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12/30/2009 Mohammad S. Zeidan The university of Jordan
Preface ....................................................................................................................................... 4 The dictionaries ..................................................................................................................... 6 About the Dictionaries: ......................................................................................................... 8 Presentation of the Dictionaries........................................................................................ 8 Pronunciation and Grammar ........................................................................................... 10 Illustrative Examples........................................................................................................ 15 Taboo words .................................................................................................................... 17 Pictorial illustrations ........................................................................................................ 18 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................... 19 Endnotes: ................................................................................................................................. 20
Arabic monolingual dictionaries are not, by any means, receiving proper attention and serious research in the contemporary lexicographical practice or corpus studies that are supposed to take into consideration any linguistic data available in the literature of a language. Classical monolingual dictionaries in Arabic are practically ignored, and gradually falling into oblivion, and this constitutes a threat to Standard Arabic, a variety of the Arabic tongue that is widely believed to be a source of unity and a definer of identity in the Arabic community and culture. In addition to this, and linguistically speaking, a loss of any language, a variety or sub-variety, is a great loss for the human civilization, and it is the tasks of the linguists in general and the speakers of that languages in specific, to protect the language, record it, and revive it. It is really worth mentioning that Arabic lexicography has been instrumental in keeping a consistent "written" form of Arabic and has been very helpful in understanding it, keeping a link between what can be called Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic. This prevented the development of Arabic dialects into independent languages.i Although classical Arabic monolingual dictionaries made a breakthrough development at their times in the craft of lexicography, there is an increasing demand nowadays to make use of the developments made in the Western tradition in this industry, to make these classical dictionaries more presentable and user-friendly to the contemporary users. A lot can be done to get these dictionaries back to use again, like making abridged editions, incorporating user-guides, illustrations, and other techniques that are in use in modern dictionaries. Discussing Arabic monolingual dictionaries is not an easy endeavor at all, especially by a novice practitioner in the field, whose main concern has been about English monolingual dictionaries, but I will make my best to shed some lights into our unique linguistics tradition and to highlight the early creativity that Arabic lexicographers had shown in this regard. My go in this little research is to make a comparison from a contemporary perspective between two dictionaries, one is classical and the other may be classified as contemporary, though a classic for some; being first published in 1941. In this study I will tackle different matters, sometimes interrelated, such as the presentation of the dictionary, the grammatical information contained, illustrations, examples, and other issues that will be under different headlines. Each headline will have two parts: (A) Al Mukhtar (the first dictionary) and (B) Munjid (the second dictionary). This stub study, I hope, is just a beginning of a more serious and expanded research that I'm really considering in the near future, on Classical Arabic, its lexicon and dictionaries, in which I will employ the modern practices and notions in lexicography.
This is quite important, and I am really motivated, especially for being exceptionally fortunate and privileged, to have some encouraging professors such as professor Khanji, to whom I'm deeply grateful. M. S. Zeidan
A brief description
I will deal in this study with two well-known Arabic dictionaries, to which I am deeply attached and from which I have been learning a great deal about the wonders of the Arabic tongue and its incomparable grace. These two dictionaries are: 1) Mukhtar Al Sihah ()مخخار انصحاح 2) Munjid Al Tullab ()منجد انطالب
Mukhtar Al Sihah (
Mukhat Al Sihah (henceforward Al Mukhtar) can be described, to use a lexicographer term, an abridged version of another dictionary which is known as Al Sihah ( معجم .)انصحاح فً انهغتThe latter was one of the oldest dictionaries in Arabic and one of the most comprehensive at that time (the dictionary was published in the 20th century in six volumes and included more than 40 thousand entries). It was intended at the beginning to preserve the Arabic lexicon and to upkeep its purity and grace, just as Samuel Johnson endeavored to do in the 16th century, when he tried to "fix" the language and hold it back from development (yet there are great differences between these two lexicographers)ii. Al Sihah was a foundation of new school in Arabic lexicography1 , that was very different from the earlier schools, like Al Khalil Al Farahidi ( )انخهٍم انفراىٍديSchool.iii Considering the fact that language is ever developing, new words emerging, other words falling out of use, Al Razi (the compiler of Al Mukhtar, died in 660 AH 1262 AD) decided to abridge the dictionary of his predecessor (Al Jawhari died in 453 AH, 1061 AD) in order to provide students and learners of Arabic a more practical dictionary that includes the core of the necessary Arabic lexicon that can still be used in speech and writing at that time. Al Razi work was phenomenal and revolutionary, and we will further see how he made the practice of lexicography a dynamic and practical one. The edition I am using in this project is a modernized one. The editor provides his own introduction to the dictionary with useful information about the original, unabridged dictionary, and the dictionary in hand. The modernized edition is unique and popular among learners for its neat organization, the useful footnotes. It also
There are four schools of lexicography in Arabic known by the names of its founders. 1) Al Khalil School. 2) Abu Obaid School 3) Al Jawhari School 4) Al Barmaki School.
