Challenges in Bilingual Arabic Lexicography: An Analytical Examination of the Modernization and Updating Gap in Light of Ramadan Muhammad Ali Al-Badri’s “Reference Dictionary”

إشكالات المعجمات العربية ثنائية اللغة وفجوة العصرنة والتحديث: قراءة تحليليّة من خلال “قاموس المرجع” لرمضان محمد علي البدري

Problèmes des dictionnaires arabes bilingues et lacune de la modernisation et de l’actualisation – Une lecture analytique à travers le dictionnaire d’« Almarja ̒ » élaboré par Ramadan Ali Al-Badri

Hayat Lecheheb

p. 225-245

Hayat Lecheheb, « Challenges in Bilingual Arabic Lexicography: An Analytical Examination of the Modernization and Updating Gap in Light of Ramadan Muhammad Ali Al-Badri’s “Reference Dictionary” », Aleph, Vol 11 (3-1) | 2024, 225-245.

Hayat Lecheheb, « Challenges in Bilingual Arabic Lexicography: An Analytical Examination of the Modernization and Updating Gap in Light of Ramadan Muhammad Ali Al-Badri’s “Reference Dictionary” », Aleph [], Vol 11 (3-1) | 2024, 04 June 2024, 18 June 2024. URL : https://aleph.edinum.org/12063

The present research paper delves into the topic entitled “Challenges in Bilingual Arabic Lexicography: The Modernization and Updating Gap – An Analytical Examination of the Modernization and Updating Gap in Light of Ramadan Muhammad Ali Al-Badri’s ’Reference Dictionary’.” This study focuses on the significant challenges within this category of dictionaries, which have almost reached a critical juncture. The primary objective of our research is to elucidate various issues pertaining to this domain through a meticulous analysis and comprehensive discussion. Our aim is to uncover and diagnose these challenges by conducting an analytical investigation of a practical exemplar, namely, the ’Reference Dictionary’ authored by Ramadan Mohammed Ali Al-Badri (English/Arabic). In addition, we intend to propose solutions that can contribute to addressing these identified challenges.

يتناول بحثنا هذا الذي جاء بعنوان: “إشكالات المعجمات العربية ثنائية اللغة وفجوة العصرنة والتحديث - قراءة تحليليّة من خلال ’قاموس المرجع’ لرمضان محمد علي البدري” واقع وتحديات هذا النوع من المعجمات وأهم إشكالاته التي نتجت عنها فجوة كبيرة في هذا المجال كادت تأتي عليه. فالبحث بالتالي يهدف إلى تسليط الضوء على مجموعة من القضايا المتعلقة بها تحليلاً ونقاشاً، وذلك بغرض كشف الحجب عنها وتشخيصها من خلال تقديمنا لدراسة تحليليّة لأحد النماذج التطبيقية، المتمثلة في قاموس المرجع’ (إنجليزي/عربي) لرمضان محمد علي البدري، واقتراح حلول يمكن أن تسهم في معالجة هذه الإشكالات.

Notre recherche, intitulée « Problèmes des dictionnaires arabes bilingues et lacune de la modernisation et de l’actualisation – Une lecture analytique à travers le dictionnaire » Almarja’ élaboré par Ramadan Ali Al-Badri », traite de la réalité et des défis de ce type de dictionnaires ainsi que de leurs problèmes les plus importants, qui ont entraîné une grande lacune dans ce domaine, menaçant de le détruire. De ce fait, cette recherche vise à mettre en lumière un ensemble de questions qui y sont liées à travers l’analyse et la discussion, afin de les découvrir et de les identifier à travers une étude analytique de l’un des modèles appliqués, le dictionnaire » Almarja’ (anglais-arabe) élaboré par Ramadan Muhammad Ali Al-Badri, et de suggérer des solutions qui pourraient contribuer à résoudre ces problèmes.

Introduction

Bilingual dictionaries, alongside their monolingual counterparts, hold a distinct position within the realm of language resources. They represent a fundamental requirement that has persisted over time, driven by an intrinsic necessity. Individuals often find themselves in greater need of a bilingual dictionary than a monolingual one. This demand escalates notably for translators, whose primary focus involves working with multiple languages. Moreover, it extends beyond translators to encompass students, intellectuals, and even individuals in their everyday lives.

Indeed, who among us has not encountered terms or words that posed significant difficulty in comprehension, prompting recourse to a bilingual dictionary for assistance? Such challenges may manifest in various contexts, including personal usage, interactions, and routine communications with others. Consequently, bilingual dictionaries have become ubiquitous, finding a place in nearly every household and workplace. Their presence has evolved into an urgent and indispensable requirement, essential for daily life functioning and a vital tool for acquiring, expressing, and mastering a foreign language.

