Olav Gjertsen Ørum

Image of Olav Gjertsen Ørum
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47-22854436
Mobile phone 92027533 0047 92027533
Room 432
Available hours 8-16
Visiting address Niels Henrik Abels vei 36 P. A. Munchs hus 0371 OSLO
Postal address Postboks 1010 Blindern 0315 OSLO
Other affiliations Faculty of Humanities (Student)

Academic interests

Arabic language history, Hebrew, Semitic languages, Judaeo-Arabic, Islam, Judaism, sociolinguistics, religion, history, encounters between cultures and religions

The dissertation is a sociolinguistic study of selected Judaeo-Arabic prophetic legends from Cairo in late medieval times.


Arabic and Hebrew Speaking Observer with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), 2014.

Master’s degree, Asian and African Studies at the University of Oslo, 2014. Program: Semitic language and linguistics.

Bachelor’s degree, Culture and social science at the University of Oslo, 2012. Program: Linguistics, Arabic and Hebrew.

PhD project


The dissertation is based on a number of unpublished Judaeo-Arabic manuscripts written by indigenous Karaite Jews who lived in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo during the early modern era. These 17th- through 19th-century manuscripts, all of which seem to have been copied from earlier archetypes, display narratives about Biblical and Qurᵓānic prophets and patriarchs in poetry and prose. The narratives are adaptations of Jewish and Islamic sacred folklore, Biblical and Qurᵓānic exegetic material and medieval Arabic poetry which seem to have been transmitted orally before acquiring their present shape. Whereas the material exhibits many linguistic features typical for Classical Arabic and the contemporary spoken variety of Cairo, the texts also hold remnants of medieval features which have fallen out of spoken or literary use today, or which are considered non-standard or pseudo-correct.

This dissertation argues that Arabic features were initially adopted by the Jewish community during times of prosperity and a high level of rapprochement between Jews and Muslims, then, at a later stage during times of hardship, became maintained and fossilized in the dialect of the Jews. Many of these features appear to have been preserved by the Jewish Egyptian community due to an initially strong linguistic assimilation during the so-called Islamic golden age (11th-12th centuries), and a subsequently strong segregation from the overall society during late medieval times, a situation which seems to have persisted until the early-19th century. Therefore, it is natural to believe that whereas early features have fallen out of use among the majority in Cairo, some of these have been preserved in the oral and literary heritage of the indigenous Karaite Jewish community.

Moreover, the dissertation discusses how features such as these prove to correspond to dialects which are historically and demographically relevant to that of Cairo, and to waves of migration and other significant societal changes which have taken place in Egypt since the Islamic conquest and until early modern times. As the title indicates, it attempts to reconstruct sociohistorical and linguistic layers of Arabic in medieval Cairo, and thus to offer possible explanations for the emergence and development of particular written and spoken features.

See also:

"Written and spoken Judaeo-Arabic in 19th and 20th-century Cairo. A linguistic study of the native Jews of Ḥārit il-Yahūd" (pdf) 

Tags: Arabic, Hebrew, Semitic, Judaeo-Arabic, Sociolinguistics, Islam, Middle East, Egypt, CIMS


  • Ørum, Olav Gjertsen (2017). Migrated Features from Ancient Yemen and North Africa, and Vestiges of a Pre-Modern Cairene Arabic Variety, In Nora Sunniva Eggen & Rana Issa (ed.),  Philologists in the World: A Festschrift in Honour of Gunvor Mejdell.  Novus Forlag.  ISBN 978-82-7099-904-0.  Article.  s 89 - 118 Full text in Research Archive.

View all works in Cristin

  • Ørum, Olav Gjertsen (2017). ᵓUṣṣit il-Gumguma or 'The Story of the Skull' With Parallel Versions, Translation and Linguistic Analysis of Three 19th-century Judaeo-Arabic Manuscripts from Egypt. Supplemented with Arabic Transliteration. Brill Academic Publishers.  ISBN 978-90-04-34562-1.  207 s.

View all works in Cristin

Published Feb. 16, 2015 11:38 AM - Last modified June 26, 2018 2:26 PM