Need to study and document linguistic heritage

Muscat, April 30 – There is a need to study and document ancient Omani language and the Omani Arabic dialects as they are the linguistic heritage of the nation. Many South Arabian inscriptions found in Oman are of great importance as they constitute a fundamental reference in Omani history and their study allows the tracing of the development of the Semitic language since its first birth said a specialist in historical studies speaking at the seminar conducted by the Omani Cultural Heritage Strategic Research Programme of the Research Council (TRC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Heritage and Culture held at the Sultan Qaboos Centre for Culture and Science on Monday.
Prof Dr Asmahan al Garoo, specialist in historical studies — Oman across Ages Museum spoke on the ‘Omani Writing and the Origin of the Semitic Consonantal Alphabet’.
The historical studies specialists recommend that the inscriptions constitute a cultural heritage and a basic source of Omani history and accordingly a comprehensive survey of all inscriptions in all parts of the Sultanate should be documented and studied.
“Protecting and maintaining this writing is a great national responsibility. The ancient Arabic dialects such as Jabbali, Mahriya and the dialect of the Shahouh can be beneficial in tracing the origin and development of the Arabic language,” she said. According to her, local dialects represent a diversity of Ancient Arabic worthy of study as language or dialect is the basis of every civilised heritage of any nation.
Archaeological excavations and personal discoveries in the country have revealed a large number of ancient Omani scriptures (inscriptions) scattered throughout the various regions of the Sultanate of Oman from Dhofar to Musandam pointed out Dr Asmahan.
“Most of these inscriptions have been published without study. The Italian-French expedition in 1993, at the Ras al Jinz site in the centre of Sultanate, on the coast of the Arabian Sea, discovered some letters of this writing which appeared engraved on two small stamps of steatite stones dating from 2200 BC. This writing of Semitic aspect would be the oldest of the Arabian Peninsula. These new archaeological data confirm that Omanis have experienced ancient Arabic writing since the end of the third millennium BC especially since this alphabet is repeated in the inscriptions discovered throughout sultanate of Oman,” explained Dr Asmahan.
So are there any challenges the language in Oman faces today?
“Cultural globalization represents the most important challenge to Oman’s cultural heritage,” she replied. When asked why the South Arabian script went out of use, she said that the South Arabian script went out of use since the fourth century AD because modern Arabic replaced it. On whether the Arabic language would continue to evolve she said, “It is known that language is a living organism, constantly evolving with the development of society. The Arabic language lexicon has collected hundreds of foreign words throughout history: Persian, Turkish and Hindi. Thus, this fact helps the Arabic language to collect more and more words from the other cultures.”
The seminar titled ‘Spoken languages and Dialects in Oman’ shed light on the importance of the Omani linguistic heritage and its components and demonstrated the benefits of studying this heritage in addition to exploring the best ways to document it and utilize it economically.
The workshop involved participation of local academicians, experts and enthusiasts from the various government, private, civil society institutions and other segments of the community.