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Activities in 2005-2006

Grammar and classification of ASA languages

The publication in 2004 of the volume CSAI I-III (Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions I-III: Qatabanic, Marginal Qatabanic, Awsanite Inscriptions) is the result of many years of study and scientific work made by Alessandra Avanzini and Giovanni Mazzini.
While the publication of this volume represents a noteworthy achievement, the study of the texts does not obviously stop here.
At present, attention is being focused on single aspects of Qatabanic; many articles have been written on its verb system (Avanzini 2003, 2004, 2005) and on other morphological, grammatical and lexical features (Mazzini 2003, 2005).
The aim of these studies is to examine the features of the Qatabanic language, first of all in how they relate in other languages of south Arabia, in particular Sabaic, of which grammatical studies already exist (from Beeston’s grammar to the latest work by Stein).
As stated by Alessandra Avanzini during the Rencontres Sabéennes in St. Petersburg, the south Arabian languages form a linguistic family in which, besides several common isoglosses, there are others only found in one language.
The comparative studies carried on in these last years, in particular the study of the verb system, allow to suppose, at the basis of that, a linguistic stratum common to all ASA languages from which particular features have been selected to become the “distinctive” part of the system of each language.
The “sabaezation” of south Arabian, for a long time claimed by scholars as the reason for the common traits, is now seen as a secondary phenomenon.
The aim of these comparisons is also to paint a more coherent picture of the south Arabian language as a whole, in order to better define its position among Semitic languages. On the one hand several data seem to confirm a connection of south Arabian with the second millennium north-western Semitic. On the other hand, also by virtues of these data, a reconsideration of the southern branch of Semitic, in particular the relation between Ancient and Modern south Arabian, becomes indispensable.