Project

The documentation and ethnolinguistic analysis of Modern South Arabian

Goal: This is a community-based project involving Miranda Morris, Domenyk Eades and Alex Bellem. It was generously supported by a Leverhulme Trust project grant (2013-2016). The project has created an archive at ELAR, SOAS of over 200 hours of audio material and 18 hours of video material from the Modern South Arabian languages spoken in Oman and the Yemen mainland: Mehri, Shehret/Jibbali, Harsusi, Hobyot and Bathari. The largest set of audio material has been collected by Miranda Morris with native speaker consultants for Bathari, the most endangered of the Modern South Arabian languages. Watson, Bellem and Heselwood have published on aspects of the phonetics and phonology of Mehri and Shehret. Watson, Abdullah al-Mahri, Ali al-Mahri, Bxayta al-Mahri and Ahmed al-Mahri produced the first pedagogical grammar of Mehri in 2020. Abdullah al-Mahri and Watson have produced several children's e-books, the latest with illustrations by Domenyk Eades. In a project funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2019-2022), Watson, Heselwood and Gise Tome Lourido are currently working on a laboratory phonology of Mehri and Shehret. For further project news, blogs and details of dissemination see the website: https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/modern-south-arabian-languages

Date: 1 January 2013 - 31 December 2016

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Watson C E Janet
added 2 research items
Shehret (aka Jibbali, or Shahri) is a Modern South Arabian language (MSAL) spoken in southern Oman by approximately 50,000 people. Among its 36 consonant phonemes are three voiceless-voiced-emphatic (pharyngealized) triads of fricatives at the interdental, alveolar and alveolar-lateral places of articulation (Rubin, 2014): /θ ð θˤ, s z sˤ, ɬ ɮ ɬˤ/. For example, mis /mis/ ‘to touch’, miṣ /misˤ/ ‘to suck’, miz /miz/ ‘to smoke’. The emphatics are reflexes of Proto-Semitic ejectives (Kogan, 2011) and are occasionally realized as ejectives in our data as are voiced fricatives in utterance-final position. Earlier work has shown that emphatic and voiced obstruents in Shehret and Mehri, a related MSAL, pattern together morphophonologically (Rubin, 2014), and that emphatic and voiced stops share phonetic characteristics as opposed to voiceless stops (Watson & Heselwood, 2016). Based on this, the main research question addressed in this paper is whether emphatic and voiced fricatives share phonetic characteristics that contrast with voiceless fricatives with respect to glottal states and articulatory timing. This presentation focusses on the state of the glottis during the fricatives and on the time-course of the fricative articulation relative to adjacent vowels. To investigate glottal states, simultaneous laryngographic (Lx) and acoustic recordings of 7 native speakers (5 male, 2 female) were made; Lx data from one female had to be discarded, due to instability of the Lx signal. Three of the male speakers also provided simultaneous electropalatographic (EPG) and acoustic recordings for investigating the articulatory timing of the alveolar and lateral fricatives (interdental articulations do not register on EPG). Speakers repeated words from a wordlist written in an Arabic-based script adapted for Shehret, constructed with target fricatives in utterance-initial prevocalic, intervocalic, and utterance-final postvocalic positions, e.g. /sek, nɛsel, kẽs/. Glottal states were inferred from the larynx waveform by taking closed quotient (CQ, N = 1768) and fundamental frequency (N = 1769) values at vowel onsets and offsets adjacent to target fricatives (data collection and analysis ongoing). Fricative articulation time-courses were measured from EPG frames in relation to presence of friction and to adjacent vowel edges. Results for glottal states indicate that for voiceless fricatives the glottis is relatively widely abducted with 76% CQ values <40% inducing pitch skip, while for both voiced and emphatic fricatives the glottis is relatively constricted with 80% and 96% CQ values, respectively, >40% and no pitch skip. A mixed-effect logistic regression was fitted to the binomial variable >40% or <40%, with laryngeal category as a fixed factor and speaker by category as a random slope. The probability of CQ values being <40% was 0.82 for voiceless fricatives (Intercept: 1.50, SE=0.33, z=4.47, p=<.001), 0.04 for emphatics (Logit Difference [LD]: -4.64, SE=0.51, z=-9.14, p=<.001) and 0.18 for voiced fricatives (LD: -3, SE=0.48, z=-6.24, p=<.001). Results for articulatory timing show that in utterance-initial prevocalic contexts in 40% of cases a short period of silence of c.20ms intrudes between an emphatic fricative and the onset of the vowel similar to that found for Mehri by Ridouane & Gendrot (2017). Intervocalically, 12% of emphatic fricatives have a period of silence or near-silence of c.17ms either after the preceding vowel or in the middle of the fricative itself. No voiced or voiceless fricatives display this feature initially or intervocalically. In utterance-final context, both voiced and emphatic fricatives, but not voiceless ones, are typically glottalized with a delay between vowel offset and fricative onset of c.55ms before emphatics in 69% of cases and c.110ms before voiced fricatives in 83% of cases. For all contexts, there is a glottal closure during much of this delay and EPG shows that the articulatory stricture is in place. We contend these results validate placing voiced and emphatic fricatives in the same laryngeal category in contrast to voiceless fricatives despite lack of voicing in most tokens of emphatic fricatives. We propose the phonological laryngeal contrast breathed (voiceless) vs unbreathed (voiced and emphatic). References Kogan, L. (2011) Proto-Semitic phonetics and phonology. In Weninger, S. et al (eds) The Semitic languages. De Gruyter Mouton, 54-151. Ridouane, R. & Gendrot, C. (2017) On ejective fricatives in Omani Mehri. Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics, 9, 139-159. Rubin, A. (2014) The Jibbali (Shahri) Language of Oman. Leiden: Brill. Watson, J.C.E. & Heselwood, B. (2016) Phonation and glottal states in Modern South Arabian and San’ani Arabic. In: Haddad, Y. & Potsdam, E. (eds) Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics 28. 3–37.
This paper presents a theoretical and quantitative analysis of epenthesis and vowel intrusion in Central Dhofari Mehri. One of six endangered Modern South Arabian languages indigenous to southern Arabia, Mehri is spoken by members of the Mahrah tribe in southern Oman, eastern Yemen, parts of southern and eastern Saudi Arabia and in diasporic communities in parts of the Gulf and East Africa. The data for this paper were collected in the field between 2016 and 2021 from 15 speakers: 2 female, 13 males, aged between 22 and 55. The speakers include 3 Mehri–Shehret speakers, who have been bilingual in Mehri and Shehret (a sister language of Mehri) from birth, learning Arabic at school. The remaining 12 speakers were brought up speaking Mehri and learnt Arabic at school. The speakers come from three Dhofar-based tribes: Bit Thuwār (10 speakers), Bit Samōdah (3 speakers), Bit al-Afāri (2 speakers). Data for epenthesis were elicited by four male speakers from the tribes of Bit Samōdah (1) and Bit Thuwār (Bit Ḳhōr sub-tribe) (3), Central Dhofar, between the ages of 22 and 37 producing the bare noun or verb stem followed by the stem with consonant-initial suffix (-kəm ‘you m.pl.’, -kən ‘you f.pl.’, -həm ‘they/them m.’ or -sən ‘they/them f.’), repeating each target word three times. Word-list items were selected in consultation with the third author. Data for intrusive vowels were extracted from these and from other word lists drawn up by the first and third authors and collected by the first author from the remaining speakers mentioned above. We show that epenthesis is motivated principally by constraints on syllable structure, while vowel intrusion is motivated by the phonotactics of the language. Contra Johnstone (1987) and others (e.g. Rubin 2010, 2018), we show epenthesis in C1C2C clusters in Central Dhofari Mehri typically occurs to the left of the unsyllabified consonant (C2), as for Arabic VC-dialects (Kiparsky 2003), as in: baḳṣ́-kəm > a'baḳəṣ́kəm ‘your m.pl. running’, resulting in stress opacity as in the majority of Arabic VC-dialects. Following Kiparsky’s (2003) analysis of Arabic VC-dialects, stress opacity in Central Dhofari Mehri is attributed to assignment of stress at the word level and of epenthesis at the post-lexical level. Intrusive vowels are highly variable in duration, depending on the consonantal environment, position in the word, number of syllables in the word, rate of speech, and the individual; within our database, however, intrusive vowels exhibit an overall duration that is significantly shorter than that of epenthetic vowels. One crucial difference between epenthetic and intrusive vowels lies in the fact that epenthetic vowels are recognised as syllable heads by Mehri native speakers, while intrusive vowels are not.
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Fabio, Kamala and I would like to welcome you to the first meeting of the Workshop on Language and Nature in South Arabia in 2022!  We will meet on January 18th at 3PM GMT.
This will be a special session on the Fayfi Language in Southern Saudi Arabia.
Our speakers will be: "A preliminary description of word stress in Faifi Arabic" Abdullah Al-Faifi, Indiana University
"Function words in Razihit"
Dr. Janet Watson, Leeds University "Function words in Faifi Dialect" Dr. Hasan Jabr Alfaify, King Saud University, Riyadh "Demonstratives and adverbs in Faifa dialect" Dr. Abdullah Alfaifi, King Abdulaziz University
Please do join us for these interesting talks. If you are not on the distribution list and would like to join us, please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Gise Tome Lourido and I, together with Abdullah al-Mahri and Amer al-Kathiri, will be presenting 'Intrusive and epenthetic vowels in Mehri (and Shehret)' to the Linguistics Cafe, led by Muhammad Alzaidi, on 18th October 2021.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Here is an update to the MSAL bibliography. Please contact me if you spot any errors or missing references on: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
I am delighted to announce that we have a new date and time for Oliver Wilkins' talk: www.oliverwilkins.com<http://www.oliverwilkins.com/>. He will now be presenting to CELCE and participants of the Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia group on Wednesday 13th October. at 4pm BST.
The title of his presentation is: Exploring ways young people in Soqotra can use film, theatre and storytelling as tools to help preserve the language of their grandparents. Here is a link to Oliver's Soqotra Djinn film as a taster: https://vimeo.com/offshoot/hidden 
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
I am delighted to announce the publication of Morris, Miranda & Ṭanuf Salim Di-Kišin 2021. The Oral Art of Soqotra: A collection of island voices. Leiden: Brill, a three-volume masterpiece and the result of many years fieldwork in Soqotra and analysis. Many congratulations, Miranda and Tanuf!
 
