Edward Ullendorff Medal

The Edward Ullendorff Medal is awarded annually for scholarly distinction and achievements in the field of Semitic languages and Ethiopian studies.

History of the prize

This award commemorates Professor Edward Ullendorff (1920-2011) who was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1965. His widow has generously supported the establishment of a medal in memory of her husband in view of his long association with the Academy, which he valued greatly. The medal was first awarded in 2012.


Eligible nominations can be for any scholarly distinction and achievements in the field of Semitic languages and Ethiopian studies.

How to nominate

Nominations for the Edward Ullendorff Medal are currently open and may only be made by Fellows of the British Academy. Entries should be submitted electronically to [email protected] and should state in the email subject line "Nomination 2023 Edward Ullendorff Medal".

In the body of the email, clearly state:

  • Name of nominee
  • Nominee’s position/institution and email address
  • Nominee’s principal area of academic distinction
  • Supporting statement (250 words)
  • Nominator’s name and your British Academy section
  • Declaration of any institutional or personal interest

The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2023. Submissions received after this date will not be considered.

Nominations will be reviewed, and the winner selected, by the Edward Ullendorff Medal panel:
Professor Judith Olszowy-Schlanger FBA
Professor Clive Holes FBA
Professor Geoffrey Khan FBA (Chair)
Professor Janet Watson FBA

If you have any queries submitting a nomination, please email [email protected]

2022 winner

Werner Diem

Professor Werner Diem is awarded the 2022 Edward Ullendorff Medal for his immense contributions to Arabic and Semitic Philology through his numerous publications and research.

Werner Diem is a Professor Emeritus of Cologne University. Born in 1944, he graduated in 1968 at Munich university with a theme of Arab lexicography, where he stayed as assistant at the Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar. Having spent two years at the German Orient-Institut in Beirut, he became assistant of Anton Spitaler at the Seminar für Semitistik of Munich University in 1971. In 1972 he completed his postdoctoral thesis („Habilitation“) on modern Arabic diglossia and was appointed chair of Orientalische Philologie at Cologne University (1976). Despite invitations to universities of Heidelberg and Erlangen/Nuremberg in 1988 and 1995 he remained at Cologne, becoming Professor Emeritus in 1999. Diem has so far authored 31 monographs and about 90 other scholarly papers.

Diem works on Semitic languages, notably Arabic, Aramaic and Ethiopian, including comparative Semitics, with a focus on Arabic, from the pre-Islamic inscriptions through classical and post-classical Arabic to today’s standard language and dialects. Many of his contributions pertain to his extensive reading and editing of original pre-modern Arabic documents written on papyrus and paper, including Judaeo-Arabic and Hispano-Arabic documents. A further area of interest of his is classical Arabic poetry from pre-Islamic times to the Mamluk period. Diem is presently preparing a monograph on Arabic ekphrastic poetry of the 10th-14th centuries CE.

I feel extremely honoured to have been nominated for the Edward Ullendorff Medal. Ullendorff was a great scholar and it is nice to think that by receiving the medal named after him, I would in some way succeed him.

"I got to know Ullendorff at a congress in London in the 1980s, and after that we stayed in touch by letter and telephone on various occasions. Although he had spent most of his life in Britain his German was still impeccable.

"In commemoration of Edward Ullendorff, two verses of an Arabic poem come to mind:
‘Noble deeds are pearls among men. Their originator passes away, but their memory endures. / You can think of a noble man as a burning candle of ambergris. When it goes out its scent spreads.’ "

- Professor Werner Diem, August 2022

Previous winners

2021 Professor Olga Kapeliuk, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

2020 Professor Otto Jastrow, Tallinn University

2019 Professor Michael Knibb FBA, King's College London

2018 Professor John Huehnergard, University of Texas at Austin

2017 Dr Veronika Six, University of Hamburg

2016  Dr Sebastian Brock FBAUniversity of Oxford

2015  Dr Siegbert Uhlig, University of Hamburg

2014  Professor David Appleyard, School of African and Oriental Studies

2013  Professor Getatchew Haile FBA, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library of Saint John's University, USA

2012  Professor Simon Hopkins FBA, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

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