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Grant number like: FN-50029-07

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Bonnie G. Stalls
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA 90089-0012)

Dynamic Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages - Fellowships
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2007 – 11/30/2008

Razihi Grammar, Lexicon, Texts, and Recordings

The language to be documented is spoken by the inhabitants of Jabal Razih, a remote mountainous tribal area of northwest Yemen. Linguistic data collected by Stalls and Shelagh Weir in 1979 revealed the language, called Razihi, to be unusual in that, though similar to Arabic, it is largely incomprehensible to surrounding Arabic speakers and has significant non-Arabic features, some of which have recently been found to be relics from extinct South Arabian languages. In 1979 natural barriers to outside contact were just beginning to give way as new roads were built and electricity was introduced. Many speakers prior to that time were monolingual and seldom traveled far. With modernization the influence of Arabic and other languages is pervasive. In 2005-2006 a team including Stalls, Weir and others investigated the unusual features of Razihi. It is proposed to process the linguistic data already collected, making the results available in book form and on CD-ROM. The tasks are to write a reference grammar; edit and expand an existing 371-page preliminary glossary; provide annotations, translations and linguistic commentary for oral texts and handwritten documents spanning 400 years; and digitize and annotate about 15 hours of audio tapes and place them in a data repository. Razihi is in danger of losing the distinctive grammatical and lexical features which attest to its origins among early Semitic dialects and form part of the inheritance of the people of the region. The study will provide key linguistic information for a hitherto unknown region. (Edited by staff)