Watson C E Janet
added a research item
This paper presents an acoustic and auditory analysis of the short vowels of Mehri, a Modern South Arabian language (MSAL) spoken in Dhofar (southern Oman), eastern Yemen and parts of southern Saudi Arabia. Interest in Mehri vowels lies in the fact that phonologically distinct vowels are often phonetically extremely close: a fact of significance both for work on MSAL, with disagreement in the interpretation and transcription of vowels across various works, and for phonetic theories that claim vowels should be maximally dispersed (cf. Vaux & Samuels 2015). /a/ and /ə/, vowels with high phonological load, overlap across and within speakers, and the high long vowels /ī, ū/ are remarkably close to their corresponding mid-high long vowels /ē, ō/.
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Janet Watson, Abdullah al-Mahri, Said Baquir and Andrea Boom are working with Living-Language-Land, a journey through endangered and minority languages, to contribute the Mehri particle śaf ‘unexpectedly turns out to be’ and its relationship to śaff ‘track; print’. Living-Language-Land is funded by the British Council under the COP26 Creative Commons. Living-Language-Land is sharing 26 words in the run-up to COP26 to give a global audience fresh inspiration for tackling our environmental crisis. Our word, and the story behind our word, can soon be seen and heard on the Living-Language-Land website: living-language-land.org.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
The next Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia workshop will be held at 3pm BST on 29th June 2021. We are delighted to host Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, Adam Vandergriff and Alex Bellem.
Adam Vandergriff - “The Vowel Space of Kurian Soqotri”
Alex Bellem - “A survey of problems in the interpretation and analysis of Semitic emphatics”
Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle - “The loss of the dual in Mehri and Hobyot spoken in Yemen"
Please contact Janet Watson on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend and are not yet on the online workshop distribution list.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Please join us for the next Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia workshop on 1st June at 3pm BST. We have presentations by:
- Emily O'Dell, PhD (Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute) - Nature Symbolism in Contemporary Omani Poetry: Eco-Productions of Alienation, Exile, and Rebellion
- Bradford Garvey (Graduate Center, CUNY) - The Giving Palm: Generosity, Status, and Plantlife in Northern Oman
Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk for the Zoom link if you are not already on the distribution list.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
The next online Language and Nature in South Arabia workshop is scheduled for 4th May at 3pm BST.
The programme is as follows:
Amer al-Kathiri: الأصوات الانفجارية في اللهجات العمانية
Leonid Kogan (Keynote speaker): Recent Lexicographic Research on Soqotri, with an Emphasis on the Comparative-Historical Dimension
To attend the workshop if you are not on the distribution list, please contact Janet Watson: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
The next session of the Language and Nature in South Arabia Workshop will be April 6th, 3pm BST.
We will have two talks:
Jerzy Weirzbicki : Eroding of traditions: Eroding of Presence
Miranda Morris will give a keynote entitled: Evaluating researching oral art in Soqoṭra: challenges, observations and choices made.
Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend and are not yet on the distribution list.
 
Watson C E Janet
added 3 research items
Description of traditional frankincense work with terms for people and tools involved. Published in Mehri, English translation available on request
An acoustic investigation of intrusive and epenthetic vowels in Mehri of Central Dhofar, with a look at intrusive vowels in Shehret
A work-in-progress laryngographic investigation of the Shehret alveolar and interdental fricative triads, with instrumental work conducted by Barry Heselwood. Presented at the online workshop on Language and Nature in Southern Arabian: Phonetics and Phonology session 2, 23rd March 2021
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Dear all,
We will be holding the second session of Phonetics and Phonology of MSAL on the 23rd March at 3pm GMT:
Janet C.E. Watson, Amer al-Kathiri & Abdullah al-Mahri with Gisela Tomé Lourido - Intrusive and epenthetic vowels in Mehri (and Shehret)
Jarred Brewster - The phonemic status of long vowels in Shehret
Fabio Gasparini - Glottalization from a comparative perspective
Barry Heselwood & Janet Watson - Laryngeal phonology of Sheret: laryngographic evidence from fricative triads
Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to attend the session.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Dear all,
The next online workshop in this series will take place at 3pm GMT on 9th March. This will examine the phonetics and phonology of Modern South Arabian.
The programme is as follows:
Fabio Gasparini - Glottalization from a comparative perspective
Gisela Tomé Lourido, Janet Watson, Andrea Boom, Carlos Jair Martínez Albarracín - Vowels in Mehri
Jarred Brewster - The phonemic status of long vowels in Shehret
Barry Heselwood & Janet Watson - Laryngographic analyses of MSAL obstruents
Hammal alBalushi - Utterance-final devoicing and glottalisation in Harsusi
Please do contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend and are not yet on the distribution list.
Best, Janet
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
We would like to invite you to our next workshop session scheduled for  9th February at 3pm GMT. We will have a session dedicated to PhD students.
The program is as follows:
Amer Azad al-Kathiri (SQU) -  الصوامت الانفجارية في اللهجات واللغات العامية العمانية المعاصرة Kamela al-Barami (University of Leeds) - Fieldwork in Oman during the Covid-19 pandemic: challenges and opportunities Mohammed al-Shahri (Heidelberg University) - اللغة الشحرية: كلمة واحدة لها عدة معاني Thamer Marzouq (University of Newcastle) -  Blowing off the dust: towards salvaging the forgotten Mehri tongue in Saudi Arabia 
Mus'id Amir Saydun: التحليل المورفولوجي للحكاية الشعبية في المهرة
حزييت ليلانوت نموذجا
As before, please do contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk for the Zoom link if you would like to attend the workshop and are not yet on the distribution list.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Dear all,
It is almost a year since the start of the "Language and Nature in South Arabia" workshop, thanks to Janet. Up to this moment, 27 workshops and more than a 100 presentations were held. Who would have thought we would get this far? Now we would like to “celebrate” this milestone and collect and publish a selection of the papers presented during our meetings as a double-peer-reviewed eponymous volume.
We (Fabio, Kamala and Janet) will be the co-editors. A book proposal is on the making; once completed, it will be sent to the "Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures" series (OpenBook Publishers).
We invite all past (and future) presenters to submit an abstract inherent to the topic of the volume as described below.
Our aim is to give a collective interdisciplinary portrait of the different research activities carried out by the presenters who took part in the workshops, the main focus and point of connection among the papers being the study of the relationship between the indigenous languages/cultures of South Arabia and the natural environment in which they develop. The volume will be rooted in Linguistics and Semitic studies, but with a strong areal and interdisciplinary perspective: this is why we warmly welcome and encourage participants to pair up and work jointly on submissions. We are open to all interdisciplinary approaches and perspectives adopting the tools of the following disciplines:
- Linguistics
- Anthropology
- Sociology
- Archaeology
- Environmental & Sustainability studies
- Botany
- Zoology
- Geography
- Media & Communication
Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words (without references) and must be submitted electronically in PDF format to the following address: language&nature@gmail.com. Questions or comments can be submitted to the same address.
Deadline for abstract submission: 1st March 2021
Notification of acceptance: 15th March 2021
Submission deadline for the full paper: 1st February 2022
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Here is an update to the MSAL bibliography. With thanks to Carlos Jair Martínez Albarracín for recent additions. Please continue to send me any additions I may have missed.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
I am delighted to announce that Andrea Boom has been successful in her application for a Commonwealth Scholarship (high-income countries). She will be working with me, Diane Nelson and Jon Lovett on: Language and Nature in South Arabia: Ethnographic description of traditional practices of Dhofar and Mahra.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Happy New Year!
We recommence the online workshops at 3pm on 12th January with a workshop on Kumzari led by Dr Dola Algady from the University of Sohar. NOTE THE NEW TIME. The programme is:
Dola Algady, Muna AlBadaai, and Makeyya AlKumzar (University of Sohar)i: The boat trip from Khasab to Kumzar: the influence of nature and culture on geographical place names
Ali Bin Hassan AlKumzari: اللغة الكمزارية وترابطها مع الحضارات القديمة
Makeyya AlKumzari: الادب في الكمزارية
Christina van der Wal Anonby (Carleton University, Canada): Pushed to the Brink: the Kumzari Language as Geographic Product
Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend the workshop and are not on the distribution list.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
The last meeting of the Language and/or Nature in South Arabia Workshop in 2020 will take place on Tuesday 8th at 1PM GMT.  We will be back in January!
The programme is as follows:
- Samuel Liebhaber (Middlebury College): Presentation on the Digital Exhibit: When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra
- Anna Fancett (Sultan Qaboos University), and Jane Bickmore-Jaffer MBE & Maytha alMandhari (Let's Read Oman): Storytelling in Oman
Please contact me: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to attend.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
The next online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia will be held on 24th November 2020 at 1pm GMT. If you wish to attend, please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk. The programme is as follows:
Kamela al-Barami (University of Leeds): Women in Shehret / Jibbali poetry: Who are Tfool and Alkhiyar? Hongwei Zhang (University of Chicago): Creating computer keyboards for MSAL (or any language) Craig Cornelius (Google): Typing in my language? Get started with GBoard and other keyboards
Abstract:
Using a language on digital devices requires text support, including ways to enter the characters and phrases for both online and on-device applications. Input methods and virtual keyboards are already available for every modern desk/laptop and mobile device in hundreds of languages. This session will demonstrate how to find and install applications such as GBoard for mobile and Google Input Tools. We will also briefly discuss other options including building custom virtual keyboards.
Here are some references that may be useful to learn more:
  • Set up GBoard on Android
  • Google Input Tools - Try it!
  • Keyboards for Android
  • The best iPhone keyboard apps
  • GBoard on iPhone
  • Custom iOS keyboards
  • Building a custom keyboard for Android
  • KeyMan: find keyboards and develop new ones
  • Options to build a custom virtual keyboard for Windows
 
