1.6.7 Neologisms in Dictionaries
When we were using the different dictionaries, and in particular during the stage of comparing the descriptions in various dictionaries, we noticed that some dictionaries present as translations newly coined words which, to my opinion should be considered neologisms. Neologisms have to become generally known to the public through their usage in a specific context.
However, when such neologisms are introduced in a bilingual dictionary as a translation equivalent for a foreign language concept there is no context since the foreign language word probably is unknown to the dictionary user. As a matter of fact the dictionary user will only run into such a neologism by looking up a foreign word in a FL-Arabic dictionary. When the user is confronted with a neologism without any further introduction, he will probably remain in confusion about the meaning of the FL word as well as the meaning of the Arabic neologism.
There are of course several options
to the dictionary maker who prepares a FL-Arabic dictionary:
As already mentioned, some dictionaries chose the option of providing neologisms, with or without further explanation.
One example of this category of
dictionaries is the Al Manhal French-Arabic
The author presents an example of a description and proposed to have additional explanation between brackets, whereas a translator using the description can confine himself to using the part of the description outside brackets. In his introduction the author mentions the French word "désinfecter" for which he provides the following translation: ( طهّر (من جراثيم المرض . This approach happens to correspond with the approach we have chosen in certain cases in the Nijmegen dictionaries.
The author also presents some cases
in which, according to the author, the Arabic language has been enriched with
new words. All these newly coined words are marked with an asterisk, so it is
relatively easy to trace these neologisms.
Especially the last example is interesting and amazing simultaneously. Together with the generally accepted and used term 'biruqratiya, this author presents a neologism in order to replace the loan word that is being widely used. This can in my opinion only be considered an attempt by the dictionary maker to involve himself in language policy.
I checked a number of pages of Al Manhal to get an impression of the number of neologisms marked with an asterisk. The following pages contain the indicated number of asterisk marked neologisms:
So 11 pages contain 10 neologisms, i.e. an average of a little less than 1 neologism per page of this dictionary.
The following table contains some examples of these neologisms:
In all these cases the author provides a neologism (marked with an asterisk) and an explanation.
A second case is Al Mawrid
English-Arabic (1996 edition)
This arabizing, translating, derivating and compounding is justified by the author when he states: "In any case this is just a modest effort by which I intended to prove the ability of the Arabic language to move forward and to comply with the demands of life in its different aspects. Furthermore, he has also added short explanations to give the user an idea of the meaning of the word, maybe followed by a label indicating the subject field the term is associated with. The author argues this is an advantage of his dictionary in comparison with certain specialised technical dictionaries, in which the authors have not added any explanations to the terminology presented.
Also the ALECSO book صناعة المعجم العربي لغير الناطقين بالعربية mentions in the recommendations the possibility to create neologisms. The recommendations of the second group concern the language variety the entries are taken from:"Modern Standard Arabic, local varieties of Standard Arabic, neologisms and arabized new words." However, a condition is introduced for the inclusion of neologisms (kalimat muwallada, mu'arraba, daxila): they have to be incorporated in daily language and educated persons should be using these words in actual practice (page 6, 6 lines from the bottom of the page).
One of the contributors to the just
mentioned book also advocates the use of neologisms.
جريدة), TA'ira (طائرة) and maTAr (مطار) may serve as examples for this method.
And perhaps reliance on extensive explanation and illustration with examples is higly necessary if practial explanation is aimed at.
So this author seems to favour the position taken by so many Arab lexicographers that derivation and the adding of new meanings to existing words in a dictionary are acceptable mechanisms to translate nontranslatable words in Arabic. And the inclusion of descriptions or explanations is recommended "if practical explanation is aimed at".
I am wondering what the author means with this statement. Are derivation and adding new meanings, according to the author, acceptable methods to enrich the Arabic language with new words as equivalents for nontranslatable words? I.e. the lexicographer himself is entitled to include neologisms in his dictionary in order to enrich the Arabic vocabulary, and thus, to enable the Arabic speaking dictionary user to express himself in Arabic about phenomena for which he was not able to do so untill he consulted the dictionary?
But if the user consults the dictionary as a passive dictionary, i.e. for understanding, one may wonder if the user will be satisfied after finding an Arabic neologism he has never seen before, and of which he does not know the meaning.
Another position is taken by the authors of the Krahl/Gharieb Arabic-German dictionary, who explicitely state they have only incorporated those neologisms that were found in authentic texts, or if experts in certain fields have confirmed a certain term is being used in actual practice.
A somewhat similar position is
taken by S. Doniach who states: "The modern bilingual
dictionary can be considered a systematic presentation of modern Arabic as it
is, without any distortion (تحوير) or invented expressions (عبارات مبتكرة) on
which no agreement has been reached yet."
To conclude I want to raise the
question why dictionary compilers may decide to 'invent' new words as
translation equivalents for foreign words/concepts. Is this related to a certain
way of language purism in order to prevent the use of loan
words? Do they realize the dictionary users still will be left