Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Jabbali, an endangered language in Oman: is it worth a look before it’s gone?

The fact that the Jabbali language in the south of Oman is in danger of extinction cannot be denied. The younger generation do not have the same mastery of the language as their parents, who have even less command of it compared to their own parents. The UNESCO website lists Jabbali (which has a different spelling variation, ‘Jibbali’) as a 'severely endangered' language; and only about 5000 speakers are left.

I’m not sure what is being done about the situation of Jabbali, but it certainly needs a more serious stand and a stronger push. If the critical situation of Jabbali continues to be ignored and overlooked, the language will actually extinct. Some might argue that language change is unavoidable in situations where there is another language dominating a society (in this case Arabic), however while this might be true, it does not mean that an endangered language should be left to die without documenting and recording it.

Jabbali, just like any language is a treasure on its own. It gives you insights to the culture of its speakers, how they think and see things, how they do things and how they live their lives in general. It is a culture on its own and losing it would be a real cultural loss in Oman. The Jabbalis for instance, have a wide plant vocabulary due to their wide use of these products of nature in their daily lives. This suggests that they have a wide knowledge of herbal healing or medicating by plants. Documenting the language can save this knowledge which can lead to the development of plant science or botany.

Let’s make the most of Jabbali while it struggles to survive.


  1. Hi Omani Linguist
    Thanks a lot for showing the importance of the languages in Oman, and especially the Jabbali.
    I doing a degree about it and I will really appreciate if you have any information to share.
    thank you again
    Salalah, Oman

  2. Hello Muati,

    Thank you for passing by and leaving a comment. Indeed more attention is needed for Jabbali and certainly other endangered languages in Oman. It's sad that we're losing them, they are treasures. But it's optimistic to see that someone is doing a degree on it, this is great! That language fascinates me. I'm not sure what exactly are you working on though to be able to help. I haven't worked on Jabbali as a focus of my studies before to be honest, but I'm very interested in it and in endangered languages in general. What kind of things are you working on? A more grammatical focus?

    Thank you once again for your comment
    Linguistics Oman

  3. Hallo! I'm an Italian girl living in Oman, in Muscat. I studied arabic in Italy and from the beginning of my study at University I was very interested in Semitic Philology. I studied a little of aramaic and nabatean language. I would like to study now some omani dialect. could you suggest me some book? If there is some books... I'm interested in dialect in particular i would like to find information about semitic dialects and sudarabic languages.
    Could you help me? my email is
    Thank you

  4. Hello Beatrice,

    Thank you for passing by and leaving a comment. Your language background and choices are both interesting indeed! I'll get back to you as soon as possible insha'Allah.

    Linguistics Oman

  5. Hello, I have a few questions about the endangered languages in Oman. Do you know of any speakers of these rare languages or know a researcher in this field. I have a final paper about these languages and am interested in knowing more.
    email me at

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