Watson C E Janet
added a research item
This is a running bibliography of the Modern South Arabian languages. We aim to update it at least every three months. Please do send any additional publications to Janet Watson for inclusion in the bibliography: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk. A new version has just been added on 6th June 2022.
Watson C E Janet
added an update
I am delighted to announce the next online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia. The programme is:
Richard Gravina (SIL): Linguistic and non-linguistic factors in decisions on Soqotri orthography
Abdullah al-Saqqaf (Dhofar): Beekeeping symbolism in Hadrami Arabic poetry
Abdullah alMahri, Janet C.E. Watson (CELCE - University of Leeds): Mehri sung poems
If you would like to attend and are not yet on the distribution list, please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Abdullah al-Mahri and were invited to talk to the UNESCO language community about producing children's ebooks in Mehri. The video of this and other presentations hosted by Translation Commons are available on the Translation Commons website in the Language Digitization section.
The video of our presentation and the children's book, Selim and His Shadow are available under Communities here: https://translationcommons.org/impact/language-digitization/resources/
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
I will be giving the AIMES public lecture on 11th November with my friend and colleague, Abdullah al-Mahri. Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to attend the talk.
Abstract
Abstract:
In this talk, we interrogate the concept of beauty in relation to Southern Arabia, with a focus on Dhofar. We propose that beauty stems not from one single object or concept of objective beauty, but rather from the rich juxtaposition of objects and concepts of difference. In relation to Southern Arabia, beauty thus stems from its collective varying topography, its distinct seasons, its types of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world, and its rich traditional culture and rich variety in language. It is this biocultural diversity – interpreted here as richness – that creates the beauty of Southern Arabia. 
We begin by providing some insights into the extent of diversity, in terms of topography, language, culture and ecosystems, providing focussed examples of rich culture and rich language. In this age of increasingly globalisation, which threatens diversity across the globe, biocultural diversity even in Southern Arabia is endangered. We show that diversity in language, culture and nature are all interrelated, and suggest that the erosion of one of these links leads to erosion of the others. We conclude with current biocultural revitalization processes and propose that research of all kinds should involve the active, consensual involvement of local communities, for diversity includes the onlookers and assessors. 
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
The next online workshop will be held at 1pm BST on 27th October. Please do contact me on: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend and are not on the distribution list. The programme is:
Janet Watson, Barry Heselwood, Abdullah al-Mahri & Andrea Boom (Leeds): Context is (almost) everything: Emphatics in Mehri
Suad al-Manji (SQU and Omani Ministry of Education): Climatic events in Oman: the role of narratives in resilience (Talk in Arabic)
Saeed al-Mahri (Salalah and CELCE): Southern Arabia: Culture and extremism
Dola al-Gady (Sohar University): مشروع توثيق اللغة الكمزارية المحكية في سلطنة عُمان (Talk in Arabic "Planning Language Resilience for Spoken Kumzari in the Sultanate of Oman")
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Workshop on Language and Nature in South Arabia
Oct. 13 1PM BST
Roberta Morano (University of Leeds) - In the wake of the sailors: tackling the toponomastics of Omani coastal towns
Richard Porter (BirdLife International) - Socotra's birds: what we know
Nick Jeffries (Senior Expert at Ellen Macarthur Foundation) - Re-thinking progress - the circular economy - a pathway to better prosperity
If you wish to attend this workshop and are not yet on the distribution list, please contact me: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
We are delighted to announce the 20th (?) online workshop on Language and Nature in Southern Arabia, 29th September 2020 at 1pm. The workshop examines expressions of time and tense in Saudi and Omani dialects of Arabic, Mehri, Harsusi and Gulf pidgin. The programme involves speakers from five different countries:
Hammal al-Balushi (Leeds) and Andrea Boom (Manchester): Mehri and Harsusi Time Words
Simone Bettega (Torino): Visions of the Future: the Verbal System of Omani Arabic between Tense and Modality
Amer Fael Muhammad Balhaf (UNajran): الظروف في اللغة المهرية -- Adverbial Particles in Mehri (Talk in Arabic)
Abdullah al-Fayfi (Indiana University Bloomington): Distal and Proximal Relative Pronouns in Fayfi Arabic 
Munira al-Azraqi (UDammam): Loss of Tense in Gulf Pidgin
If you wish to attend, please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk or Kamala Russell onrussellkamala@gmail.com to request the Zoom invite.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
15th September 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia
1pm – 3pm BST
Soqotra: Differing viewpoints
Julian Jansen van Rensburg: Insularity and interconnectedness, untangling the complexities of the Soqotri people and their cultural heritage.
Miranda Morris: Insiders and Outsiders on Soqoṭra
Alan Forrest: Who influences and benefits from the heritage of Soqotra?
Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend this workshop.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Due to reasons beyond our control, the workshop scheduled for 28th July has had to be postponed until 1st September. We will be taking a break through August. The programme for the Toponymy workshop is given below:1st September 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia
Becki Maddock (Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN)): Place names in Soqotra
Mark Shockley (North Dakota): Diminutive noun patterns in Arabian toponyms
Fabio Gasparini, Kamala Russell & Said Baquir: Led discussion on toponyms in Dhofar
1st September 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia ullah al-Mahri, Domenyk Eades & Janet Watson: Children’s book in Mehri: Selim and his shadow : سيلم واهّله
Please do contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to participate and are not yet on the distribution list or WhatsApp group. I look forward to seeing you again in September.
 
