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The Nijmegen Arabic/Dutch Dictionary Project

First Report on a Preliminary Study to compile

a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic Dutch dictionary

July 1992

Comments, written in 2003 after the execution of the project had been completed, have been added in italic print and in different colour.

Table of contents

0 Introduction

1.0 Objective of the preliminary study

2.0 General basis

2.1 Arguments for a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary

2.2 The target group

2.3 Fundamental choices regarding the Dutch-Arabic and Arabic-Dutch dictionaries

2.3.1 The Dutch-Arabic dictionary

2.3.2 The Arabic-Dutch dictionary

3.0 Contents of both dictionary volumes

3.1 Macrostructure

3.2 Microstructure

3.3 Collocations

4.0 Production stage

4.1 Method of compilation

4.2 Cooperation during the production stage

5.0 Existing Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionaries

Summary

 

0 Introduction

The Stichting Middle East Transfer in Nijmegen took up the plan to compile a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary in 1990. The Dutch Ministry of Education and Science was requested to subsidize a feasibility study. In the autumn of 1991 'Lexicografische Vertaalvoorzieningen voor het Nederlands Taalgebied' ('Lexicographic translation facilities for the Dutch language area') appeared. In this report an advisory group appointed by the Minister gave high priority to a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary.

In December 1991 the Ministry granted the requested subsidy. In a letter of confirmation Mrs Drs S.W. van den Ingh writes on behalf of the Minister:

The objective of this study will be to establish the ideal size of the bilingual lexical resource Dutch-Modern Standard Arabic and vice versa, and the value of existing resources.

In the same month Middle East Transfer was discontinued for lack of commercial viability. The Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen then took over the 'dictionary project', however without providing any funds for its realization.

In the meantime an editorial team has been appointed and a preliminary study has been started.

1.0 Objective of the preliminary study

The study comprises the following tasks:

a) An inventory of existing lexical resources, and establishing which ones would be a suitable basis for both dictionary volumes.

b) The development of a quick-to-realize infrastructure.

c) The design of the macro- and microstructures for both volumes. On the basis of this an estimate of the required time and costs may be drawn up.

d) The drawing-up of an application for the financing of the project.

2.0 General basis

First we sum up the arguments that underline the necessity of high quality Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionaries. Then follow the principles behind some of the choices that had to be made before an actual description of the project could be realized.

2.1 Arguments for a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary

In the ministerial report the advisory group states:

The development of Arabic and Turkish translation dictionaries are in our opinion of the greatest social importance. In spite of the fact that these facilities are urgently needed, the market does not provide them... For the acquisition of Dutch at a high level good dictionaries from and into Arabic and Turkish are important aids. Translation dictionaries also fit in with a policy that aims at the retention of minority cultures. Furthermore, translation dictionaries that pay sufficient attention to the lexicon that is characteristic of the Dutch language (for example, administrative and legal terminology) would contribute to the quality of Arabic and Turkish translations, which are now often of a mediocre or even poor quality. This is of particular importance to public information aimed at the minorities concerned.

To this the editors add the following arguments:

A Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary contributes to a strengthening of cultural, political and economic ties between the Dutch language area and the Arab countries. It could serve as a business gift from Dutch and Flemish authorities and companies to Arabic business contacts .

Such a dictionary caters for the needs of Dutch-speakers in various fields. For those that are involved in the Arabic language, both at academic and non-academic levels, authorities and companies in as far as they have contacts with the Arab world, libraries and organizations that are involved with minorities.

For the full-qualification Arabic teacher training that will be set up in the near future and for the Arabic curriculum in secondary education, a high-quality dictionary is indispensable.

A high quality Dutch-Arabic dictionary helps translators to produce intelligible translations of information material. Such a dictionary contributes to the retention of one's own language, and thus, culture. First of all, because it is an actual tool. But also because it will prove to be very motivating: the mere existence of an Arabic dictionary reinforces the status of the Arabic language.

It is to be expected that later generations of migrants will play a role in the (economic) contacts with the Middle-East. They also will benefit from a good dictionary.

2.2 The target group

Compilers of bilingual dictionaries need to take into account a clearly defined target group. A dictionary may be aimed at native speakers of the source language (for instance, a Dutch-Arabic dictionary for speakers of Dutch); it is then an instrument to produce texts in the target language, a dictionary for production, or so-called active dictionary. But a Dutch-Arabic dictionary may also be aimed at 'learners' of the source language (for instance, a Dutch-Arabic dictionary for Arabs). They use the dictionary to comprehend Dutch texts; it is then a dictionary for comprehension, or so-called passive dictionary. The two dictionary types require different organizational structures (macro- and microstructures).

