An Exploratory Analysis of a Small Corpus of Spoken Omani Arabic

Videos, audio files, texts and scripts used to produce and analyse a small corpus of spoken Arabic in the dialect of Oman

Transcript of an excerpt from Qālū Ḥāl as-Saʿūdiyyīn ʾiḏā Daḫaltū Bahlāʾ ʾaw Nizwā Iqraʾū at-Taʿwīḏa—Aš-Šayḫ Sālim an-Nuʿmānī12. The speaker is originally from Birkāʾ3 in al-Bāṭina4. Informant B said of his language that “it is typical for a real Omani” of his age. An interesting feature of the text is the speaker’s quick code switching5 between casual and more formal registers as a device of storytelling.

A Saudi-Arabian delegation came to us a while ago6 . Es besuchte uns (kam zu uns) eine saudi-textbfbische Delegation vor langer Zeit. جانا وفد سعودي من زمان.
They [the delegation] said, “Hey brother! When they told us: “you’ll go to Oman”, … Er sagte, hey Bruder! قال يا أخي! إحنا يوم قالوا لنا بتروحوا عمان!
… erm, our families told us: “recite upon”, uhm, “your souls [an] invocation!”” Sagten-sie für-uns wir-rezitieren über/auf/für … ähm … Seelen-pl.-eure der-Schutzzauber. آه، قالوا لنا أهلنا: إقروا على، آم، أرواحكم التعويذة!
We said, fine! Especially if you went [to] Bahlā and not [to] Nizwa. Sagten-wir gut und besonders wenn gingt-ihr Bahla und-nicht (“oder”!) Nizwa. قلنا خير، وخاصة إذا رحتوا بهلا ولا نزوى.
I don’t know why they didn’t7 say ar-Rustāq, why not? Nicht weiß-ich-er (?) zurückging-er sagte-er/sie-es (?) ar-Rustaq und nicht nicht (“warum nicht”)? ما أعرف عاد قالوا الرستاق ولا لا؟
I asked them, why? Since I was with them. Fragte-ich-sie-pl. Warum? Denn-ich war-ich mit-ihnen. قلت لهم ليش؟ مـ، أنا كنت معهم.
And we were sitting, praise be to God, in Tnūf, the whole delegation, and we had, well, how do you say, a truckload of rice [in front of us], alright? Und waren-wir sitzend-pl. … gepriesen [sei] Gott (Interj.) … in Tnuf alle [zusammen] die-Delegation. Und war bei-uns, er bedeutet (“ich meine”) wie-heißt-er? [ein] Schlag Reis-pl., okay? وكنا جالسين سبحان الله في تنوف كل الوفد، وكان عندنا، يعني، شو اسمه، ضرب عيوش، نزين؟
Well, [these] are poor lads, tense and all that… Denn-sie [sind] arm dran und hilflos und so. فهم مساكين، مرتبكين وكذا.
They said to us, oh brother[s]! [So] I asked them, what is with you? [And] they said, brother, our families told us to recite invocations for our lives [in the] morning[s] [and in the] evening[s], especially if we’d go to Bahlā. Sagten-sie für-uns: Oh Bruder! Sagte-ich ihm: was [ist] in-euch (mit euch)? آه، قلنا يا أخي! قلت له، أيش فيكم؟ قال8 يا أخي، أهلنا قالوا لنا اقرؤوا على عماركم التعويذة صباح مساء خاصة إذا رحتوا بهلا.
I told them: now you are between Nizwa and Bahlā. Sagte-ich-ihnen jetzt ihr [seid] zwischen Nizwa und zwischen Bahla. قلت لهم، تو نتوه بين نزوى وبين بهلا.
They said: there is no deity except for [the one] God9 ! It was said, don’t fear a thing, you’ll be alright. Sagten-sie [es gibt] keine Gottheit außer [dem einen] Gott, er-war sagt-ihnen: nicht befürchtet-ihr [ein] Ding, eure-Befehle [sind] gut. قال لا إله إلا الله، كان يقول ما بيصيبكم شي، أموركم طيبة.
You’ll be alright, I tell them, if only God be willing, here you’ll be protected today. Eure-Befehle [sind] gut, ich-sage-euch, so Gott will. Nur, ihr seid heute sicher (Immun? Geschützt?) أموركم طيبة، أقولهم، إن شاء الله، بس نتو، آه، هنا محصنين اليوم.
And I told them some stories, which were told (which I heard of). [So] I joke with them… Ich-führte-durch [lobende]-Erwähnung-für-sie nach den Gesprächen, welche erzählt wurden … ich-[habe]-gescherzt mit-ihnen. وتميت أذكر لهم بعض الحكايات التي تروى، أمزح معهم.
Wonders one [guy]: can you take me to Saudi-Arabia? Sagte-er oh-Bruder, was eine Schande! Du kannst mich [nach] Saudi-Arabien bringen. قال، يا أخ، عجب واحد، تقدر توديني السعودية؟
I told him, yes, but let me ask you: how many women do you have? Ich-sagte-ihm, ja, aber [lass] mich dich fragen, wie viele [Ehe]frauen hast-du? قلت له أيوة، لكن بسألك، كم حرمة عندك؟
He said: two. [So] I said: well, I can’t take you twice, I take [only] take you once! Sagte-er: zwei, sagte-ich-ihm [zahlreich?] [machen?] ich-wünsche-dir zwei-Mal, ich-wünsche-dir ein-Mal. قال، ثنتين. قلت له، عجب ما أقدر أَودّيك مرتين أودّيك مرة واحدة.
Since, if I brought you one time [only], does that [not] anger your second wife? Und wenn ich-dich-brächte ein Mal, störte-das [nicht] deine zweite Frau? فلو وديتك مرة واحدة، بتزعل حرمتك الثانية!
He said: well, it’s better for us to come to terms. [To which] I [just] replied “okay”. Sagte-er: Schande, [es ist] besser [wenn] wir uns einigen. Ich-sagte-ihm: gut. قال، عجب أحسن نتسامح. قلت له طيب.
So he forewent the answer. Und er verzichtete auf eine Antwort. فتخلص من الجواب.