Watson C E Janet
added 2 research items
This is the first in a series of e-books in Mehri about a little boy and his adventures in Dhofar. The books are designed to involve interaction with nature. The writing was a collaborative effort between Abdullah Musallam al-Mahri and Janet Watson. The photos were taken in Dhofar by Janet Watson, with the photographs of the Ziziphus leucodermis kindly supplied by Musallam Ali Khor Thuwar al-Mahri. It is published in Language & Ecology 2020.
This is the latest children’s e-book in Mehri produced for the Leverhulme Trust-funded Documentation of Modern South Arabian project (2013–2016), and the second story in the Selim and the Natural World series. It is published along with Selim and the Dom Fruit in Language & Ecology 2019-2020: http://ecolinguistics-association.org/journal/4563035324. For the full multimodal e-book, voiceover is by Abdullah al-Mahri. Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk for the full multimodal e-book. The story follows Selim taking a goat skin bag from his mother to his grandmother. Along the way he sleeps beneath an Acacia tortilis tree, hanging the goat skin bag on a branch. He forgets the bag, and later loses his shadow. He arrives at his grandmother’s cave home with no goat skin bag and no shadow. His grandmother sends him back to look for the bag and tells him to look for his shadow on the way. The story draws on the significance of shade and shadow in Mehri culture: to provide for someone you should assure shade from the sun and shelter from the cold and the rain. When people are very forgetful the importance of shadow returns in the saying: yəhnayh əhhalah ‘[he is so forgetful] he forgets his shadow!’.
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Beauty in Diversity: Language, Culture and Nature in Southern Arabia In this talk, we interrogate the concept of beauty in relation to Southern Arabia, with a focus on Dhofar. We propose that beauty stems not from one single object or concept of objective beauty, but rather from the rich juxtaposition of objects and concepts of difference. In relation to Southern Arabia, beauty thus stems from its collective varying topography, its distinct seasons, its types of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world, and its rich traditional culture and rich variety in language. It is this biocultural diversity – interpreted here as richness – that creates the beauty of Southern Arabia. We begin by providing some insights into the extent of diversity, in terms of topography, language, culture and ecosystems, providing focussed examples of rich culture and rich language. In this age of increasingly globalisation, which threatens diversity across the globe, biocultural diversity even in Southern Arabia is endangered. We show that diversity in language, culture and nature are all interrelated, and suggest that the erosion of one of these links leads to erosion of the others. We conclude with current biocultural revitalization processes and propose that research of all kinds should involve the active, consensual involvement of local communities, for diversity includes the onlookers and assessors. The edited video of the presentation can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/NrSSos-qLUE
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Thanks to everyone who attended the highly successful Frankincense workshop earlier today. We had 52 participants and a fantastic lineup of speakers. The next workshop will address toponyms in Southern Arabia with Becki Maddock from the Royal Geographical Society, and the launch of the latest children's e-book in Mehri: Selim and his shadow. The draft programme is:
Becki Maddock (Royal Geographical Society): (on toponyms – exact title TBC)
Mark Shockley (North Dakota): Diminutive noun patterns in Arabian toponyms
Fabio Gasparini & Kamala Russell: Led discussion on toponyms in Dhofar
Abdullah al-Mahri, Domenyk Eades & Janet Watson: Selim and his shadow : سيلم واهّله
Please contact me if you would like to join the workshop and are not already on the distribution list: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
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This paper examines the changing relationship between language and nature in Dhofar, Oman. Our hypothesis is that local languages enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment throughout the world, and that both the demise of local ecosystems and the demise of the human-nature relationship will adversely affect local languages (e.g. Rosenthal 2014). Since the 1970s, Dhofar has experienced some of the most rapid socioeconomic changes in the world. We ask what effect this socioeconomic change has had on the language-nature relationship, suggesting that the decoupling of the human-nature relationship as a result of social and economic change is a significant factor in language attrition. In section 1, we examine the dynamic biocultural situation in Dhofar. In section 2, we examine causes and indications of language and ecosystem erosion. In section 3, we address a selection of semantic fields which express the language-nature relationship in the region: expression of measure and time, with the traditional measurement of time by the position of the sun and depth of darkness, and dating through narratives around key climatic events. In section 4, we point to indications of, and measures for, language revitalization currently conducted in Dhofar and elsewhere.
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Thank you to everyone who attended the workshop on 7th July. Our next wonderfully interdisciplinary workshop focusses on frankincense, with talks in English, Arabic and Mehri. The draft programme is given below. Again, if anyone would like to join the workshop, please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk for Zoom link details:
Frankincense workshop
1. Botany of Boswellia sacra (Shahina Ghazanfar, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew)
2. Mehri terms for taxonymy of Boswellia sacra (Andrea Boom & Suhail al-Mahri)
3. A fruitful decade for frankincense research: Unravelling the secrets of the ancient resin (Professor Ahmed al-Harrasi, University of Nizwa)
4. Types of frankincense (Denzil Phillips, Advisor to Environmental Society, Oman)
5. Global frankincense alliance (Denzil Phillips)
6. Frankincense, a brilliant aromatic from the natural world (Founder and CEO Enfleurage, Inc, Aromatics From the Natural World, Enfleurage Middle East, LLC, Frankincense Distillery and Studio, Muscat, Oman)
7. Frankincense value chain​ (Debra Enzenbacher, SQU)
8. Places of production and export - and places on the frankincense route​ (Suhail al-Mahri)
9. Salah Ajeeb to talk about his work. Title TBC (Salah Ajeeb)
10. Frankincense technology​ (Dr. Sulaiman Al Hashmi, CESAR at SQU)​
 
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Many thanks to everyone who attended the workshop today - no. 13! Three wonderful talks. The next workshop will be held in two weeks time on 7th July. Do contact me (j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk) if you would like to attend and are not yet part of my distribution list. The provisional programme for 7th July is:
7th July 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia (draft programme)
Becki Maddock (Royal Geographical Society): (title on toponyms TBC)
Fabio Gasparini & Kamala Russell: Discussion on toponyms in Dhofar
Miranda Morris (St Andrews): The challenges surrounding collection of species data: Soqotra
Jarred Brewster (Kentucky): (title TBC)
 
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With thanks to everyone who attended the 12th workshop on 16th June, I am pleased to announce the next online workshop on 23rd June. Please do contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to attend. The draft programme is:
Marielle Risse (DU): Foodways in Southern Oman
Anton Kungl (Nantes/CNRS): Verbal noun formation in Mehri – part 2
Group: Expressions of time
 
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The 12th online Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia will be held at 1pm BST on 16th June 2020 through Zoom. Please contact me through j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to attend. The draft programme so far is as follows:
Giuliano Castagna (Erlangen): Metaphonic plurals in eastern Śhərèt
Anton Kungl (Nantes/CNRS): Verbal noun formation in Mehri - general overview and selected problems
Mohammed al-Shahri (Heidelberg): المعتقدات الدينية في ظفار
 
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Thank you to everyone who participated in the 11th online workshop today. This was the programme:
Andrea Boom & Ibrahim Musallam al-Mahri: Traditional frankincense work: اخّدميت ذامغار بظفور كنهور (in Mehri/English)
Maryam Al Bayshak (UAE): Reduplication in UAE dialect (in Arabic)
سعاد المنجي (مسقط) تعزيز مرونة المجتمع : الحال الاعتيادي الجديد بعد covid-19
Kamela Albarami & Said Baquir: Old beauty practices in the Shehret / Jibbali community (in Shehret/English)
Details of the next workshop will follow shortly.
 
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Here is an updated version of the MSAL bibliography. Please do contact me with details of any missing items, or any corrections to be made. Thank you.
 
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We are delighted to announce the 10th online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia, through Zoom. The programme is as follows:
Ahmad al-Jallad (Ohio State, US): Old (epigraphic) Arabic and the dialects of the Asir
Janet Watson, Gisela Tomé Lourido, Barry Heselwood & Abdullah al-Mahri: Short vowels in Mehri
Fabio Gasparini (FU Berlin): Circumstantial qualifiers in Mehri
Khalid Alsubaie (Leeds): Emphatics in Najdi Arabic
Ahmed al-Mashikhi (SQU, Muscat): Shehret poems relating to nature
Please send me an email if you would like to attend: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
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Thank you to everyone who participated in the 8th online workshop on 12th May. The 9th workshop will be held on 19th May, after which we will take a two-week break for Eid and UK Bank Holiday. The draft programme for 19th May is:
19th May 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia (draft programme)
1pm BST
Munira al-Azraqi (Dammam) &
Ahlam Alharbi Mehri: Different particles with similar functions in Arabic and gid and bar
Ibrahim al-Mahri & Janet Watson: حرف (ه) باللغة المهرية
Shel al-Mahri & Andrea Boom: Acacia tortilis and the Boabab in Dhofar (English/Mehri)
Abdullah al-Saqqaf & Amir al-Kathiri: IPA illustration: Shehret
If you would like to attend, please send me a message at: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk
 
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The eighth online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia will take place on 12th May 2020 from 1pm BST. Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to attend this or any future workshops.
Debra Enzenbacher (SQU, Muscat): Sustainable tourism in Dhofar Governorate, Oman: Languages, cultures, ecosystems and other primary considerations
Shel al-Mahri (Salalah) & Andrea Boom: Frankincense: trees, stages of growth, types, use (Arabic/Mehri/English)
Abdullah Saqqaf (Dhofar): Affrication in Nizwa Arabic (Arabic/English)
Saeed al-Mahri (Salalah): Windshelters in Dhofar
Abdallah al-Mahri (Salalah): Prepositions in Mehri (Arabic/Mehri)
 
