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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Beja, the language of the Beja people on the western shore of the Red Sea (southwestern Arab Republic of Egypt), northeastern Sudan, and northwestern Ethiopia. It belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Semitic-Hamitic family. About 1 million people speak Bedauye (1967). The dialects of Bedauye—Bisharin, Hadendowa, Amarar (Beni-Amer), Halenga, and others—are closely related. Their phonetics is typical of Cushitic languages: they have labialized (kw and gw), glottalized (k and others), and pre-glottalized (cerebral d) consonants. The ancient internal inflection, in addition to suffixes and prefixes, is used in the formation of words and forms. Masculine and feminine gender, singular and plural number, and ancient cases are distinguished in the naming words. There are postpositions (signifying locative, dative, and so on) that are joined to the genitive case. The prepositional article is declined according to gender, number, and case. Most verbs retain the ancient prefix-suffix conjugation; some have a new suffixal conjugation (analytical constructions). Forms of complete and incomplete action are distinguished. The causative, passive, and reflexive are expressed by ancient conjugational prefixes or suffixes. The word order places the predicate at the end of the sentence and the object before it. The lexicon retains many general Cushitic and Semitic-Hamitic roots.


Almkvist, H. Die Bischari-Sprache Tū-Bedāwie in Nordost Afrika, vols. 1–3. Uppsala, 1881–85.
Reinisch, L. Wörterbuch der Bedauye-Sprache. Vienna, 1895.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Illiteracy is very high and the Beja language is completely suppressed.