Professor of Practice of Arabic Language
Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi
Education: BA University of Damascus (1993); MA Indiana University of Pennsylvania (1998); PhD University of Arizona (2005)
Research Websites: Simplification of Arabic Masterpieces for Extensive Reading (SAMER)
Research Areas: Arabic language computing, Arabic corpora, literary biography, literary archives, language policy, and the interplay of the literary and political in modern Arabic literature
Muhamed Osman Al Khalil is professor of Arabic and the founding director of the Arabic Studies program at NYU Abu Dhabi (in 2010). He is an educator with extensive field and programmatic leadership experience in higher learning institutions in both the United States and the Arab World. He holds a BA in English literature from the University of Damascus (1993), an MA in applied linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (1998), and a PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona (2005). He is the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including a Fulbright scholarship and, most recently, a Saadiyat Fellowship. He has published his research in peer-reviewed scientific journals and disseminated his findings in key international fora — most recently at the Institut de Monde Arabe in Paris.
Al Khalil is an active researcher in the applied linguistics of the Arabic language where he focuses on the nexus between reading, knowledge, and technology as a means to advance civic and educational development in the Arab world and to address some of the more pressing learning needs of students of Arabic. Proficient in the Python programming language, he draws on advancements in computing and in natural language processing to produce practical resources for the teaching and learning of Arabic. For the past five years he has led the project SAMER (Simplification of Arabic Masterpieces for Extensive Reading), a funded interdisciplinary project which aims to popularize the reading of Arabic high literature among school children and disadvantaged communities in the Arab world through the graded simplification of Arabic literary masterpieces. SAMER has so far published the first Readability-leveled Thesaurus for Arabic, developed a color-coding Simplification Interface as addon for Arabic on Google Docs, and built a graded simplified corpus from 15 Arabic fiction masterpieces.
Al Khalil also pursues research in Arabic literary biography, focusing on the East/West encounter in the modernist poetry movement in Arabic literature. He is leading an effort, in collaboration with the NYUAD library, to acquire literary archives to save the legacy of some of the key modernist Arab poets who were at the forefront of the literary and cultural engagement with the West. On May 22-23, 2023 he organized the conference Negotiating Self and Modernity: The Many Journeys of Ahmad Zaki Abu Shadi to celebrate the work and legacy of Ahmad Zaki Abu Shadi (1892-1955), an Egyptian-American poet and polymath, and to showcase NYUAD’s collection of his papers.
Al Khalil’s research is interdisciplinary and he has been involved in key international collaborations on Arabic digital humanities, notably working with colleagues at the Sorbonne University in Paris on research investigating the depictions of Paris in Arabic travelogue literature. As a recognized expert on Arabic education, he is often called upon to provide guidance on programmatic design and policy — leading in April 2023 an external academic review of Georgetown University’s Arabic Studies program in Qatar.