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Practical Implications to Think About when Building a Bilingual Symbol Dictionary

  • EA Draffan (University of Southampton)
  • Amatullah Kadous (Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar)
  • Amal Idris (Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar)
  • Nadine Zeinoun (Qatar Assistive Technology Center)
  • Mike Wald (University of Southampton)
  • Nawar Halabi (University of Southampton)
Funding / Sponsorship: 
Project sponsored by Qatar National Research Fund

The aim of this paper is to highlight some of the issues that may arise when developing a bilingual lexicon with symbols for AAC users and to provide some practical solutions based on experience gained whilst developing an online Arabic/English symbol dictionary.


The research undertaken involved a participatory approach to data gathering for individual core vocabularies with the use of social media and bespoke applications to share culturally acceptable symbols in the two languages alongside definitions, parts of speech, symbol categories and additional metadata supporting the linked data.


The most important findings have been the results from paricipants' symbol voting and the linguistic experts comments related to accurate lexical representations. The latter has impacted on the layout of the dictionary, in particular for grammar and syntax to encourage the development of literacy skills for AAC users


Findings showed symbol acceptance was linked not only to culture and iconicity but also to the representation of a part of speech, tense and gender. The latter has impacted on the way words and word phrases are listed as lexical entries with metadata. Producing matches between word types making up the languages' core vocabularies has been difficult, making an Arabic/English symbol dictionary for AAC use a challenge.

Level of Session 
Age Group 
All Ages
Primary school
Secondary school
Special school
Further/Higher Ed.