SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Arabic language and literature

There is no language in the world that is as systemically comprehensible as Arabic. This beautiful Semitic language, one of the six official languages of the United Nations, is spoken by at least 250 million Arabs and used by all Muslims in the world.

Arabic is known for the wealth of its registers. The geographical and cultural diversity of the twenty-two Arab countries spanning the Middle East from North Africa to South-West Asia has given spoken Arabic numerous colloquial variants, each with features distinct from one another as well as from written Arabic.

Written Arabic too has spawned numerous layers including classical, vernacular and modern standard, which reflect the historical depth of the language.

Arabic has an uninterrupted history of at least sixteen centuries of development and has been the inspiration of a body of literature that is rich in forms of expression, styles and genres.

Knowledge of Arabic lays at students' fingertips the treasures of Arabic literary heritage and Islamic culture. Students are able to appreciate within only a few years of study the diversity and intricacies of classical, modern and popular Arabic writing, from poetry, story, history and belles-lettres to the Qur'an, Prophetic Tradition, Islamic theology and philosophy.

Mastery of the Arabic language is within easy reach thanks to the well-ordered system of Arabic grammar and derivation-based morphology. The need to understand the Qur'an at all times has guided and consolidated their development, making learning Arabic not only a rigorous exercise in logic but also an intriguingly pleasurable experience.