Old South Arabic

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Old South Arabic


the Semitic language of the peoples who inhabited the southern and southwestern parts of the Arabian Peninsula, represented by inscriptions dating from the first millennium B.C. and from the first to the sixth centuries A.D.

Old South Arabic was the ancestor of the modern South Arabic languages and dialects (Mahri, Shahri, Harsusi, and Buthari in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen and southern Oman; Socotri and Kuria Muria on the islands of Socotra and Kuria Muria in the Arabian Sea) and the Ethiopic languages (Geez, Amharic, etc.), which developed in connection with the migration of the South Arabian Semites to Africa. Old South Arabic and the modern South Arabic and Ethiopic languages form a special subgroup of the Semitic language group. The chief dialects of Old South Arabic are Sabaean, Minaean (Main), Qataban (Qataba), and Hadramaut. The phonetics, morphology, and vocabulary of Old South Arabic are typically Semitic. The inscriptions in Old South Arabic were written in a special South Arabic consonantal script related to the Tamudiyya and Safwiyya scripts in Arabia and having a common origin in the Canaanite (Phoenician) and Ugaritic writing systems.


Bauer, G. M.Iazyk iuzhnoaraviiskoi pis’mennosti. Moscow, 1965.
Beeston, A. F. L.A Descriptive Grammar ofEpigraphic South Arabian. London, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.