The Mehri Center for Research and Studies was officially launched on October 2nd, 2017 in al-Ghaidhah. It was first conceived by a group of Mehri speakers in eastern Yemen in 2016. This event was the first occasion for people from outside the Centre’s committee to learn about plans for the Centre. 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 poems, and examples of material culture.
The significance of the Center 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 I am aware, it is the first centre in the Arabian Peninsula to focus on a non-Arabic indigenous language. The Mehri language community needs to be congratulated on initiating a research centre in Yemen at a time of extreme political and social unrest.
As a result of the launch, a number of individual donors from Yemen pledged funds to support the running of the Center and, we hope, provision of a building to house the Center. We are particularly grateful to ELDP for providing funding to train some of our 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 October 12th when a few representatives of the Center will be trained by Janet Watson 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.
–Saeed al-Qumairi, Director of the Mehri Center for Research and Studies & Janet Watson
To learn more about the launch of the centre, you can view this interview on YouTube of Janet Watson discussing with a Yemeni television programme.
Blog post by Janet Watson