Professor James Dickins

Professor James Dickins

Professor of Arabic

+44 (0)113 343 1311

Summary: Arabic linguistics; Arabic language pedagogy; Arabic/English translation; Arabic dialectology (especially Sudanese Arabic); functionalist linguistics

Doctoral Supervision

I have been involved in doctoral research supervision since 1987, and have successfully supervised 14 doctoral theses in the following areas:

  • Arabic and general  linguistics
  • The Arabic linguistic tradition
  • Arabic/English translation: political, literary, and religious translation (esp. Quran translation), linguistic aspects of Arabic/English translation
  • Arabic dialectology and sociolinguistics
  • English Language Teaching in the Arab World


I offer MPhil and PhD supervision in all the above as well as other areas relating to my research interests.

For a list of all the doctoral theses which I have supervised, click here.

Major publications

Extended axiomatic linguistics. 1998. Mouton de Gruyter.

This book presents extended axiomatic functionalism as a linguistic theory, applies the theory to various areas including incomplete neutralization, imperfect synonymy, idiom and metaphor, and proposes a new approach to the relationship between sentence-linguistics and text-linguistics. Read the Introduction to this book.

Standard Arabic: an advanced course, with J.C.E. Watson. 1999. Cambridge University Press.

This is a complete course for advanced learners of Arabic. Each chapter is structured around a particular topic (e.g. ethnicity in the Middle East, Islamic heritage, Islamic fundamentalism, folklore, economics), providing a coherent focus for student interest, as well as allowing students to acquire and practice vocabulary in a structured manner. The course deals primarily with Modern Standard Arabic, but each chapter also includes some classical material. Both expository and argumentative texts are included, and the following types of material are covered: newspapers, news broadcasts, academic and cultural writing and broadcasts, and literary writing. The course develops all four basic language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening). It also provides extensive practice in translation and precis.

Thinking Arabic translation, with S.G.J. Hervey and I. Higgins. 2002. Routledge.

This book develops aspects of Hervey and Higgins' Thinking Translation series, and includes a large amount of original research specific to Arabic>English translation. It covers translation as a process and product; cultural problems in translation; denotative and connotative meaning; phonic/graphic, grammatical and discourse issues; metaphor; genre; technical translation; and revising and editing. Translation materials are drawn from a wide variety of writing-types, including: newspapers, prose fiction, poetry, medical texts, recipes, constitutions, political speeches, and tourist brochures. Read the Introduction to this book. See below for the downloadable Supplement to Thinking Arabic translation.
Sudanese Arabic: phonematics and syllable structure. 2007. Otto Harrassowitz.

For a list of all my publications click here.

Current research (books)

  • Sudanese Arabic: syntax
  • Thinking translation methodology

 Downloadable materials

Axiomatic functionalism

Extended Axiomatic Functionalism: Semiotics. This diagram presents the basic notions of extended axiomatic functionalism as a semiotic theory.
Extended Axiomatic Functionalism: Linguistics. This diagram presents the basic notions of extended axiomatic functionalism as a linguistic theory.
Extended Axiomatic Functionalism: Postulates. These postulates provide a formal statement of the semiotic and linguistic theory of extended axiomatic functionalism (EAF).
Comparison between the postulates for Standard Axiomatic Functionalism and those for Extended Axiomatic Functionalism. This spreadsheet provides a comparison between the postulates for extended axiomatic functionalism, and those for standard axiomatic functionalism (SAF). The spreadsheet columns contain the following information:

Column A 'Line number' gives the linear order of the rows.

Column B

'Under EAF Axiom' identifies which axiom each definition falls under in extended axiomatic functionalism.

Column C 

'EAF Tag' identifies the number of the definition or axiom in extended axiomatic functionalism.

Column D

'EAF entity' is the notion (or entity) being defined in extended axiomatic functionalism.

Column E

'EAF definition' gives the formal definition of the notion (entity) in Column D.

Column F 'EAF comment' provides additional comments on the notion (entity) in Column D.
Column G 'Under SAF Axiom' identifies which axiom each definition falls under in standard axiomatic functionalism.

Column H

'SAF Tag' identifies the number of the definition or axiom in standard axiomatic functionalism.

Column I

'SAF entity' is the notion (or entity) being defined in standard axiomatic functionalism.

Column J

'SAF definition' gives the formal definition of the notion (entity) in Column I.

Column K

'SAF comment' provides additional comments on the notion (entity) in Column I.

Arabic/English Translation

Supplement to Thinking Arabic Translation. This provides additional discussion of translation issues and exercise material to accompany Thinking Arabic translation.

