Investigating South Arabian words in al-Khalīl’s Kitāb al-ʿayn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This modest contribution attempts to demonstrate the problems related to diachronic research into South Arabian vocabulary. The first Arabic thesaurus, Kitāb al-ʿayn, is said to have been compiled by Omani-born al-Khalīl b. Aḥmad by the end of the eighth century AD; in it he mentions fifty-seven words of supposed South Arabian provenance, thirty-six of which have not been dealt with elsewhere. In this paper these words are studied while searching for further corroboration for them and commenting upon their provenance and use. Overall, the paper demonstrates how Classical Arabic lexicography can add to our knowledge of Old Arabic dialects while contributing interesting input for debates on the emergence and development of Modern South Arabian languages and sharpening their history if research is furthered along the lines indicated here.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguages of Southern Arabia
Subtitle of host publicationPapers from the Special Session of the Seminar for Arabian Studies held on 27 July 2013
EditorsOrhan Elmaz, Janet Watson
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781905739813
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventSeminar for Arabian Studies - British Museum, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jul 201328 Jul 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies


ConferenceSeminar for Arabian Studies
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • South Arabia
  • Classical Arabic lexicography
  • corpus linguistics
  • multilingualism
  • Modern South Arabian Languages


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating South Arabian words in al-Khalīl’s Kitāb al-ʿayn'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this