Studies on the Dialects of Southern Arabia


Études sur les dialectes de l'Arabie méridionale (Studies of the dialects of South Arabia) is a monumental study of the dialects of the Hadramawt and Datinah regions of the southern Arabian Peninsula, located northeast of the city of Aden (present-day Yemen). It was produced by the Swedish Orientalist Count Carlo Landberg (1848‒1924), who is considered one of the leading Swedish Orientalists of all time. The work consists of four volumes of painstakingly transcribed recitations of poems, songs, and stories collected from the tribes. The author provides the Arabic text in colloquial transcription, a phonetic rendering of the recitation, and a translation into French. Musical notation is provided for songs. A wealthy aristocrat who was able to devote his time and fortune to the study of Arabic dialects during his travels and on diplomatic postings in Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, Landberg maintained residences in France, Germany, and Sweden, and participated in the scholarly life of each country. In 1889 he served as secretary-general of the Eighth International Congress of Orientalists. On the occasion of his 75th birthday he wrote: “I have spent more than thirty years among the Arabs. I have spoken Arabic every day for forty-two years, up until the War [World War I].” Although based on research that is more than a century old, Landberg’s pioneering studies remain the starting point for South Arabian dialect research. Linguistic science and dialectology have grown in complexity and sophistication since Landberg’s time, but modern scholars still rely on his original field work, especially his lexicography. Landberg also provided rich descriptions of the manners and customs of the peoples among whom he worked. The publication of these volumes in 1901‒13 by the Orientalist printing and publishing firm of E.J. Brill of Leiden, Netherlands, was a tour-de-force in its own right. The books are masterpieces of precision in the use of multiple types, complex annotation, and comprehensive book design featuring multiple indexes, glossaries, and explanatory text. The work is dedicated to King Oscar II of Sweden, who was also a scholar and a patron of the arts and sciences.

Last updated: March 17, 2016