The Modern South Arabian languages are spoken by small language communities in present day Yemen and Oman, including the Socotra Archipelago. Linguists categorize six languages as members of this family — Mehri, Soqotri, Shehri (also known as Jibbali, lit. of the mountains), Bathari, Harsusi, and Hobyót. The most spoken of these, Mehri, is spoken by about 165,000 people in border regions between Oman and Yemen. In contrast, Hobyót has an estimated 100 speakers in its community. Varieties of Arabic are dominant in the educational, legal, and political systems of these regions, which puts pressure on smaller language communities.
Activist Said Baquir is working to preserve the Modern South Arabian languages through the dissemination of cultural materials in the languages themselves. Coming from a family where his father's language is Hobyót and his mother’s is Shehri, Said was raised multilingual. Based in Salalah, the capital of Oman’s Dhofar Governorate which emcompasses most of southwestern Oman, his project draws from the culture of that region. Said’s project is centered around the production of multimodal e-books on Beauty in Dhofar that will be distributed via various local community WhatsApp groups. One will be on Beautification of Women and will be available in both Shehri and Hobyót versions. The second will be about the Beauty of the Camel, and will be written in the Mehri and Harsusi languages. These materials will act as a resource for the younger generation of Modern South Arabian speakers and will encourage linguistic and cultural learning. By connecting culture to its language, Said aims to raise awareness of the importance of the Modern South Arabian languages and history among the younger and future generations.
Said's BackgroundSince 2013 Said has worked on the documentation and ethnolinguistic analysis of the Modern South Arabian languages in the Modern South Arabia Project, part of the Center for Endangered Languages, Cultures, and Ecosystems at the University of Leeds. He is fluent in both of his ancestral languages, Hobyot and Jabali. Previously, he attended the University of Technology and Applied Sciences in Salalah where he received a degree in marketing.