Home A M Qattan Foundation Media News Bethlehem University publishes ‘An Etymological Lexicon of Foreign Words in Palestinian Arabic’

Bethlehem University publishes ‘An Etymological Lexicon of Foreign Words in Palestinian Arabic’

Ramallah – (A.M. Qattan Foundation):

The Institute of Palestinian Oral Heritage at Bethlehem University published an etymological lexicon of foreign words in Palestinian Arabic, written by Dr. Moin Halloun, Professor of Semitic Languages at Bethlehem University, with contributions from Nadia Bani Shamsa and Dr. Ibrahim Abu Hashhash.

The 900-page book, printed with support from the AMQF, provides a valuable source for readers drawing a comprehensive image of the impact of different civilisations on Palestinian spoken dialect. The book includes thousands of loanwords that have entered the local dialect and traces the etymology of these words from Akkadian, Spanish, German, English, Italian, Pahlavi, Portuguese, Yiddish, Syriac, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Ottoman, Farsi, French, Latin, French, Hindi and Greek.


The lexicon not only classifies loanwords that entered the Palestinian Arabic dialect, but also looks into philology, morphology, phonology and syntax. Dr. Halloun coined new terms to refer to processes of transformation and borrowing between languages such as intermediate languageottomanisation and persianisation, which describe and trace the transmission of words between languages and the subsequent transformations in meaning and phonology.


The lexicon points that those processes of transformation and borrowing are not unique to the Palestinian dialect. They are also applicable to Arabic dialects spoken in the Gulf, greater Syria and Egypt, i.e. in Arab communities that fell under the Ottoman rule for many centuries and were in contact with the civilisations of the ancient and modern world. The author states that the entry of foreign words into the Palestinian dialect is not a sign of weakness, but rather an expression of openness to different cultures.

The lexicon is comprehensive in its approach, expansive in its material and rigorous in its methodology.

‘It is the first lexicon that documents Palestinian dialect from a comparative philological and historical perspective. It is based on extensive knowledge of the languages that have interacted with the Palestinian Arabic dialect.’ Abu Hashhash commented.

“Each word has its own origin and intermediate language through which it entered the Palestinian dialect. Many Italian and Greek words reached us via the Ottoman language.” Halloun explained.

The lexicon also includes a summary in English, and leaves space for adding words proposed by the readers.

The lexicon is available at the Leila Miqdadi al-Qattan Library at the Cultural Centre of the A.M. Qattan Foundation in al-Tireh/Ramallah. The library is open to the public from 8:00am until 4:00pm except on Friday and Sunday.