How do i perform an arabic search in SQL Server ignoring diacritics?

Posted on 2008-06-22
Last Modified: 2012-06-22

I have SQL Server 2005 and using a database with arabic collation.  Certain fields have english and others have arabic (there are no mixed languages, strictly one language per column).

In the arabic field I would like to store words with diacritics.  So for those who know arabic, instead of storing #-E/ I will store #N-REN/Q .  For those who know english, perhaps the closest example is instead of storing Pierre in the database, I will stored PieNrre (perhaps not correct, but you get the idea).

So my question how do i do an SQL search that will exclude diacretics?  Perhaps in a Web form my user will type in a search for '#-E/', however SELECT * FROM tableName WHERE word LIKE '%#-E/%' doesn't work.

I have been searching around the web but can't really get a head start on this.  
Question by:almuallim
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Author Comment

ID: 21840403
It seems arabic characters did not appear properly in my post. I'm attaching an SQL sample query.
FROM dbo.ArabicPlurals
WHERE Singular LIKE ('%#-E/%')

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Author Comment

ID: 21840425
Attaching a txt file to see if works!  Will need arabic support to view properly.

Expert Comment

ID: 21842523
You will want to use "COLLATE <collation>" in your SQL query. This keyword follows the column whose collation you wish to explicitly specify.

So for example, if you want to use Arabic collation that is case insensitive and accent insensitive (i.e. don't pay attention to diacritics), you would do something like:

SELECT * FROM dbo.ArabicPlurals
WHERE Singular COLLATE Arabic_CI_AI LIKE ('some arabic string')

Similary, case sensitive, accent sensitive is Arabic_CS_AS.

You can find a list of the collations supported by SQL Server here:
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Expert Comment

ID: 21842542
Oh, I should also mention that you can specify the collation for a particular column, so that collation will be used as the default for all queries.

To do this enter "COLLATE <collation" immediately after the datatype in the CREATE or ALTER TABLE query.

e.g. (obviously, use whatever datatype your column really is)
ALTER TABLE dbo.ArabicPlurals

Author Comment

ID: 21843921
Hi cavehop,

Thanks for your response.  I tried using the accent and case insensitive arabic collation and although it makes a difference it only seems to ignore the end diacritic, so my word which has a diacritic on each letter is not found.

Changing the collation definitely makes a difference though....I'm not sure whether Arabic_CS_AI would be beneficial only when sorting as is implied by some articles.


Expert Comment

ID: 21845956
Unfortunately, I only know the general principle of how the collation works; I'm not at all knowledgable about Arabic. The behavior you describe sounds awfully like a bug to me.

You probably have already thought to test this but, is it always just the end diacritic that is ignored? Or is it certain characters that are not being ignored when they should be (i.e. try swapping a couple of the letters and see how it behaves)?

Accepted Solution

almuallim earned 0 total points
ID: 21853785
Thanks for your help anyway.  Would still like it if someone has an idea on how to go about this, even if it's complex.

Having said that, i found the following article  The solution might just be to have one column with diacritics and one without.  

Expert Comment

ID: 21858590
Here's something else I just came across that may or may not be pertinent, but seems like it might be.

According to an article on Arabic language support on the MSDN SQL Server Developer Center website:

"When dealing with Unicode string constants in SQL Server 2005, you must precede all Unicode strings with a capital letter N. The N prefix stands for National Language in the SQL-92 standard, and must be uppercase. If the N prefix is not used, SQL Server uses the non-Unicode code page of the current database before it uses the string."

This would mean your query should look something like:
SELECT * FROM dbo.ArabicPlurals
WHERE Singular COLLATE Arabic_CI_AI LIKE (N'some arabic string')

I don't know whether or not this will make any difference, but it's simple enough to try quickly anyway.

Also, the article this comes from has all kinds of information about support for Arabic in SQL Server:

Author Comment

ID: 21863473

I tried it and it still doesn't work. I will take a look at that article and see if there is any mention of anything else.

Thanks again.

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