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Arabic Language Computing applied to the Quran - a PhD research project by

Kais Dukes
I-AIBS Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Biological Systems School of Computing University of Leeds

The Challenge: An interdisciplinary approach to understanding the Quran

(1) Quranic Studies

(2) Traditional Arabic Linguistics

(3) Computational Linguistics

(1) What is the Quran?

The last in a series of 5 religious texts
Holy Book Suhuf Ibrahim (Scrolls) The Tawrat (Torah) Prophet Abraham Moses Text Dated ? 1500 BCE?

The Zabur (Psalms)

The Injil (Gospel)


1000 BCE?
1 CE

The Quran

Muhammad (PBUH)

610-632 CE

(1) What is the Quran?

The central religious text of Islam
-Classical Arabic, 1300+ years ago - All believers should learn the text; translations are interpretations - Islamic Law (legal logic)

- Divine guidance & direction

- Science and philosophy - Has inspired Algebra, Linguistics

(2) Traditional Arabic Linguistics

Originated in Arabs studying the language of the Quran (scientific analysis for at least 1000 years a lot older than English language!):

- Orthography (diacritics and vowelization) - Etymology (Semitic roots) - Morphology (derivation and inflection) - Syntax (origins of dependency grammar) - Discourse Analysis & Rhetoric - Semantics & Pragmatics

(3) Computational Linguistics

Quran is online, for keyword search BUT verse-by-verse translations are interpretations Muslims should access the true Classical Arabic source

(3) Computational Linguistics

- How far can we go? - Is an Artificial Intelligence system realistic?
Example question-answering dialog system:

Question How long should I breastfeed my child for?

Answer Mothers should suckle their offspring for two years, if the father wishes to complete the term (The Holy Quran, Verse 2:233).

An AI approach to understanding the Quran

Central Hypothesis Augmenting the text of the Quran with rich annotation will lead to a more accurate AI system.
- Prepare the data by annotating the Quran. - Use the data to build an AI system for concept search and question-answering.

Annotating the Quran

Challenges Orthography - Complex non-standard script

Morphology (word structure) - Arabic is highly inflected, challenging to analyze Grammar - Phrase structure, dependency
Semantics Ontology of Entities and Concepts referred to by pronouns and nouns

Annotating the Quran

- Computing advances have made annotation possible, to high accuracy - Leverage existing resources from Traditional Arabic Grammar -Machine-Learning annotation followed by manual verification -- Community effort using online volunteers

Recent Advances: Orthography

An accurate digital copy of the Quran?
Encoding Issues - Missing diacritics - Simplified script (not Uthmani) - Windows code page 1256, not Unicode

Google Search for verse (68:38) on Jan 21, 2008 shows many typos

Recent Advances: Orthography

Tanzil Project ( - Stable version released May 2008 - Uses Unicode XML encoding, including the special characters designed for the complex Arabic script of the Quran

- Manually verified to 100% accuracy by a group of experts who have memorized the entire text of the Quran

Recent Advances: Orthography

Java Quran API (
(Dukes 2009) - Java classes for querying the Tanzil XML of the Quran - gives authentic script on web-pages

Recent Advances: Morphology

- Buckwalter Arabic Morphological Analyzer (Tim Buckwalter, 2002) - Morphological Analysis of the Quran at the University of Haifa (Shuly Wintner, 2004) - Lexeme & feature based morphological representation of Arabic (Nizar Habash, 2006)

The Haifa Corpus (2004)

Multiple analysis for each word (up to 5)
rbb+fa&l+Noun+Triptotic+Masc+Sg+Pron+Dependent+1P+Sg rbb+fa&l+Noun+Triptotic+Masc+Sg+Gen

Not manually verified Authors reports an F-measure of 86% Non-standard annotation scheme not familiar to traditional Arabic linguists e.g. extracting a list of all verbs is non-trivial Arabic text is only encoded phonetically instead of using the original Arabic. e.g. searching for a specific root is not easy

The Quranic Arabic Corpus

Kais Dukes Arabic Language Computing Applied to the Quran PhD (part-time)
word structure - colour-coded morphological analysis translation - word-for-word English translations grammar- dependency parse following Arabic tradition semantics ontology of entities and concepts Machine Learning - annotations used for A.I. training Impact - dozens of researchers have collaborated/cited, and a million visitors have used the website this year