The necessity for bilingual dictionaries extends beyond individual utility; it is intrinsically linked to broadening communication channels among diverse peoples and nations. This interconnectedness underscores the need for each entity to remain informed about the latest developments in various domains, including the realms of science, art, economics, culture, and even politics, across international borders. To comprehend the multifaceted transformations occurring within these domains, spanning periods of growth, stability, and prosperity to times of crises and complexities, it becomes imperative for these populations to acquaint themselves with the languages of others. This linguistic versatility facilitates the accurate translation of intellectual and scientific contributions, a trend that has gained significant momentum in recent times. Consequently, the fields of translation, language instruction, and related activities have experienced heightened activity, coinciding with a surge in interest in the development of bilingual dictionaries. While the foundation for such dictionaries had existed in the past, contemporary society has witnessed a notable surge in their demand and utilization.

Previously, the demand for bilingual dictionaries witnessed a steady rise, with both individuals and linguistic and lexicographic institutions seeking to address this need. Notably, this trend mirrored the practices of prominent lexicographic institutions in other languages, exemplified by the French Larousse Foundation, known for its “Petit Larousse”, among others. In contrast, the Arabic language primarily saw the predominance of individual endeavors in this domain. Numerous dedicated individuals contributed to this endeavor, producing significant works such as Souhail Idris’s “Al-Manhal” (French/Arabic), Mounir Al-Baalbaki’s “Al-Mawrid” (English/Arabic), Elias Antoine and Edward Elias’s “The Modern Dictionary” (Arabic/English), Hans Wehr’s “Contemporary Arabic Language Dictionary” (Arabic/English), Abd al-Nour, and numerous others. Arab linguists and foreign scholars alike adopted the concept underlying these dictionaries, driven by a shared aspiration to contribute to the enrichment and better understanding of the Arabic language, benefiting Arabic speakers as well as those seeking to engage with this rich linguistic tradition, both domestically and abroad.

Despite the proliferation of bilingual dictionaries in the Arabic language, a chorus of critiques has emerged, highlighting the deficiencies within these dictionaries and their perceived failure to fully fulfill their intended purpose or meet the precise demands placed upon them. In light of these concerns, the present research endeavors to engage in a comprehensive examination of this issue and to confront this challenge. It seeks to illuminate the veracity of these criticisms and gauge the extent of the inadequacies within these dictionaries, with particular emphasis on two primary problem areas: What are the most important issues that this type of dictionary suffers from so that it was accused of shortcomings? What are the most important solutions to end this crisis and address the bilingual dictionary gap in the Arabic language?

The research question posed herein derives from the following hypotheses:

  • Bilingual dictionaries hold substantial importance in the realm of languages, proving instrumental in the advancement of educational language studies and translation processes.

  • This category of dictionaries, while invaluable, is not immune to significant shortcomings, stemming from issues related to the curriculum, content, guidance, and overall quality.

  • These dictionaries often exhibit a substantial lexical gap due to their limitations in adequately reflecting linguistic reality, hindering their alignment with systematic and scientific language development. A reference dictionary seeks to address these issues.

This research was meticulously developed by a well-defined descriptive framework, which has been duly validated and endorsed for use. The study involved an extensive review and evaluation of a selection of Arabic bilingual dictionaries. The investigation sought to discern areas where these dictionaries exhibited deficiencies, with particular emphasis on the “reference dictionary”. This research endeavor aimed to shed light on the primary issues afflicting these dictionaries, relying on insights drawn from authoritative sources and scholarly theses within the field of lexicography.

The significance of this research is underscored by its focus on a matter of considerable sensitivity, namely the challenges encountered within bilingual dictionaries. This category of dictionaries holds profound value from cultural, linguistic, and civilizational perspectives. The subject matter’s inherent importance situates it in a position deserving of rigorous study and in-depth examination, with the ultimate aim of facilitating advancements and enhancements in this domain.

1. Bilingual dictionaries, definitions, and characteristics

A bilingual dictionary is defined as,

“it creates comparisons between the vocabulary of two languages, through which its user can recognize, based on what he knows in one language, what he does not know in the other language.”

It differs from other types of dictionaries in that it necessarily includes two different languages, and in that it places another word opposite the word “matter”. It is synonymous with it in the bilingual language (The Supreme Council of the Arabic Language, n.d.).

These dictionaries are therefore characterized by their difference from monolingual dictionaries, in that they use two different languages, one of which is used for introductions, and the other for explanations (Khalil, 2003:15). They are usually small or medium in size and are familiar with the universality of the language. It is similar to the reference dictionary, which serves as the primary source for language entry, translation, or explanation (Mahdi Ali, 2007: 38). Bilingual dictionaries can be categorized into two types: dictionaries for speakers of the language of the text – the language of introductions or research – and dictionaries for speakers of the language of explanation, translation, or synonyms. For example, in an English/Arabic dictionary, the language of the text is English, and the language of explanation is Arabic, and vice versa. However, most current bilingual dictionaries claim to serve speakers of both languages. Still, some argue that lexicographers should specify whether their dictionary is intended for speakers of the language of the text or speakers of the language of explanation from the outset, as these two types of dictionaries are fundamentally different (Al-Qasimi, 2003:33).

