Ramzi Mounir Baalbaki was born in Beirut, Lebanon on 27th October, 1951. He earned his BA with high distinction and Penrose Award in 1973 and MA in Arabic Language and Literature in 1975 from the American University of Beirut (AUB), and Ph.D. in Arabic Grammar and Comparative Semitics from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 1978. During his academic career at AUB which spans over 30 years, he established himself as a distinguished teacher and scholar, particularly in the field of Arabic grammatical thought. He quickly progressed from Assistant Professor in 1978 to full Professor in 1989, and is currently the Margret Weyerhaeuser Jewett Professor and Chairman of the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages at AUB. He was Visiting Scholar at the Universities of Cambridge (1988), Chicago (1993) and Georgetown (1998) and scholar in residence at Georgetown University (1999). He also served as Director of the Center for Arab and Middle East Studies (1985-1990) and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1997-2004) at AUB.
Professor Baalbaki is one of the most respected scholars of Arabic grammatical studies. He wrote several major books and about 60 scholarly articles and book chapters on this subject. He also produced critical editions of Arabic texts in grammar, biographical writing and lexicography. His books include: al-Kitaba al-Arabiyya wa-l Samiyya: Dirasat fi Tarikh al-Kitaba ind al-samiyyin (Studies in Arabic and Semitic Epigraphy)(1981; 424 pp); Dictionary of Linguistic Terms: Arabic-English (1990; 806 pp); Fiqh al-Arabiyya al-Muqaran: Dirasat fi Aswat al-Arabiyyia wa Sarfiha wa Nahwiha ala Daw’ al-Lugat al-Samiyya (Comparative Arabic Philology: Studies in Arabic Phonology, Morphology and Syntax in the Light of Semitic Languages) (1999; 277 pp); Grammarians and Grammatical Theory in the Medieval Arabic Tradition (2004; 354 pp); and The Legacy of the Kitab: Sibawayhi’s Analytical Methods Within the Context of the Arabic Grammatical Theory (2008; 334 pp). He also completed Al-Mawrid al-Akbar (2005; 2155 pp) which was started by his late father Mounir Baalbaki.
Professor Baalbaki’s editions include: Das Biografische Lexikon des Salahaddin Halil ibn Aibak as-Safadi vol. 22, Bibliotika Islamika vol. 5 (1983; 568 pp); A Study and Edition of Ibn Duraid’s Gumharat al-Luga (3 volume; 1997-1988; 1782 pp); A Study and Edition of Ibn Aqil’s Sharh ala Alfiyyat Ibn Malik (1992; 762 pp) and Al-Baladhuri’s Ansab al-Ashraf, vol 7/1 Bibliotika Islamika, 28i (1997; 672 pp) He also edited the following volumes: Arab Language and Culture, Special volume of al-Abhath (1983; 242 pp); Quest for Understanding Arabic and Islamic Studies: in Honor of Malcolm H. Kerr (co-edited with S. Seikaly and P. Dodd) (1990; 326 pp); The Formation of the Classical Islamic World: The Early Islamic Grammatical Tradition (2007; 336 pp) and Poetry and History; The Value of Poetry in Reconstructing Arab History (co-edited with T. Khalidi and S. S. Agha).
Professor Baalabaki’s insightful and coherent research and his publications (in Arabic and English) on Arabic grammar, its origins, its centrality within the wider Arab culture and its relationships and contributions to several areas of Islamic studies have brought new dimensions to the study of Arabic grammatical heritage and analytical methods of early grammarians, and significantly enhanced knowledge of early Arabic grammatical thought among Western scholars, particularly with regards to the Kitab of Sibawayh, a revered ancient scholar and founder of Arabic grammar. In view of his outstanding contributions to the study of the history of the Arabic grammatical tradition, Professor Baalbaki was chosen by the prestigious series The Formation of the Classical Islamic World to produce its volume The Early Islamic Grammatical Tradition (2007) while the Varorium Collected Studies Series reprinted eighteen of his articles under one title Grammarians and Grammatical Theory in the Medieval Arabic Tradition (2004). He was also awarded the 1999 Prize for Humanities by Abdel Hadi Al-Dibs Foundation in Lebanon. He is a member of the editorial boards of: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, Brill, Leiden; Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Oslo; Journal of Arabic Linguistic Tradition, Washington, D.C.; Langues et Literatures du Monde Arabe, Paris; Majallat al-Mu’jamiyya al-‘Arabiyya, Tunisia; Romano Arabica, Bucharest and The Arabic Historical Dictionary (Arab Language Academy, Cairo). He also served as editor of al-Abhath from 1985 to 1996.
Professor Baalabaki has been awarded the prize for his outstanding original research on Arabic grammatical thought. His publications, in Arabic and English, have enhanced Arabic grammar education in western institutions and familiarized western researchers with the fundamental manuscript of Si-Bawaih, a revered ancient scholar and founder of Arabic grammar, whose thoughts and methods have profoundly influenced his successors to the present day.