The same distinction can be made in the case of an Arabic-Dutch dictionary: an active dictionary for Arabs or passive dictionary for Dutch. Because of various reasons the editors have decided to make the two volumes (Arabic-Dutch and Dutch-Arabic) both active and passive dictionaries. This implies that for both volumes the target group comprises speakers of the source language and speakers of the target language, thus both Dutch-speakers and Arabic-speakers.

2.3 Fundamental choices regarding the Dutch-Arabic and Arabic-Dutch dictionaries

2.3.1 The Dutch-Arabic dictionary

This volume will be an active dictionary because the editors wish to serve Dutch and Flemish Arabists. This group is best served by an active Arabic dictionary. But the large group of Arabs in the Netherlands and Flanders will also benefit from such a dictionary. First of all, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is never anybody's mother-tongue. MSA is taught at schools. Secondly, migrants lack daily contact with the language. Many first generation migrants have received little or no education; their command of MSA is therefore very limited. For the generations that were born after migration these arguments are even more valid. They have hardly any contact with MSA and MSA teaching is limited or non-existent. The editors are therefore of the opinion that an active Dutch-Arabic dictionary also caters for the needs of Arabic-speakers. The ministerial advisory group also propagates the productive aspect of a Dutch-Arabic dictionary. After all, its report mentions retention of minority cultures and the poor quality of translations of public information. An active Dutch-Arabic dictionary would overcome both points. At the same time such a dictionary may very well function as a passive dictionary for well-educated Arabs.

2.3.2 The Arabic-Dutch dictionary

This should be an active dictionary because it should be explicitly aimed at Arabic-speakers. In this respect the editors follow the ministerial report. An active Arabic-Dutch dictionary enables high proficiency in Dutch. Such a dictionary can also very well function as a passive dictionary for Dutch-speakers. Following Arabic lexicographic tradition, Arabic entries will be ordered according to root. This will pose some demands on the grammatical knowledge of the user, but the knowledge that is required is very elementary. This choice enables the advanced user to easily switch to the larger dictionaries by Hans Wehr (Arabic-German or Arabic-English).

In the final stage of the execution of the project, we have done several efforts to enlarge the macro structure of the Arabic part. However, when 24.000 entries had been included, it was not an easy task to find words in actual usage that could be considered an enrichment to the existing list. A more detailed discussion of these efforts can be found through the following link.

It would have been possible to add a considerable number of participles and masdars, but it has been our policy to include only those participles and masdars that have obtained an independent lexical meaning, in addition to the meaning of a verbal noun and a participle.

Van Mol (Arabic language and vocabulary acquisition, www.kuleuven.ac.be/ilt/arabisch/detroit.pdf) states that research has lead him to the conclusion that with the number of Arabic entries in his Arabic-Dutch learners' dictionary (15.000 entries) a coverage of 99% of the words in modern texts is realized. More about this can be read in the section about the coverage of the Arabic lexicon.

Anyhow, the option as mentioned in the report that advanced users will be able to switch to the Hans Wehr dictionary remains viable, but the necessity for users to make such a switch can probably be postponed until the user has reached a very advanced level. Moreover, the limited number of collocations, examples and expressions in the Hans Wehr dictionary will probably hold back users from switching to using the Hans Wehr dictionary unless they feel a need for consulting Wehr for the words of foreign origin that have been included by Hans Wehr.

3.0 Contents of both dictionary volumes

The macrostructure is the collection of entries that is listed in a dictionary. The microstructure is the structure of the separate articles; in other words, the way in which all information on a headword is described in an article.

3.1 Macrostructure

Both dictionaries will contain a basic lexicon of 30-35,000 entries. This size makes both volumes distinctively larger than existing dictionaries. One Dutch-Arabic dictionary is larger in size, but in view of its poor quality it does not pose any serious competition (Amiens' Nederlands-Arabisch Woordenboek). At this size (the same as that of the Van Dale 'handwoordenboeken' (concise dictionaries)) the dictionaries may be retailed at acceptable prices.

An existing Dutch corpus will be used for the Dutch-Arabic dictionary. From computer files a corpus of the desired size may be freely selected. Incorporating present knowledge and expertise in the field of lexicography, this corpus will be a representative extract from the Dutch lexicon at the desired level.

Finally there was no need to compile the Dutch lexical corpus since we obtained the Dutch Reference List RBN .

The editors have since then realized that the availability of the RBN was a great advantage to the team, because it would have cost lots of effort and time to compile a Dutch lexical corpus comparable to the RBN.

However, making a selection from the RBN has also been a time-consuming task. Still the editorial team is convinced of the fact that the RBN is a rich collection of language data, which has also contributed to the richness of the Arabic lexical corpus.

