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Learning Arabic Tips: How to use Hans Wehr Arabic Dictionary - Part 2

by Omar Matadar


Posted on February 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM.


We spoke last time about the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, which is the premier dictionary for serious students of the Arabic language.


We spoke last time about the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, which is the premier dictionary for serious students of the Arabic language. We discussed how this dictionary can be difficult to use for beginning students and we provided the example of the مكتبة meaning “library” and how this word would be searched under its root ك – ت – ب reading from right to left. Another interesting aspect of the typical dictionary entry in Hans Wehr is the way that verbs are described first and then nouns follow. You will find within the section on verbs a series of roman numerals. As you study Arabic more you will come to understand that these roman numerals stand for different verb patterns that you will have to memorize (See the picture below with the roman numbers circled in red). Notice first of all that not all of the roman numerals from I-X are present in this verb entry. That is because not all verbs have all of the ten patterns.  For example the root ك – ت – ب is missing patterns V and IX. Although you don’t see a roman numeral for pattern I, it is usually always there at the beginning by default, being the word definitions that precede roman number II. The various patterns of the verb represented by roman numerals demonstrate how different verbs of the same root have meanings that relate to one another. For example, in form I the verb كتب means “to write.” Under roman numeral II the pattern is كتّب which means “to make to write.” One of the beautiful aspects of this system is that once you know the root and the general meanings of the various patterns it becomes possible to guess the meanings of words you don’t know!

 

Hans Wehr


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