highlights the main entry in red. This edition was first published in 1999 in Lebanon, and it is the one I am using. Munjid Al Tullab ( )
It is, to be honest, a sheer, yet fortunate, coincidence, to choose this dictionary to discuss in this paper, because I found a lot of similarities between both of them and I will illuminate this in the coming pages. Munjid Al Tullab (henceforward Munjid) has a similar story to Al Mukhtar. It is an abridged edition of another dictionary (Al Munjid)2 that was published in 1908 by Rev. Luis Ma'louf. This dictionary is of great importance and one of the widely used dictionaries among students. Nevertheless, Mr. Fuad Al Bustani (1904-1994), then president of the Lebanon University, embarked on a project that aims at providing students with a condensed and more practical tool that could be carried away with the wherever they go in and outside the campus. The project was a great success, and the dictionary sold out and became very popular among students and academicians. The first edition of the dictionary appeared in 1941, the second in 1952 and the third in 1956. The last edition reproduced in 16 reprints.
Not to be confused with Munjid(i.e. Munjid Al Tullab).
About the Dictionaries:
A comparative study
Presentation of the Dictionaries
1) Al Mukhtar I have indicated earlier that the purpose of both dictionaries was greatly pedagogical, i.e. they were intended to serve the learners, native and non-native, and other students in different disciplines. This helped in keeping the dictionary more presentable, userfriendly, avoiding the intricacies of specialized lexical and grammatical issues. Al Razi was a fine writer and well-versed in Arabic literature. He wrote an explanation of Al Maqamat, and other books in Sufi aspects of literature at the time. His preface and introduction of the dictionary was a great scholarly work in itself, since he incorporated very basic and instrumental information about Arabic lexicology that was intended to provide students with guidelines that will help while using the dictionary. He provided the readers with an inclusive classification of the verbs in Arabic according to its lexicological behavior. The categories were six, and they are comprehensive of all Arabic tri-consonantal verbs, although he states that there may be some exceptions and that if there is any verb that does not fall in any of these categories but was heard from Arabs who are arbiters on usage, then it will be part of the Arabic lexicon. He also emphasizes that what is heard from Arabs is prioritized on the rules or the categories set3. He says: "whenever a word is heard (from a an accepted source, like Bedouins) then it should be prioritized on analogy with the words we have (in the lexicon)."
The material contained in this dictionary was organized according to the first letter of the tri-consonantal lexical root, easier for the users than other dictionaries that arrange words according to the first and last letter of the word, as in Al Qamus Al Muhit (.)انقامٌس انمحٍط
I understand from this that Arabic lexicographers were trying to describe the language and keep the categories open for the words that Arabs use.
2) The Munjid The Munjid dictionary is not recommended for those who have problems in their eyes, or for senior people who cannot read its very tiny font and eye-straining style, (I am not sure if there are better editions than the one I use!)4. Nevertheless, being suitable to be hold and carried to school, work or the university, is a recognizable plus for the dictionary, especially for students and "bookish" people who like to hold the dictionary and skim through it. The dictionary's preface is, as it should be, very informative. The writer mentions some background information about the basis of the work, and the history of the unabridged dictionary on which he depended. He clearly states the purpose of his dictionary, saying that it is "aimed at those students who encounter in their studies less than half of the words included in the original, and use less than quarter of the words therein. It is my intent to help these students and provide them with a smaller, clearer, and user-friendly dictionary, by eliminating the obsolete lexical items and including neologisms and loan words". 5 Also, the writer says that he kept a lot of literary words that could be found in the classical literature and pre-Islamic poetry. On the other hand, he states the descriptive approach he adopts and that he tried to include neologisms that gained currency among users of Arabic. The dictionary has an elaborated user-guide that comes in 22 pages. The guide illustrates some of the abbreviations used in the dictionary. It also provides easy-tofollow rules regarding the use of the dictionary and dealing with the lexicological matters. It also gives important grammatical information, like words classes, gerund, and plural form in Arabic. This, I think, is very important for the dictionary user, because these rules are not easily retrieved, and one must read them more than one time, to better understand the lexicological nature of Arabic.