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Many thanks to all who contributed to the seventh online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia. The programme was as given below:
Farida al-Manji (CoAS, Rustaq)
& Suad al-Manji (MoE, Muscat): أدوات الاستفهام، و أسماء الإشارة في لهجات شمال عمان ( لهجة إبراء)
Hammal al-Balushi (Leeds): The status of the pharyngeal *ʕ and the glottal stop in Harsusi
Ibrahim al-Mahri (Salalah): حرف (ش) باللغة المهرية
Fabio Gasparini & Kamala Russell: Discussion on the seasons in Dhofar and al-Mahrah
Denzil Phillips (advisor, Environment
Society, Oman): Frankincense in Dhofar
 
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This book is the first coursebook to deal with the Modern South Arabian language, Mehri. Focussing on Mehri as spoken in Central Dhofar, Oman, the work results from several years’ close collaboration with four native speakers of Mehri. The book is multimodal, supported by a large number of audio and audio-visual texts from the Mehri archive housed at the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. It comprises twenty lessons and a glossary of all terms occurring in the lessons. Dialogues within the lessons focus as far as possible on aspects of the traditional culture of the Mahrah, thus introducing the student not only to the language, but also to issues of cultural importance.
In this paper, we discuss conducting community-based fieldwork with speakers of the Modern South Arabian languages (MSAL) in southern Oman, eastern Yemen and eastern Saudi Arabia for a Leverhulme-funded project: The Documentation and Ethnolinguistic Analysis of Modern South Arabian. The paper begins with a brief introduction to the languages, their varying degrees of language endangerment, and the traditional lifestyle of their speakers. In section 2 we discuss the decline and erosion of the languages, and the rationale this provides not only for documenting the languages, but also for closely involving native speakers and community members in the data collection, transcription, translation, analysis, and dissemination. This vital community participation is considered in section 3, which also includes a description of the equipment we used, the software packages and the orthography devised for the project. We describe the collection of audio, audio-visual and photographic material, file identification and metadata, identifying speakers, obtaining ethical consent, training community participants, analysing and archiving the data, and the project website. Section 4 discusses language revitalisation and the joint dissemination of research.
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Here are the programmes for the workshops this week and next week. Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to attend:
21st April 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia, 3pm BST
Kamala Russell (UCBerkeley): Da'abet and da'awet in Central Shehret
Giuliano Castagna (Erlangen): Sound shifts in the Shehret of al-Hallaniya
Abdullah al-Mahri (Salalah)
& Janet Watson (Leeds): Silent articulations in Mehri
Farida al-Manji (CoAS, Rustaq)
& Suad al-Manji (MoE, Muscat): أدوات الاستفهام، و أسماء الإشارة في لهجات شمال عمان ( لهجة إبراء)
Muhammad al-Shahri (Heidelberg): المشتركة اللفظي بين اللغات السامية: الشحرية والسريانية نموذجا
28th April 2020 Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia
Maryam Al Bayshak (UAE): The linguistic heritage of the Shuhuh (in Arabic)
Hammal al-Balushi (Leeds): Dissemination of Covid-19 information in the languages of Oman
Jon Lovett (Leeds): Institutions, economics, language and nature
 
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Thanks to the researchers who participated in the third online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia. The fourth workshop will be held on 14th April at 12pm BST. The draft programme is below:
Sam Liebhaber (Middlebury): Bin Faris, Bin Shamasa and Ba Dujana: The sovereign dynasties of western al-Mahra
Abdullah al-Mahri (Salalah): حروف الجرّ بالمهرية : Prepositions in Mehri (in Arabic and Mehri)
Jack Wilson (USalford): Phonological iconicity on MSAL
Abdullah al-Saqqaf (Dhofar): Flora and fauna terms in South Arabian Arabic dialects (in Arabic and English)
Shahina Ghazanfar (Kew): The many names of grape
 
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We are delighted to announce that Carolina Zucchi was successfully awarded a WRoCAH scholarship to conduct a PhD on the topic: Relationship between Language and Nature: A Look at Archival Material on the Mahrah Community of Southern Arabia. Carolina will be working under the supervision of Professor Janet C.E. Watson and Dr Diane Nelson
 
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The third online workshop on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia will be held on 7th April at 1pm BST through Zoom. Please contact me on j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to participate.
Presenters are:
Imar Koutchoukali (Tartu): Toponyms of South Arabia: Between ESA, MSA, and Arabic
Shahina Ghazanfar (Kew): The many names of grape
Suad al-Manji (SQUMuscat): اللغة و الطبيعة : قصص عن قدرة المجتمعات المحلية على الصمود أمام الكوارث الطبيعية : Language and Nature: Community stories around resilience in the face of catastrophic events (in Arabic)
David Wilmsen (AUSharjah): The enigma of Mehri existential śī and Arabic šī
Kamela al-Barami (ULeeds)
& Said Baquir (Salalah): Butter oil: A staple traditional delicacy among the Sheret / Jibbali speaking communities of Dhofar (in English and Shehret)
Amir al-Kathiri (SQUMuscat): القلب بين الشين والهاء واختلافه في مناطق عمان من ظفار حتى مسندم (in Arabic)
 
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The second online workshop was held on Tuesday 31st March from 12.00 BST to 14.30 through Zoom.
Many thanks to the presenters, whose presentations are given below, and to all the other participants for a very stimulating workshop.
Simone Bettega: Gender and environment in the Arabic dialects of Arabia
Abdullah al-Mahri: Demonstration of children’s ebooks on human-nature relationship (in Mehri and Arabic)
Roberta Morano: The threat of climate change on the languages of Southern Arabia
Saeed al-Mahri: Water sources in Dhofar (in Arabic/Mehri)
Fabio Gasparini: Planning a digital atlas for MSAL: ideas and perspectives
Munira al-Azraqi: Mehri lexicon: Nature words (in Arabic)
The next workshop will hear presentations on Language and/or Nature in Southern Arabia and be held on 7th April 2020 starting at 13.00 BST.
Please contact me if you wish to participate.
 
Watson C E Janet
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@As an attempt to deal with the psychological fallout of Covid-19, a group of MSAL-speakers and MSAL researchers have decided to hold an online (Zoom) Modern South Arabian workshop on Monday 23rd March at 1pm. This will include short presentations by Fabio Gasparini, Giuliano Castagna, Andrea Boom, Saeed al-Mahri, Abdullah al-Mahri, Said Baquir and Hammal al-Balushi. We are hoping that the technology and internet will hold up!
We plan to follow this up with weekly online classes in Mehri and Shehret, to be led by native speakers in collaboration with Janet Watson. There will be a small fee for participation in online classes. If you are interested in attending the online classes, please do send me an email: j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk.
Stay safe, stay kind, find ways of remaining social, and try to smile. These are totally unprecedented times.
 
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An updated and corrected version of the MSAL bibliography.
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The third annual Mehri Language and Culture course was held in Salalah between 5th and 14th January 2020. Thank you to all participants!
 
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The authors, Janet Watson, Abdullah Musallam al-Mahri, Ali al-Mahri, Bxayta Musallam Khor al-Mahri and Ahmed Musallam al-Mahri are delighted to announce the publication of Təghamk Afyət: A course in Mehri of Dhofar. We thank all who contributed to the project, and particularly Otto Jastrow, series editor, and Michael Fröhlich of Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.

 
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With thanks in particular to Andrea Boom for editing this bibliography, I am pleased to add the latest iteration. Please do send me any additions you may have.
 
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Hammal al-Balushi joined the University of Leeds in October as a PGR student. He is working on Harsusi phonology and morphology under the supervision of Janet Watson and Gisela Tome Lourido. On 10th December 2019, he came third in the University of Leeds PGR Of The Year competition.
 