Brockett, A. A. 1985. The Spoken Arabic of Khābūra on the Bāṭina of Oman. Journal of Semitic Studies 7. Manchester: University of Manchester.

Lane, Edward W. 1863. An Arabic-English Lexicon. Derived from the Best and the Most Copious Eastern Sources. Comprising a Very Large Collection of Words and Significations Omitted in the Kámoos, with Supplements to Its Abridged and Defective Explanations, Ample Grammatical and Critical Comments, and Examples in Prose and Verse. Vols. 1-8. London; Edinburgh: Williams; Norgate.

Mazraani, Nathalie. 2009. “Political Discourse and Language.” Edited by Kees Versteegh. Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Leiden: Brill.

Wehr, Hans. 1985. Arabisches Wörterbuch Für Die Schriftsprache Der Gegenwart. 5th ed. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

  1. Speaker N.


  3. A well-known fact among students of Sultan Qaboos University, where informants studied and of which N. serves as Imam.

  4. Only a few kilometers’ distance from Ḫābūra, where the work of took place.

  5. “Code switching is a recognition of linguistic reality and the complex relationship between different codes or registers. It relies on the meaningful juxtaposition of what speakers must consciously or subconsciously process as strings formed according to the internal rules of two distinct grammatical systems situated at each end of a continuum.” (Mazraani 2009, 3.664)

  6. Another solution to this sentence would be that the speaker himself was part of a delegation to Saudi-Arabia. The lack of li (e.g. ǧāʾa lanā) might be in support of this. This variant was not chosen as it would defeat the context which follows.

  7. Although ʿād is known as a verb only in Wehr (1985), it has more uses in Gulf Arabic (as it did in CA, cf. Lane (1863)) and is deemed difficult to translate by , who discusses it in depth (Brockett 1985, 25–30).

  8. After qāl[a], there may be another word, which could be an unexplainable ḥinn or perhaps hum (albeit too much of an aspirated sound is present for that to be likely). In any case, if it is not an artifact then it might at most be a pronoun used to reinforce the information of who was meant by the phrase-initial verb’s conjugation form.

  9. The Islamic confession of faith, as well as other religious formulas, are often used in place of expletives. As the speaker is an Islamic scholar and the delegation can, given the content of the story, be assumed to have been quite devout as well, this is a normal and expected exclamation.