I have found the 10 edition of this dictionary. They should call a reprint because there is no difference between the one I am using and the new "edition".
Pronunciation and Grammar
A) The Indication of Pronunciation Since Arabic spelling depends to a great extent on diacritics, and the International Phonetic Alphabet has not been in use at the time of compilation of these two dictionaries, there is no indication of the exact pronunciation of the lexical items. This is not necessarily a shortcoming in Arabic monolingual dictionaries, especially because Arabic spelling is far more consistent and clearer than the English spelling. But a clear emphasis is placed on giving the right diacritics, because any mistaken diacritic may distort the meaning and the lexicological pattern of the word. There is clear difference between the two dictionaries regarding diacritics. While printing machines made it easier to write and compile dictionaries in a very efficient and times consuming manner, authors before this were very concerned about being clear, so they, in addition to putting the diacritic, state the suitable diacritic in writing. So in Al Mukhtar one encounter a very large number of definitions that indicate the proper diacritics, and this is very prudent of him. (Better safe than sorry!)
B) Grammatical information
A) Al Mukhtar Al Razi provided a lot of grammatical information in his dictionary, and this can be easily noted even through leafing throughout the dictionary. It could be considered a remarkable feature of Al Mukhtar; yet, grammatical information was not based on a systematic plan or a study of the needs of the readers. He could in certain circumstances remark on certain usages that are incorrect in standard Arabic, as in this example:
Some may argue that this is prescriptive, and I would agree with this if the historical records indicate that this word was commonly used by the public at the time. If the public were using this word commonly in their speech, or writers used in their writings, then Al Razi would have said something else, as in this example:
, and this is in order to describe the informal usage. At least, one would apologetically say, that Al Razi indicated the fact that that word is used in a subdialect in Arabic, while he could have ignored it altogether, or said: "Never use this word", as some of the English dictionaries do in the definitions of obscene or racist words. Another example that could bear a prescriptive interpretation the word ( )أحهas follows:
This on the lexical level, and on the sentence level there is this example:
But this is a common practice in all dictionaries that try to educated learners on he proper and accepted usage of the languages, as the following example from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE) shows6:
This table was taken from the E-copy of the 4 edition of LDOCE.
When there are differences in grammar between two or more Arabic dialects, Al Razi would indicate this and give examples from the Holy Quran, Hadith, or poetry, as in this example:
Certain grammatical articles were well discussed and plainly explained in the Mukhtar by providing examples: such as this article:
It is really worth noting here that there are a lot of what we can call here "one-letterarticle" in Arabic morphology, like the letter ( ), which has difference uses, the letter ( ), ( ), ( ) ( ) and ( ). These articles are explained and elaborated at the
beginning of each one in the dictionary. I'll give here one example from more examples can be found in the Appendix.
The last grammatical example was really well described and really useful and it is really worthwhile to look at:
B) The Munjid There was, on the other hand, no clear emphasis on grammar in the body of this dictionary, except when defining certain adverbs and prepositions, e.g.
Notice that there are no illustrative examples, although learners are not familiar with such morphological rules, i.e. (.)انقطع عه اإلضافت
Nevertheless, the compiler of this dictionary could be clearer on other instances, as we can observe from the following example:
By way of contrasting between the two previous examples we see the lack of consistency and the absence of a theory in this work. Another point that I have observed in the second example is the nature of the examples given. For instance: a sentence like ( ,)ضربج ابنً إذ أساءis not appropriate in a dictionary for learners8, and the point could have been done by using another verb. A lexicographer is an active cultural agent and he\she should be conscious and attendant to such issues. Good grammatical examples were observed in the beginning of each section, i.e. each alphabetical letter. This is because some letters have functions in Arabic Syntax and Morphology, such as the indefinite article in English which has 16 functions in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Notice the following example:
The lexicographer here doesn't mention a very important feature of this article, which is the fact that it is one of the affixes in Arabic morphology10. On the other hand, this was mentioned in Al Mukhtar, and the function of the letter was explained in a more detailed manner.
See the first paragraph, page 6
Seven functions of the letter (see the appendix), in contrast with only three function in Munjid. This is also a result of the lack of clear theory in the work of the Arabic Lexicographer, since there is no explanation for the difference in the amount of information given for difference articles. Being succinct and to the point in definitions and the grammatical illustrations does not by any means imply that a lexicographer is allowed to cut vital information and deprive the learner from having a complete understanding of the language he is learning.