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This is an update of the Modern South Arabian bibliography
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Silent articulations in Mehri, a Modern South Arabian language Barry Heselwood, University of Leeds, b.c.heselwood@leeds.ac.uk Janet Watson, University of Leeds, j.c.e.watson@leeds.ac.uk Silent articulations have only rarely been reported as occurring systematically in the phonologies of languages. Lawson et al. (2015) found Scottish English speakers executing /r/-articulations such that maximum displacement was reached after the phonatory source had ceased, rendering the articulation inaudible, and Gick et al. (2012) investigated utterance-final silent vowels in Oneida and Blackfoot. We report a comparable phenomenon in Mehri concerning utterance-final silent sonorant consonants. Mehri has two laryngeal classes of consonants, ‘open’ (voiceless obstruents) and ‘closed’ (voiced and/or emphatic consonants) (Watson & Heselwood 2016). Both classes exhibit preglottalization utterance-finally, an areal feature of languages in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula (Watson & Bellem 2011), manifesting as creak at the end of a preceding vowel. In ‘open’ consonants it is followed by glottal opening to provide airflow for voiceless fricatives and aspirated stops. In ‘closed’ consonants it is followed, in the case of oral stops and sonorants, by a complete maintained glottal closure during which a delayed articulation is executed. Oral stops are released as ejectives but the sonorants /m, n, l, r/ remain silent (see fig.1). Sometimes the silent articulation is as full as a sounded articulation, sometimes it involves less extensive articulatory contact. We have also found sonorants that begin sounded but continue silently, and ones in which the glottal closure is released before the articulation, resulting in a whispered realization. We present examples of all these kinds of utterance-final realizations taken from acoustic and electropalatographic recordings of two adult male speakers, focussing mainly on silent articulations because of their presumed uniqueness. References Gick, B., Bliss, H., Michelson, K. & Radanov, B. (2012) Articulation without acoustics: ‘Soundless’ vowels in Oneida and Blackfoot. J Phon 40, 46–53. Lawson, E., Scobbie, J. & Stuart-Smith, J. (2015) The role of anterior lingual gesture delay in coda /r/ lenition: an ultrasound tongue imaging study. Proceedings of the 18th ICPhS, Glasgow (0332). Watson, J. & Bellem, A. (2011) Glottalisation and neutralisation in Yemeni Arabic and Mehri. In B.Heselwood & Z.Hassan (eds) Instrumental Studies in Arabic Phonetics. John Benjamins, 235-256. Watson, J. & Heselwood, B. (2016) Phonation and glottal states in Modern South Arabian and San’ani Arabic. In Y.Haddad & E.Potsdam (eds) Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XXVIII. John Benjamins, 3-36. The full abstract can be seen at: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/baap/files/2018/03/BAAP-2018_HeselwoodWatson.pdf
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In this talk, I discuss a community documentation project conducted on the Modern South Arabian languages in southern Oman between January 2013 and December 2016. I will begin by appraising the language/culture/ecosystem situation in the region, looking at the relationship between language, culture and the natural environment. I will then examine decisions taken during the documentation period, and discuss steps taken by the team and community members towards language revitalisation of the languages. During the documentation period over 200 hours of audio material and 15 hours of video material were collected and archived at the Endangered Languages Archive, held at SOAS on topics relating principally to traditional culture and the relationship of humans to the natural environment. Revitalization processes have included the development of an Arabic-based orthography and children’s e-books, collaboration on production of a pedagogical grammar of Mehri, international dissemination with native speakers, and work with the Mehri Center for Studies and Research based in al-Ghaydhah, Yemen. The presentation can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/GaGTy5cELD8
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Coauthors Abdullah Al-Mahri, Ali Al-Mahri and Ahmed al-Mahri
 
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My NACAL 47 keynote can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/GaGTy5cELD8
 
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The Centre for Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems Annual Workshop is delighted to host Arran Stibbe, Professor of Ecological Linguistics, University of Gloucestershire who will talk on “Traditional ecological understanding and the global spread of English: from TESOL to haiku.” The workshop will take place in the Geography Foyer, level 7 Garstang Building, University of Leeds on 2nd July from 10.30 to 4.30 and then at the Hyde Park Picture House, for a Film Screening: Edge of the Knife (in Haida) introduced by Tweed of Native Spirit Film Festival: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/28/canadian-film-made-in-haida-language-spoken-by-just-20-people-in-the-world
Please contact Diane Nelson if you wish to attend: d.c.nelson@leeds.ac.uk
The draft programme is attached.
 
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I added an update to the Bibliography of Modern South Arabian on 15th May 2019
 
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This is the updated bibliography of Modern South Arabian. If anyone spots any items that are missing from the bibliography, please do let me know.
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In this paper, we discuss conducting community-based fieldwork with speakers of the Modern South Arabian languages (MSAL) in southern Oman, eastern Yemen and eastern Saudi Arabia for a Leverhulme-funded project: The Documentation and Ethnolinguistic Analysis of Modern South Arabian. The paper begins with a brief introduction to the languages, their varying degrees of language endangerment, and the traditional lifestyle of their speakers. In section 2 we discuss the decline and erosion of the languages, and the rationale this provides not only for documenting the languages, but also for closely involving native speakers and community members in the data collection, transcription, translation, analysis, and dissemination. This vital community participation is considered in section 3, which also includes a description of the equipment we used, the software packages and the orthography devised for the project. We describe the collection of audio, audiovisual and photographic material, file identification and metadata, identifying speakers, obtaining ethical consent, training community participants, analysing and archiving the data, and the project website. Section 4 discusses language revitalisation and the joint dissemination of research.
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Several members and associates of the DEAMSA team will be presenting at the workshop The symbiotic relationship between language and nature in Modern South Arabian, to be held at the University of Leeds, 24th - 26th April 2019 in the School of Geography. The final programme can be found in the attachment.
 
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The bibliography has been updated. Please contact if you find any additional sources to add.
 
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Language and Nature in Dhofar Documentation of culture-specific texts in Modern South Arabian during a Leverhulme-funded project conducted between 2013-2016 shows that appreciation and expression of nature are bound tightly to language of use. In these languages, cardinal points and directions are based on topographic terms and differ according to language variety and region. The language of quantification is frequently nature-based: time is described by position of the sun, verbs of movement differ according to the time of departure, and expressions of animal group sizes are dependent on the object of description. Figurative language is similarly closely related to nature. In Mehri, a tall man with a shock of hair may be described as xahēh sīmar ‘he looks like a sīmar [tree]’. A brave man may be described as ḳayṣ́ar ‘leopard’. Poetry is especially rich in nature-related figurative language: in Shahri/Jibbali, the line hɛz min ġarb / ṣarif d-irhasɛn ‘wind from west / stones he licks’ refers to a man from the west taking another’s wife, who is so poor he has to lick stones; and the Mehri word hṣ́awr ‘grue [colour]’ has the poetic sense of ‘sea’. Terms are often introduced by semantic extension: Eastern Yemeni Mehri ḳalifūt ‘bark [tree]’ has the secondary sense of ‘spoon’. Its original sense and knowledge that bark was once used as an eating implement is lost on many of the younger generation. Today both the ecosystem and the local languages are facing significant threat. Modernisation and urbanisation mean that children are no longer involved with nature and natural resource management as they would have been in the past. This results in intergenerational loss of knowledge of the ecosystem, of the language used to describe the ecosystem, and in failure to understand figurative language relating to the ecosystem. Here we discuss and illustrate ways in which local language is bound to nature, ask the extent to which erosion of the ecosystem and erosion of local language are mutually reflected, and propose means to combat this erosion.
In this presentation I look at the relationship between language and nature in the Modern South Arabian communities, with a focus on communities that speak Mehri and Shehret.
Watson C E Janet
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The third Mehri language course was held in Salalah from 5th to 15th January 2019. It was run by Janet Watson and Ali al-Mahri and attended by participants from the UK, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Croatia and Turkey. The course involved language training indoors followed by trips to the natural environment and discussion of the language of nature. During the course we visited the spring at Razat, Jabal Samhan, the Prophet Job's tomb and spring, the beach at FazaayiH, Xawr Rori and a camel holding place on the coastal plain.
 
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In this paper, we provide a synchronic account of word stress in the Modern South Arabian language, Mehri, as spoken by members of the Bit Thuwar tribe. The data is taken from the first author’s own fieldwork working in Central Dhofar with members of the Bit Thuwar sub-tribes–Bit Iqhōr in Rabkut and parts of the mountains that receive the monsoon rains, and Bit Āmawsh in Dhahbun–with reference, where appropriate, to Johnstone (1987). This paper is a significant expansion and a partial revision of the short discussion on word stress in Watson (2012: 34–35).
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Following a couple of additions by Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, Miranda Morris and others, and the activation of the Community documentation of biocultural diversity in al-Mahrah, Yemen archive, depositors Saeed al-Qumairi and Janet Watson, I am adding an updated MSAL bibliography.
 
