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2016 Summer Scholar: Kyle Welch

Kyle Welch is fighting stereotypes one line at a time.

Kyle Welch
Kyle Welch Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

Kyle Welch is fighting stereotypes one line at a time.

The senior and participant in Binghamton University’s 2016 Summer Scholars and Artists Program, analyzed language used to describe love in the Qur’an. A book he said, whose meaning is often misconstrued in the West. “I hope that my research inspires people to study the Middle East and North Africa region,” he said. “And I hope it helps people to have a better understanding of an area of the world that is often misrepresented in the media and by politicians.”

With his interest in language sparked by his high school French teacher, Welch said that he aimed to improve both his language proficiency and his understanding of the Qur’an through his research. His advisor, assistant professor of Arabic Omid Ghaemmaghami, said he believes Welch will do just that. “Kyle possesses an insatiable appetite to learn the Arabic language,” Ghaemmaghami said.

The [Summer Scholars program] provided him a unique opportunity to begin studying classical Arabic and hone his research skills.” Welch, a French and Arabic double major from Highland, N.Y., decided to study Arabic after taking a community college course. “I fell in love with the language,” he said. “I find Arabic to be both more rewarding and frustrating than French.” Ghaemmaghami said that despite Welch’s recent introduction to the language, he shows promise in the field. “Through hard work and discipline, he has exceeded expectations in each of his classes and begun to show great potential as a scholar of the Arabic language,” Ghaemmaghami said.

Welch has spent the past three years studying Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), the written and spoken form of Arabic used in formal settings like speeches, sermons and lectures. For his summer project he studied the classical language in the Qur’an, a subset of Arabic that has not been in practice since the ninth century. Welch studied sources about the Qur’an before delving into the book itself.

This allowed him to design a plan for researching the Qur’an. “I plan on using linguistic corpora to isolate passages referencing love, he said. Once I’ve done that, I’ll read each verse, taking note of the way in which the theme of love appears. To confirm my understanding of what I’ve read, I’ll look at analyses of each verse.” Using the resources at the Glenn G. Bartle Library, Welch said he stayed in Binghamton over the summer to better focus on his research.

The Summer Scholars program gave him the perfect platform to do so, he said. “The program offered me the chance to see whether I want to devote my time to pursuing a PhD in the future and allows me a chance to advance my own knowledge of Arabic,” he said. Ghaemmaghami is also interested in how Welch’s summer research will affect his base of Arabic knowledge. He’s hopeful that Welch’s work will illuminate the Qur’an.

“It is a sacred book to one out of four human beings on the planet, yet is grossly understudied and gravely misunderstood,” Ghaemmaghami said. Welch explained those misunderstandings are the driving force behind his project. “I hope to improve not only my language proficiency,” Welch said, “but also my knowledge of a text that forms the cornerstone of a religion that people all around the world practice.”

Last Updated: 8/30/16