Date: Tue, 05 Apr 2005 14:37:20 -0500 From: Mary Shapiro Subject: A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic
EDITORS: Harrell, Richard S.; Sobelman, Harvey TITLE: A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic SUBTITLE: Moroccan-English/English-Moroccan SERIES: Georgetown Classics in Arabic Language and Linguistics PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press YEAR: 2004
Mary Shapiro, Truman State University
Despite the unified title, this publication is actually a reprint of two separate dictionaries, Moroccan-Arabic-English (edited by Richard S. Harrell, originally published 1966) and English-Moroccan Arabic (edited by Harvey Sobelman, originally published 1963) -– both otherwise out of print.
The book contains preliminary materials before each of the original dictionaries. Before the 268-page Moroccan Arabic-English (henceforth MA- E) dictionary may be found a Foreword to the new edition, a note on Arabic Research at Georgetown University, the original Introduction to the MA-E dictionary (including what information entries contain and how entries are structured, as well as notes on the transcription of MA), an explanation of MA pronunciation, and a list of abbreviations and symbols. The second section contains an almost identical note on Arabic Research at Georgetown, a preface, and a one-page note on "technical data," including abbreviations used, before the 228-page English-Moroccan Arabic (henceforth E-MA) dictionary.
The new (2004) Foreword boasts that the MA-E dictionary has "remained a standard reference work for scholars and students of Moroccan Arabic, as well as for students of other varieties of Arabic spoken in North Africa." It also notes that the dictionary was not intended to stand alone, an important caveat for readers not otherwise extremely familiar with MA. (For these, the Foreword recommends Harrell's Basic Course in Moroccan Arabic (1965, reissued 2003), and his Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic (1962, reissued 2004).) There can be no doubt that this was an important addition to studies in Arabic dialectology; Harrell notes in the Introduction to the MA-E section that, although a variety of reference works were consulted [...], the material presented is wholly primary." This was a tremendous undertaking, and it is perhaps churlish of me to wish that this work had continued in the 40 years since its original publication. A very minimal investment of time and money would have allowed Georgetown University Press to align the two dictionaries so that they agreed in their transcriptions and their word-lists. As it is, there are glaring discrepancies that separate the two parts of this reference work and cannot fail to annoy the reader who seeks to refer back and forth between the two sections.
The section on "pronunciation" takes the reader through a consonant chart and a description of sounds which does not crucially rely on a previous knowledge of linguistic terminology. Discussion is divided into "consonants similar to English," "vowel sounds with familiar consonants," "emphatic consonants," "emphatic vowels," and particular, detailed descriptions of other non-English sounds, including "double consonants" and particular sequences and clusters. Unfortunately, the transcription used in the two sections varies, and could confuse the casual reader. The transcription used in the E-MA section "is that explained in [Harrell's 1962] A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic" -- the explanation is, alas, not given here! -- while the MA-E section uses a slightly different system, distinguishing e and short a, and adding a symbol for short i. The transcription is mostly phonetic, with the Arabic letters Hah and Ain used for the pharyngeal fricatives. The Hah is described in the MA-English as "somewhat similar to an English 'h' pronounced in a loud stage whisper," which does not greatly distinguish it from the description of the "emphatic consonants"; the same sound is written as h with a subscript dot (parallel to the other 'emphatic consonants') in the E-MA section. (Thus, the entry for "bath" is given in the E-MA section as h-subscript-dot+emmam, but as Hah+a-breve+mmam in the MA-E section.)
Moroccan Arabic is a traditionally unwritten and unstandardized language. A note in the Introduction explains that "[B]ecause of the limited and variable role they play in word formation, the glottal stop and the variable vowels a-breve, e, i-breve, and o have been disregarded in the alphabetization.[...] The secondary emphatic consonants b, l, m, r, and z have likewise been disregarded for purposes of alphabetization, for similar reasons." Although this may be grammatically motivated, it makes the alphabetization somewhat problematic for the average user: "dlil" comes before "dlek," which is before "dell," etc. Emphatic d, g, s, t have their own sections, but words beginning with emphatic b, l, m, r, and z are mixed in with words beginning with the nonemphatic counterparts.
Oddly, the two dictionaries started from different word lists, yielding very different information in the two sections of this book. To determine the entries for the MA-E dictionary, "the word list of Ferré's Lexique Marocain-Français was taken as a point of departure. Entries not directly familiar to our Moroccan staff members were deleted and various additions were made from their own knowledge." Entries for the E-MA section, however, are "based on the English-German section of the bilingual German and English Dictionary of Everyday Usage." So entries contained in one part of the dictionary are not necessarily mirrored in the other. This does not just apply to culturally-specific lexical items, but to a vast array of vocabulary. One might pick any page at random to illustrate this point: There are no MA-E entries for Damascus, damn, dandelion, to dare (all entries in the E-MA section), nor the national nouns Russia(n), Britain(ish), German(y), etc.; no E-MA entries for talkative, dominoes, anus, inaugurate/open (an admittedly odd series, taken from just one column of the MA-E dictionary, all MA entries starting with d-). As noted above, the MA-E section is 40 pages longer than the E-MA, reflecting the discrepancy in the selected wordlists.
Harrell's (1964) Introduction warns that the dictionary "presupposes a familiarity with the basic grammatical structure of Moroccan Arabic," and that "no attempt has been made to cover dialect variations or specialized vocabularies." Certainly, it would be beyond the call of this dictionary to cover those topics, but it seems odd to write a dictionary of MA without a single word (even in the Introduction or Foreword) about the prevalence of code-switching among Moroccans, or the preference for French and Classical or Modern Standard Arabic terms and phrases in certain particular settings or discourse situations. Even common, everyday MA expressions seem to be missing. While the ubiquitous "insha'llah" can be found in the E-MA dictionary (as an expression under "God" and represented quite differently in the dictionary's transcription system), there is no indication that this is used with every future tense statement, and it cannot be found in the MA–E section at all. The E-MA section gives the expression "baraka llahu fik" for "many thanks" (under "thanks"), but the MA-E section does not give this extremely common expression under "baraka" or "llah."
While I am sure that those who work in Arabic linguistics and dialectology will be delighted to see this work back in print, the dictionary in its current state falls rather short of Harrell's hope that it would "serve the practical needs of Americans whose lives bring them into contact with Morocco and Moroccans." More than anything, the reprint of these dictionaries shows the desperate need for a revival of the original Arabic Research Program and the continuation of the work begun here.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Mary Shapiro is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Truman State University (Kirksville, MO). She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco in the mid-1980s.