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Background

Welcome to the PalWeb Dictionary. PalWeb's digital interactive Dictionary is the culmination of several years of preliminary & smaller-scale work.

My first lexicography efforts were casual, as they were initially for myself. At first, I created the Beginner's Lexicon of Palestinian Arabic to serve as a quick reference tool for the dialect: a digital pocket dictionary in the form of an interactive spreadsheet. With time, this snowballed into the AJP Wiktionary project.

When the project began in early January 2021, Wiktionary had around 10 entries for South Levantine Arabic (AJP) — the name given by Ethnologue to the southern dialects of the Levantine Arabic continuum present mainly in Palestine & Jordan. Initially, the goal was to create Wiktionary entries for every verb in the Lexicon — around 700 terms at the time. As others joined the team & the goal of 700 entries was met & exceeded, the project's scope — and the rigor & detail of its entries — grew significantly. By July 2022, Wiktionary had over 2,800 South Levantine Arabic terms & nearly as many audio pronunciation samples, with hundreds of example sentences & usages. If you'd like to check out the entries, you can simply go to Wiktionary & search for a word in Arabic. If it's used in Palestinian Arabic, there should be an entry for it.

Not long after the Learn Palestinian Arabic site started seriously growing in scope, I discovered that I could create my own dictionary for Palestinian Arabic from scratch & host it here; that is the PalWeb Dictionary you can find here today.

In early January 2021, I started the AJP Wiktionary Project to document the Palestinian dialects of Spoken Arabic. At that time, the Wikimedia site Wiktionary had around 10 entries for "South Levantine Arabic" (AJP), the name given by Ethnologue to the Spoken Arabic dialects within the Levantine Arabic continuum that exist mainly within Palestine & Jordan (see What is AJP?).

The Project's initial goal was to create entries on Wiktionary for every verb on the Beginner's Lexicon of Palestinian Arabic — around 700 terms at the time. As others joined the team and the goal of 700 entries was met & exceeded, the Project's scope — and the rigor & detail of its entries — grew significantly. As of July 2022, there are +2,800 terms & +2,600 audio recordings for AJP on Wiktionary, with hundreds of example sentences & various other features as well.

Although I am satisfied with the outcomes of this work, Wiktionary has some significant limitations. Since Wiktionary is used for all languages at the same time, there is no real "hub page" for South Levantine Arabic. Moreover, it's not possible to search for an English word to find its equivalent in the dialect, meaning the main use case for Wiktionary is to find further information about a known Spoken Arabic term (like pronunciation information & example sentences). Additionally, moderators specializing in Standard Arabic & tasked with upholding particular style standards awarded us little freedom to choose how to present information about Spoken Arabic.

Consequently, I had wanted for a long time to migrate the dictionary to a private site that I could manage independently. As I was building this site, I realized that by using a database to store dictionary data I could solve many of the issues we faced on Wiktionary, including searchability. Dynamically pulling the data from a database also means the style of entries is inherently standardized, as there is only one page that controls the display of all entries; this is infinitely more efficient than individually writing the data on every Wiktionary page using the site's markup language.

Conventions

Because of the lack of standardization in Palestinian Arabic, a variety of conventions had to be developed to maintain consistency across entries in the Dictionary.

Orthography

Generally speaking, terms are spelled phonemically. However, since Urban Palestinian Arabic has lost a handful of distinct phonemes that other varieties preserve (e.g. /θ/), the etymological spelling of these phonemes is maintained (e.g. ـثـ as in كثير). In these cases, the phonemic spelling for Urban Palestinian Arabic (i.e. كتير) is usually provided as an alternative spelling.

A variety of letter forms & diacritics are commonly omitted in casual writing. In this Dictionary, short vowels are not written, but other phonemic graphemes — namely hamze, shadde & the lexicalized tanwīn fatħa — are always written.

Some final vowels may be written in a variety of ways in casual writing; these are standardized as follows:

  • final /o/ is always ـه (e.g. برضه)
  • a final /e ~ a/ that changes to /t/ in the construct form is always ـة (e.g. منيحة)
  • a final /a/ that does not change to /t/ in the construct form is ـى (e.g. حليوى) or ـا (e.g. برّا)

Indexing

Generally speaking, only lemmas are indexed in the Dictionary, while inflections & the like are not. Singulative nouns (e.g. تفّاحة) are considered inflections of Collective nouns (i.e. تفّاح), so they are not listed separately. Active Participles are only listed separately if they have an idiomatic meaning or a usage that is not clearly past-perfect in meaning.

Every term has a single canonical transcription by which it is indexed in the database; this is the transcription of the term's first listed pronunciation. By default, this is the term's pronunciation in Central Urban Palestinian Arabic (i.e. the urban Arabic dialect of Jerusalem).