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Verified Uthmani Script

- Unicode Uthmani Script - Sourced from the verified Tanzil project

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Phonetics (faja'alnhumu)

- Phonetic transcription generated algorithmically - Guided by Arabic vowelized diacritics

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Interlinear translation

- Word-for-word translation from accepted sources - Interlinear translation scheme

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Location Reference (21:70:4)

- Common standard for verses (Chapter:Verse) - Extended in the QAC corpus to include word numbers and segment numbers, e.g. (21:70:4:2)

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Morphological Segmentation

- Division of a single word into multiple segments - Part-of-speech tag assigned to each segment - Traditional Arabic Grammar rules used for division

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Morphological segment features

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Arabic Grammar Summary

The Quranic Arabic Treebank Syntactic Annotation

- Dependency Grammar based on ( i'rb) - Syntactico-semantic roles for each word

The Quranic Arabic Treebank Ontology of entities and concepts

- linked to/from nouns and pronouns in the text

The Quranic Arabic Treebank Framework for collaboration

Message Board: If you come across a word and you feel that a better analysis could be provided, you can suggest a correction online by clicking on an Arabic word (currently 5228 resolved messages; 1048 under review) Resources: Publications; Citations, Reviews, FAQs, Feedback, Data Download, Software download, Mailing list

The Quranic Arabic Treebank Users: researchers, public

- Artificial Intelligence and Computational Linguistics - Arabic linguistics -Quranic and Islamic Studies -Classical literature analysis -Anyone who wants to appreciate the Quran

The Quranic Arabic Treebank new Computational Linguistics?

- First Treebank of Classical Arabic

- Free Treebank of the Quran

- First formal representation of Traditional Arabic Grammar using constituency/dependency graphs

- Machine-Learning parser

The Quranic Arabic Corpus Part-of-speech Tagging

Part-of-speech Tag N PN PRON DEM REL ADJ V P PART INTG VOC NEG FUT CONJ NUM T LOC EMPH PRP IMPV INL Name Arabic Name Noun Proper noun Personal pronoun Demonstrative pronoun Relative pronoun Adjective Verb Preposition Particle Interrogative particle Vocative particle Negative particle Future particle Conjunction Number Time adverb Location adverb Emphatic lm prefix Purpose lm prefix Imperative lm prefix Quranic initials

-Part-of-speech tags adapted from Traditional Arabic Grammar, and mapped to English equivalents (not the other way around) - These tags apply to words in the Quran, as well as to individual morphological segments in the text

Automatic Annotation
Classical Arabic Dependency Parser
- Joakim Nivre (2009) dependency parsing using a shift/reduce queue/stack architecture with machine learning

- Following similar architecture, but with hand written rules, custom parser has an F-measure of 77.2%

University of Leeds Postgraduate Researcher Conference 2011

Criteria for PGR Researcher of the Year 2011 Ability to communicate research to the lay and non-specialist research audience Impact/potential impact of the research in terms of e.g. application of findings for economic or social benefit; the significance of the contribution/potential contribution of the research to the academic subject area Evidence of local or national publicity or public engagement.

Ability to communicate research to the lay and non-specialist audience

Example Feedback (319 comments) I would like to applaud you for your effort Prof Behnam Sadeghi, Stanford University We are big admirers of the work Prof Gregory Crane, Classics Dept, Tufts University I regularly use your work on the Qur'an and read it whenever I can. Prof Yousuf Islam, Director, Daffodil International University Congratulations to all concerned on this project - Prof Michael Arthur, VC, Leeds Uni

Impact: application of findings for economic or social benefit

Over a million users already, and growing; many unforseen social benefits, eg: I work as a chaplain in correctional centers in the State of Missouri, U.S.A. Thanks for your permission to use the Quranic Arabic Corpus in these correctional centers Tadar Wazir.

Impact: significance of the research to the academic subject area

10 papers in research conferences & journals 25 citations (from Google Scholar) - so far... Positive feedback from top researchers Only free-to-download Arabic treebank A de-facto standard data-set for AI research

Evidence of local or national publicity or public engagement

Newspapers, eg Muslim Post; better still: Website world-wide public engagement!

Conclusion This is not the end to come: 2nd half of PhD project; and more?

Kais Dukes
I-AIBS Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Biological Systems School of Computing University of Leeds