The goal of the Arabic major is to achieve advanced language proficiency in the four areas of language performance: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. 

Though coursework will take place in Modern Standard Arabic, Arabic majors will study colloquial Arabic while abroad and develop competence in the appropriate use of both language registers. Complementary to the language learning goals, Arabic majors will pursue work in one of two academic disciplines: literature or linguistics. The purpose of joining language proficiency and disciplinary specialization is to provide Arabic majors with the communicative skills and intellectual background necessary for a meaningful engagement with the Arab world and a critical appreciation of its cultural and intellectual traditions.

Following the guidelines established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), advanced language proficiency is defined as follows:

  • Speaking: able to handle with ease and confidence a large number of communicative tasks; active participation in informal and formal exchanges on a variety of topics relating to work, school, home, and leisure activities, as well as to events of current, public, and personal interest or individual relevance.
  • Listening: able to understand main ideas and most details of connected discourse on a variety of topics beyond the immediacy of the situation.
  • Reading: able to understand texts that are conceptually abstract and linguistically complex, and/or texts that treat unfamiliar topics and situations, as well as some texts that involve aspects of target-language culture.
  • Writing: able to meet a range of work and/or academic writing needs and can handle most social and informal correspondence according to appropriate conventions.

(Adapted from ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, ©1986, 1999, 2001)

Arabic majors pursuing coursework in literature will be introduced to

  • Major samples of classical Arabic poetry from the pre-Islamic and later Islamic periods and major samples of oral poetry ranging from the pre-Islamic period to contemporary vernacular poetry from different parts of the Arab world.
  • Major trends and movements in modern Arabic poetry: neoclassicism, Romanticism, and the free verse movement in a larger comparative context both in relation to the Arabic literary tradition and to western influences, primarily Anglo-American modernist movements.
  • Major samples of Arabic prose from the premodern period such as the Qurān, Qurānic exegesis (tafsīr), maqāmāt, travelogues, sermons (khutba), essays, narrative accounts (akhbār),) biographies, memoirs … leading to the rise of the Arabic novel, drama, short story, prose poetry, and other forms of experimental prose in the twentieth century.
  • Major social and political developments in the Arab world through film and prose narratives.

The goal of these classes is to provide students with the ability to

  • identify some of the important literary themes and trends in Arabic literature, both classical and modern.
  • apply some of the basic approaches of critical theory to works of Arabic literature, both classical and modern.
  • place works of Arabic literature in a larger historical, political, and social context.

Arabic majors pursuing coursework in linguistics will be introduced to the following:

  • Arabic from a diachronic perspective (historical linguistics and Comparative Semitics)
  • Arabic from a synchronic perspective (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics)
  • Arabic from a sociolinguistic perspective (Arabic ‘diglossia’ and language ideology)
  • the Arabic linguistic tradition (classical, medieval, and contemporary scholarship)

The goal of these classes is to provide students with the ability to

  • recognize important historical trends in the evolution of the Arabic language and its classification within the Semitic language family.
  • apply the methods of theoretical linguistics toward the analysis of Arabic, written and vernacular.
  • identify the essential characteristics of the sociolinguistic environment of the Arab world, with specific reference to the variety of its dialects and language registers.
  • identify chief trends in the historical science of Arabic linguistics, including lexicography and the premodern grammatical tradition.