Linguists and lexicographers assert that the bilingual dictionary represents one of the earliest forms of dictionaries known to date. Their rationale for this claim lies in the fact that language users typically possess a degree of familiarity with their native tongue, rendering elaborate explanations or interpretations of its vocabulary unnecessary. Instead, what they often require is an elucidation of meanings and vocabulary from other languages that pose challenges. This distinction underscores why bilingual dictionaries are among the oldest dictionary types discovered in ancient civilizations (Khalil, 2003:15). Consequently, these dictionaries prioritize furnishing information about the language being explained, with relatively less focus on the language of explanation.

The Arab-Islamic world historically comprised various groups and peoples, including minority communities like the Jewish population in Andalusia, certain Christian groups in Egypt, and the Aramaeans in northern Iraq. These diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds necessitated the creation of bilingual dictionaries to bridge linguistic gaps. These dictionaries included combinations such as Hebrew with Arabic, Coptic with Arabic, Syriac with Arabic, as well as Persian and Turkish with Arabic. These bilingual dictionaries served as valuable tools to facilitate the reading of Arabic books (Hijazi, 2006:19). In the context of the modern Arabic language, several examples of bilingual dictionaries have emerged, including “Sa’adeh Dictionary” by Khalil Saadeh (English/Arabic), “Al-Mughni Al-Akbar” by Hassan Al-Karmi (English/Arabic), “Al-Kamil Al-Tibb” by Youssef Muhammad Reda (French/Arabic).

2. Distinctions Between Monolingual and Bilingual Dictionaries

As previously elucidated, bilingual dictionaries are those in which the language of the text diverges from the language of explanation. Consequently, they diverge from their monolingual counterparts in their intended audience, which is linguistically and culturally distinct from the audience of monolingual dictionaries. The users of bilingual dictionaries encounter various challenges due to their dissimilar linguistic backgrounds. These challenges encompass difficulties in correctly articulating phonetic units that are absent in their native language, determining stress and intonation patterns, lacking a comprehensive understanding of Arabic morphological structures, and possessing a limited vocabulary base insufficient for generating linguistic richness comparable to that of native Arabic speakers. In order to navigate these linguistic disparities, users of bilingual dictionaries may employ strategies to minimize errors and circumvent jargon. They must also contend with cultural disparities stemming from the fundamental differences between Islamic civilization and their own, encompassing both material and intellectual dimensions (Al-Qasimi, 2003:15).

Furthermore, there exists another distinction related to content between these two types of dictionaries. This discrepancy is primarily attributed to the fact that a dictionary intended for non-Arabic speakers must encompass a comprehensive spectrum of information encompassing all aspects of the Arabic language, ranging from the written script to the intricacies of word usage and constraints on its application. In contrast, a dictionary intended for Arabic speakers is often more specialized and may take the form of a vocabulary dictionary, focusing solely on explaining select ambiguous morphological structures. Alternatively, it might serve as a dictionary of grammatical tools or specialized terminology. The root of this difference lies in the varying levels of proficiency each group possesses in the Arabic language, as well as the distinct goals they aim to achieve (Al-Anani, 2009:226).

It is worth noting that despite these disparities, there are areas of convergence between these dictionary types. For instance, they may concur in their choice of methodologies and approaches, as well as in the organizational structures they employ. Additionally, both types may share commonalities in the fundamental information they provide to the user, whether it pertains to phonetics, morphology, grammar, semantics, or cultural insights. Notably, they may also converge in their use of the language of explanation, with monolingual dictionaries employing the same language as the text and bilingual dictionaries employing a different language. While monolingual dictionaries often rely on definitions and synonyms as essential tools for conveying semantic information, their bilingual counterparts may adopt alternative approaches (Al-Qasimi, 2003:114). It is imperative to recognize that each type of dictionary carries its own unique value and significance within a linguistic landscape. Both are essential, with the former serving as a means to familiarize language speakers with the nuances of their own language and elucidating its intricacies, while the latter acts as a gateway, introducing individuals to other languages, enriching their cultural understanding, and facilitating the dissemination of knowledge and scientific information.

3. Bilingual Dictionary and Didactics of Languages

The field of language education stands out as the domain that reaps the greatest benefits from bilingual dictionaries. In this arena, learners frequently find themselves confronted with a foreign language that is entirely distinct from their native tongue. This situation necessitates the utilization of resources that can aid them in immersing themselves in the intricacies of the new language. Among these resources, the bilingual dictionary assumes a position of paramount importance, as it aligns closely with the learner’s existing knowledge and serves as their initial tool for deciphering the complexities encountered during the acquisition of any language.

The primary function of a dictionary, as intended by its creators, is to impart knowledge of the language, not only to its native speakers but also to non-native learners. From a pedagogical perspective, any individual embarking on a language-learning journey invariably turns to the dictionary. This reliance on dictionaries is likely the principal reason for their creation. However, it appears that in practice, the creators of ancient Arabic dictionaries did not place significant emphasis on the educational dimension. Their primary focus lay in fulfilling broader linguistic objectives that aimed to document and preserve the language, protecting it from erosion within specific temporal and spatial constraints. Contemporary dictionaries of various types echo a similar sentiment, as hardly any introduction to these dictionaries is devoid of an avowed commitment to educational goals. Nevertheless, there often remains a perceptible gap between aspiration and realization. In practice, many dictionaries continue to follow traditional, non-educational approaches, whether in their structure or their content organization (Arsalan, 2005:86).

