The Word, the Blade, and the Pen: Three Thousand Years of Arabic

In contract. Princeton University Press.

Arabic’s history spans nearly three thousand years.  The language first appears as a shadowy idiom in the early 1st millennium BCE, sporadically attested in ancient rock inscriptions from the southern Levant and North Arabia and fragments in the documents of major empires.  In Classical Antiquity, Arabic flourishes as a written language among the nomads of North Arabia and the Syro-Jordanian desert, and by mid-first millennium CE, it had become the language of world empires and international scientific discourse.  Ahmad Al-Jallad plots out the complex evolution of the world’s fifth most widely spoken language.  For the first time, Arabic’s entire history will be told, with a special focus on the primary sources and their socio-cultural contexts.  The evolution of both the language and its associated writing traditions are discussed in light of linguistic, historical, and archaeological research, and presented as a coherent narrative.

Visual timeline of Arabic (here)


Arabic in Context: Celebrating 400 Years of Arabic at Leiden University (ed.)

2017. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics 89. Leiden: Brill.

An Outline of the Grammar of the Safaitic Inscriptions


2015. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics 80. Leiden: Brill.

This volume contains a detailed grammatical description of the dialects of Old Arabic attested in the Safaitic script, an Ancient North Arabian alphabet used mainly in the deserts of southern Syria and north-eastern Jordan in the pre-Islamic period. It is the first complete grammar of any Ancient North Arabian corpus, making it an important contribution to the fields of Arabic and Semitic studies. The volume covers topics in script and orthography, phonology, morphology, and syntax, and contains an appendix of over 500 inscriptions and an annotated dictionary. The grammar is based on a corpus of 33,000 Safaitic inscriptions.

More information available here.


Let it be said from the start that this is a first-class study which places firmly on the map a language which is of huge importance in the context of the history of the Arabic language and, more generally, of Arabian epigraphy and Semitic linguistics.G. Rex Smith, University of Leeds. Journal of Semitic Studies 2016

Grâce à Ahmad al-Jallad, les spécialistes de grammaire sémitique comparée ont désormais un accès simplifié à ce formidable corpus, qui ressuscite tout un pan de l’histoire de la langue arabe et, par là même, de l’histoire des peuples arabes préislamiques.Jonas Sibony. Arabica 2016

This well-researched and structured book will be of interest to Semitists, who will find invaluable parallels and ideas, while comparatists will now have a reliable reference work with dozens of glossed examples when they construct linguistic models based on a large sample of world languages.Naïm Vanthieghem – Princeton University. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 2016.