|25,000 (1993 census)|
Shehri – frequently called Jibbali ("mountain" language) in Omani Arabic – is a Modern South Arabian language spoken by a minority native population in the coastal towns and in the mountains and wilderness areas upland from Salalah in Dhofar Province in the southwest of the Oman.
Shehri is sometimes confused as a dialect of Arabic even by Omani Arabs. In fact, the Modern South Arabian languages belong to their own branch of the West Semitic languages. (The group known as "South Semitic" is a geographic term, and not part of the historical classification used by most Semitists today.)
It had an estimated 25,000 speakers in the 1993 census and is best known as the language of the Dhofari rebels during the Dhofar Rebellion along the country’s border with Marxist South Yemen in the 1970s.
Alternative names/spellings for the language are: Jibbali, Geblet, Sheret, Šehri, Šhauri, Shahari, Jibali, Ehkili, Qarawi, and Garawi.
Shehri is spoken along a dialect continuum that includes Western Jibbali, Central Jibbali, and Eastern Jibbali. The dialect used by the few inhabitants of Al-Hallaniyah in the Khuriya Muriya Islands is sometimes known as 'Baby' Jibbali.
Like most Modern South Arabian dialect speakers in Oman and Yemen, many Shehri speakers are bilingual in local dialects of Arabic, especially the Dhofari dialect. In addition, it is primarily a spoken language, and there is no tradition of writing or publishing in the language. All this has implications for the long-term survival of the language, although currently Jibbali pride and has contributed to a strengthening of speakers’ attachment to their minority language.
The population of Oman is highly tribalized socially, whether Jibbali or Arab, and Shehri speakers, too, are divided into(also called Ehkeló, Ahkló), and non-Arabs such as Shahra (Sheró, Shahara), Barahama, Bait Ash-Shaik, and Batahira.
(Ref. SIL Ethnologue online)
Rubin, Aaron D. 2014. The Jibbali Language of Oman: Grammar and Texts. Brill Publishers (Leiden).
- ELAR archive of Shehri language documentation materials