Dictionary entries: By roots or by first letter ?

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by Sujon, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Sujon Junior Member

    Hello all,

    Some paper-based dictionaries arrange the entries according to the roots, others do it by the first letter of the word. So, for example, if one tries to find the meaning of the word "Muslim", s/he has to look into S-L-M in the first type of dictionary, but has to look into MSLM in the second type.

    Could someone briefly discuss the of advantages / disadvantages of each type, assuming that the reader is a non-Arab interested in learning Classical Arabic ?

  2. panview Senior Member

    So I try to edit my own dictionary by Word-File,using each Latin letter stands for a Arabic letter,and search the word I want to find. For the word which has one or two letters,I just put "ar."before or behind it.For example, I type 'ar.mn.ar'and 'ar.myn.ar' to look for the wordمن and مين in my word-file.
  3. panview Senior Member

    This is really a time-consuming job.I only collect some words I need or some I cannot find online-dictionary into my file.Most words I still have to use Google or here,word-reference.
  4. jack_1313 Senior Member

    English - Australian
    Normally, the system of arranging words by root is more beneficial. It allows us to easily see the semantic relationship between words derived from the same root. This is helpful for a number of reasons. For example, it helps new students develop more versatile reading skills more quickly because it is easier to remember the general meaning of a root than remember ten derivatives of it. It helps advanced readers to fully understand the meaning and connotations of words.

    The bad side is that, firstly, we need a reasonably good grasp of grammar to this system – we need to be able to recognize patterns, spot hidden letters, and break down words. Secondly, it is occasionally impossible to determine what the root letters of a word are. For example: اتسع or ثقة. In the first case, the root is و س ع but could easily be ت س ع. In the second case, the root is و ث ق but could easily be ث ق ق or ث ق ي. In these cases, the reader needs to check a number of possibilities before the correct combination can be found.

    The main benefit of the system of arranging words by all their letters is that new students, who don’t understand much grammar, can use it. I think al-Mawrid is the only serious dictionary that employs this system, but I haven’t used it enough to comment on it. I imagine that a great section of it must be taken up by the letters ا and م.

    By the way, Han Wehr, Lane's Lexicon, J. G. Hava, and Steingass can now be searched digitally (by root) online at http://www.ejtaal.net/m/aa/#HW=127,LL=1_401,LS=2,HA=91,SG=230. The tool can also be downloaded. Needless to say, this is great development for scholars of the language.

    A comparison of different dictionaries can be found at http://muslimmatters.org/2010/03/06/arabic-dictionaries-and-resources-for-students/.
  5. Sujon Junior Member

    Thank you very much for your summary. It seems that a serious student should possess both types of dictionay!!
  6. ajamiyya عجمية Senior Member

    American English
    Back when dictionaries were being penned and systems were fluid, Aljawhari put together a dictionary arranged by the roots, only he inverted them; (you look for f a l under l a f, for instance.)
  7. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Most of the classical Arabic dictionaries are arranged by the last radical (the rhyme letter), which is actually very useful if you are reading poetry (where the rare words most commonly occur in the rhyme). In modern printed editions of these dictionaries, however, they have been rearranged according to the first radical.

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