|Native to||Yemen, Oman|
|Native speakers||136,000 (2000)|
Mehri or Mahri is a Modern South Arabian language, a branch of the greater Semitic language family, and is spoken by minority populations in isolated areas of the eastern part of Yemen and western Oman. It is a remnant of the ancient indigenous language group spoken in the southern Arabian Peninsula before the spread of Arabic along with the Muslim religion in the 7th century CE. It is also spoken today in Kuwait by guest workers originally from these areas.
Given the dominance of the Arabic language in the region over the past 1,400 years and the high bilingualism with Arabic among Mehri speakers, Mehri is at some risk of extinction. It is primarily a spoken language with little existing in print and almost no literacy in the written form among native speakers.
According to the Ethnologue, Mehri had 71,000 speakers in Yemen, 51,000 in Oman and 14,400 in Kuwait reported in 2000. These figures are probably a high estimate. Mehri speakers are known in the region as the Mahra tribe.
Unlike other South Arabian languages, in Mehri the 'emphatic' consonants are not simply ejectives, but may also be pharyngealized as in Arabic. It is possible therefore that Mehri attests to a transition from proto-Semitic ejective consonants to the pharyngealized emphatics found in many of the Semitic languages of Asia. The consonant inventory is as follows:
|Stops||Voiced||b ~ pʼ||d ~ tʼ||dʒ ~ tʃʼ||(ɡ)|
|Emphatic||tˁ ~ tʼ||kʼ|
|Fricatives||Voiced||ð||z||ʁ ~ q||ʕ|
|Emphatic||θ̬ˁ ~ θʼ||s̬ˁ ~ sʼ||ʃ̬ˁ ~ ʃʼ|
|Emphatic||ɬ̬ˁ ~ ɬ̠ʼ|
Voiced obstruents, or at least voiced stops, devoice in pausa. In this position, both the voiced and emphatic stops are ejective, losing the three-way contrast (/kʼ/ is ejective in all positions). Elsewhere, the emphatic and (optionally) the voiced stops are pharyngealized. Emphatic (but not voiced) fricatives have a similar pattern, and in non-pre-pausal position they are partially voiced.
The difference in place of the laterals is not clear. It may be that the approximant is denti-alveolar, like the alveolar occlusives, and the lateral fricatives apical, or it may be that the latter are palato-alveolar / alveolo-palatal. These fricatives are typically transcribed ś etc.
/ɡ/ is only found in Arabic loans. It is not clear if the rhotic is a trill or a tap.
See also 
Rubin, Aaron. 2010. The Mehri Language of Oman. Leiden: Brill.
- Examples of Mehri poetry from Hadramut forum
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