This section discusses the frequency of illustrative examples in both dictionaries. Examples include phrases, multi-word units idioms, and real-life examples. The last category, i.e. real-life or natural example, is not literary natural, unless it is a quotation, as a verse from thr Quran or a sentence in a Hadith. Otherwise, the examples are created by the author because there is no corpus from which he can pick examples.
A) Al Mukhtar A lot of examples were provided in this dictionary. A concentrated portion was from Hadith, other sources of course are the Quran, poetry, and speech of the Arabs. Other examples, as I have noted above are written by the compiler of the dictionary, since his work is not corpus-based.
The following table will illuminate part of the examples used in the dictionary: Multi-word units Idioms Real-life examples or Quotations
This is an obvious example on how Al Razi gives background and cultural information that are important to understand the sense of the word.
This table gives a "taste" of the sort of information found in Al Mukhar, and one can see how useful leafing through the pages of this dictionary is in enriching one's vocabulary and phrases in Arabic.
B) The Munjid This dictionary is not very true to its name. Al Munjid means the guide, the helper, the assistant, but it is really not. Illustrative examples were limited in scope in Munjid dictionary, except at the beginning of some sections, like letter ( ,)بwhere some examples were given to clarify the grammatical features of this preposition12.
See the section on grammatical information in this dictionary.
Nevertheless, you can stumble upon some examples here and there, only when you strain your eyes looking for an example or an idiom. The following table contains some of these very few illustrative examples: Example كنج عهى صٌب فالن ًأًبو جاءًا مه كم أًب ىٌ عهى بخاث أمر ""قال نو صاحبو ًىٌ ٌحاًره )اخخرمخو انمنٍت (ماث )رأٌخو مكخفئ انهٌن (أي مخغٍر انهٌن )عنده بجدة األمر, ًىٌ ابه بجدة األمر (أي عانم بو جمع بانيٌش ًانبٌش: أي جمع انكثٍر مه انناس
Category Idiom Illustrative sentence Idiom Illustrative example (from the Quran) Idiom Illustrative sentence Idiom idiom
You can never find a taboo word in Al Mukhtar, not a single word. Even the sexual organs of men and women were not mentioned, even the euphemized words that allude to these parts of the body. The same is in Munjid dictionary where you cannot find a single taboo word nor the sexual part in the human body. This is expected, since it is in the nature of Arabic (both standard and conversational), to be euphemistic and avoid sexual explicitness. iv
Although the Munjid prides itself on being replete with pictorial examples and illustrations, it has failed to serve the students properly. The overuse of this technique was sometimes counterproductive. There are 100 full-page pictorial illustrations in this dictionary covering a wide variety of topics such as human races, transportations, insects, aviation, animals, architecture, tools, and jewelry, just to mention a few. These pictures are not clear since they are black-and-white drawings, and they usually lack proper order. I am confident that there wasn't any clear theory that guides the selection of the pictures or the distribution thereof throughout the dictionary; hence the results were not encouraging. I have included some examples of these pictorial illustrations in the appendix.
In one of the lectures in this course, a kind professor was invited to discuss some ideas about lexicography and to air his deep concerns about itv. He began his lecture by two assumptions: We live by words, don't we? We need dictionaries. Who doesn't?!
Our Arabic monolingual lexica are "linguistic treasuries, with long and colorful histories". If spending time with a monolingual dictionary of another language "will make you realize that speakers of other languages see things differently, that their words shape, organize, and make sense of the world in unfamiliar ways."13, then naturally our experience with our native and traditional lexicon will change a lot in our attitudes towards ourselves and others. It will shape our identities, usually unconsciously, and will make one's national language a part and parcel of his ideological make-up. Lexicography in the Arab world is not on the right track currently, and it requires hard labor and sincere efforts to 'make its presence felt' among other linguistic disciplines in our universities. I would like to extend my thanks to professor Rajai al Khanji for his continuous encouragement and patience throughout the semester.
This quotation is taken from "Loving Lexica", an article by Adam Serfass.
For more information, see: Heywood A., John, Arabic Lexicography, 1965. Steiner, Roger, Lexicology and Lexicography (a course book), pp.10-11 iii For more information about Arabic Lexicography schools see: الصحاح: تاج اللغة وصحاح العربية, تحقيق أحمد 1984 ,عطار, دار العلم للماليين, الطبعة الثالثة
See Farghal, Muhammad, Euphemism in Arabic: A Gricean Interpretation, Anthropological Linguistics, 1995.
He is Dr. Turki bin Khalid, professor of linguistics at the University of Jordan.