For the Arabic-Dutch dictionary a suitable corpus is still being looked for.

An Arabic lexical corpus was never found, since no existing dictionary did meet with the criteria that were set. By consequence the creation of such an Arabic corpus did constitute a considerable amount of time and effort. Different stages had to be passed. More information on these stages can be read through this link.

In order to cater for the needs in Flanders the Dutch-Arabic volume will also contain Flemish entries. The supra-regional variety of Standard Flemish, in as far as it deviates from Standard Dutch, will be the standard. Terminology concerning the Belgian constitution and some legal and political terminology will also be included.

Both dictionaries will be fully bilingual: Dutch ( + Standard Flemish) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

The Arabic in both dictionaries will be the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) as it is used throughout the Middle-East. Specific varieties that are exclusively used in individual Arab countries will not be included. The choice for Modern Standard Arabic is motivated by the interests and needs of most Dutch speaking Arabists; they do not concern themselves with any Arab country in particular. Modern Standard Arabic can be used without any problem throughout the Arab world.

Both dictionaries will be compiled from a synchronic perspective and thus contain contemporary Dutch and MSA. Their topicality will, among other things, be evident from the inclusion of Dutch social jargon and their common Arabic equivalents. A list of terminology from 'social services', compiled by Het Vertaalcircuit in an effort to standardize terminology, will be taken over in full. A frequency list of Arabic which is presently being developed for education in minority language and culture will also be included.

Next to deciding on what categories and varieties to include, the editors also needed to decide on what has to be excluded from the dictionaries. Among these are the economic and legal terminologies used in business relations with the oil states on the Arab peninsula.

3.2 Microstructure

As was mentioned above, both dictionary volumes (Dutch-Arabic and Arabic-Dutch) will be active dictionaries. Users should be able to find the information they need to speak or write the target language.

First of all, each headword will be followed by one or more equivalents in the target language. If there are no translation equivalents, a definition will be given. Further information (on grammar and usage, examples) will also be aimed at target language production.

Equivalents and examples will be presented in the same way as in the Van Dale dictionaries (more in particular: as in the recently published Spanish concise dictionaries by this publisher). The system of digit coding used in these dictionaries is very practical, and thus worth following.

Eventually this system has not been adapted in the present dictionary for several reasons. A practical reason is the absence of this option in the database editor (OMBI). Another reason, also of practical nature, is the fact that presentation of all examples after the translation equivalents of the specific meaning of the word (lexical unit), is more practical, especially in large lemma's.

This advantage can be illustrated by showing the lemma of مجموعة in two different presentations. This is demonstrated in the page that can be consulted through this link.

The organization of headwords in the Arabic-Dutch volume will be similar to that in the Hans Wehr dictionary.

3.3 Collocations

Especially in this field the Dutch-Arabic dictionary will be innovative. Many active Arabic dictionaries contain but a small collection of collocations. Whereas it is this lexical field in particular that poses many problems to language learners. Active dictionaries for the 'modern foreign languages' (sic) usually offer more collocations.

A section on collocation can be read through the following link.

4.0 Production stage

4.1 Method of compilation

The work method consists of a combination of various editorial activities. Existing, available corpora will be enriched on the basis of text corpora, the contribution of informants, and by a matching of differing corpora.

Of course computers will be important tools throughout the production stage. The preliminary study should, among other things, yield an infrastructure. The development of a coding system that allows for authors to directly input the manuscript in electronic form has been started on. This is done in consultation with the potential publisher.

This method implies that the resulting resource may also be used as a lexical database, provided that a suitable user interface is available.

Finally it turned out that this method of compilation would not be applied. Since the Dutch lexical corpus (RBN) was made available to the project, it was decided the first stage would consist of translating the Dutch corpus into Arabic.

More details about this method can be found in the section about the working methods.

4.2 Cooperation during the production stage

As early as during the preliminary study the cooperation and contribution of a large and renowned publisher in the field of lexicography were already ensured.

At an international level, having Professor Badawi in our editorial team ensures the cooperation of the American University of Cairo.

We are also in contact with the 'Institut d'Etudes et de Recherches pour l'Arabisation' in Rabat, Morocco. This institute has a large lexical computer corpus. Because of its material and its expertise, the institute might be a valuable partner. The author of the preliminary study will visit the institute.

5.0 Existing Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionaries

The inventory in the Middle East Transfer letter to the Dutch Ministry of Education and Science. This inventory is only available in Dutch.

