Sharjah Historical Dictionary of Arabic.

The National (UAE) reports on what is definitely a good idea:

Sharjah is compiling a landmark historical record charting 17 centuries of development in the Arabic language. The Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language will look at how the world’s fifth most widely spoken language, as well as Arab culture, has grown. News of the project was set out at the Arabic Language and Culture Festival in Milan by Dr Mohamed Safi Al Mosteghanemi, secretary general of Sharjah’s Arabic Language Academy. […]

Its contents will chronicle Arabic language and culture from the past 17 centuries in three research stages – old inscriptions, the Semitic branch of languages with a focus on Arabic, as well as the practical use of the language. It will encompass five ages: pre-Islamic, Islamic (Umayyad and Abbasid), separatist dynasties, the Mamluk Sultanate, and modern history. More than 300 senior Arabic researchers and linguists, editors and experts divided into nine committees in nine countries are working on the creation of the dictionary, and that the editing committee sits at the Union of Arab Scientific Language Academies’ premises in Cairo, Egypt. […]

“There are many dictionaries in the Arab world, but none as comprehensive as this one, which documents the history and evolution of all Arabic words,” Dr Al Mosteghanemi told an audience. “This project faced challenges, especially those that were related to its massive scale. The historian or linguist cannot build on specific references and leave others. They should not include books on literature and its genres and ignore books on philosophy, history and other sciences.” […] He said the project entails the development of a Digital Language Registry along with the physical dictionary.

But there’s already a Doha Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language, which launched a web portal last year (and which I posted about in 2013); I don’t know if there are any links between the projects, or if this represents a pointless duplication of effort. Anybody know? (Thanks, Trevor!)

Comments

  1. Given that the UAE and Qatar are currently in a cold war with each other, I’m guessing “pointless duplication of effort”.

  2. John Cowan says:

    Pointless it may be, but two is a lot better than zero, which is what we had before. In any case, one (or both) projects may fail.

  3. But it seems to me the likelihood of failure is increased if the effort is divided. Of course, the likelihood of failure (or trailing off after a few years) is high in any case.

  4. John Cowan says:

    On the other hand, rivalry may spur the workers onward.

  5. For a smaller language, such a duplication of effort would be unfortunate. But Arabic is surely large enough, and has enough scholars, to support two such projects and enjoy some benefits: differences in intellectual approach, the stimulating effects of rivalry, and so on.

  6. David Marjanović says:

    Rivalry may spur them to rush things at the cost of due diligence. To make scientists compete is a really bad idea.

  7. What DM said. Also, it’s not at all clear to me that Arabic has enough scholars of the kind needed to produce such a dictionary to support more than one; it’s not enough just to love the language and be well read in it. Linguistics and lexicography are both hard disciplines.

  8. Since the UAE and Qatar are Arabic-speaking countries, both with governments for whom the status and image of Arabic are highly sensitive and important matters, and with neither being even remotely democratic, I am afraid that however much the two Historical Dictionaries (assuming, optimistically, that they will both be completed) may diverge/differ, both will have certain things in common. I would wager, for example, that both will grossly understate (if not actively hide) foreign lexical influence upon Arabic.

    See my first comment on May 29 on this thread (http://languagehat.com/the-ancient-bookshelf/) for a similar point.

  9. John Cowan says:

    To make scientists compete is a really bad idea.

    Up to a point, Minister. Watson, Crick & Co. were definitely driven forward by the fear that Linus Pauling would beat them to it. (They were also extraordinarily lucky.) Darwin finally got off his ass and published when he got Russell’s letter, though that’s not quite on point as each was in total ignorance of the other’s work. And who remembers Correns, Spillman, or von Tschermak? (De Vries is remembered for something else.)

    But that doesn’t mean they made a balls of it. Kitasato did make a balls of it, and that’s why the bad bug is Yersinia pestis, not *Kitasato pestis, even though Yersin published six days later.

    Nevertheless, “Imagine the efficiency of the armed forces if only one out of every five soldiers were issued weapons and the rest were asked to spend all of their time writing applications to explain what they would do if they had one” is very well put (from the same editorial where I first found that Kitasato/Yersin story).

  10. SFReader says:

    Imagine the efficiency of the armed forces if only one out of every five soldiers were issued weapons and the rest were asked to spend all of their time writing applications to explain what they would do if they had one

    If there is a real shortage of weapons of such magnitude, then I don’t see how efficiency can be improved from present.

    Well, there is one solution, but soldiers won’t like it at all – downsize the army so the numbers of soldiers would match the quantity of available weapons.

  11. Bathrobe says:

    soldiers won’t like it at all – downsize the army so the numbers of soldiers would match the quantity of available weapons.

    So they enjoy being potential cannon fodder?

    (I guess the answer is yes, people join the army for a ‘career’, not to go out and get killed in a war.)

  12. David Marjanović says:

    Darwin finally got off his ass and published when he got Russell’s letter, though that’s not quite on point as each was in total ignorance of the other’s work.

    Also, the first thing he did was to publish a paper with Russell, precisely to avoid a fight about priority. His book came out a year later.

    “Imagine the efficiency of the armed forces if only one out of every five soldiers were issued weapons and the rest were asked to spend all of their time writing applications to explain what they would do if they had one”

    Ooh, this is perfect.

    If there is a real shortage of weapons of such magnitude

    Science funding is a pure question of political will. It’s a drop in the bucket of almost any national budget.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    They were also extraordinarily lucky.

    Or perhaps unlucky. Watson never did anything important again and became a crackpot…

  14. John Cowan says:

    Also, the first thing he did was to publish a paper with Russell, precisely to avoid a fight about priority.

    Darwin was not only a great scientist but a great human being. There are few like him.

    His book came out a year later.

    The 160,000-word first edition was at that only a precis of the fuller work he had envisioned writing, part of which was finally published in 1975.

  15. @John Cowan: It is remarkable to me that Darwin consistently refers to On the Origin of Species, By Means of Natural Selection as an “abstract,” summarizing a much longer potential future work.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Darwin was not only a great scientist but a great human being. There are few like him.

    There aren’t that few, but few become as famous.

  17. Well said.

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