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Although a number of researchers have focused on describing the unique linguistic features of various Omani dialects, relatively little attention has been paid to their cross-generational familiarity and use. The current study investigated this issue by exploring the abilities of 95 young (20 years or younger) Al-Hamra residents to provide the meanings and correct usage of 20 words identified as being characteristic of the traditional Al-Hamra dialect. Sixty-one elderly residents (60 years or older) were also asked to perform the same task for vocabulary representing the speech of younger residents. Results indicate a limited understanding of, and ability to use, words from the traditional Al-Hamra dialect among younger residents, with elderly respondents also struggling to understand vocabulary selected from the younger group’s speech. Findings suggest that, in addition to limited cross-generational understanding of the speech typifying younger and older groups in the region, younger people may be losing familiarity with the traditional Al-Hamra dialect. The paper discusses factors that may impact on the situation, and offers ways, such as encouraging wider use of the traditional Al-Hamra dialect in the community and creating lexical resources of dialectical words and phrases, of helping preserve this part of Oman’s unique cultural and linguistic landscape.
Keywords: Al-Hamra dialect, cross-generational change, dialect loss/shift, Oman, vocabulary recognition.
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