Universiteit Leiden

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Paul Noorlander


Dr. P.M. Noorlander
+31 71 527 2727

Fields of interest

  • Historical linguistics, especially historical syntax
  • Neo-Aramaic, especially Eastern varieties
  • Language contact
  • Comparative Semitics
  • Alignment of grammatical relations



Under the supervision of prof.dr. Holger Gzella, I am doing research on the history of alignment changes in the Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects, some of which are still undocumented or (virtually) extinct. The Eastern Neo-Aramaic speaking area at least used to be confined to the Jewish and Christian speech communities of northwestern Iran, northern Iraq and eastern Turkey (i.e. Kurdistan). Whereas Old and Middle Aramaic had a nominative-accusative system, the North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic (or NENA) dialects, together with Ṭuroyo, somehow developed split-ergative inflection. How can we account for this sudden development of ergative inflection in a language with such robust chronologically stable accusativity? The aim of this research project is to answer this question by integrating the effects of internal variation, linear developments and language contact into a coherent framework. By venturing on a thorough study of the exposure of East Aramaic to West Iranian contact and delving into the unique depth of their linguistic history, this investigation will endeavor to enhance our understanding of the relation between internal and external forces behind the most significant changes in the history of Aramaic and to unravel the conundrum of ergativity in modern Semitics.



Curriculum vitae

2011 – present
PhD student
(Leiden University Centre for Linguistics)

M.A. degree in Hebrew and Aramaic Languages and Cultures
( cum laude, Leiden University)
Thesis: “Sam’alian in its Northwest Semitic Setting: A Comparative-Historical Approach. A Study of the Linguistic Transition in the Northwest Semitic Inscriptions from Zincirli”

2009 – 2011
Research M.A. in Linguistics
(Completed 92 credits in 14 courses towards M.A. degree, Leiden University)
Concentrations: Language Change and Variation, Descriptive Linguistics, Afro-Asiatic Linguistics

B.A. degree in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics
( cum laude, Leiden University)
Minors: History of the Middle East, Modern Standard Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, Comparative Semitics
Thesis: “In Search of a Correlation: A Comparative Analysis of the - i-aorist, the - áya-formations and the - ya-presents in Vedic”


Conference presentations

  • Prospective and Avertive Semantics in Eastern Neo-Aramaic Dialects in light of Kurdish and Arabic
    (International Symposium on the Perspective as a Grammatical Category: Evidence from Turkic, Iranian and beyond, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, organized by Dr. Agnes Korn and Prof. Dr. Irina Nevskaya, Institute for Empirical Linguistics, 23-25 September 2013)
  • Kurdish and Eastern Neo-Aramaic in Contact: Reviewing Some Possible Contact Phenomena
    (International Workshop on Variation and Change in Kurdish, Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg, organized by Prof. Dr. Geoffrey Haig and Dr. Ergin Öpengin, Department of General Linguistics, Institute of Oriental Studies, 29-30 August 2013)
  • Neo-Aramaic Alignment in a Historical Perspective: Some Preliminary Remarks
    (Semitics Philology Seminar, University of Cambridge, organized by Prof. Dr. Geoffrey Khan, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, 3 December 2012)
  • Alignment Splits in Eastern Neo-Aramaic
    (Syntax Circle, Leiden University, organized by Prof. Dr. Lisa Cheng, LUCL, 17 February 2012)
  • A Historical Comparative Analysis of Alignment Change in North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic
    (PhD Project Presentation, Leiden University, LUCL, 21 October 2011)


Teaching activities

  • 2014, July: Introduction to Neo-Aramaic (Summer School Course, Semitic Programme)
  • 2013 – 2014: Introduction to Neo-Aramaic Linguistics (Semester II, elective)
  • 2012 – 2015: Aramaic Cultural History (B.A. course in collaboration with Prof. Dr. H. Gzella and Dr. M.L. Folmer)
  • 2012 – 2015: Biblical Hebrew I (B.A. course, occasional fill-in for Dr. M.F.J. Baasten)
  • 2012 – 2013: Introduction to Comparative Semitics (Semester II, elective)


  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics
  • LUCL Taalwetenschap

Work address

Van Wijkplaats 4
2311 BX Leiden



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