Old South Arabian, or Himyaritic, was the language of people living in the S Arabian Peninsula in ancient times. It had several known dialects, and is considered by some linguists to be closely related to the Ethiopic of Ethiopia. Old South Arabian had its own alphabet, the origin of which is still not clear, although it is generally thought to have had the same source as the North Semitic writing. Surviving inscriptions in Old South Arabian date from the 8th cent. B.C. or earlier. The coming of Islam in the 7th cent. A.D. brought with it North Arabic, which displaced Old South Arabian. Modern South Arabian, which has several dialects, is spoken by about 50,000 people in the S Arabian Peninsula. Its ancestor is may be Old South Arabian, although not all linguists agree.
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