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(ămhâr`ĭk), language of Ethiopia belonging to the South Ethiopic group of South Semitic languages, which, in turn, belong to the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languagesAfroasiatic languages
, formerly Hamito-Semitic languages
, family of languages spoken by more than 250 million people in N Africa; much of the Sahara; parts of E, central, and W Africa; and W Asia (especially the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and
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). The official tongue of Ethiopia since the 14th cent., Amharic is spoken by about 20 million people in that country. Amharic employs a modification of the Ethiopic script (see EthiopicEthiopic
, extinct language of Ethiopia belonging to the North Ethiopic group of the South Semitic (or Ethiopic) languages, which, in turn, belong to the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languages).
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). The earliest extant texts in Amharic go back to the 14th cent. Amharic has been considerably influenced in its grammar and vocabulary by the nearby Cushitic tongues.


See W. Leslau, Amharic Textbook (1968); C. A. Ferguson, The Ethiopian Language Area (1971); W. Leslau, Concise Amharic Dictionary (1980).



language of the Amhara people. Amharic is spoken, according to approximate calculations, by 6 million to 11 million inhabitants of Ethiopia. It is also commonly spoken among several nationalities of adjacent countries (in the Somali Democratic Republic and in eastern regions of the Sudan).

Amharic developed from a dialect similar to the Geez language, and both of them (as well as the Tigrinya and Tigre languages) belong to the southwestern branch of Semitic languages, although they exhibit several differences and have been extensively influenced by the Cushitic languages. The phonetic system of the Amharic language is characterized by the presence of one pharyngeal h and a laryngeal stop (’). There exist glottalized consonants k, and t and the affricates c and č, corresponding to the pharynegealized (emphatic) consonants in the Semitic languages of Asia. Semitic features retained include genders and word building on the basis of the triliteral root, interrupted affixes, and flection of the root, but word formation by adding suffixes is most common. The word order in the sentence is typical of Cushitic languages: the attribute (including the subordinate clause) precedes the constituent modified, and the predicate stands at the end of the phrase. The beginnings of Amharic literature date back to the 14th and 15th centuries (inscriptions of war songs, historic events, and so on). Amharic began to develop as a literary language starting with the late 19th century and especially in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Prior to the 17th century, Ethiopian literature developed using the ancient Ethiopic language Geez. Literature using the Ethiopic syllabic script differs from the latter in the set of symbols used and also in the absence of the traditional separation of words by two dots.


Iushmanov, N. V. Amkharskii iazyk. Moscow, 1959.
Cohen, M. Traité de la langue amharique (Abyssinie). Paris, 1936.
Iazykovaia situatsiia v stranakh Azii i Afriki. Moscow, 1967. Pages 122–129.



the official language of Ethiopia, belonging to the SE Semitic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family
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