About the Project
DiNA aims to develop a novel research tool that documents, and makes possible study—in synchronic and diachronic depth—the vocabulary of the so-called “Arab Renaissance”, the Nahḍa (19th–mid-20th c). The need for such a tool arises from a) the importance of the Nahḍa as the formative period in the history of Arab modernity; b) recently renewed scholarly interest, with Nahḍa Studies emerging as a field in its own right, seeking a reappraisal of the period; and c) the deplorable lack of a reference tool with which to access and explore Nahḍa Arabic, a rapidly changing language with a lexicon of notoriously fluctuating semantics, not covered sufficiently by any extant dictionary.
DiNA is currently under evaluation for funding from RCN.
Methodology and objectives
DiNA’s ultimate objective is to lay the foundation for a novel description of the period's “mindset”. It will initiate a remapping of this “world” of nascent modernity as it speaks from the texts themselves and in this way outline a new “ontology”, sketching the Nahḍa's semantic network as it will emerge from a close investigation of the hierarchies among the many semantic fields to be mapped, and the relationships within them. Particular attention will be paid to hitherto neglected/ignored aspects, esp. the “little Nahḍas” of lived, day-to-day performance. The pioneering tool, accessible online, will be based on a large and variegated corpus of representative texts, including unexploited, although easily available material (fiction, periodicals, translations into/from Arabic), processed in accordance with the latest standards of computational lexicography.
DiNA will not only provide the needed missing link between dictionaries of Classical and Modern Standard Arabic, but also serve as a bridge between philology, history, anthropology and cultural studies in general.
The application of a tetrangulating lexicographical approach will yield results of unprecedented precision and reliability, offering a model for future research to build on.