Watson C E Janet
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The bibliography was updated on 9th October 2018. If anyone has additions, please let me know.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Under the auspices of al-Khalil Center, Nizwa University, and the Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems at the University of Leeds, Janet Watson and Ali al-Mahri will be conducting a workshop on documentation methods in relation to Modern South Arabian and Arabic dialects. The workshop will be held at the Public Library Book House (Dar al-Kitab Library), Salalah between 26th and 30th August, 2018. It will include training in ethical research, metadata, the use of digital audio and audio-visual recorders, the transcription and annotation of audio and audio-visual files using ELAN, and archiving using the YARN platform developed by Simon Popple from the University of Leeds. The workshop is open to all Omani scholars. To register, please contact Dr Suleiman Salim Alhusseini, email: salhusseini@unizwa.edu.om.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Jack Wilson and Janet Watson will be presenting this lecture on 23rd May at 1pm to the University of Leeds Multimodality group. Venue: Parkinson SR (4.20)
The abstract is here:
The structure of co-speech gesture closely correlates with the syntactic organisation of a co-articulated spoken language. Studies have shown that the realisation of semantic features in speech is temporally aligned with gesture (Kita and Özyürek, 2003). For example, languages (e.g., see (1)) that include MANNER information in verbs tend to co-occur with gestures that conflate MANNER and PATH information. However, languages (see (2a.) and (2b.)) where MANNER information is realised as a separate phrase tend to co-occur with two gestures one depicting PATH and one depicting MANNER.
(1) He rolls down the hill.
(2)
a. Japanese [korogat-te] [saka-o kudaru] roll-Connective slope-Accusative descend:Present ‘‘(s/he) descends the slope, as (s/he) rolls.’’
b. Turkish [yuvarlan-arak] [cadde-den iniyor] roll-Connective street-Ablative descend:Present ‘‘(s/he) descends on the street, as (s/he) rolls.’’
This finding has been used as evidence for a model of language production where gesture interfaces speech production in a pre-linguistic and automatic fashion. Investigating gesture, therefore, can be used to explore the language-specific organisation of thought.
In previous work, we have shown that there is a correlation between syntactic constructions in Mehri and Śḥerɛ̄t (two modern South Arabian languages spoken in Oman) and the co-occurrence of certain gestures (Watson and Wilson, 2017). In this presentation we explore the use of gesture during narrative, rather than spatial descriptions, outlining the effect of metaphorical spatial language (e.g., “min Thaar” which literally translates as “from on top” but is used in narratives as “next”) on gesture production.
 
Watson C E Janet
added an update
Dear all,
Please find an update to the MSAL bibliography, with thanks to Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle and Marielle Risse for contributions. This is attached and also on the DEAMSA project website under Resource: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/arts/homepage/462/modern_south_arabian_languages.
Janet
 
Watson C E Janet
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Barry Heselwood and Janet Watson gave a presentation at the University of Leeds on 18th April entitled 'Silent sonorants in Mehri'. The abstract is attached below.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Over a few days in March, Miranda Morris, Janet Watson and Abdullah al-Mahri worked with Alice Rudge and Andrea Zarza Canova at the British Library on identifying the languages and content of T.M. Johnstone's unlabelled sound recordings. These included recordings of Mehri, Shehret, Harsusi, Soqotri and Hobyot. Miranda was also able to identify places and people in Johnstone's photographs, to the delight of the British Library team. Alice Rudge produced a blog and podcast about this work, under the title: T.M. Johnstone’s Modern South Arabian recordings: collaborative cataloguing and ‘footprints’ of biocultural change in Southern Arabia. The blog can be read here: http://blogs.bl.uk/sound-and-vision/index.html, and the podcast listened to here: https://soundcloud.com/the-british-library/linguistics-at-the-library-episode-7.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Barry Heselwood and Janet Watson presented a poster entitled Silent articulations in Mehri at the BAAP colloquium at the University of Kent in April 2018. They will also be presenting on Silent sonorants in Mehri at the University of Leeds on 18th April, 12-13.00, Baines Wing 2.10.
 
Watson C E Janet
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An update of the Modern South Arabian bibliography is being added to the project website, and can also be viewed here.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Janet Watson delivered the Carlos Landberg Lecture at Uppsala University on 27th March 2018 with Saeed al-Mahri, local researcher on the DEAMSA project. The lecture was entitled: Modern South Arabian: Threats and opportunities in language documentation and preservation. On 28th March, they gave a four-hour Mehri language workshop to interested staff and students.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Janet Watson will be presenting a paper at the Joint International Conference “Wild, Medical Plants, Islamic Knowledge and Botanical Preservation in Qatar and the Gulf: An Interdisciplinary Approach”, run by the Center for Humanities and Social Sciences (CAS, Qatar University) in conjunction with the Qur’anic Botanic Garden (Qatar Foundation), and held on 18th and 19th October 2017 at the Research Complex, Qatar University in Doha, Qatar.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Miranda Morris and Janet Watson will be presenting at the OmanSaM conference in Paris, 20-21 September 2017. Miranda will give a paper entitled: What is ‘poetry’ in the MSAL? Can it be a useful tool for studying the languages? Janet will give a paper on behalf of her, Barry Heselwood, Alex Bellem and Ali al-Mahri entitled: An instrumental phonetic analysis of MSAL: Mehri stops and the Śḥerɛ̄t s̃ - š contrast. The conference will feature presentations by members of the OmanSaM team plus Leonid Kogan, Maria Bulakh and Fabio Gasparini.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Janet Watson will be presenting a paper with @Barry Heselwood entitled 'Laryngeal features and contrasts in Mehri stops' on 20th September at the PLM 2017 in Poznan, Poland. This is part of the panel, 'Beyond VOT – searching for realism in laryngeal phonology' convened by G Schwartz and E Cyran. The abstract can be viewed at this link: http://wa.amu.edu.pl/plm/2017/files/abstracts/PLM2017_Abstract_Watson_Heselwood.pdf.
 
Watson C E Janet
added 4 research items
In this paper, we investigate the nature of 'emphasis' in the Mahriy ōt dialect of Mehri, spoken in eastern Yemen, since in this dialect the emphetics are not always realised as ejectives. We consider views of native speakers of an eastern Yemeni dialect of Mehri, examine the acoustic phonetics and phonological patterning of the emphatics in this dialect, and take a comparative look at aspects of the sound system of San'ani Arabic. We show that the realisation of the emphatics in this dialect as either ejective or pharyngealised-uvularised is dependent on position. Lastly, we consider the hypothesis that the phonetic correlates of emphasis in Mehri have been misinterpreted, and that this misinterpretation may have been due at least in part to a failure to recognise the phonological patterning of the emphatics in at least some dialects of Mehri.
There are three major dialect groups of Mehri: Western Yemeni Mehri (henceforth WYM); Mahriyōt, also known as eastern Yemeni Mehri; and Mehreyyet, also known as Omani Mehri. In this chapter, we argue that negation patterns in Mehri result from grammaticalisation of the anaphoric negator, 1 examine negation patterns in the dialects as reflecting stages in Jespersen's Cycle of negation, and consider the extent to which morpholexical and syntactic factors influence negation patterns.
Watson C E Janet
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Janet Watson and Alex Bellem presented a paper entitled 'Ssshhh! A new analysis of the Śḥerɛ̄t s̃ ~ š contrast' at the Seminar for Arabian Studies in London on 4th August. The abstract is below:
This paper presents a new analysis of Śḥerɛ̄t (AKA Jibbāli) s̃, grounded in an empirical study of original data. Contra previously published accounts of the Śḥerɛ̄t voiceless sibilants – which derive mainly from Johnstone (1981) – fieldwork conducted by Watson indicated that aspects of the little that the scholarly world knows and perpetuates about Śḥerɛ̄t s̃ were incorrect; to this end, we present a revised account of this consonant.
We contextualise by outlining the historical and contemporary correspondences of the MSAL sibilants. We then move on to a synchronic view of Śḥerɛ̄t s̃, a typologically unusual sound, traditionally recognised for Central Śḥerɛ̄t, but–with the exception of Dufour (2016)–claimed not to be present in Eastern Śḥerɛ̄t (e.g. Johnstone 1981, and works following this). We confirm that s̃ is indeed a feature of Eastern Śḥerɛ̄t (Bellem & Watson, in press). We then present evidence of how s̃ is actually realised by different speakers, with perceptual, visual, acoustic and articulatory (palatographic) evidence of the articulation of sibilants in Śḥerɛ̄t. It becomes clear that there is considerable interspeaker–and even some intraspeaker–variation, but that s̃ is not simply a rounded counterpart of š.
Selected references
Bellem, A. & J.C.E. Watson. In press. South Arabian sibilants and the Śḥerɛ̄t s̃ ~ š contrast. In A Festschrift for Michael Macdonald. Eds L. Nehmé & A. Al-Jallad. Leiden: Brill.
Dufour, J. 2016. Recherches sur le verbe subarabique modern. Habilitation. École pratiqe des hautes études.
Johnstone. T.J. 1981. Jibbāli Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Ali al-Mahri is currently at the University of Leeds as a Visiting Researcher. So far he has participated in the Endangered Languages and People Movement workshop, participated in a meeting of the Language and Nature research group, provided laryngographic data for Mehri and SherEt, and worked with Janet Watson on a comparative basic word list and on the pedagogical grammar of Mehri for publication with Harrassowitz. He also accompanied Janet Watson to the Oman Embassy for a meeting with the Cultural Attache, Musallam al-Amri, and with Kamela al-Barami.
 
