T. M. Johnstone Papers

Scope and Content

Working papers of T.M. Johnstone, reflecting in particular his research into Arabian dialects and MSA languages, his efforts to record these largely unwritten and dying languages and to compile lexicons. Most of the collection falls into one of five broad categories:

  • 1. Materials on Arabic and Arabic dialects, especially those of the Arabian Peninsula, including grammars, vocabularies and texts
  • 2. Materials on the MSA languages: Mehri, Socotri, Harsùsi, Jibbàli (alternative name, Shauri), Bathari and Hobyôt, including grammars, vocabularies and texts
  • 3. Lecture notes, articles and reviews (drafts, off-prints) and printers' proofs)
  • 4. Other incidental linguistic material
  • 5. Open-reel and cassette recordings of Arabic and Arabic dialects, Harsùsi, Jibbàli, Socotri and Mehri, recorded during research trips to the Middle East during the 1960s and 1970s, and now remastered. Access copies on CD are available both in Durham and at the National Sound Archive, London. A broad preliminary was made by Antoine Lonnet of the C.N.R.S., France, in 1987. His report particularly stresses the importance of the materials on the unwritten South Arabian languages in which Johnstone was interested, especially the tapes. On the Harsùsi material, for example, he comments, This language is on the verge of dying ... the Harsùsi community has been scattered and soon the only trace of the culture will be the material collected by T.M. Johnstone. Of the tapes he says These are of immense worth, and a completely irreplaceable corpus in the following languages: Harsùsi; Jibbàli; Mehri; Socotri.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Muir Johnstone, Professor of Arabic in the University of London, was a distinguished authority on Arabic dialects and on a group of unwritten languages spoken in the Omani province of Dhufar and in Socotra. He travelled extensively in Eastern Arabia and Oman, most notably as a member of the Middle East Command Expedition to Socotra in 1967. His publications include Eastern Arabian dialect studies (1967), Harsusi lexicon and English- Harsusi word-list (O.U.P., 1977), Jibbali lexicon (O.U.P., 1981) and Mehri lexicon and English-Mehri word-list (London, 1987), as well as numerous articles on Arabian dialects and folklore and modern South Arabian languages (MSA).


In order of the accession list (very unstructured and with much duplication of papers)

Access Information

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Presented by Professor Johnstone's widow, Mrs. B. Johnstone, 1983.

Other Finding Aids

A broad preliminary survey was made by Antoine Lonnet of the C.N.R.S. in France in 1987.

Accession list compiled by Anda Hofstede in 1994

Summary list of recordings, with file of information preserved from the tapes' original carriers and containers

Alternative Form Available

In 1995 the original tapes, a mixture of open-reel and cassette recordings, were remastered digitally. Access copies on CD are available for listening both in Durham and at the National Sound Archive, London.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Stroomer, Harry, Mehri texts collected by the late Professor T.M. Johnstone, Israel Oriental Studies, 16 (1996), 271-287