كثير
bookmark
very, really

In accordance with the conventions of Arabic dictionaries, all verbs are indexed in the 3rd-person masculine form (e.g. راح “to be; (lit.) he went”). By extension, 3rd-person masculine pronouns are used to list terms that require a pronoun, including pseudo-verbs & phrasal verbs:

COMING SOON
بدّه
bookmark
to want
COMING SOON

As for phrases that require two pronouns that refer to two different subjects, the 3rd-person masculine pronoun is used first, followed by the 3rd-person feminine pronoun; this is to indicate that the two subjects are distinct.

COMING SOON

I divide Palestinian Arabic lemmas into three types according to the morphology of the lemma form:

1. Words are terms that exist as single, independent units.

2. Clitics clitic are lemmas that cannot exist individually, but rather are attached to another lemma.

3. Idioms idiom are lemmas that exist individually, but are composed of two or more other lemmas; what qualifies these terms as lemmas is that they have a meaning that is greater than the sum of its parts, so that one cannot necessarily derive the term's meaning merely by knowing the meaning of its components.

Transcription

On this site, I use a specialized transcription scheme to represent Palestinian Arabic in the Latin script. It should be noted that the native script of Palestinian Arabic is the Arabic script; the Latin script is never meant to replace the Arabic script, as we only use it here with two specific functions: as an educational aid & for academic purposes.

As a linguistic tool, a modified form of the Latin script is used for the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), used here for phonemic & phonetic representations of terms in the Dictionary. Since I am merely following the IPA guidelines, you can refer to another website for a description of this scheme.

However, I have created my own scheme to transcribe Palestinian Arabic on this site, which is used for educational purposes. Be advised that some creative liberties have been taken for the sake of intelligibility at the expense of linguistic specificity — the role of the otherwise esoteric IPA scheme.

Let's start by listing the glyphs used for different sounds in the Palestinian Arabic consonant inventory — including those from borrowings. Note that I am not listing the corresponding letters in the Arabic script, because this transcription scheme is a representation of sound, not of orthography. More information on spelling conventions in Spoken Arabic & those used by this site are further down.

/b/ b
/t/ t
/θ/ ŧ
/ʒ/ ž
/dʒ/ j
/ħ/ ħ
/x/ x
/d/ d
/ð/ ð
/r/ r
/z/ z
/s/ s
/ʃ/ š
/sˤ/
/dˤ/
/tˤ/
/zˤ/
/ðˤ/ ż
/ʕ/ ʕ
/ɣ/ ġ
/f/ f
/q/ q
/g/ g
/k/ k
/tʃ/ č
/l/ l
/m/ m
/n/ n
/h/ h
/ʔ/ ʔ
/j/ y
/w/ w

Now let's consider vowels:

/a/ [a] [α] a
/i/ [ɪ] [i]* i
/u/ [ʊ] [u]* u
/aː/ [æ(ː)] [ɑ(ː)] ā (a)
/iː/ [i(ː)] ī (i)
/uː/ [u(ː)] ū (u)
/eː/ [e(ː)] ē (e)
/oː/ [o(ː)] ō (o)

Note that no short e or o is individually listed; that is because this Dictionary agrees with the theory that these are only present on the surface after a final long ē or ō — primarily ة or ه, respectively — is shortened. Still, shortened long vowels are always represented with short-vowel glyphs.

Note that epenthetic vowels are never written, because they manifest differently for different speakers (e.g. muškile vs. mušikle) — if at all (e.g. tħammam vs. itħammam).

In addition to representing sound, this transcription scheme shows word boundaries by linking clitics to other lemmas with a hyphen (e.g. l-bēt, w-l-bēt, b-l-bēt, ha-l-bēt, b-ha-l-bēt, la-ha-l-bēt).

Features

Searching for Terms works by finding matches between the search query & a handful of database attributes. Let's assume we are trying to find the word كثير (ktīr "many"). We can find it by searching for the following:

  • its Arabic spelling, including alternative spellings (i.e. كثير or كتير)
  • its transcribed pronunciation in any dialect (i.e. ktīr or kŧīr)
  • its inflections, whether in Arabic or transliterated (e.g. كثار or ktār)
  • its meanings in English (e.g. "many", "very", etc.)

However, there are some limitations to the search function that are inherent to how the database is structured & the conventions that have been established:

  • inflections are stored with only one canonical spelling & transcription, so a search for كتار or kŧār will fail

Searching for Sentences works similarly:

  • Search for any Arabic term either in Arabic (e.g. يوكل) or transliterated (e.g. yōkil). Doing this will return all sentences — if there are any — where this term is used in this exact form. You have to be precise in your transliteration. Check the User Manual for the site's transliteration standard.
  • Search for any Arabic word in its dictionary form transliterated (e.g. ʔakal). Doing this will return all sentences — if there are any — where this term is used in any of its forms. Although you must use the term's transliterated form, this is the only way to retrieve all forms of the term.