==============================

Summary of the First Report on a Preliminary Study to compile a Dutch Arabic/Arabic Dutch dictionary,

0 Introduction

The Stichting Middle East Transfer in Nijmegen took up the plan to compile a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary in 1990. In the autumn of 1991 a report was published by an advisory group appointed by the Minister, in this report the group gave high priority to a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary.

In the meantime an editorial team has been appointed and a preliminary study has been started.

1.0 Objective of the preliminary study

The study comprises the following tasks:

a) An inventory of existing lexical resources,

b) The development of a quick-to-realize infrastructure.

c) The design of the macro- and microstructures for both volumes.

d) The drawing-up of an application for the financing of the project.

2.0 General basis

2.1 Arguments for a Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary

In the ministerial report the advisory group states:

The development of Arabic and Turkish translation dictionaries are in our opinion of the greatest social importance. ...

To this the editors add the following arguments:

A Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionary contributes to a strengthening of cultural, political and economic ties between the Dutch language area and the Arab countries.

Such a dictionary caters for the needs of Dutch-speakers in various fields.

For the full-qualification Arabic teacher training that will be set up in the near future and for the Arabic curriculum in secondary education, a high-quality dictionary is indispensable.

A high quality Dutch-Arabic dictionary helps translators to produce intelligible translations of information material. Such a dictionary contributes to the retention of one's own language, and thus, culture.

2.2 The target group

Compilers of bilingual dictionaries need to take into account a clearly defined target group. A dictionary can be for production, or a so-called active dictionary, or a dictionary for comprehension, or so-called passive dictionary. The two dictionary types require different organizational structures (macro- and microstructures).

Because of various reasons the editors have decided to make the two volumes (Arabic-Dutch and Dutch-Arabic) both active and passive dictionaries.

2.3 Fundamental choices regarding the Dutch-Arabic and Arabic-Dutch dictionaries

2.3.1 The Dutch-Arabic dictionary

This volume will be an active dictionary because the editors wish to serve Dutch and Flemish Arabists. But the large group of Arabs in the Netherlands and Flanders will also benefit from such a dictionary. The editors are therefore of the opinion that an active Dutch-Arabic dictionary also caters for the needs of Arabic-speakers. The ministerial advisory group also propagates the productive aspect of a Dutch-Arabic dictionary. At the same time such a dictionary may very well function as a passive dictionary for well-educated Arabs.

2.3.2 The Arabic-Dutch dictionary

This should be an active dictionary because it should be explicitly aimed at Arabic-speakers. In this respect the editors follow the ministerial report. An active Arabic-Dutch dictionary enables high proficiency in Dutch. Such a dictionary can also very well function as a passive dictionary for Dutch-speakers.

3.0 Contents of both dictionary volumes

3.1 Macrostructure

Both dictionaries will contain a basic lexicon of 30-35,000 entries. This size makes both volumes distinctively larger than existing dictionaries.

An existing Dutch corpus will be used for the Dutch-Arabic dictionary.

For the Arabic-Dutch dictionary a suitable corpus is still being looked for.

In order to cater for the needs in Flanders the Dutch-Arabic volume will also contain Flemish entries.

Both dictionaries will be fully bilingual: Dutch ( + Standard Flemish) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

The Arabic in both dictionaries will be the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

Both dictionaries will be compiled from a synchronic perspective and thus contain contemporary Dutch and MSA. Their topicality will, among other things, be evident from the inclusion of Dutch social jargon and their common Arabic equivalents.

3.2 Microstructure

As was mentioned above, both dictionary volumes (Dutch-Arabic and Arabic-Dutch) will be active dictionaries. Users should be able to find the information they need to speak or write the target language.

First of all, each headword will be followed by one or more equivalents in the target language. If there are no translation equivalents, a definition will be given. Further information (on grammar and usage, examples) will also be aimed at target language production.

3.3 Collocations

Especially in this field the Dutch-Arabic dictionary will be innovative. Many active Arabic dictionaries contain but a small collection of collocations. Whereas it is this lexical field in particular that poses many problems to language learners. Active dictionaries for the 'modern foreign languages' (sic) usually offer more collocations.

4.0 Production stage

4.1 Method of compilation

The work method consists of a combination of various editorial activities. Existing, available corpora will be enriched on the basis of text corpora, the contribution of informants, and by a matching of differing corpora.

4.2 Cooperation during the production stage

As early as during the preliminary study the cooperation and contribution of a large and renowned publisher in the field of lexicography were already ensured.

5.0 Existing Dutch-Arabic/Arabic-Dutch dictionaries

The inventory in the Middle East Transfer letter to the Dutch Ministry of Education and Science. This inventory is only available in Dutch.

reactions to: j.hoogland@let.kun.nl
last updated 26/10/2003 15:16 +0100
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