Hans Wehr, «A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic»

Posted By: vidra
Hans Wehr, «A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic»

Hans Wehr, «A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic»
ed. by J. Milton Cowan | 3rd Edition | Spoken Languages Services | 1976 Year | 1110 Pages | ISBN 0879500018 | PDF | ~135 Mb
A contribution to the Classical Languages Team Project

The best available dictionary of Modern Arabic.

Customer review from (here they speak about the 4th edition, which is, however, a straight copy of this 3rd edition):

First, I must say this is the only Modern Written Arabic (MWA) - English dictionary that the student of Arabic has to have. Others, Al-Mawrid, for example, are useful as supplements, and contain new vocabulary, and there is a more recent German edition (5th edition) of Wehr published by Harrassowitz, but this book has a standard of scholarship unrivalled by any other MWA-English dictionary. Middle Eastern published MWA-English dictionaries like Mawrid, for example, don't give the grammatical information learners of Arabic need, such as broken plurals, verbal vowelling, verbal nouns (masdars), let alone how verbs are used with prepositions, all of which Wehr tells the user.

Words are in root order, so maktaba (desk) [mktbh] and kaatib (writer) [k'tb] both are found under the verb kataba (to write) [ktb]. This really is the most useful way of ordering Arabic dictionaries for someone who's mastered the basics of Arabic grammar, though an alphabetic order dictionary is a help when you're starting and occasionally even when you're expert.

This dictionary is NOT a dictionary of Classical Arabic (although Beeston in his anthology of Bassar bin Burd reckoned that Wehr covered the vast majority of the vocabulary of this poet of the 8th Century AD). For Classical Arabic, Lane (perhaps supplemented by Hava's much more affordable al-Fara'id) is essential. But Lane is useless for modern Arabic. And if you're reading mediaeval Arabic, you will find Wehr fills in some of the gaps in Lane.

This dictionary is NOT a dialect dictionary, though it contains many dialect words that have found their way into the written Arabic of Egypt, Iraq, etc. Arabs don't write colloquial Arabic (at least not in formal contexts) and dialect dictionaries are specialized (colloquial Arabic-English dictionaries are usually written in a phonetic transcription rather than in the Arabic script). If you need a dialect dictionary, get one. This isn't one.

Other reviewers have rightly commented on the size of this dictionary, but some have confused editions. The 3rd (SLS paperback) edition was 114 x 162 x 45mm (4.5" x 6.4" x 1.75") in size, weighed 0.65 kg and had tiny 5.5 pt print. The 4th (SLS paperback) edition is larger: 216 x 130 x 40mm (5.2" x 8.5" x 1.5"), weighs 0.8 kg and has 7.5 pt print. This makes the SLS 4th edition's print much more readable than the SLS 3rd edition's.

The 4th edition, which is sewn-bound, is also more robust than the 3rd edition, which was perfect-bound - I'm on my 3rd copy of the 3rd edition while my 4th edition soldiers on after 8 years. However, the book is not really pocket sized any more (I still keep using my last copy of the 3rd edition as a pocket copy).

The 4th edition isn't cheap (it costs much more in England than in the US, though). If you're in the Middle East, you can pick up Librarie du Liban hardback copies of the 3rd edition (it has larger print than either of the two paperbacks - about 8 pt, the size of the original Brill 3rd edition - and is very clear) for a little less. There's also a hardback reprint of the pocket-sized 3rd edition available in the UK, which has rather unclear script. It's a straight copy of the SLS 3rd edition, and is Indian. It's usable, but is the least satisfactory version yet. But I'd advise students to get the SLS 4th edition if they can afford it. If you've lots of money, perhaps get the Harrassowitz hardback - I've not done so. And if you've money and German, get the 5th Harrassowitz edition (Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart).


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