Zi Arif: An open source dictionary project

May 19, 2019 by

Today the new open source dictionary project (zi Arif) to save the endangered native Riffian language will be launched!

Tarifit is the original native spoken language in the Rif region in current northern Morocco and as a Zenatic Tamazight dialect is at least two thousand years old. Until this day the language knows no strong written structuration as the political and ideological will is lacking in Morocco to develop and preserve the language.

The Tamazight dialect spoken by roughly 3 million Riffians in the Rif and another 2 million in the diaspora is being endangered by all kinds of factors, being, little use of the language by state media and the political system, little to no real state-funded development and maintenance of the language in the form of databasing, textbook development and general schooling development in order to integrate Tarifit into the school curricula and other more economic and social related factors. Riffian children thus learn Tarifit only at home. At school, it will be most certainly Arabic and French that they will be learning extensively. This is problematic for the Riffian people’s lingo-cultural identity as well as the raw language itself as it undergoes slow decay and Arabization if not preserved in a written and standardized manner and therefore also taught with great difficulty. With this project, we will aim to help solve this general problem by producing and maintaining a freely downloadable standardized Tarifit – English using the Latin academic standard.

A language that is only used verbally but not in a written and officialized form is in today’s world an endangered language indeed. Especially in this ever hasting dynamical world of today. We think it is crucial for the Riffian language to be preserved and become more professionally used and taught in a written manner, and therefore we have aimed to achieve the following long term goals: creation of a Riffian dictionary that will use the Latin academic standard, the standardization of Riffian grammar and syntax, and the production of printed and or digital pedagogical material with which Tarifit can be taught to Riffian children. In this open source project, we will strictly focus on the production and publication of a Tarifit – English dictionary.

We strongly believe the Riffian people have the right to be proud of their ancient language and that it is their right to identify with, speak, write and use their language in a more modernized and structural manner.

The Riffians in the Rif are still using their native language most actively but are confronted by general Arabization through state media and the non-use of Tarifit in official posts within the state itself as the state operates mainly on Arabic and French. Tarifit is thus not represented by the state nor maintained by the state but only by the Riffian people itself. To preserve this precious Zenatic dialect and its vocabulary I have launched today an open source dictionary project in which everyone can participate that has some affiliation to Tarifit and love for the preservation of native Amazigh language.

What platform will we use?

The dictionary project will consist of one folder in which the dictionary word document will be found that will be accessible and editable by all participants via Google Drive. There will be admins who will back up the file every 3 hours. In this way, the raw document is always saved and data loss is prevented.

How can you participate?

To participate in this open source dictionary project you literally only need two things: a Gmail account and access to Google drive through an internet connection. If you send us your Gmail account we will share the project folder with you and you will have immediate access to the dictionary file and other materials that would be needed for the voluntary work.

The step by step to do list to be able to volunteer in the transcription and addition work is as follows:

  • Step One: Make a Gmail account.
  • Step Two: Send your Gmail account to the zi Arif team or to my private messenger if you want to stay anonymous.
  • Step Three: Check your Gmail inbox for a notification of a newly share file called zi Arif
  • Step Four: Open the folder to see if you see 3 files, zi Arif dictionary file, Serhoual dictionary and the Ibanez dictionary file (this file will still be added in the future).
  • Step Five: If you have checked if the all three files in your folder you are now ready and able to start with the transcription (rewriting) and addition work!

How will we work?

The voluntary work will consist of two main activities:

  • The first is to transcribe all the words from the previously produced Tarifit dictionaries that will be made accessible in pdf format in the project folder of zi Arif via google drive, into the new open source dictionary file. This literally means rewriting the words from those dictionaries into the new zi Arif file. The notation correctness of the transcribed words will occasionally be checked by specialized linguists in order to produce to most linguistically correct dictionary.
  • The second activity will be the addition of words that have never been officially written down in any dictionary. These words will be checked by linguists to maintain proper notation.

We believe that the extraction of all the words from previously produced dictionaries and the addition of missed out words can give us the most complete updated dictionary. In the future, volunteers in the Rif could also do field research to collect words that may go lost as they are only known to the older generations. This could be a possible third activity that the zi Arif team will be concerned with and could aid.

Our goal:

The production and maintenance of a Tarifit – English dictionary that will be open source and thus freely downloadable for everyone in pdf format.

Also, an important attribute of this project is that the team will publish updated versions of the document as soon as a significant amount of new words have been added by our volunteers. The team will thus be actively working together for many months and maybe even years to come as the maintenance required for this project makes it naturally a long-term project.

Note: mastery of English is not a requirement to participate in this project. Volunteers can translate Riffian words in the languages they know. Eventually, all translations will be checked and maintained by the whole team through consensus to produce the most professional final product.

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