Professor Michael Carter

 Dr Anna Hansen BA, MA, DPhil (Oxford), PhD honoris causa (Lund)

Phone: +61 2 9036 7642

Address: Room S344
A20 - John Woolley

Email: Michael Carter


Professor Mike Carter has a long-standing connection with the University of Sydney, having begun his career in 1968 in what was then the Department of Semitic Studies, where he supervised the introduction of the first full-time undergraduate courses in Arabic up to Honours level and laid the foundations for the later introduction of Islamic Studies. After eleven years in the United States (ten at New York University), he moved to Norway, spending eight years as Professor of Arabic at Oslo University. In that time he also held two Honorary Associateships in the Centre for Medieval Studies (2000, 2003) and is now Honorary Professor there. His main research interest is the history of medieval Arabic linguistics and particularly its close relationship to Islamic dogma, philosophy, and legal theory, as he has always believed that even an apparently abstract science such as linguistics can be properly interpreted only in terms of its contribution to the civilisation it serves.

Short term project : The History of the Arabic Language, commissioned some time ago by Cambridge University Press, will be completed in 2005. It covers the history of the language from the earliest historical mention of the Arabs (possibly 3rd millennium BC but certainly by 853 BC) to the present, from the first inscriptions on stone to text messaging.

Long term project : The digitalisation of the Kitab of Sibawayhi (d. ca 795 AD). This is the most important text in Arabic grammar and the principles it laid down are still in force today. It is a large work (some 940 printed pages), of which only a small fraction has been digitalised in earlier stages of this project, and an estimated four or five years are needed to complete the process, including all the linked texts and manuscripts.

Professor Carter recently attended by invitation a Symposium on Semitic linguistics, Istanbul 4-5 November 2005; his paper ‘Authority and data, the foundations of Arab-Islamic linguistics’ will be published next year in the series Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. He be attending, also by invitation, the second conference on the Ten Commandments in the three Abrahamic religions, Madison, Wisconsin, 6-9 April 2006, paper entitled ‘The Commands of God in the Qur’an as a Problem of Pragmatic Linguistics’. A paper (title as yet undecided) is also being prepared for the conference of the American Oriental Society, Seattle, 17-30 March 2006. He has been invited to help update the catalogue of Arabic manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Library of Dublin University. About 150 of the collection’s 2,655 manuscripts are concerned with Arabic grammar and linguistics.