Presently, the field of language education, particularly within our Arab culture, faces considerable challenges. This applies to both the teaching of the Arabic language itself and the teaching of other languages to Arabic-speaking children. Without access to bilingual dictionaries that meet the requisite criteria and uphold the essential standards for creating such dictionaries, individuals navigating this terrain may find themselves adrift and in need of rescue. While some countries, particularly those that are more developed, have made significant strides in this domain, the Arab nations are grappling with conspicuous deficiencies and notable shortcomings.

Regrettably, the Arabic language has yet to produce a monolingual dictionary tailored specifically for non-native speakers to aid in their language acquisition. Even the bilingual dictionaries that were intended to bridge this gap often fall short, primarily serving as tools to translate Arabic information or vocabulary into other languages. This limited utility has led to widespread disappointment and astonishment. These dictionaries are available in only a relatively small number of languages, approximately more than twenty, in stark contrast to the over three thousand languages spoken worldwide. This discrepancy appears notably inadequate when compared to the extensive array of bilingual dictionaries available for other international languages, such as English, which boasts dictionaries in over two hundred and fifty languages, as well as French and other languages (Al-Qasimi, 2003:113). This pronounced scarcity of dictionaries for foreign learners of Arabic may shed light on several factors contributing to the challenges faced in teaching and promoting the Arabic language abroad.

Given that the Arabic language holds global significance and ranks, it is imperative to safeguard its natural standing and enhance its prospects for further growth and dissemination. To achieve this goal, a sustained commitment to increased efforts and endeavors is required. This commitment should encompass the creation of a greater number of bilingual dictionaries in various languages, without restricting the scope to just one or a select few. Additionally, there should be a concerted effort to regularly update and reissue published dictionaries, ideally at intervals of no more than two years.

4. Issues of Bilingual Dictionaries

Arabic bilingual dictionaries encounter several challenges and obstacles, despite the efforts of their creators, which hinder their widespread use, circulation, and the full extent of their benefits. These challenges and limitations include:

  • Individualism Over Collective Effort: The predominance of individualism over collective and institutional collaboration has resulted in significant deficiencies in the development of bilingual dictionaries. Even highly knowledgeable individuals, no matter how hardworking, may struggle to create comprehensive linguistic dictionaries and substantial projects. Many of the problems faced by Arabic dictionaries throughout history and in contemporary times can be attributed to the reliance on individual efforts and personal inclinations. It is essential to shift towards collective action and establish specialized institutions dedicated to this endeavor, thus intensifying collaborative efforts to produce dictionaries across various domains (Youssef, 2007:240).

  • Commercialization Over Scholarship: Many dictionaries prioritize profit over scientific and educational objectives, particularly in the context of modern technologies. This commercial orientation often sidelines scientific principles and standards in dictionary development.

  • Lack of Innovation and Stagnation: Many bilingual dictionaries fail to keep pace with evolving linguistic developments and exhibit limited innovation and renewal. They often rely on outdated methods and materials, presenting them in a slightly different format. This lack of adaptation to contemporary linguistic trends hinders their effectiveness (Mukhtar Omar, 1985: 298).

  • Limited Collective Initiatives: While some collective initiatives have been undertaken by institutions and individuals, individualism still predominates in Arabic dictionaries. This trend has persisted over an extended period, resulting in a significant reliance on individual efforts, opinions, and personal tendencies, which has posed challenges for the development of these dictionaries (Youssef, 2007: 220).

  • Inadequate Adoption of Technological Advancements: Arabic bilingual dictionaries have not kept pace with technological advancements, particularly the emergence of electronic dictionaries. Many other countries have made substantial progress in this field, making electronic dictionaries a symbol of modernity. However, Arabic dictionaries lag behind in terms of facilities offered, such as time and effort reduction and enhanced research capabilities. Failure to adopt modern technological tools jeopardizes the existence of Arabic dictionaries (Ismail, 2008: 143).

  • Additional Disadvantages and Shortcomings: Bilingual dictionaries suffer from other drawbacks, including their sheer size, which can make them unwieldy for users to navigate or carry. This can lead to user aversion. The inclusion of an extensive array of scientific and technical terms, synonyms, and near-synonyms can cause confusion among readers. Moreover, some dictionaries tend to be verbose in definitions, providing multiple explanations for a single entry instead of presenting the meaning concisely. They may also feature unnecessary spacing between pages, which could be alleviated through formatting improvements. Bilingual dictionaries often lack precision in selecting material, curriculum, and content suitable for their target audience. Additionally, they may overlook the need for appropriate translations of indicative information in line with the language of their users, leading to ambiguities in the explanations provided. Many bilingual dictionaries feature periodic definitions and show inconsistencies in the order of word meanings, as they do not adhere to common criteria. Differences in translation between dictionaries also contribute to confusion (Adardour, 2009: 332–336).

