On Ambiguity in the Arabic Language: Scrutinizing Translation Issues through Machine Translation from English and French into Arabic

Bahia Zemni (1) , Mimouna Zitouni (2) , Farouk Bouhadiba (3) , Mashael Almutairi (4)
(1) Department of Translation, College of Languages, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia , Saudi Arabia
(2) Translation Department, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia , Saudi Arabia
(3) Translation Department, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia , Algeria
(4) Translation Department, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia , Saudi Arabia


Ambiguity in some syntactic structures of the same language has always posed problems to the human translator and to machine translation. These problems become more complex for the Machine Translation of genetically unrelated languages such as Arabic, English and French. Arabic Lexical ambiguity in Natural Language Processing (NLP) also poses problems when the semantic fields of Arabic words differ from those of English for instance. This often occurs when two or more words from Arabic equate to a single word in English. Semantic gaps between the two languages are also a source of ambiguity in Natural Language Processing. We shall deal with some cases of ambiguity in machine translation from Arabic to English and French and vice versa. The questions addressed in this paper relate to segmentation, determination / non-determination, coordination and the issue of the word as a meaningful and functional unit. Some aspects of the segmentation of constituents into grammatical categories and their comparison with structures of Arabic English and French are addressed in this paper.


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Bahia Zemni
Mimouna Zitouni
mimouna.zitouni.oran2@gmail.com (Primary Contact)
Farouk Bouhadiba
Mashael Almutairi
Author Biographies

Bahia Zemni, Department of Translation, College of Languages, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Bahia Zemni received her PhD in linguistics from Sorbonne-Nouvelle III University. Since 2012, she has been a professor at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, where she has headed the Languages Faculty Research Center. Currently, she leads a research unit in the Translation Department and contributes to the research project titled "Translation from Arabic to French and Vice Versa in contextual dictionaries: mechanisms and strategies." Additionally, she heads the project "Artificial Intelligence and Audiovisual Translation." Bahia has published several translations in collaboration with the Louvre Museum and publishing houses such as Skira in France and Alsaqui in Lebanon. She has participated in several national and international conferences and has published extensively in well-established journals on the subjects of Linguistics and Translations. She recently co-edited a Special Issue of Kervan - International Journal of Afro-Asiatic Studies entitled "Pratiques langagières en arabe: variables culturelles et défis de la traduction."

Mimouna Zitouni, Translation Department, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia

Mimouna Zitouni is a professor of Translation Studies and Linguistics at the College of Languages, PNU. In 2017–2018, she served as a distinguished Fulbright 'SIR' visiting scholar at Coastal Carolina University (USA). She has participated in several international conferences and has published extensively on the subjects of language use and translation studies.

Farouk Bouhadiba, Translation Department, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia

Farouk Bouhadiba is a professor of linguistics at the College of Foreign Languages, University of Mohamed Ben Ahmed, Oran-Algeria. He specializes in Maghrebi Linguistics and Dialectology from a Sociolinguistics perspective. He also conducts research in the field of Didactics, with a special focus on the LMD implementation in Algeria. Currently, he is engaged in Natural Language Processing and is involved in building a WordNet Arabic. Dr. Bouhadiba has participated in numerous international conferences and has published extensively on various subjects related to language use and translation.

Mashael Almutairi, Translation Department, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia

Mashael Almutairi is an assistant professor at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. She obtained her PhD in Translation from Leicester University in 2018 and subsequently assumed the role of Head of the Translation Department at PNU. Almutairi served as the Dean of the College of Languages from 2019 until May 2021 when she was appointed as the Dean of the Development and Consulting Services Institute. Throughout her professional career, she has been actively involved in various academic associations. She currently serves as an associate editor and reviewer at Altralang Journal and has authored several papers and translated several books.

Zemni, B., Zitouni, M., Bouhadiba, F., & Almutairi, M. On Ambiguity in the Arabic Language: Scrutinizing Translation Issues through Machine Translation from English and French into Arabic. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 24(1), 203–212. https://doi.org/10.36923/jicc.v24i1.171

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