EtymArab.

An Etymological Dictionary of Arabic Language and Culture (EtymArab) “is a project for establishing an etymologico-conceptual dictionary of the Arabic language, covering roots and terms of particular significance for the mental and cultural history of the Arabs”:

It is the aim of this project to provide a tool that highlights Arab cultural history through the history of the vocabulary of the Arabic language. The project can build on earlier studies in a large variety of different disciplines. It can also profit from specialists’ expertise. At the same time it is eager to make it accessible for related disciplines. It concentrates on fuṣḥā and on roots and terms of particular significance for the Arabs’ mental and cultural history, such as modes of living, cultural techniques, religion, philosophy, society, politics, etc. from the earliest to our times. But in the beginning it is focusing on vocabulary in present-day use.

Although one of the major languages of the world, Arabic has still not yet its etymological dictionary. It is the aim of the EtymArab project to provide such a tool. However, unlike ‘traditional’ etymological dictionaries, which tend to focus on ‘purely’ linguistic findings, EtymArab is interested not only in the linguistic data, but also in their historical background: it takes the history of Arabic vocabulary as a basis for highlighting Arab cultural history and the history of key concepts.

In this respect, EtymArab is not only a project of Arabic and, of course, Semitic and Afroasian linguistics. It rather combines etymology (in its classical form) with the various disciplines of Arab cultural history (political, social, economic, religious history of the Middle East, history of concepts/ideas, all kinds of culture studies, incl. the history of sciences, esp. botanics, pharmacology, chemistry, astronomy; archaeological and genetic findings may also become relevant).

They say “there exist already a number of etymological dictionaries of other Semitic or Afroasian languages…. It will be one of EtymArab’s major tasks, therefore, on the one hand, to collect and process existing material. On the other hand, however, this process will make a large number of research lacunas apparent.” They link to some sample entries, e.g., ǧamal ‘camel’ and zanǧabīl ‘ginger’; the layout is a bit chaotic, but as they warn: “work in progress!” I have often lamented the lack of an Arabic etymological dictionary, starting back in 2004; I heartily approve of this project and wish it every success. (Thanks, Yoram!)

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    I hope I’m wrong, but it looks to me like the project has run out of steam. Switching to the Norwegian version of the page i find that the only listed participant is professor Stefan Guth, the last event was a collaboratory workshop in 2015 — the procedings from which is nowhere to be found — and the list of publications has not been updated since 2010.

    I think we once discussed different Gulf dynasties supporting rivaling prestige projects for Arabic historical dictionaries.

  2. Stu Clayton says:

    I occasionally encounter claims that Arab is so (richly) ambiguous and (annoyingly) poetic that you can never be sure what is being said. Maybe the announcement of this project was not intended as it was interpreted. Sort of like Trump tweets, which are often “walked back”.

    In both cases, it seems that the intention is to spread cognitive dissonance, and (in one case) inculcate it by repetition.

  3. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks to me like the project has run out of steam. Switching to the Norwegian version of the page i find that the only listed participant is professor Stefan Guth, the last event was a collaboratory workshop in 2015 — the procedings from which is nowhere to be found — and the list of publications has not been updated since 2010.

    Oh hell. Somehow I’m not surprised. I am disappointed, though.

  4. “I think we once discussed different Gulf dynasties supporting rivaling prestige projects for Arabic historical dictionaries”

    http://languagehat.com/sharjah-historical-dictionary-of-arabic/

    So maybe tell Doha that Stefan Guth is in the pocket of Sharjah, and/or vice versa, to get new funding for EtymArab and/or its new rival ArabEtym.

  5. Trond Engen says:

    (Three months ago? No wonder I didn’t remember exactly.)

    Aha! The Doha project was first published in 2013, which is around the time the Oslo project lost momentum. Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe Stefan Guth is behind both the rivaling projects in a cunning scheme.

  6. David Marjanović says:

    I’ll believe that when they put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

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