To address these deficiencies, scholars have proposed specific conditions that bilingual dictionaries should meet to serve their purpose effectively and meet the needs of their users. These conditions emphasize clarity in language and information, ensuring that the content is comprehensible, as well as adhering to accuracy, precision, and consistency in definitions, translations, and the use of symbols.

The necessity of achieving the condition of comprehensiveness (Adardour, 2009: 332–336).

  • An effective bilingual dictionary must encompass a comprehensive array of content that caters to the diverse needs of its users. In terms of language coverage, the linguistic material should span various domains, including religion, science, literature, arts, journalism, and broadcasting, among others. This comprehensive linguistic coverage ensures that users can find relevant information in diverse contexts.

  • Regarding entries, the dictionary should include a wide range of lexical units, spanning from partial units to simple words, complex terms, and compound units, among others. This inclusiveness allows users to access a breadth of vocabulary and linguistic constructs.

  • Furthermore, the dictionary should provide various types of information for each entry, encompassing written, phonetic, morphological, grammatical, semantic, and encyclopedic aspects. This multifaceted approach ensures that users receive a holistic understanding of each term or concept.

  • Simplicity should be a paramount goal in designing these dictionaries, aligning with the needs and preferences of their users. Simplicity should not be constrained to a single aspect but should permeate all aspects of the dictionary, from its structure and organization to the clarity of its explanations. The aim is to create dictionaries that are user-friendly, devoid of unnecessary complexity and ambiguity, and accessible to individuals of varying linguistic proficiency.

Among the most important of these issues are the following:

  1. The arrangement of entries in a dictionary is a crucial aspect that demands careful consideration of lexicographers. The chosen arrangement method should facilitate the reader’s navigation and comprehension, rather than posing obstacles to their search for information. Proper arrangement ensures that the user can efficiently access the desired content without requiring excessive time and effort, which could otherwise lead to frustration and abandonment of the dictionary. Effective arrangement plays a pivotal role in completing the dictionary’s mission and facilitating the research process. It ensures that the message is conveyed comprehensively, and the user can achieve their intended goal without unnecessary hindrances. A well-organized arrangement upholds the dictionary’s primary function of aiding understanding and communication, preventing it from descending into obscurity and ambiguity. In this context, lexicographers often advocate for the root order as the preferred arrangement for etymological languages like Arabic. This approach is valued for its ability to elucidate semantic, morphological, and phonetic relationships between words (Mukhtar Omar, 1998: 98).

  2. Additionally, the issue of style in dictionary design is of paramount importance. The dictionary’s style should prioritize simplicity and clarity to avoid causing difficulties in comprehension. Definitions, evidence, and illustrative examples should be readily understandable without requiring further explanation. The planning and initiation procedures for dictionary creation should adhere to certain principles (Adardour, 2009: 232–236):

  • Joint Teamwork: Embrace collaborative efforts where responsibilities are distributed among experienced individuals. These committees should consist of members proficient in both languages, capable of expressing concepts accurately.

  • Financial Resources: Adequately allocate financial resources and determine the size, quality, and scope of the dictionary project.

  • Preservation of National Language: Ensure the preservation of the national language’s authenticity, cultural richness, voice, and intellectual heritage.

  • Vocabulary Tracking: Stay current with new vocabulary in both languages, leveraging information technology to link the dictionary to contemporary developments. Recognize the dynamic nature of language and its evolving vocabulary, while also considering the mechanisms of modern communication.

When discussing bilingual dictionaries, one of their notable characteristics is their historical inadequacy in capturing and incorporating the language as it is genuinely used in contemporary contexts. These dictionaries exhibited a certain leniency in their approach, primarily relying on a simple comparison of double dictionaries to pair Arabic words with their corresponding English or French equivalents. This selection process lacked a scientific standard for word choices, similar to the delayed development seen in monolingual dictionaries. The focus on recording contemporary language use did not gain prominence until the late 19th century when compilers of general bilingual dictionaries, particularly non-Arabs, started to address this concern.

Prominent figures in this movement include Lyon Barshi, who aimed to complete the “Lexique français” issued in Algeria in 1938, and Charles Belot. Additionally, Charles Pellat, an Orientalist, published a dictionary titled “L’arabe vivant” in 1952. However, one of the most significant dictionaries dedicated to the contemporary usage of classical Arabic is Hans Wehr’s dictionary, titled “Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart”. This dictionary was later translated into American English by Milkon Cowan, with some additions, under the name “A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic”. It amalgamated the works of Bercher and Pellat, drawing from a compilation of texts by notable authors such as Taha Hussein, Muhammad Hussein Heikal, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Mahmoud Taymur, Gibran Khalil Gibran, and Amin Al-Rihani, along with numerous articles from newspapers and magazines.

Another renowned Arabic dictionary that embraced this mission is “Al-Munajjid in the Contemporary Arabic Language”, published in 2000. Its authors endeavored to encompass all vocabulary required by 21st-century intellectuals, even if it originated from foreign sources. In recent years, the proliferation of bilingual dictionaries has continued, with several new bilingual dictionaries introduced at the end of the previous century, such as the “Al-Mawarid” English (Arabic/English) dictionary and “Al-Manhal” (French/Arabic) dictionary, which includes modern terms widely used in contemporary contexts. The “Dictionary of Reference” was chosen as a model for this study, as it is one of the most renowned and widely used bilingual school dictionaries. The objective is to assess the state of Arabic bilingual dictionaries and their ability to accurately reflect the linguistic realities of their respective time periods (Saleh, 2007: 137–138).

