Dénes Gazsi is an Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern languages and cultures, and Co-Director of Arabic Studies at the University of Iowa. Gazsi received his PhD in Linguistics - Iranian Studies (summa cum laude) at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Hungary. He also holds double MA degrees in Arabic and Persian language and literature. Through government fellowships and institutional grants, he studied Arabic in Yemen (University of San’a), Tunisia (Institut Bourguiba des Langues Vivantes), Syria (Damascus University), and studied Persian in Iran (Tarbiat Modares University). He joined the University of Iowa in 2009, and has since taught Modern Standard Arabic language courses on all levels, an Arabic dialects course, and culture courses on the Maghreb and the Persian-Arabian Gulf region. Between 2005 and 2009, Gazsi taught courses on Classical Arabic language, readings in Classical Persian literary and historical texts as well as Iranian history and religion at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) and the Avicenna Institute of Near Eastern Studies at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Hungary.
As a cultural linguist, Gazsi’s research focuses on the intersection of ethnolinguistics and Arabic-Persian language/cultural contact in both Persian literature and present-day SW-Iran (Gulf coast, Khuzistan) and the Arabian Peninsula. As an Arabic and Persian dialectologist, he specializes in the vernaculars of the Gulf region and wider Mesopotamia (Iraq, SE Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia). He also speaks the Arabic dialects of Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Gazsi has extensive knowledge of the history, culture, geography and linguistic situation of the Persian-Arabian Gulf region, and completed several field trips to Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. During these trips he interviewed a large cross-section of the local communities to investigate the sociolinguistic mechanisms of the major socio-ethnic and religious groups: Hadar vs. Bedouins, Arab vs. Ajam, Sunna vs. Shi’a. He also conducted research at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, the Gazi Husrev Bey Library in Sarajevo, the Institut Français du Proche-Orient in Damascus, the University of Vienna, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, and the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences.
Gazsi maintains a strong research profile, and published his findings in monographs and proceedings. He presented papers at international conferences and universities in the United States, Italy, Qatar, the UAE, France, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. His current book project titled Arabic-Persian Language Contact: Linguistic Innovation in Persian Literature provides a systematic analysis of the innovative use of Arabic language elements in Persian literary texts. By examining the lexical, semantic and syntactic structure of Arabic words and phrases, this book is the first of its kind to provide a case study on Arabic-Persian language contact in the complete works of Sa’di of Shiraz, with an outlook on other bilingual Classical Persian literati, such as Firdausi, Khaqani, Farrukhi Sistani, Manuchihri Damghani, Mas’ud Sa’d, Rumi, Hafiz, Nasir Khusraw, Juwaini. His next book project, tentatively titled The Cultural and Linguistic Horizons of the ‘Ajam in the Persian-Arabian Gulf, explores the mutual linguistic and cultural interaction between “Arabized” Persians (‘Ajam) and “Persianized” Arabs (Hawla) on both coasts of the Gulf.
Gazsi’s additional academic interests include language contact between Arabic/Persian and Hindi/Urdu, the linguistic and literary influence of Arabic/Persian on African Languages (Somali, Swahili, Hausa, Wolof), Muslim communities in Thailand and Cambodia, modern Yemeni prose literature (Zaid Muti’ Dammaj), and popular religion in the Francophone Muslim World (Maghreb, French West Africa, French Near East).