaticalisation (typological issues; word order; grammatical concepts, semantics (meaning relationships)
  • Students are familiarised with the core literature on Arabic linguistics, with key topics of modern linguistics as relevant to Arabic, and with key relevant topics in the Arabic grammatical tradition

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • be able to demonstrate a good understanding of what the ‘Arabic language’ is and how modern Arabic varieties have developed
  • have a good knowledge of the history of Arabic studies and be developing a knowledge of the core Arabic dialectology literature
  • have developed a firm understanding of the formal structure of Arabic, with respect to the core linguistic areas
  • have developed a knowledge of dialectological and sociolinguistic variation in the contemporary Arabic speech linguistic community, with an awareness of a wide and representative range of variable features and the ability to analyse these features as well as discuss them with the appropriate theoretical terminology
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • have developed awareness of methodological issues in comparative linguistics
  • have gained the ability to read primary linguistics literature; gained the ability to critically evaluate at least some of the key debates in Arabic linguistics
  • be able to articulate theoretically informed approaches to linguistic analysis
  • understand key theoretical concepts and have a firmly conceptual understanding of the Arabic system(s)
  • have developed solid analytical linguistic skills
  • have gained skills in linguistic transcription (informal, IPA, Arabic-script)
  • have enhanced their skills in Arabic dialect identification (from both written and oral texts)
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • have enhanced their language analysis and critical reading skills
  • be able to engage with and evaluate primary sources
  • have further honed their ability to relate their experience and personal knowledge to theoretical issues discussed
  • have further developed independent research skills and team-work skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is taught intensively in Term 1 or Term 2 on a ‘short–fat’ basis.
  • A weekly lecture delivers key information and concepts, acting as exegesis for the weekly set readings and allowing for discussion and clarification as necessary. Small class sizes allow for seminar-style discussions to be built into the lectures.
  • A weekly seminar provides for development of linguistic analytical skills. Use is made of sound recordings and original datasets exemplifying a number of variant features of Arabic, with practical analysis exercises based on these. In particular, students work with original field recordings of different Arabic dialects in order to enhance analytical skills, knowledge of different Arabic dialects, transcription and identification skills, and to provide general ear training and some awareness of field methodology and sociolinguistic issues. Such original data clearly exemplifies various specific linguistic features discussed throughout the year.
  • Use is made of Duo for students to further consolidate their learning independently.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 2 hours 20
Tutorials 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Student preparation and reading time 170
Total SLAT hours 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Analytical Assignment Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Assignment 1,000 words 100% No
Component: Guided Research Project Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Extended Essay 4,000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Compulsory readings are set on a weekly basis. The first summative exercise is an analysis-based assignment which acts formatively for the main assessment. Students have the opportunity to present in seminar a short piece of their own (guided) research on one aspect of Arabic linguistics and dialectology, as preparation for the extended essay that comprises the final assessment

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University