Almost one year after the launch of the Doha Historical Dictionary Project, the ACRPS hosted the third meeting of the project’s Academic Board from May 15 and 16, 2014, in Doha.
The meeting focused on the Arabic language, and the production of the third draft of an etymological bibliography for the first phase of Arabic language history, which brings the scope of the lexicographical corpus and entries adopted up to the end of the third Hijri Calendar. Participants also discussed the organizational challenges involved in conducting etymological and historical research at this level.
The Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic, an academic project for language study launched on May 25, 2013 and affiliated with the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, primarily seeks to document and analyze the history of Arabic vocabulary and idioms as they developed over two millennia. The research thus spans the entire history of Arabic, and will undertake an in-depth investigation of the language’s roots and structures, including how these have evolved and how they demonstrate continuous vitality and semantic transformation up to the present day. The project’s management team has established a long-term time frame of 15 years for continuous work and preparation for this historical dictionary. By unfolding over successive three-year stages, the parties responsible will be able to regularly review project achievements.
For the ACRPS’s General Director Dr. Azmi Bishara, the importance of this new lexicon lies in the importance of developing an all-encompassing etymological dictionary for the Arabic language that extends beyond any one individual Arab state to include the entire Arab nation, forming part of a much broader “Arab Renaissance”. In addressing the meeting, Bishara also indicated that the coming phase of the project would likely see specific tasks delegated to external experts on the Arabic language, highlighting the need for additional members as the project continues to grow.
The Doha Historical Dictionary’s current Academic Board includes some of the most accomplished and esteemed Arabic language scholars and linguists, with decades of experience in research focused on the Arabic language’s history, development, and future renewal, including Ramzi Baalbaki, Abdussalam al-Massadi, Abdulqader al-Fassi al-Fihri, Elias Atallah, and Nuhad al-Moussa. The project is unsurprisingly becoming widely recognized in the Arab world not only for its academic importance and merit, but also for its breaking new ground.
In his remarks, the Doha Historical Dictionary’s managing director, Dr. Ezzedine Bouchikhi, outlined the contents of the third draft of the first phase’s bibliography: poetry, books, compendia, speeches, dialogues, decrees, signatures, bequests, proverbs, and folk sayings—all fully annotated and documented in historical sequence. He added that the “text corpus” of an expanded draft of the bibliography the Doha Historical Dictionary will utilize has been compiled and includes an automated computer program for lexical analysis. This new software will allow analysts to build lexical entries for words and phrases encountered in the corpus, and to refine definitions of words and phrases based on their context, alongside the citation of sources and usages.
The meeting generated a number of key decisions pertaining to lexical entry user interfaces, the ordering of entries’ internal components, the cross referencing of definitions and substantiations of linguistic evidence, and the optimum approach to arranging entries in the lexicon. A task force was also created on consolidating treatment of root words with their wide-ranging derivations.