Filtering Terms may be done according to five attributes:

  • Category: the part of speech a term belongs to (e.g. Noun).
  • Subtype: a secondary category a term may optionally belong to (e.g. Masculine).
  • Form: the verbal form of a term or from which it is derived (e.g. Form 2).
  • Singular Pattern: the word pattern of a term in its default or singular form (e.g. CvCC).
  • Plural Pattern: the word pattern of a term in its plural form (e.g. CCūC).

Entry Content

Creating a dictionary is more than just listing terms & writing their definitions. Indeed, any given term is far more than just its definition: it abides by rules governing its use, it has inflection types & conjugations, semantically related terms & more. In this section, I list all the data categories presented in the AJP Dictionary & the types of values they may contain.

Root

root

The Root box displays the term's root, if it has one. (What is a root?) If more than one term has a given root, you can click on the arrow to show all terms that share it. Try it with the example above!

Roots are assigned somewhat more loosely here than they might be in other sources, to keep etymologically related terms together. Roots are determined after removing affixes & accounting for certain phenomena like reduplication. Hence, the root of كندرجيّ (kundarži) is listed as ك ن د ر (k n d r) & the root of نطنط (naṭnaṭ) is listed as ن ط ط (n ṭ ṭ).

Pronunciation

/ktiːr/
[ktiːr]
-> Urban Palestinian
/maqaːle/
[maˈqaː.le]
-> General Palestinian

The Pronunciation box displays three attributes for every pronunciation of a term: Firstly, its phonemic representation & its narrow phonetic transcription, written in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Click on these IPA transcriptions to hear the term pronounced out loud.

Secondly, the dialect associated with the pronunciation in question is shown. (What are the dialects of Palestinian Arabic?) The first pronunciation listed is always the term's canonical pronunciation. By default, this is the General Palestinian pronunciation, but in cases of dialectal variation the Central Urban Palestinian dialect is used. (See Indexing.)

Every pronunciation also has an associated transcription that is not shown, but the transcription of the term's canonical pronunciation is the term's canonical transcription, which is shown in the headword & is the basis of the term's URL path.

Unique phonemic representations are provided on separate lines, while unique phonetic realizations of a single phonemic representation are written on the same line.

Variants

Some terms have variants. By default, a term is considered to be the primary form of itself; these are primary terms. Conversely, variants (i.e. alternative forms) of terms are alternative terms. Whether a term is a primary or a secondary term has a minor effect on where & how it appears in the dictionary.

Whether a term is considered the canonical version or an alternative form is somewhat arbitrary, but is influenced by two factors: firstly, more common forms are considered primary over less common forms, like so:

farja & warra

Secondly, inherited forms are considered primary over borrowed forms. However, one should not confuse true doublets for pairs of inherited & borrowed terms that are synonymous.

(inh.) bil-ʕāde & (bor.) ʕādatan

(inh.) bil-marra & (bor.) ʔabadan

Glosses

Abbreviations

  • aux. — auxiliary
  • by ext. — by extension
  • by gen. — by generalization
  • e.g. — for example, for instance
  • end. — endearing
  • esp. — especially
  • fig. — figurative
  • frm. — formal, polite, respectful
  • i.e. — that is; in other words
  • inc. — including (but not limited to)
  • lit. — literally
  • of — in reference to (e.g. "of person")
  • pl. — when in the plural
  • r.t. — of or relating to (e.g. "r.t. military")
  • re: — regarding
  • s.o. / s.o.’s — someone / someone’s
  • sing. — when in the singulative
  • sth. — something
  • tech. — technical
  • vlg. — vulgar
  • vs. — rather than, as opposed to, in contrast with
  • f.b. — followed by?
    • see شو (could be: (شو مـ) whatever)

Relatives

Rather than terms having synonyms & antonyms, glosses do. Namely, glosses have gloss relatives, which are synonyms, antonyms & — in the case of verbs — valence pairs.

Gloss relatives only include primary terms, not alternative terms, like so:

yimkin -> bijūz & balki (-barki)

However, alternative terms do list their synonyms:

balki -> bijūz & yimkin

barki -> bijūz & yimkin

Glossary

vowels
ــَـ
fatħa: /a/
ــِـ
kasra: /i/
ــُـ
ḍamme: /u/
ا
ʔalif: /aː/
ي
yā: /iː/ /j/
و
wāw: /uː/ /w/
ى
ʔalif maksūra: /a/
ة
tā marbūṭa: /i ~ e ~ a/
persons
أنا
1S: first-person singular
إحنا
1P: first-person plural
إنتا
2M: second-person masculine singular
إنتي
2F: second-person feminine singular
إنتو
2P: second-person plural
هو
3M: third-person masculine singular
هي
3F: third-person feminine singular
همّه
3P: third-person plural