Corpus-based English word-frequency lists

  • Extended Version of A General Service  List of English Words by  Michael West (Longman, 1953) with semantic-field categories  added for all entries. The  General Service List was a pioneering  corpus-based frequency list, and has been out of print for a number  of years.  It  remains the only available such list to provide  frequencies for words in particular senses (word-in-sense  frequencies)  rather than raw word frequencies (or frequencies of  words according to word-class). Thus, with regard to the word  'able',  for example, the General Service List gives  the frequency of 'able' in  the sense of 'having the ability to' as well  as its frequency in the  sense of 'competent, skilled'. I have taken the semantic-field  categories from the Longman  Lexicon of Contemporary English  (LLCE) by Tom McArthur (Longman, 1981). For a list of the semantic- field  categories used in the LLCE click here.  
The Extended Version of a General Service List  is currrently in  Excel format, allowing for both sorting and  extraction of materials  according to the following categories: A. Line numbering (order  in  which entries appear in the  printed version of the General Service  List; B. Headword as given in the General Service List; C.  Lemmatized  headword, i.e. standard dictionary-type headword; D.  McArthur category; E. Word-class; F. Word count 1, as given in  the  General Service List; G. Word count 2, 'raw' word count without  additional information given in the General Service  List; H.  Percentage scores for occurrences of words in a particular sense in  the General Service List; I. Word-in- sense frequency; J. Source of  information (given throughout as GenSerList); K. Meaning (as given  in General Service  List). Further information regarding these  categories can be obtained here. I thank the Institute of Education,  University of  London, copyright holders of the General Service List of  English Words, for permission to reproduce this material.  Further  information about the organisation of the General Service List can be  found in the Introduction to the printed  version of the List. The work of  scanning the printed version of the General Service List and  converting the material to  Excel format was done by Nimish Shah.  
  • Frequencies in Spoken and Written English by Geoffrey Leech, Paul Rayson  and Andrew Wilson (Longman, 2001) with  semantic-field categories added  for all entries. This list is based on the British National Corpus. Information  about the corpus  and electronic versions of frequency lists derived from it can  be found on: http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/computing/research/ucrel/bncfreq/.  I have taken the semantic-field categories from the Longman  Lexicon of  Contemporary English by Tom McArthur (Longman, 1981). For a list of the  semantic-field categories used in the  LLCE click here.   
The Extended Version of Rank Frequency List: Spoken English is currrently  in Excel format, allowing for both sorting and  extraction of materials according  to the following categories: A. Rank frequency order; B. Non-lemmatized head  (as given in  Leech, et al.); C. Lemmatized headword, i.e. standard dictionary- type headword; D. McArthur category; E. Word-class; F.  Rounded frequency  per million words in speech; G. Log likelihood; H. Rounded frequency per  million words in writing; I.  Source of information (given throughout as  WoFreSpoWriEng). I thank Geoffrey Leech, Paul Rayson and Andrew Wilson,   copyright holders of Word Frequencies in Spoken and Written English, for  permission to reproduce their material. 

Sudanese Arabic

  • The Phonematics and Syllable Structure of Sudanese Arabic: Integrating Consonants and Vowels. An extended version of this appeared as the book Sudanese Arabic: Phonematics and Syllable Structure (Otto Harrassowitz Verlag: 2007).
  • Khartoum Arabic. This article, which appears in the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Vol. 2) (Brill 2006), provides a general description of the dialect of the capital Khartoum and the major cities of central Sudan.
  • An Arabic/English Dictionary of Sudanese Arabic. This is a dictionary of the Arabic dialect of Khartoum and other urban areas of central Sudan. I thank the British Academy for giving me a Small Personal Research Grant to work on this dictionary during 1985-6. I also thank the Leverhulme Trust for granting me a Research Award from 2002-4 to work on the dictionary and on a reference grammar of Sudanese Arabic (in progress).

The dictionary which is made available here is a partial version of the overall dictionary (currently c. 31,000 entries. This online version attempts to cover the basic vocabulary of Sudanese Arabic, including almost all the vocabulary given in Rank frequency list: spoken English from Word frequencies in written and spoken English, by Geoffrey Leech, Paul Rayson and Andrew Wilson (Longman, 2001), pp. 144-180. This frequency list is also available on this webpage.

A large number of people have contributed to this dictionary project. For a list of acknowledgements click here.

For the transcription system and other symbols used for in dictionary, click here. The article "The phonematics and syllable structure of Sudanese Arabic: integrating consonants and vowels", also available on this website, explains the theoretical rationale for the transcription system used.

The dictionary is in Excel spreadsheet format in both Arabic-English and English-Arabic versions. This spreadsheet format allows the reader to order the material in various ways (alphabetically on English entries, alphabetically on Arabic entries, by root, etc.). It also makes it possible for the reader to extract information; e.g. to look up all records (rows) in Column B (English entries) which contain the word 'clean'.

For a copy of the Arabic-English version of the dictionary click here. For a copy of the English-Arabic version of the dictionary, click here.

I would be very pleased to receive comments on the dictionary, including information about mistakes. I can be contacted on: J.Dickins@leeds.ac.uk.