5. Analytical Reading of Reference Dictionary by Ramadan Muhammad Ali Al-Badri

The “Al-Mawrid” dictionary, an English/Arabic bilingual dictionary, is a significant reference widely embraced and utilized among students and educators in both preparatory and secondary educational levels. It is specifically tailored to cater to learners during this phase of their education, as indicated by its author, Mohammed Ramadan Al-Badri. Al-Badri highlighted the dictionary’s unique features at the outset, describing it as compact in size yet distinguished by its accessibility and the simplification of its scholarly content. He emphasized utmost simplicity, avoiding unnecessary complexity. The dictionary was designed to meet the needs of students in preparatory and secondary education (Al-Badri, 2006: 3).

While the dictionary addresses students’ needs, the specific nationality or background of the student, whether English-speaking or Arabic-speaking, is not explicitly stated, and there is no evidence to definitively determine this aspect. However, it is highly likely that Al-Badri intended the dictionary primarily for Arab students. Regarding the sources of material used in compiling the dictionary, he did not disclose them, keeping them undisclosed and unidentified. However, it is probable that he referred to dictionaries of his predecessors who had previously ventured into this field, whether they were of Arab or foreign origin. This approach aligns with the prevailing methodology among his contemporaries. Among the dictionaries that he is likely to have drawn upon due to their popularity during that period include: “Al-Mawrid” by Ruhi Al-Baalbaki, “A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic” by Hans Wehr, “The Contemporary Dictionary” (Arabic/English) by Elias Antoine and Edward Elias, “The Dictionary of Contemporary Terms in Arabic” (Arabic/English, English/Arabic), “Dictionary of Education” (English/Arabic) by Muhammad Al-Khoury, “Alfred’s Modern Terminology” (English/Arabic) by Daniel Rig, and “A’Saada Dictionary” (English/Arabic) by Khalil Happiness.

Additionally, there were other dictionaries in circulation, both domestic and foreign, that may have influenced the compilation process. Some of these dictionaries include:

  • Collins News English Dictionary (London)

  • Encyclopaedic World Dictionary (London)

  • Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts)

It is essential to note that Al-Badri appears to have selectively adapted and reduced material from these sources and omitted certain references. His adherence to the established approach of these dictionaries suggests that his selection was not based on an exhaustive inventory of the entire language vocabulary, as seen in comprehensive dictionaries like the Oxford and Webster International Dictionaries, given the enormity of such an endeavor, which would be beyond the scope of an individual effort.

Regarding the arrangement of the Al-Mawrid dictionary, it adopts an alphabetical phonetic arrangement inspired by international dictionaries. In contrast to Arabic dictionaries, where users typically trace back to the root of the Arabic word, this dictionary simplifies the process by arranging words based on their alphabetical phonetic order. For example, the word “use” can be found under “alif”, “amil” under the chapter on “ayn”, and “ta’amal” under the chapter on “ta”, and so forth. Key characteristics derived from this dictionary include:

  • Absence of an Explanatory Introduction: The Al-Mawrid dictionary lacks an explanatory introduction, which is often considered essential by lexicographic researchers for all types and sizes of dictionaries. An introductory section plays a pivotal role in guiding the reader, providing context, and directing them in their research. Such introductions should ideally include (Mukhtar Omar, 1998: 105–106):

  1. A brief overview of the history of the language, its linguistic family, identifying its unique characteristics, and its relationships with other languages.

  2. A contrastive study of the language of the dictionary’s users and Arabic, highlighting the impacts of the user’s first language on their usage of Arabic. This should encompass all language systems, including phonetics, morphology, grammar, and writing.

  3. Clarification of the dictionary’s purpose, its target audience, the approach followed, methods of organizing lexical entries and derivatives, and techniques for explaining meanings.

  4. A list of symbols and explanatory abbreviations used in the dictionary, with illustrative examples for each symbol, encompassing phonetic symbols and usage symbols. While the Al-Mawrid dictionary utilizes some abbreviations in its text, it fails to clarify their meanings, which may present challenges for readers.

  5. Comprehensive guidance on how to use the dictionary effectively and an explanation of the types of information it contains (e.g., phonetic, morphological, grammatical, semantic).

The absence of these elements in the Al-Mawrid dictionary can hinder the reader’s experience, as a dictionary’s purpose is to clarify language, not complicate it. This is a crucial aspect that should be addressed in the lexical introduction of any dictionary to facilitate users’ comprehension and utility.

  • Arrangement and Methods: The Al-Mawrid dictionary adopts an unconventional approach characterized by the absence of crucial information in its introduction, which spans just one page. This brevity, apart from some directions regarding the approved curriculum, is one of the most prominent criticisms of the dictionary. The internal arrangement of the dictionary employs two distinct methods to differentiate between words that share similar pronunciation but possess different meanings:

  1. Arrangement by Alliteration: This method expresses the first type of distinction, where words with similar pronunciation are grouped together based on their initial letters. For instance, words that start with the letter “A” would be grouped under the “alif” section.