Watson C E Janet
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Jack Wilson and I will be presenting a paper on gesture in Modern South Arabian at NACAL in Leiden on 9-11 June 2017.
Abstract below:
The expression of direction and orientation in two Modern South Arabian languages
J.J. Wilson and J.C.E. Watson
Until fairly recently most linguistic fieldwork relied on written records of spoken data or audio-only recordings. The recent increase in research focusing on audio-visual data, with emphasis on the co-expressiveness of speech and gesture, has led to a greater understanding of the relationship between language, gesture and thought. In this paper, we discuss gesture and what it illuminates linguistically in two Modern South Arabian Languages: Mehri and Śḥerɛ̄t. Gesture researchers have highlighted the close relationship between linguistic structure and gesture segmentation. For example, in English motion descriptions, the manner of movement can be realised as part of the meaning of the verb (e.g., She rolled down the hill) whereas in Turkish it is realised as a separate linguistic unit: yuvarlan-arak cadde-den iniyor (lit. ‘(s/he) descends on the street, as (s/he) rolls.’). English speakers are more likely to produce gestures that depict conflated manner and path, whereas Turkish speakers are more likely to produce separate gestures. Kita and Özyürek (2003) have used these findings to suggest that speech and gesture form an incredibly tight bond in the process of packaging information for speaking. In this paper, we argue that during descriptions relating to movement through space, Mehri and Śḥerɛ̄t speakers seem to separate orientation and direction both in speech and gesture: for example: ḳəfēdī məns əl-ḥaydiš ḥaymal (lit. ‘go down from it[direction], on your right hand[orientation]). In producing this utterance, the Mehri speaker produced two gestures. The first relating to the direction (‘down’), and the second relating to the orientation (‘on your right hand’). In a cognate expression in English, direction and orientation are expressed linguistically within the verb phrase: go down the right side of it, with accompanying gestures conflating direction and orientation.
 
Watson C E Janet
added a research item
This chapter examines the verbal systems of two Semitic languages spoken in Oman. According to Holes (2004), the Classical Arabic verbal system is primarily aspectual in nature, although in many modern Arabic dialects this has evolved into absolute tense systems. In many conservative Bedouin varieties of Arabic such as the Najdi dialect described by Ingham (1994), the aspectual system has largely been preserved. In this paper, we examine new data from two Semitic languages spoken in Oman: the Arabic dialect of the Šarqiyya region and the Modern South Arabian Language, Mehri. It is shown that while the verbal systems differ in some respects, both systems are adequately described as aspectual, with tense implications determined by either context or the use of tense particles
Watson C E Janet
added 2 research items
This paper explores conceptual and descriptive parallels between the Ancient Greek psi iota lambda alpha-delta alpha sigma epsilon alpha distinction as found in the Peripatetic text De Audibilibus, and the g. ahr-hams distinction in the medieval Arabic writings of Al-.alil (d. c. 786 A. D.) and Sibawayhi (d. c. 796 A. D.). In both cases there is a focus on the absence versus presence of audible breath, and a belief that audible breath is a cause of lack of clarity in speech. There is no historical evidence that the De Audibilibus was available to the Arab grammarians either directly or through Syriac sources, but the striking similarities suggest that ideas expressed in it did make their way into Arabic phonetic thinking. The fact that Sibawayhi applied the distinction to all the sounds of Arabic, and did not introduce a third term equivalent to the later Greek mu epsilon sigma alpha category found in the Techne Grammatike (2nd cent. B. C.) and in Jacob of Edessa's (c. 640-708 A. D.) Syriac grammar based on it, suggests that it was the psi iota lambda alpha-delta alpha sigma epsilon alpha distinction in its original form which influenced his division of Arabic sounds into the mag. hur and mahmus classes.
With the Islamic conquests, and in the centuries that followed, Arabic came into close contact with the original ancient non-Arabic languages of the Peninsula, leaving the language situation in the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula today as one in which dialects of Arabic exhibit, to a greater or lesser degree, linguistic features of ASA and the MSALs (cf. Holes 2006). In this paper, I compare phonological, morphological, lexical and syntactic data from a number of contemporary varieties spoken within historical Yemen – i.e. within the borders of current Yemen and up into southern ˁAsīr in Saudi Arabia – with (a) data from the ASA language, Sabaic; (b) what has been called ‘Ḥimyaritic’, as spoken during the early centuries of Islam; and (c) the MSALs, Mehri and Śḥerɛ̄t. These comparisons show a significant number of shared features. The density of shared features and the nature of sharing exhibited lead me to suggest, albeit tentatively, that some of these varieties may be continuations of South Arabian with Arabic overlay rather than Arabic with a South Arabian substratum.
Watson C E Janet
added 2 research items
Arabic was traditionally described as lughat al-da¯d 'the language of da¯d due to the perceived unusualness of the sound. From Si¯bawayhi's description, early Arabic da¯d was clearly a lateral or lateralized emphatic. Lateral fricatives are assumed to have formed part of the phoneme inventory of Proto-Semitic, and are attested in Modern South Arabian languages (MSAL) today. In Arabic, a lateral realization of da¯d continues to be attested in some recitations of the Qur'a¯n. For Arabic, the lateral da¯d described by Si¯bawayhi was believed to be confined to dialects spoken in Hadramawt. Recent fieldwork by Asiri and al-Azraqi, however, has identified lateral and lateralized emphatics in dialects of southern 'Asi¯r and the Saudi Tiha¯mah. These sounds differ across the varieties, both in their phonation (voicing) and manner of articulation - sonorants and voiced and voiceless fricatives - in their degree of laterality, and in their phonological behaviour: the lateralized da¯d in the southern Yemeni dialect of Ghaylhabba¯n, for example, has a non-lateralized allophone in the environment of /r/ or /1/. Recent phonetic work conducted by Watson on the Modern South Arabian language, Mehri, shows a similar range of cross-dialect variety in the realization of the lateral(ized) emphatic. In this paper, we discuss different reflexes of lateral(ized) emphatics in four dialects of the Saudi Tiha¯mah; we show that some of these dialects contrast cognates of ∗d and ∗d; and we show that lateral emphatics attested in dialects of the Modern South Arabian language, Mehri, spoken in areas considerably to the south of the Saudi Tiha¯mah, show a similar degree of variation to that of the Arabic dialects of the Saudi Tiha¯mah.
We present results of a comparative acoustic analysis of pre-pausal glottalisation in Ṣ an'āni, the Arabic dialect of the old city of Ṣ an'ā, and Mahriyōt, an eastern Yemeni dialect of the Modern South Arabian language Mehri. 1 Data are analysed from one speaker of each variety. In the obstruent series, both varieties maintain the three-way voiced – emphatic – voiceless contrast of Proto-Semitic. In Ṣ an'āni, sonorants and voiced and emphatic obstruents glottalise pre-pausally, while voiceless aspirated stops pre-aspirate, leading to neutralisation of the laryngeal contrast between voiced and emphatic obstruents. Our analyses of Ṣ an'āni demonstrate that while oral stops and vowels post-glottalise, other segments tend to pre-glottalise and are prone to lenition, particularly the (non-sibilant) coronals. In Mahriyōt, emphatic and voiced obstruents are glottalised pre-pausally, and voiceless aspirates are heavily post-aspirated. Sonorants and fricatives may be pre-glottalised, but, in contrast to Ṣ an'āni, no lenition is evident. Results also show that while the Mahriyōt velar emphatic is ejective in all positions, the other emphatics become ejective only pre-pausally.
Watson C E Janet
added 3 research items
In this paper I examine a selection of key phonetic, phonological, and morphological commonalities exhibited by Ancient South Arabian (ASA), Modern South Arabian (MSAL), and Arabic varieties spoken in western Yemen, south-western Saudi Arabia, and Oman, drawing relevant comparisons with Ethio-Semitic. This study shows a wide range of shared and overlapping features between the so-called southern Arabic varieties examined and the non-Arabic varieties, suggesting a need to realign the position of southern Arabic in the Semitic language family.
Watson C E Janet
added 4 research items
This chapter examines phonation categories and glottal states in the Modern South Arabian language, Mehri, as spoken in southern Oman and eastern Yemen with reference also to its sister language, Śḥerɛ̄ t, and in San'ani Arabic from an Emergent Features perspective (Mielke 2008). Within the paper, we consider the extent to which these language varieties may inform research on the phonological categories of the early Arabic grammarians. The innovation in this paper lies in addressing the relationship between phonological patterning, phonetics, and distinctive features. We present data to show that voiced and emphatic phonemes pattern together in these varieties in opposition to voiceless phonemes, leading us to postulate a phonological account in terms of two 'emergent' laryngeal features [open] and [closed], that draws on Morén's Parallel Structures model (2003).