in Omani Mehri

When I started working on Mehri, in late 2006, there was almost no one else working in the field of Modern South Arabian languages. My only contact was with Antoine Lonnet, who first got me interested in the subject. But since then, and especially in the last five years, there has been what seems like an explosion of new publications on Mehri and the other MSA languages. First came the edition of Alexander Sima’s Mehri texts from Yemen (2009), then my grammar of Mehri (2010), the Mehri grammar of Janet Watson (2012), the Hobyot dictionary by Nakano (2013), my Jibbali grammar and text collection (2014), and the edition of Soqoṭri texts by Naumkin et al. (2015). In the last five or so years, three teams of outstanding scholars—from France, Russia, and the UK—have conducted fieldwork in Yemen and Oman. From these teams have come, in addition to some of the abovementioned books, numerous groundbreaking articles, and masses of data yet to be published.

My 2010 grammar was based almost exclusively on three related sources: the texts collected by T.M. Johnstone as published by Harry Stroomer (1999), the audio of these texts recorded by Johnstone, and Johnstone’s Mehri Lexicon. I knew when I published that grammar that the texts and the lexicon were imperfect sources, but I felt (and still feel) that the 2010 grammar was a good beginning. And I am elated that it has been useful to other scholars in the field. But after its publication, when I obtained copies of the original manuscripts of Johnstone’s texts, I realized just how many problems there actually were with the existing published texts. Add to this the truly excellent advances in Mehri phonology and morphology made by other scholars in recent years, and I realized that there was a definite need for both a re-edition of Johnstone’s texts and a thorough revision of my grammar.

For this new volume, I have completely re-edited the texts collected by T.M. Johnstone, relying primarily on the Arabic-letter manuscripts written by native speaker Ali Musallam, and on the audio recorded by Ali Musallam. Harry Stroomer did a wonderful service by publishing Johnstone’s transcriptions of these texts, but those transcriptions were only preliminary. Only now that we have a far better understanding of the phonology and morphology of Mehri are we able to fully understand the texts and transcribe them correctly. And with these corrected texts come many new interpretations of grammatical features. The present edition of the texts has benefitted greatly from those recent advances made by my colleagues in the field, in particular those of Sabrina Bendjaballah, Julien Dufour, Philippe Ségéral, and Janet Watson.

Omani Mehri

A New Grammar with Texts