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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Hybrid webinar
Event date: 
Thursday, 20 January, 2022 - 17:30
Event organiser: 

MES Public Talks Seminar given by Dr Arthur Dudney, University of Cambridge

Nawādir al-Alfāz̤, written in Delhi in 1743 by the Indian poet and scholar Ḳhān-i Ārzū, is difficult to classify. It has been claimed by later scholars as the first dictionary of Urdu because although it is written in Persian, the lexemes (headwords) come from the vernacular spoken in Delhi, namely the language that would later be called Urdu. Despite being structured as a lexicon, Nawādir al-Alfāz̤ does not however refer to itself as a “farhang” (the standard Persian word for a dictionary). This talk considers what the work was meant to accomplish and how it fits into a longer tradition of word-borrowing from Indic languages into Persian. I argue that Nawādir al-Alfāz̤ was likely intended to be a manual of definitions of vernacular-derived words that were found (and permitted) on the margins of Persian literary culture in India but not in higher-register, “proper” Persian. In that sense it was a dictionary of Persian, albeit one excluded from the mainstream lexicographical tradition. Few contemporary scholarly sources that address this register of Persian have survived so Nawādir al-Alfāz̤—if read in the right way to avoid anachronistic interpretations—has a great deal to offer.

Arthur Dudney received his PhD from Columbia University. He is an affiliated researcher with the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge.

To join this talk in person, please email Dr Assef Ashraf (

If you wish to join online, please register here:

Dr Assef Ashraf: