1/1/2020-30/06/2024: ALMAS, Ancient and Modern Languages of South Arabia - A cross-disciplinary approach
to a linguistic area, ANR AAPCE27

Partner institutions:

ALMAS is an international and interdisciplinary consortium aiming at renewing the study of the living and extinct languages of South Arabia (Oman, southwestern Saudi Arabia, Yemen):

  • A set of four Ancient South Arabian languages, now extinct: Sabaic, Qatabanic, Minaic, Hadramitic. They are mostly attested through written documentation from Yemen. Some unclassified and undeciphered languages and scripts will be studied, which have generally been studied by epigraphists.
  • A group of six living Modern South Arabian languages with no written tradition, all endangered: Mehri, Harsusi, Bathari, Hobyot, Jibbali, Soqotri. They are spoken in the southern Omani province of Dhofar, the eastern Yemeni province of Mahra and the Yemeni island of Soqotra.
  • A rich array of highly diversified and archaic Arabic vernaculars spoken throughout the region.

The novelty of ALMAS lies in the interdisciplinary synergy it creates:

  • by cross-fertilizing synchronic and diachronic approaches to the abovementioned languages.
  • by stimulating contacts between researchers from three different domains (epigraphists, general linguists and specialists of Arabic).
  • by developing complementarity between linguists from different schools and approaches. This kind of collaboration proved its efficiency in the course of the ANR project OmanSaM (ANR-13-BSH2-0001) where phonologists, syntactictians, phoneticians and Semitists shared a common fieldwork with beneficial impact for each discipline.

ALMAS will set a landmark in the domain by:

  • documenting the languages through fieldwork and create an open-access database, thus contributing to the protection and preservation of the world’s cultural heritage.
  • analyzing the data in order to reach an adequate understanding of the languages’ structures.
  • reevaluating the relationships between the languages (phylogenetic relatedness and/or language contact).