  2. Arrangement by Association: This method pertains to words that share similar pronunciation but have multiple meanings. These words are organized based on their meanings rather than their initial letters.

  • The Al-Mawrid dictionary combines these two approaches to address the challenge of selecting the appropriate meanings for users while avoiding confusion. This unique approach sets it apart from other dictionaries that may branch a single word into multiple entries, each featuring an independent meaning accompanied by a definition or a brief explanation leading to the Arabic equivalent. Despite its brevity and unconventional arrangement, this approach is a noteworthy aspect of the Al-Mawrid dictionary and distinguishes it from dictionaries that adopt more traditional methods (Al-Badri, 2006: 84).

Innovative Characteristics and Shortcomings: The Al-Mawrid dictionary, as exemplified in various aspects, exhibits a distinct approach to lexicography:

  1. State the new meanings acquired by words that previously existed and include them alongside their old counterparts.

  2. Neglecting some of the old meanings of well-known words because they have become obsolete and strange in their context, and rewriting the explained word.

  3. Sometimes relying on the colloquial definition of interviews: “never mind” (Al-Badri, 2006:130).

  4. Paying attention to idiomatic expressions and mentioning many sentences and expressions that show the method of use, and explaining the method of using the word in the opposite sense by using the formula “other than or without…” such as his saying: “given” “point of view” is considered “a vision, a view”, view, and after “value”, “valueless (Al-Badri, 2006: 247), and “a hearing.

  • Providing a large group of derivatives, infinitives, simile words, and infinitives derived from them, which enriches the lexical balance of learners at that stage and develops their linguistic ability.

  • Giving the English word its due value from its Arabic counterparts and synonyms, without being limited to one or two words at times, and separating them with a period, similar to, for example, his saying: “Heart. Love. Tenderness heart (n)” “Cutting. Carving. Hew (v)”.

  • Absence of Illustrative Evidence and Examples: The conspicuous absence of illustrative evidence and examples represents a noteworthy deficiency within the realm of lexicography, an insufficiency that is deemed vital for ensuring the highest standards of quality in dictionaries, particularly when dealing with school dictionaries. The imperative purpose of such dictionaries is to elucidate vocabulary for educators and to render it more accessible to them, presenting the information in a straightforward and comprehensible manner. The inclusion of evidence and illustrative examples stands as one of the foremost auxiliary means of explication. Lexicographers often employ this supplementation to address any shortcomings within definitions. In some instances, it may even serve as the primary method for elucidating words when other approaches prove inadequate (Mukhtar Omar, 1998: 85). This function is particularly crucial for bilingual dictionaries, where the conundrum of selecting the most pertinent meaning is often encountered. Users of such dictionaries, often unfamiliar with the nuances of a second language, grapple with entries containing multiple meanings that lack clarification through illustrative evidence. Moreover, this absence hampers the enhancement of the information encompassed by the definitions, the elucidation of diverse word associations, and the provision of contextualization. Consequently, linguists ardently recommend the inclusion of at least one illustrative example for each lexical entry and its associated meanings. If we turn our attention to the “Reference dictionary to evaluate it in light of this recommendation, it becomes evident that this dictionary is wholly devoid of illustrative examples and evidence. This deficiency curtails its educational function, which fundamentally hinges on the dissolution of ambiguity surrounding words for learners and the explication of their varied usages and contextual applications. Given its role as a school dictionary, it would have been prudent for the dictionary’s compiler to employ simplified illustrative examples to facilitate learners’ comprehension of meanings (Mukhtar Omar, 1998: 144–145).

  • The of illustrative images within a dictionary can be particularly beneficial when explaining words associated with complex concepts that lend themselves well to visual representation. This is especially true when the intended audience may lack familiarity with the concepts, as images can serve as powerful aids for comprehension. However, it is noteworthy that the dictionary in question did not fully leverage this mechanism, despite being compiled during a period characterized by the zenith of image-based communication (2006). The lexicographer’s approach was likely influenced by his contemporaneous dictionaries and their utilization of visual aids to achieve their intended goals. Despite being a modern dictionary, the compiler was acquainted with Western dictionaries replete with images and drawings. From these sources, he drew insights into arrangement techniques and formatting. Surprisingly, he chose to forgo the incorporation of images in his own dictionary, even though a bilingual dictionary such as his would arguably benefit immensely from visual aids. In this regard, he missed an opportunity that he should not have overlooked or dismissed. Instead, the dictionary resorted to rudimentary black-and-white drawings characterized by unclear shading, rendering them nearly indecipherable. This omission had the unintended consequence of obfuscating meanings and potentially leading users, particularly students, astray. In instances where the dictionary struggled to provide effective explanations, images could have served as an invaluable educational tool. Modern pedagogy has come to heavily rely on visual aids as an essential component of learning, sometimes surpassing the efficacy of language itself. In cases where words prove inadequate to convey meaning, images can effectively step in to fulfill this role (Mukhtar Omar, 2006: 145–146).

