Fokelien Kootstra

Visiting Research Scholar 2019-20

Fokelien Kootstra is a visiting research scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU. She received her PhD in linguistics from Leiden University (2019). She holds an MA in linguistics and a BA in Arabic from Leiden University.

Kootstra’s current project concerns the linguistic variation attested in the early Arabic papyri form the 7th-9th centuries CE. Using insights from socio-historical linguistics she will investigate how linguistic variation correlates with extra-linguistic features such as such as time, place and register. This will shed light on the development of Arabic in these everyday written documents, and lay the groundwork for understanding the development of the Classical Arabic standard and its interplay with everyday written practice.  

This project builds on insights from her PhD research, which focused on linguistic variation in one of the epigraphic corpora from the Arabian Peninsula known as Dadanitic. These inscriptions are found in and around the ancient oasis of Dadān (modern-day al-ʿUlā) and were written between 6th-1st centuries BCE. Kootstra used a combination of methods from historical linguistics and quantitative analysis to investigate the linguistic variation attested in the inscriptions. As a result, new insights into the diachrony of the language and its associated scribal culture have come into focus. This provided our first glimpse of how language was deployed in official context in pre-Islamic Arabia.