Ethiopic Languages

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.


D’iakonov, I. M. Semito-khamitskie iazyki. Moscow, 1965.
Starinin, V. P. Efiopskii iazyk. Moscow, 1967.
Titov, E. G. Sovremennyi amkharskii iazyk. Moscow, 1971.
Ullendorff, E. The Semitic Languages of Ethiopia. London, 1955.
Leslau, W. Etude descriptive et comparative du Gafat (Ethiopien méridional). Paris, 1956.
Leslau, W. Ethiopians Speak: Studies in Cultural Background, vols. 1–3. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1965–68.
Leslau, W. “Ethiopic and South Arabian.” In Current Trends in Linguistics, vol. 6: Linguistics in Southwest Asia and North Africa. The Hague–Paris, 1970.
Tucker, A. N., and M. A. Bryan. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of Northeastern Africa. London-Oxford, 1966.
Hetzron, R. Ethiopian Semitic: Studies in Classification. Manchester, 1972.
IV Congresso Internazionale di Studi Ethiopici (Roma, 1972). Rome, 1974.
Language in Ethiopia. London-Oxford, 1976.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In his PhD dissertation at the University of Addis Ababa, Mazengia contrasts how nominals are derived from verbs and clauses, and how clauses are employed as nominals in three Ethiopic languages. The languages are the Semitic Tigrinya, the Cushitic Oromo, and Amharic, a Semitic language that is considered to have undergone significant Cushitic influence and thus is often assumed to be structurally intermediate between the Semitic and Cushitic language families.
Despite this underlying uniformity there is much variation among the chapters, as evidenced, for example, by the ranges in the chapter lengths: among the ancient languages, Aramaic is covered in seventeen pages and [Ge.sup.subset]ez in nineteen, while the Hebrew chapter has twenty-nine pages and the Arabic has thirty-three; among the modern languages, Tigre has only thirteen pages, versus twenty-nine for Amharic (and Argobba), and the Outer South Ethiopic languages receive only fifteen pages, versus forty-four for the Neo-Aramaic languages, forty-six for the Modem South Arabian, and forty-nine for the modern Arabic.
The name Wolf Leslau is synonymous with the study of Modem South Arabic and the Ethiopic languages. His numerous works, dating from 1933 until today, attest to an indefatigable and consummate skill in research and publication over some sixty years.