The Locative Form in Rijal Alma

Author Information

Michael Hadzantonis,
SOAS, University of London, U.K.

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.3-4
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022


The remote region of Rijal Alma in Southwestern Saudi Arabia, very near to the Yemeni border, and between the city of Abha and the Red Sea, had, until recently, avoided significant contact with the outside, owing to the physical impossibility of reaching the region from the outside. As such, the residents of the villages throughout Rijal Alma, who very rarely were able to interact with populations from other regions, could retain language forms that had existed and developed reclusively for over close to two millennia. With the advent of new technologies in the latter part of the twentieth century, human, cultural, and language contact with the region was becoming possible, thus exposing the goings on internal to Rijal Alma, and reflexively providing locals to the region with new perspectives on the patterns that have existed in the local variety and language for several millennia, that is, prior to language contact.

The presentation focuses on the locative form of language in Rijal Alma, as one specific to the region. This locative form omits the use of shifters (Silverstein) and replaces these with geographical and body objects, such as tree, door arch, my neck, and the names of people, when providing directions, or in the use of imperatives for movement.

The ethnography of Rijal Alma, documenting language, cultural processes, and power dynamics, spanned approximately three years, during which, I resided in the region, and interacted with a number of informants, families, agrarian workers, and so forth. Such an agrarian lifestyle is still ingrained in the general lifeworlds of inhabitants of Rijal Alma, and in which they take much pride. In addition to this, many proverbs and idioms occur in their cultural systems.

The data over three years comprises a strong corpus of language not documented prior, and describes processes between members in their social and cultural interactions, in the general daily sociopolitics, and in their simple interactions, such as locatives, which I presented in this paper.

Keywords: Linguistic anthropology, Rijal Alma, the locative form, shifters, language contact


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