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A Research Guide to Middle Eastern Studies: Language Resources

An introduction to resources both at Penn Libraries and freely available elsewhere online.

Arabic Resources

Ejtaal (Arabic Almanac)
An online database of over 30 Arabic dictionaries, including the golden standards like Hans Wehr, Lane's Lexicon, and Steingass,  to Quranic dictionaries, and some regional ones that include Arabic-to-French, Arabic-to Urdu, and many others. The interface itself is clunky and visually dated, but its info is unsurpassed. You can hide results from dictionaries that don't you don't find useful, which is also a plus.
Glossarium Græco-Arabicum
Print Grammars at Penn
Karen Ryding's Arabic grammar
The most comprehensive grammar for Modern Arabic, but be aware that Classical Arabic has tons of exceptions. For Classical, see...
Thackston's Intro to Koranic and Classical Arabic 
An elementary-level grammar of standard classical Arabic, the literary norm of the Arabic language.
Online Resources
Quranic Arabic Corpus
An annotated linguistic resource which shows the Arabic grammar, syntax, and morphology for each word in the Holy Quran. The corpus provides three levels of analysis: morphological annotation, a syntactic treebank, and a semantic ontology.
Perseus Arabic Collection 
Buckwalter Arabic Wordlist, various Quran translations, Salmoné Advanced Learners' Arabic-English Dictionary
Quranic Translitation Search Engine 
Spell it out as it sounds. From Islamicity.


Steingass' Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary
Steingass, Francis Joseph. A comprehensive Persian-English dictionary, including the Arabic words and phrases to be met with in Persian literature. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1892.
Dekhoda Dictionary
The largest comprehensive Persian dictionary ever published, comprising 16 volumes, from Tehran University Press
A collection of Persian dictionaries, including Persian lexicons, dictionaries for various dialects, and several bilingual dictionaries (English-Persian, Arabic-Persian, Persian-English, and Persian-Arabic).
Thackston's Introduction to Persian
Thackston, W. M. An Introduction to Persian. Rev. 4th ed. Bethesda, MD: Ibex Publishers, 2009.
Online Sources
Dar al-Masnavi provides translations of and information about the Masnavi and Divan of Rumi.
A searchable database of written works by the major authors of Persian Literature up until the 20th c., including short bios of each author.

Turkish and Ottoman

Osmanlıca Sözlükler (Searchable selection of Ottoman dictionaries)
Osmanlıca-Türkçe Sözlük
Kubbealti Lugati
Seslisözluk (Online English, Turkish, and Multilingual dictionary with 20+ million words and idioms).
An Ottoman word-solver for illegible script, which runs all possibilities through 16 different Ottoman dictionaries, including Redhouse and Şemseddin Sami among many others. Lexiqamus will also give alternate possibilities for missing dots and voweling one finds in many pre-modern manuscripts. Penn patrons have unlimited access when using a Penn proxy or computer on campus.
Meninski's Lexicon Arabico-Persico-Turcicum
A historical dictionary that is useful for early modernists and Ottomanists in particular. Definitions in Latin.
Meninski, Franciszek, 1623-1698. Thesaurus linguarum orientalium Turcicae-Arabicae-Persicae =Lexicon Turcico-Arabico-Persico / Franciscus a Mesgnien Meninski ; mit einer Einleitung und mit einem turkischen Wortindex von Stanislaw Stachowski ; sowie einem Vorwort von Mehmet Olmez. Istanbul: Simurg, 2000.
6 volumes.
Lewis’ Turkish Grammar
Lewis, Geoffrey L. Turkish Grammar. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
Other resources
Ottoman Text Edition Project, Ottoman Text Archive Project, Ottoman Historical Dictionary
“A cooperative international project employing computer technology and the resources of the World Wide Web to make transcribed Ottoman texts and resources for understanding Ottoman texts broadly accessible to international audiences...jointly sponsored by the University of Washington in Seattle and Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.”

