Launch of the Mehri Center for Research and Studies
The Center was officially launched on 02 October 2017 in al-Ghaydhah, Yemen.
This event was the first occasion for people from outside the Center’s committee to learn about plans for the Center. Over 100 people from Yemen and Oman attended the launch. The event included several examples of the performance of the Mehri language and its culture, such as folklore and different types of poems, and examples of material culture.
Professor Janet Watson in Mehri, provided a talk. Professor Janet advised al Mehri speakers to talk to their children in Mehri, to write to each other in Mehri, and to preserve their language from extinction. The recorded talk was disseminated after the launch event to several groups via WhatsApp within Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
As a result of the launch, a number of individual donors from Yemen and Oman pledged around $36,000 to support the running of the Center and, we hope this will enable us to source a building to house the Center.The Centre is particularly grateful to the ELDP for providing funding to train some of its members in language documentation and annotation, and for providing funds to purchase audio and audio-visual recording equipment. The first training event will take place in Salalah from 12th October when a few representatives of the Center will be trained by Janet and trained Omani language consultants in using digital recording equipment, ethical research, labelling files, use of metadata sheets, uploading of sound and video files to Dropbox, and annotation, transcription and translation using Elan.
On 04 October, Janet was interviewed by phone on the Yemeni television programme 50 Minutes (50 دقيقة), in her capacity as international secretary of the MCRS. During the interview, she discussed the significance of the Center, and the aspirations of the MCRS committee for the preservation and documentation of the Mehri language. Her interview is summarised below.
The significance of the MCRS lies in the fact that this is the first centre to deal with any of the Modern South Arabian languages. It is the first research centre to be established in Yemen by community member speakers of the language, and, as far as we are aware, it is the first centre in the Arabian Peninsula to be established by an indigenous language community in order to focus on a non-Arabic indigenous language. We hope that the MCRS will encourage Yemeni speakers of Mehri to document their language and to produce their own research on Mehri. The Mehri language community needs to be congratulated on initiating a research centre in Yemen at a time of extreme political and social unrest.