Lexical Resemblance among Modern South Arabian Languages in Oman

Said Al Jahdhami


Modern South Arabian (MSA) languages make one central group of three distinct language groups that comprise minority languages in Oman. Contrary to their counterparts spoken in the north of Oman, MSA languages are spoken in the southern part of the country with some spoken in neighboring Yemen. Due to both geographical and linguistic proximity among these languages, they are often viewed even by some of their speakers as dialects of one another rather than languages of their own. Accordingly, the improper term 'dialects' is often used to refer to these languages in reference to other languages within the group. Chiefly based on common lexical items, this view, however, is unsubstantiated on research basis. This paper, hence, is an attempt to vindicate such view by measuring the extent of lexical resemblance among these languages using the Swadesh's one hundred word list as its framework. To this effect, speakers were asked to report word recognition of lexical items under investigation as well as mutual intelligibility to sentences in which recognized lexical items were used. Findings show that although there is a huge lexical resemblance among these languages exhibited by the fact that speakers could recognize numerous words from these languages, native speakers reported minimal mutual intelligibility to these languages.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v11i1.14433

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