Ethiopic Languages

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ethiopic Languages


one of the names for the Semitic languages of Ethiopia, which, along with the South Arabic languages, make up the Southern Peripheral group of the Semitic branch of the Hamito-Semitic languages.

The most recent classification of the Ethiopic languages is that of the American scholar R. Hetzron; it is not, however, universally accepted in its entirety. Hetzron divides the Ethiopic languages into the North Ethiopic languages—Ethiopie (Geez), Tigrinya, and Tigre—and the South Ethiopic languages, which comprise two branches: Outer and Transversal South Ethiopic.

The Outer South Ethiopic languages consist of an n-group and a tt-group. The n-group comprises Gafat and Northern Gurage, a language cluster made up of Soddo and Gogot. The tt-group comprises Muher and Western Gurage, which in turn comprises Masquan and two dialect clusters: Central Western Gurage (Chaha, Gumer, Ezha, and Gura) and Peripheral Western Gurage (Ennemor, Gyeto, Endegen, and Ener). The Transversal South Ethiopic languages are Amharic, Argobba, Harari, and the dialect cluster East Gurage (Selti, Wolane, Ennaqor, and Zway).

In I. M. D’iakonov’s classification, Ethiopic (Geez) is assigned to the Middle Stage, and the rest of the Ethiopic languages to the New Stage, in the development of the Hamito-Semitic languages. The New Stage is characterized by a fundamental change in the grammatical structure and phonetic system common to all the Semitic languages, which occurred under the influence of the distantly related Cushitic languages, nearly all of which are also spoken in Ethiopia.


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