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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 18/05/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) A team of six linguists from France and Switzerland studying Modern South Arabian languages in Oman as part of a project funded by the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche Franaise) have in their findings said that they were unsuccessful in finding Bathari speakers in Dhofar. 

Speaking to Muscat Daily earlier this year, Sabrina Benjaballah, a Paris University linguist who specialises in phonology and morphology had said, "We believe that the Bathari language of Dhofar is either extinct or nearly extinct as we haven't been able to find speakers".

But researchers Miranda Morris of St Andrews University, and Janet Watson of Leeds University said they had found some 20 Bathari speakers in Dhofar. In a study supported by the Diwan of Royal Court, Dr Miranda recorded Bathari speakers in the 1970s and 1980s, and with the death of these speakers, feared that this language might have died out. But on returning to the area in 2012, she was delighted to find that some of the elders still spoke Bathari. 

"Bathari has the fewest speakers and is in immediate danger of disappearing," said the researchers.

"The lexis of all these languages reflects a culture which is becoming fragile, including terms used for endangered fauna and flora, foodstuffs, traditional skills and activities, as well as means of obtaining food and water. Equally importantly, it also records the speakers' expertise in livestock husbandry, harvesting the sea, and in the sustainable management of rangeland and water.

''The study and description of the Modern South Arabian languages is crucial to understanding this extremely rich culture with its wealth of stories, song and poetry, and to evaluating the historical development of the Semitic language family as a whole," the findings say.

Ancient languages currently being spoken in Oman are Mehri, Shahri, Harsusi, Hobyot, Bathari, Kumzari and Shihhi

"Mehri, Shahri, Harsusi, Hobyot, Bathari and Shihhi are semitic languages. Of these, Shihhi is believed to be a dialect of Arabic.

''Kumzari, spoken in the Musandam Peninsula along with Shihhi, is non-Semitic, but exhibits some Semitic features. The Modern South Arabian languages (Mehri, Shahri, Harsusi, Hobyot, Bathari and Soqotri, spoken on the island of Soqotra) exhibit ancient Semitic features, including 3s-like sounds, and dual pronouns and verb forms, suggesting they may be older than Arabic," they said.


Muscat Daily

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