  • To provide instructions and further clarify his approach to make the research task easier for the reader, the most important points are:

  1. The omission of the before definitions: The dictionary excludes the definite article the “when presenting definitions unless the word in question is an intransitive verb. For instance, the entry format follows the pattern of writing the word, followed by its definition, as in “judge (past: the judge).

  2. Singular nouns and present tense verbs: Nouns are consistently listed in their singular form, and verbs are generally presented in the present tense. Occurrences of verbs in the past tense are relatively rare.

  3. Parenthetical clarifications: The dictionary employs parentheses () in various instances to provide additional clarification. However, it is notable that the content enclosed within these parentheses could sometimes be deemed superfluous and potentially omitted. For example, entries such as Mole (animal) mole (n) “or” anchorage (boats) “incorporate these parentheses to offer further explanation.

  • These distinct characteristics shape the dictionary’s presentation style and the way definitions and entries are organized, providing a unique framework for users (The Badri, 2006: 126).

  • This dictionary exhibits certain omissions concerning crucial information typically expected in school dictionaries, particularly bilingual ones. These crucial elements encompass grammatical, morphological, and usage-related information. Unfortunately, the dictionary tends to overlook these aspects, which hinders users from comprehending the interconnectedness between the two languages.

  • Given its primary audience, largely comprised of individuals who are not native English speakers but are rather learning English as a second language, a greater emphasis on these types of information would have been advantageous. Specifically:

  1. Grammatical and morphological information: The dictionary does not provide ample details on the grammatical attributes and morphological forms of words. For instance, it distinguishes between verbs and nouns with abbreviations (v) and (n) but does not specify the placement or order of adjectives related to these nouns.

  2. Usage information: In terms of usage information, the dictionary mainly directs its focus toward associating words with specific scientific, artistic, or field-related contexts. While this can be helpful for a comprehensive understanding of terminology, it does not adequately address the nuances of word usage in everyday language. For example, it pairs terms like” nettle (spice) “with” nettle (n) “and” nitrogen (gas) “with” nitrogen (n), “while also introducing a range of terms or symbols under” nomenclature (n).

Overall, enhancing the inclusion of grammatical, morphological, and everyday usage information would have significantly benefited the dictionary’s target audience of non-native English speakers (The Badri, 2006: 130).

Almost all of these characteristics defined the resource, and most of them were innovative features that added a kind of contemporaneity, overcoming some of the shortcomings found in other dictionaries by acknowledging contemporary language alongside the classic. Thus, its text was a mix of traditional words and new ones introduced by daily use.

Nevertheless, it is worth acknowledging the dictionary’s commendable aspects. Notably, it incorporates a multitude of cultural terminology and vocabulary, effectively incorporating modern linguistic principles related to lexical development. Additionally, it adopts a phonetic alphabetical arrangement, influenced by European dictionaries known for their meticulous organization and systematic tabulation. However, there remain certain shortcomings that warrant attention. The dictionary notably falls short in harnessing the power of visual aids for explanation, thus missing out on a mechanism that has gained widespread acceptance in Western lexicography. Furthermore, it neglects to incorporate illustrative examples and evidential support, rendering the dictionary somewhat incomplete in fulfilling its pedagogical role (The Badri, 2006).

Conclusion

In the conclusion, we examined the “Reference Dictionary” and identified the persistent challenges it faces, reflecting broader obstacles encountered in Arabic lexicography. Despite the efforts made by its compiler to address some of these difficulties, such as the imitation and the inability to keep up with linguistic and technological advancements, the dictionary remains hampered by major obstacles such as the tendency to revert to traditional Arabic or Western dictionaries, an overreliance on written language, methodological inconsistencies, and the neglect of crucial definitional techniques. Integrating techniques such as providing illustrative examples and evidence, as well as using image-based definitions, could have given it a significantly different form, especially considering its role as a school dictionary.

It is important to note that the issues faced by the Reference Dictionaryare not unique to it but are representative of broader challenges within Arabic dictionaries, both bilingual and monolingual. To overcome these obstacles, it is imperative that specialized bodies take charge of lexicography in the Arabic language. These bodies should operate independently of commercial interests focused solely on quick profits and should instead prioritize serving the Arabic language and its users. These organizations should oversee and support the lexical industry in the Arab world, mirroring practices in Western countries. This would involve collaboration between linguists, media professionals, computer engineers, translators, botanists, medical experts, physicists, and other specialists. They would work collectively and diligently to produce dictionaries that cater to the needs of both Arab and non-Arab readers, while staying aligned with ongoing scientific, cultural, and technological developments. Additionally, they should adhere to established standards in lexicographic work and leverage methods and techniques developed through lexical and linguistic research. Success in this endeavor depends on a strong and resolute commitment from those entrusted with the Arabic language, as achieving these goals is neither simple nor insurmountable, provided there is a dedicated budget allocated for this cause.

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Hayat Lecheheb

Abedlhafid Bousouf University Center – Mila

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