Modern South Arabian languages
|Modern South Arabian|
The Modern South Arabian (Eastern South Semitic or Eastern South Arabian) languages are spoken mainly by small populations inhabiting the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen and Oman. Together with the modern Ethiopian Semitic languages, they form the South Semitic sub-branch of the Afro-Asiatic family's Semitic branch.
In his glottochronology-based classification, Alexander Militarev presents the Modern South Arabian languages as a South Semitic branch opposed to a North Semitic branch that includes all the other Semitic languages. They are no longer considered to be descendants of the Old South Arabian language, as was once thought.
Additionally, Militarev identified a Cushitic substratum in Modern South Arabian, which he proposes is evidence that Cushitic speakers originally inhabited the Arabian Peninsula alongside Semitic speakers (Militarev 1984, 18-19; cf. also Belova 2003). According to Václav Blažek, this suggests that Semites assimilated their original Cushitic neighbours to the south who did not later emigrate to the Horn of Africa. He argues that the Levant would thus have been the Proto-Afro-Asiatic Urheimat, from where the various branches of the Afro-Asiatic family subsequently dispersed. To further support this, Blažek cites analysis of rock art in Central Arabia by Anati (1968, 180-84), which notes a connection between the shield-carrying "oval-headed" people depicted on the cave paintings and the Arabian Cushites from the Old Testament, who were similarly described as carrying specific shields.
- Mehri: the largest Modern South Arabian languages, with more than 70,000 speakers in Yemen. Of these, more than 50,000 live in Oman, and about 15,000 are situated farther afield in Kuwait due to emigration. The population total for all countries is 135,764 (SIL 2000). The Muslim ethnic group itself is called Mahra.
- Soqotri: another relatively numerous example, with speakers on the island of Socotra isolated from the pressures of Arabic on the Yemeni mainland. According to the 1990 census in Yemen, the number of speakers there was 57,000 (including, perhaps, Soqotris living on the mainland). The population total for all countries (including work emigrants) is estimated at 64,000.
- Shehri: (frequently called Jibbali or "mountain" language), with an estimated 25,000 speakers, is best known as the language of the rebels during the rebellion in Oman's Dhofar province along its border with Yemen in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Bathari: 200 speakers est.
- Harsusi: 1,000–2,000 speakers est., in Oman.
- Hobyót: 100 speakers est., in Oman.
- Militarev, Alexander, "Once more about glottochronology and the comparative method: the Omotic-Afrasian case". Moscow, Russian State University for the Humanities. http://starling.rinet.ru/Texts/fleming.pdf
- Blažek, Václav. "Afroasiatic Migrations: Linguistic Evidence". Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- Ethnologue entry for South Arabian languages
- The Modern South Arabian Languages, by M.C.Simeone-Senelle