Qatar funds development of first Arabic symbol dictionary

Gulf state to give $891,000 grant to UK university to establish a guide to help non-Arabic speakers

(Getty Images - Photo for illustrative purpose only)

(Getty Images - Photo for illustrative purpose only)

Qatar will fund the development of the world’s first culturally-specific Arabic symbol dictionary, according to the Trade Arabia news website.

The new resource would take into account the diverse nature of the language and how it is used in difference social situations, similar to English dictionaries that use symbols and pictures.

The Qatar National Research Fund has awarded a $891,000 grant to researchers at the University of Southampton, in the US, Rumailah Hospital, in Qatar, and the Qatar Assistive Technology Centre (Mada) to produce the dictionary.

"The ability to communicate is very important and requires skills that are not always available to everyone due to disability, lack of literacy and lack of language skills when travelling,” project leader Mike Wald, from the University of Southampton, was quoted as saying.

“A person visiting an Arabic-speaking nation without access to the language or knowledge of the alphabet may find it hard to communicate without help.

“We hope that our research will use crowdsourcing to identify appropriate imagery to build a symbol dictionary of frequently-used words based on modern standard Arabic.”

Mada deputy CEO Maha Al Mansouri said the dictionary also would be particularly important for Arabic speakers with a disability.

“Access to technology for Arabic speaking people with disabilities is largely hindered by the lack of availability of tools and resources in the Arabic language," he said.

"That is why we have made it an absolute priority to work with our partners to create the necessary tools to empower people with different disabilities throughout Arabic speaking communities all around world.”

The new project follows the launch of a sign language dictionary in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

With more than 2700 sign words and phrases, including some specific to the Saudi culture, the book is one of the largest Arabic sign language dictionaries in the world.

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