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Modern Arabic Dictionaries: Phonetic Aspects and Implications

Pages 71 - 89


Dictionaries are an important linguistic tool for both native language speakers and foreign language learners. After long centuries of development, Arabic language dictionaries have variegated forms and structures. Inter-dictionary differences include the phonetic aspect, which I study here. Since (most) dictionaries are written in letters (on paper or computer monitors), they do not produce the original oral words. Certain dictionaries add, however, a phonetic transcription next to word spelling.

Native speakers of Arabic use various Arabic dialects as their mother tongue (L1). Learners of MSA or some dialect (L2) do not always know how to pronounce the words in the new system. Phonetic transcriptions do not always help the learner, because when spoken, one's L1 affects the pronunciation of the new L2.

For this study, I surveyed traditional and modern dictionaries of Arabic published on the internet, in paper, or both, to find out how they can help learners' phonetic acquisition of L2. Our findings suggest that attention to this phonetic aspect exists in some dictionaries, but others do not address this need at all. After discussing the situation, its causes and results, I conclude that it involves linguistic, sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic factors.

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