WIBARAB: What is bedouin-type Arabic?

The linguistic and socio-historical realities behind the millennia-old dichotomous concept of nomadic and sedentary people in the Middle East and North Africa

WIBARAB is a cooperation project led by Stephan Procházka (University of Vienna). The ACDH-CH serves as technical research partner. More than 350 million people speak Arabic in linguistic settings that are for the most part characterised by a high degree of diglossia. From Iran to Mauretania, countless spoken varieties are in use, which will be investigated in the ERC project WIBARAB. A particular concern of the project is the language of the Bedouins which has spread with the Arab expansion in the Middle East and North Africa since the 7th century. In a cooperation between the Institute of Oriental Studies (University of Vienna) and the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage (Austrian Academy of Sciences), an attempt is being made to better understand the nature of the linguistic dichotomy between sedentary and nomadic varieties and this concept, which is so fundamental to Arabic language history, by applying innovative and interdisciplinary methods. The project will collect new data through fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco, among other countries. It will also include social parameters in the investigation, in particular the question of whether the prevalence of tribal structures and patriarchal social patterns helps to explain the linguistic conservatism of Bedouin dialects.

As part of the project, the ACDH-CH will further develop and refine its text-technological stack and take care of data modelling, corpus design, the implementation of the database, the publication platform and long-term preservation. The database will allow for efficient cross-dialectal comparisons, particularly with regard to phonological, morphological, syntactical, phraseological and lexical features

Project Duration

1 October 2021 ­– 30 September 2026



Stephan Procházka

Karlheinz Mörth