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Harsuusi, the language of the Harasiis, is one of six south Arabian (or Himyaritic) languages which predate Arabic. The other languages are Mahri, Batahari, Socotri, Jebbali, and Shehri.

Some of these languages have been studied extensively for decades by Dr T.M. Johnstone and Dr Miranda Morris. Harsuusi has only briefly been the subject of linguistic observation. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dr Johnstone made several research visits of several weeks duration to the Jiddat and wrote Harsusi Lexicon and English-Harsusi Index (1977, Oxford; Oxford University Press).

Harsuusi is an endangered language primarily because it is spoken by less than 10,000 people worldwide; it appears on the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. In the 1970s Dr Johnstone predicted that Haruusi as a language would fast disappear and be replaced by Arabic in the near future. He based this predication on the fact that Arabic words were being adopted freely and in many cases the original Harsuusi words were being lost. Also he felt that the fact that most Harasiis men were comfortably bi-lingual in Arabic and Harsuusi was another nail in the coffin. However on a visit several years after making this prediction, he was surprised to find a number of new words and forms in Harsuusi, contrary to his expectations. I myself was surprised at the ease with which new words were adopted by the Harasiis in the 1980s and 1990s. Terms to describe phenomena or objects related to the newly adopted motor vehicle such to keys [switches], tires, barrels, and cups, as well as a number of terms to describe the different effect of driving over rocks, sand, and poorly surfaced graded roads quickly surfaced in Harsuusi.

It is undoubtedly the case that the language is endangered. However the fact that most Harasiis children are taught Harsuusi at home before entering the Arabic speaking school system means that the language is not yet on the UNESCO vulnerable or critically endangered list. Where there is concern among the Harasiis as to the longevity of their language is among the small group of Harasiis who have taken up residence in the United Arab Emirates in one of two special settlements created by the ruler of Abu Dhabi on the Emirati- Saudi border and include individuals from numerous, largely Arabic-speaking tribes in the region who have left their original homelands to come to these settlements. Here, Harsuusi is a minority language, and Harasiis children in this environment are not hearing Harsuusi outside the home, if at all.