The other day I came across an article about the Kumzari language and people. It reports that:

Iran’s threat of closing Straits of Hormuz, advent of TV, Internet to tiny village located on northernmost tip of Oman’s Musandam peninsula threaten survival of thousand year-old Kumzari language.

It describes Kumzari as:

the ancient Kumzari language, a mix of Indo-European languages and Arabic, remarkable in that it is the only non-Semitic language spoken on the Arabian peninsula in the past 1,400 years.

I thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about this ‘ancient’ language – the use of the terms like ‘ancient’ and ‘thousand-year-old’ when talking about a language are common in reports of this nature. In linguistic terms it is fairly meaningless to give a language a specific age as languages don’t have specific start dates. Instead they are constantly changing and evolving and it’s very difficult to say when a particular language came into existence. What you can say is when a language was first written down, or at least when evidence of writing first appeared.

According to Wikipedia, Kumzari (کمزاری‎) is a Western Iranian language spoken by about 10,000 people in northern Oman. It is closely related to the Minabi dialect of southern Balochstan and is thought to be mutually intelligible with Luri, which is spoken in parts of Iran. So there are some other people out there who can potentially understand Kumzari, even though the artile claims that, “no one else on earth understands” it.

It is the only Iranian language spoken in the Arabian Peninsula and most of its vocabulary is Iranian, with also a lot of Arabic loanwords – so it’s possible to see how it might be described as ‘a mix of Indo-European languages and Arabic’.

I find that when reading articles like this it’s best to check their statements and claims, and not to take them at face value. The information on Wikipedia isn’t always completely reliable either, but sometimes it’s the only source. Inspite of this, it’s always interesting to find out about a language that I didn’t know about. If I can find more information, I’ll put together a page about it.

[Addendum] There is now a page about Kumzari on Omniglot.

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