Professor Clive HolesBack to People

Department: Oriental Institute


I was educated at High Arcal Grammar School, Dudley, West Midlands and got my BA in Arabic and Turkish from Cambridge University (at Trinity Hall) in 1969 (MA 1973), and my PhD in Arabic Linguistics at Wolfson College, Cambridge in 1981. I also did an MA in English Language at Birmingham University in 1971-2. During the 1970s and early 80s, I was an Overseas Career Officer of the British Council, serving in Bahrain, Kuwait, Algeria, Iraq and Thailand. I was also involved in planning and setting up Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman in the mid-80s and was the Director of its Language Centre 1985-7 whilst on leave from Salford University, where I was Lecturer in Arabic and Applied Linguistics 1983-7. In 1987 I returned to the UK to take up a Lectureship in Arabic at Cambridge and a Tutorial Fellowship at Trinity Hall, being promoted to Reader in Arabic in 1996. In January 1997 I arrived at Magdalen and the Oriental Institute to take up the Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Saud Chair for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World. I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2002.  I became Emeritus Professor in 2014.  In 2017, I was elected President of the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL).

Research Interests

  • Arabic dialectology and the history of Arabic
  • Arabic sociolinguistics
  • Arabic popular poetry

Selected Publications

Recent books

(ed.) Arabic Historical Dialectology: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches, Oxford, OUP, 2018. xix, 422 pp, 10 maps.

Dialect, Culture and Society in Eastern Arabia Vol 3: Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Style. Leiden, Brill 2016. xxx, 490 pp, 2 maps.

(with Abu Athera, S.S.) The Nabati Poetry of the United Arab Emirates. Ithaca, Reading, UK, 2011, x + 240pp.

(with Abu Athera, S.S.) Poetry and Politics in Contemporary Bedouin Society. Published jointly by Ithaca, Reading, UK, and the American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 2009, xviii + 353pp.

Dialect, Culture and Society in Eastern Arabia, Volume II: Ethnographic Texts. Handbuch der Orientalistik Series, Brill, Leiden, Boston, Cologne. 2005. xli + 347pp.

Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions and Varieties, Revised Edition, Georgetown Classics in Arabic Language and Linguistics, Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C., 2004. xix + 420pp. (This is a revised, updated and extended version of the book of the same title published by Longman in 1995).

Dialect, Culture and Society in Eastern Arabia, Volume I: Glossary. Handbuch der Orientalistik Series, Brill, Leiden, Boston, Cologne. 2001. lxiii + 573pp.

Children’s books

The Rat and the Ship’s Captain. A dialogue poem from Bahrain, Arabian Gulf, by Atiyya bin Ali translated and adapted by Clive Holes. Hamilton Education, Oxford, 2009, 34 pp.

Recent articles

‘Modern vernacular disputation poems from Bahrain and the wider Gulf: speculations on their origin’ in Jiménez, E. & Mittermayer, C. (eds.) Disputation Literature in the Near East and Beyond. De Gruyter: Berlin, 2020, pp.  415-431.

‘Mullā ˁAbbūd Al-Karkhī (1861-1946): Vernacular Poet of Early Twentieth Century Baghdad’, in Middle Eastern Literatures 21, 2/3 (2019), pp. 225-239.

‘Confessional Varieties’ in Al-Wer, E. and Horesh, U. (eds.) Handbook of Arabic Sociolinguistics, Routledge, 2019, pp. 63-80.

‘Dawood, Nessim Joseph’ in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (published on-line, 15 February 2018).

‘The Omani Arabic Dialects in Their Regional Context’, in Stiegner, Roswitha G. (ed.), Südarabien  / South Arabia. A Great “Lost Corridor” of Mankind. Vol 1. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2017, pp. 287-295.

(with Fahad Ahmad Bishara, Bernard Haykel, Steffen Hertog, and James Onley) ‘Chapter 6: The Economic Transformation of the Gulf’ in Peterson J.E. (ed.) The Emergence of the Gulf States. London: Bloomsbury Press, 2016, pp. 187-222.

‘Chapter 9: Language, Culture and Identity’ in Peterson J.E. (ed.) The Emergence of the Gulf States. London: Bloomsbury Press, 2016, pp. 263-287.

‘The Iraqi ‘monologist’ ‘Aziz ‘Ali (1911-1995)’ in Casini, L., La Spisa P. & Suriano, A.R. (eds.) The Languages of Arabic Literature: Un Omaggio A Lidia BettiniQuaderni di Studi Arabi, N.S. 9, 2014, pp. 229-237.

‘A Saudi ‘housewife’ goes to war: الفتاوي الشريرة or the “the evil fatwas”’ in Talib, A., Hammond, M., & Schippers, A.: The Rude, the Bad and the Bawdy: Essays in Honour of Geert-Jan van Gelder, Oxbow Books for the E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2014, pp. 266-275.

‘Chapter 12: Orality, language and culture’ in Owens, J. (ed.) Handbook of Arabic Linguistics, Oxford, OUP, 2013, 282-299.

‘A participial infix in the eastern Arabian dialects – an ancient pre-conquest feature?’ in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 38 (2011), 75-98.

‘Language and identity in the Arabian Gulf’ in Journal of Arabian Studies 1/2 (2011), 129-145.

‘Letter to Obama’ in Middle Eastern Literatures, 14/2 (2011), 185-195.

‘Word order and textual function in Gulf Arabic’ in Owens J. & Elgibali A (eds.) Information Structure in Spoken Arabic, Routledge, London and New York, 2010, 61-74.

‘The ‘mixed’ Arabic of the letters of 19th and early 20th century Gulf rulers’, in J. Lentin & J. Grand’Henry (eds.) Moyen Arabe et variétés mixtes de l’arabe à travers l’histoire, Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 58, Peeters, Louvain-la-Neuve, 2008, 193-229.