An interesting article by Mansur Mirovalev:
Socotri is the most archaic and isolated of several archaic and isolated tongues spoken in Yemen and Oman known as “modern South Arabian languages”. Its vocabulary is immensely rich – for example, there are distinct verbs for “to go” according to the time of the day, or for “to give birth” depending on the animal involved.
Socotri’s roots are close to the oldest written Semitic tongues that died out thousands of years ago – and it has grammatical features that no longer exist in Arabic, Hebrew or Aramaic. The study of Socotri helps understand the deep, prehistoric past – and the subsequent evolution – of all Semitic tongues.
“This is a very archaic linguistic and literary system that in many ways, I think, has preserved what we, the scholars, are used to perceive as the Biblical world or the ancient Arabic world,” Leonid Kogan, professor of Semitic languages at Moscow’s Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, told Al Jazeera.
“All of it is very much alive on today’s Socotra.”
Then how is it that Socotri’s first alphabet was invented five millennia after the cuneiform tablets in Akkadian – the first written Semitic tongue – and it happened some 5,000km north of Socotra, in Russia’s Moscow?
Fascinating stuff, and it ends on an upbeat note:
Socotrans do adopt political, technical, and religious terms from Arabic, but their language stands strong.
“What we are able to see now is a rather harmonious synthesis, and there are good chances that Socotra and Socotris find their appropriate place in a broad Arab and Islamic context without getting rid of most of their – to be sure, highly esteemed and cherished – traditional values,” said Kogan.
I don’t think I’d ever heard of Socotri, and I certainly had no idea of the background described here.