Paleography and Epigraphy

General Intro to Arabo-Persian Script Paleography
  • Grohmann, Adolf. Arabische Paläographie, I Teil. Wien: H. Böhlau, 1967. 
  • ———. Arabische Paläographie, II Teil, Das Schriftwesen, die Lapidarschrift. Wien : Hermann Böhlaus Nachf., 1971. (Hatcher Graduate AS 142 .V662 v.94 pt.2)
  • "K̲h̲aṭṭ" In Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition (EI2)
Reading Nasta'liq
Hanaway, William L. and Brian Spooner. Reading Nasta'liq: Persian and Urdu Hands from 1500 to the Present. Second and revised edition. Costa Mesa, CA : Mazda Publishers Inc., 2007 
Osmanlı Vesikalarını Okumaya Giriş
Eminoğlu, Mehmet. Osmanlı Vesikalarını Okumaya Giriş. İlâveli 2. baskı. Ankara: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 1992.
An Ottoman word-solver for illegible script, which runs all possibilities through 16 different Ottoman dictionaries. Lexiqamus will also give alternate possibilities for missing dots and voweling one finds in many pre-modern manuscripts. Penn patrons have unlimited access when using a Penn proxy or computer on campus.
Thesaurus d’épigraphie islamique
This large database contains records and photographs of inscriptions produced across the Islamic world until the year 1000 AH. Created by the Max van Berchem Foundation. Requires registration for use.
Database of Ottoman Inscriptions (DOI)
A searchable digital database comprising information about, as well as transliterations and pictures of, all the Turkish, Arabic and Persian architectural inscriptions created in the Ottoman lands during Ottoman times. 
Monumental Inscriptions of Historic Cairo
"The initial aim of this project was to photograph, transcribe and translate the unpublished inscriptions in pre-1800 monuments in Cairo. In addition it was hoped to record those inscriptions, published or not, most in danger of disappearing because of their fragile state of conservation. First of all, it may be asked, why the cut-off point of 1800? The main reason for this was the realization that the anticipated budget and projected time for the project would simply have become too great if, for instance, the inscriptions of 19th century monuments were added to it. The period also coincided with the demise of direct Ottoman rule."


Transliteration Tables (linked below)
Consistency is everything. Find out the preferred method of transliteration for your course, publisher, or advisor and stick with it. Below are links to the transliteration styles most often used by Middle Eastern scholars.
ALA / Library of Congress Transliteration Tables (comprehensive language list)
IJMES (International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies) Transliteration Table
IE (Encyclopaedia Iranica) Transliteration Guide

Searching Franklin in Arabic Script

Penn has cataloged its holdings in Arabic script since 1994. Unicode support makes it possible for users to search and display library catalog records in Arabic script.
Arabic-script fields are created for the following searchable entities:
  • Author/Editor
  • Title/Alternate titles
  • Series Title
  • Place of Publication/Publisher
Library of Congress Subject Headings are not translated into non-Roman scripts, although personal or corporate names used as subjects may sometimes be retrievable. For comprehensive results, it may be necessary to perform the search twice; once in the non-Roman script, and the second in transliteration.
To be able to take full advantage of searching and displaying in non-Roman scripts, your Internet browser will have to be configured for display using a Unicode-compatible font. To be able to search, your operating system will have to be capable of typing Arabic.
Arabic script cataloging exists for materials in the following languages
  • Arabic
  • Persian
  • Ottoman Turkish
  • Urdu
Books in other Arabic-script languages, e.g. Kurdish, Pushto and Turkic languages written are best searched in transliterated format. Scripts will continue to be added to these records as time and capacity develop.
  • Omit the initial definite article الـ when searching for titles and names of persons for example:
    وصول إلى نهاية الأصول 
    الوصول إلى نهاية الأصول
  • The zero-width non-joiner nim fasilah (used in Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Kurdish) can be input by typing Alt+0157 on your computer's numeric keypad.
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