Monthly Archives: February 2014

Moving forward with some questions…

During this last week we have been discussing the issues around the three main concerns arising – that of the core vocabulary, symbol sets already available and working with participants.  The diagram below is available in text format – Arabic Symbol Dictionary plans Feb to April

diagram of questions for Feb-April

Visits and telemeetings along with journal paper collections have started the process of making choices that will be further explored during three days of meetings between all the partners.

A few random questions have also arisen…

Does anyone have experience in evaluating the difference between the way text to speech works for users when presenting spoken words; which have to be listened to in the order they are said and may be colloquial (diglossic Arabic) and the written words and symbols which although they have an order on the page the reader has the flexibility to scan them in a any order?

Looking at a paper entitled “How do members of different language communities compose sentences with a picture based communication? Nakamura et al (1998) .  Would this be one way to start exploring the differences we know exist between Arabic and English language systems in terms of symbol selection?

Do we need to consider whether it will be necessary to change the graphic design of symbols we choose to suit participant preferences in childhood and adulthood?  This has been suggested by Sorcha Rabbitte and Stanislava Antonijevic-Elliott in their PowerPoint presentation ”  Graphic Design and Graphic Symbols: bridging the gap, exploring preferences (PDF download)

Huer and Nigram have debated the issues of cultural sensitivity of symbols  with certain aspects of Core vocabularies  such as  verbs causing particular issues.  Do we need to debate this in more depth?

Examining Perceptions of Graphic Symbols Across cultures

Do Individuals from Diverse Cultural and Ethnic backgrounds perceive graphic symbols differently Nigram

Response to Nigram

These references are important as  we are not only trying to make a dictionary that is culturally sensitive but also one that will offer practicioners the chance to encourage literacy skills.  So do need to explore different symbol systems such as the Unity system, Minspeak , Semantic Compaction etc.?

Minspeak and Unity

We also need to consider symbol choices where not everyone is speaking Arabic but are living in Qatar.  Evans et al have a presentation on the subject in relation to their work with Somali patients visiting medical centres in UK. Evans 2006 – Using Iconicity to Evaluate Symbol Use

Many researchers are now exploring Natural Language Generation (NLG) and AAC as a tool to use for taking lists of words and symbols to symbol set creation for independent generation of vocabularies/stories etc.  Do we need to explore this one in more depth?   Bliss may be an easier system to manipulate using NLG for both languages but perhaps not so transparent or translucent as some of the more pictorial symbol systems.

Professor Annalu Waller and Rolf Black are  engaged in this research and visits to Dundee are planned.  How was School today

Further links

Developing intercultural awareness – elearning website with useful links defining culture and intercultural awareness

 Cultural Issues in the Practice of Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Mary Blake Huer and Gloria Soto – presentation to ASHA in Miami, 2006

A Clinician’s Guide to Arabic Language and Culture by Martinez et al supervised by Rahul Chakraborty – Texas State University, USA

Cultural Competence from the The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA website)





Comparing free /creative commons symbol dictionaries using an English Core Vocabulary

Speech and Language Therapists and other professions involved with the development of communication sets using symbols and pictograms have tended to use core vocabularies with supplementary words being added as required.

As a way of looking at three symbol dictionaries that are freely available I have taken words from the set developed by Gail Van Tatenhove and available from Prenkte Romich Company as a PDF download of ‘100 Frequently Used Core Words’  These are gathered from users of English in the United States of America and this is just to provide an example of the variations in the types of symbols available.

The three chosen symbols sets are ARASAAC, Mulberry and Sclera so far with a few of the core vocabulary words available as a Word Document. 100 core words with symbols

symbol sets

Example of symbol comparisons with some core words

It is possible to carry out this type of comparison using Picto-Selector – a  free small Windows / MacOS program that can be downloaded from the project website.   This program also allows you to see all the images in one area with choices of several other small dictionaries of images.

pictoselector images

Showing the choice of symbol dictionaries


References used by Prenkte Romich

Banajee, M., DiCarlo, C. & Stricklin , S. (2003). Core Vocabulary Determination for Toddlers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19, 67-73.

Beukelman, D., Yorkston, K. & Naranjo, C. (1984). 500 most Frequently Occurring Words Produced by Five Adult AAC Users, Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 49, 36.

Brown, R. (1973). A First Language: The Early Stages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Marvin, C., Beukelman, D. & Bilyeu, D (1994). Frequently Occurring Home and School Words from Vocabulary – Use Patterns in Preschool Children: Effects of Context and Time Sampling,
Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 10.

Van Tatenhove, G. (2005). Normal Language Development, Generative Language & AAC. revised October 2007 (accessed 4th February, 2014)

Van Tatenhove, G. (2009). The Pixon Project Kit. Wooster, OH: Prentke Romich Company.

Dolch Sight Words. See (accessed 4th February, 2014)

Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP). See (accessed 4th February, 2014)

Arabic Symbol Dictionary press releases in English

university news  Over the last few weeks the news about this project has been in the press.  The University of Southampton website (download text version) had a long article and Trade Arabia had a section that was copied across other sites.   The Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) News also had a short piece about the project and the Trade Arabia article was also available on the Qatar National Research Fund website.

So far we have not found any press releases in Arabic.