Lexicography and Translation:The Case of Bilingual Arabic-English Dictionaries


The paper aims at pinpointing the defects in three unabridged Arabic­ English dictionaries: Modern Written Arabic (MWA) ( 1961), al-Mawrid (1988) and the latest one al-Mughni (1999). My hope is to remedy certain defects and help produce a dictionary that may assist the Arabic-English translator. It is true that the three dictionaries do not specifically set out the targeted readers or the functions they serve. MWA states that the targeted readers are not only 'English and American users but also orientalists throughout the world who are more at home with English than with German'. Al-Mawrid is totally silent about the targeted reader and the purpose it serves. Al-Mughni "aims to help in teaching Arabic through English, to help the reader through equivalents understand the Arabic language" (the preface). Though none of the compilers thinks of "translator" as a category of users, the three dictionaries, in the absence of an Arabic-English dictionary specially tailored for translators, are the only tools available for Arabic-English translators, whether native or non-native speakers. To improve the quality of these dictionaries and to benefit from the long and rich experience of their compilers, we shall illustrate different types of translation problems encountered by Arab university students as well as by translators and how these dictionaries could be used to solve them. We shall also provide suggestions for the improvement of certain lexicographic features directly related to translation.


Mohamed H. Heliel