Arabic Dialect Processing


The existence of dialects for any language constitutes a challenge for NLP in general since it adds another set of variation dimensions from a known standard. The problem is particularly interesting and challenging in Arabic and its different dialects, where the diversion from the standard could, in some linguistic theories, warrant a classification as a different language. This problem would not be as pronounced if standard Arabic were to be a living language, however it is not. Any realistic and practical approach to processing Arabic will have to account for dialectal usage since it is so pervasive. In this tutorial, we will attempt to highlight different dialectal phenomena and how they migrate from the standard and why they pose challenges to NLP. Our tutorial will have four different parts: First, we will give you a background layout of issues for standard Arabic NLP. Then we will give you a high level generic view of dialects and different aspects of them that are of interest for the NLP community, addressing both text and speech issues in addition to standardization issues. We will focus in depth on two aspects of dialect processing in the third and fourth parts of the tutorial, namely, dialectal morphology and dialectal syntactic parsing. Throughout the presentation we will make references to the different resources available and draw contrastive links with standard Arabic and English. Moreover, we will discuss annotation standards as exemplified in the Treebank. We will provide links to recent publications and available toolkits/resources for all four sections.


It is worth noting that:


·         This tutorial is designed for computer scientists and linguists alike.


·         No knowledge of Arabic is required (Though, we recommend taking a look at Nizar Habash’s Arabic NLP tutorial which will be reviewed in the first quarter of the tutorial.) 



40:00 Review of Basic Arabic NLP with a segway into dialect from a sociolinguistic and political perspective

40:00 Generic dialectal issues from an NLP perspective







20:00 Coffee Break


40:00 Focus on Dialectal Morphology

40:00 Focus on Dialectal Syntactic Parsing






Mona Diab received her PhD in 2003 in the Linguistics department and UMIACS, University of Maryland College Park. Her PhD work focused on lexical semantic issues and was titled Word Sense Disambiguation within a Multilingual Framework. Mona is currently an associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Learning Systems, Columbia University. Her research includes work on word sense disambiguation, automatic acquisition of natural language resources such as dictionaries and taxonomies, unsupervised learning methods, lexical semantics, cross language knowledge induction from both parallel and comparable corpora, Arabic NLP in general, tools for processing Arabic(s), computational modeling of Arabic dialects, Arabic syntactic and semantic parsing.  


Dr. Diab served as co-chair – together with Kareem Darwish and Nizar Habash - of the Workshop on Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages (ACL 2005). She was also a senior member in the 2005 JHU summer workshop on Parsing Arabic Dialects.  In 2005, she co-founded the Columbia Arabic Dialect Modeling (CADIM) group together with Nizar Habash and Owen Rambow. She has published over 20 articles in different conferences, journals and workshops. Mona has presented her work in numerous lectures and tutorials both for academic and industrial audiences.



Nizar Habash received his PhD in 2003 from the Computer Science Department, University of Maryland College Park. His Ph.D. thesis is titled Generation-Heavy Hybrid Machine Translation.  He is currently an Associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Learning Systems in Columbia University.  His research includes work on machine translation, natural language generation, lexical semantics, morphological analysis, generation and disambiguation, computational modeling of Arabic dialects, and Arabic dialect parsing.


Dr. Habash served as co-chair for the Workshop on Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages (ACL 2005) and also the Workshop on Machine Translation for Semitic Languages (MT Summit 2003).  In 2005, he co-founded the Columbia Arabic Dialect Modeling (CADIM) group.  He is the vice-president of the Semitic Language Special Interest Group in the Association of Computational Linguistics. Finally, he served as research program co-chair for AMTA 2006.


Dr. Habash has published over 20 articles in international conferences and journals and has given numerous lectures and tutorials for academic and industrial audiences. 


Mona’s website:

Nizar's website:

CADIM website: