Agau Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Agau Languages


Cushitic languages of northern Ethiopia: Awiya, Damot, Kemant, Qwara, Kayla, Xamir, Xamta, and Bilen. Before the Semitic migrations from southern Arabia in the middle of the first millennium B.C., almost all of present-day northern Ethiopia spoke the Agau languages. Small islands of Agau-speaking populations have been preserved in areas where the Amharic and Tigre languages are now distributed. The sound system is typical of Cushitic languages; most of the languages have a glottalized k, a pharyngeal ‘ (similar to the Arabic ’ayn), and the labialized gw, kw, and w. Tones are evidenced. The means of inflection and word formation are suffixation, prefixation, reduplication (for example, in the Bilen language käs means “shoulder, “and käsəs the plural “shoulders”), and internal flection. Nouns have two genders, two numbers, and suffixal cases. The verb has types (causative, passive, and so on), moods, and two or three tenses. Dependent verbal forms are used extensively. Conjugation is by suffixation (from analytical constructions). The Xamta and Awiya languages preserve remnants of an old prefixal conjugation.


Reinisch, L. Die Bilin-Sprache, vols. 1–2. Vienna, 1883–87.
Conti-Rossini, La langue des Kemant en Abyssinie. Vienna, 1912.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.