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Department of Computer Science
University of Haifa

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Computational Investigation of Palestinian Arabic Dialects

Rafi Talmon was born in Haifa in 1948 and died in Haifa on June 7th, 2004. Since his Tel Aviv University doctoral dissertation on the Syntax of Sibawaihi's 'al-Kitab' he had been investigating the Arabic language intensively, in particular its syntax and, more recently, its spoken dialects. He published several books and numerous scientific articles on various aspects of Arabic language and culture, most notably the early Arabic grammarians, the syntax of the Qur'an and Palestinian Arabic dialects. He was a backbone of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Haifa, which he chaired from 1997-2000.

Rafi had a true understanding of the utility of computers in literary and linguistic research, and was greatly attracted by the advantages of computational technology. He founded a Multimedia Unit at the University of Haifa and later constructed an E-learning Unit which he headed for three years. Recently, he coordinated a research group on A Study of Palestinian Arabic Dialects at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He insisted on introducing computational processing into this project; linguistic data that were collected by the group were processed to produce a set of linguistic maps, demonstrating dialectal variation.

I started to work with Rafi on the Annotated Qur'an in 2001. It was not easy: our different backgrounds seemed too far apart to be bridged over. With time, however, we found a common language and our meetings became extremely enjoyable. He pushed forward this project with all his endless energy, and I was trying hard to catch up. The work we report on here was only the beginning: Rafi was interested in syntactic and, in particular, stylistic analysis of the Qur'an, and morphology was the first step. We continued to work on extensions of the system even as his illness worsened. I installed the latest version of the system, with a graphical display of the results along chronological axes, two weeks before he died. He never saw it. May he rest in peace.

Shuly Wintner

Project description

Computational investigation of Arabic dialects of the Palestinian area, including automatic processing of texts and linguistic questionnaires, preparation of lexicons and glossaries, computational definition of dialect areas and preparation of linguistic atlases.
Ezra Daya, Rafi Talmon (Department of Arabic Language and Literature ) and Shuly Wintner
The Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Foundation Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science


This project builds upon a systematic fieldwork study of the Arabic dialects of the Palestinian area, which are spoken by all the communities located within the northern and central parts of the State of Israel and its close vicinity. The main objective of the project is to employ computational technology to process the data and to automatically generate resources that have traditionally been constructed manually, through labor intensive efforts. We will employ state of the art computational linguistics techniques to automatically create lexicons and glossaries, including morphological features, and a linguistic atlas which will graphically depict the similarities among the various dialects.




  • Rafi Talmon and Shuly Wintner. Computational processing of spoken North Israeli Arabic. In ARABIC Language Processing: Status and Prospects, ACL/EACL 2001 Workshop, Toulouse, France, July 2001. PDF
  • Contact

    Mailing address Ezra Daya
    Department of Computer Science
    University of Haifa
    31905 Haifa, Israel.
    Phone +972-4-8288332
    Fax +972-4-8249331
    E-mail edaya@cs.haifa.ac.il

    Computational Linguistics Group, http://cl.haifa.ac.il/
    Department of Computer Science, University of Haifa
    Maintained by shuly@cs.haifa.ac.il, modified Sunday November 24, 2013.