Semitic languages

Semitic languages

Infobox Language family
region=Middle East, North Africa, Northeast Africa and Malta
child1=East Semitic (extinct)
child2=West Semitic
child3=South Semitic

The Semitic languages are a language family whose living representatives are spoken by more than 467 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. They constitute a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. They are the only branch of Afro-Asiatic to be spoken not only in Africa but also in Asia.

The most widely spoken Semitic language today is Arabic [Including all varieties.] (322 million native speakers), [ [ Ethnologue report for language code:arb ] ] ( 422 million total speakers) [Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People= MSN Encarta [] ] . It is followed by Amharic (27 million), [1994 Ethiopian census] [ [ Amharic alphabet, pronunciation and language ] ] Tigrinya (about 6.7 million), [In 2005, Ethnologue estimated a total of 4.45 million Tigrinya speakers ranging over all countries; 3.2 million in Ethiopia, 1.2 million in Eritrea, 10,000 Beta Israels in Israel (the remaining 15,000 are unaccounted for). [] The Tigrinya ethnic group, almost entirely Tigrinya speakingFact|date=March 2007, is estimated at 3.3 million by Ethnologue, whereas other estimates indicate 4.3 million in Ethiopia ( [ CSA 2005 National Statistics] , Table B.3.), 2.4 million in Eritrea (July 2006). [] ] and Hebrew (about 5 million).wikicite|id=GOR|reference=Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: (Hebrew->Population total all countries, [] )]

Semitic languages are attested in written form from a very early date, with texts in Eblaite and Akkadian appearing from around the middle of the third millennium BC, written in a script adapted from Sumerian cuneiform. The other scripts used to write Semitic languages are alphabetic. Among them are the Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, South Arabian, and Ge'ez alphabets. Maltese is the only Semitic language to be written in the Latin alphabet. It is also the only official Semitic language within the European Union.

The term "Semitic" for these languages, after Shem, the son of Noah in the Bible, is etymologically a misnomer in some ways (see Semitic), but is nonetheless in standard use.



The Semitic family is a member of the larger Afro-Asiatic family, all the other five or more branches of which are based in Africa. Largely for this reason, the ancestors of Proto-Semitic speakers are now widely believed to have first arrived in the Middle East from Africa, possibly as part of the operation of the Saharan pump, around the late Neolithic. [ [ The Origins of Afroasiatic - Ehret et al. 306 (5702): 1680c - Science ] ] [] Diakonoff sees Semitic originating between the Nile Delta and Palestine as the northernmost branch of Afro-Asiatic. Blench even wonders whether the highly divergent Gurage indicate an origin in Ethiopia (with the rest of Ethiopic Semitic a later back migration). However, an opposing theory is that Afro-Asiatic originated in the Middle East, and that Semitic is the only branch to have stayed put; this view is supported by apparent Sumerian and Caucasian loanwords in the African branches of Afro-Asiatic. [Hayward 2000;]

In any event, Proto-Semitic itself is assumed to have reached the Arabian Peninsula by approximately the 4th millennium BC(E), from which Semitic daughter languages continued to spread outwards. When written records began in the mid 3rd millennium BC(E), the Semitic-speaking Akkadians and Amorites were entering Mesopotamia from the deserts to the west, and were probably already present in places such as Ebla in Syria.

2nd millennium BC(E)

By the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC(E), East Semitic languages dominated in Mesopotamia, while West Semitic languages were probably spoken from Syria to Yemen, although Old South Arabian is considered by most to be South Semitic and data are sparse. Akkadian had become the dominant literary language of the Fertile Crescent, using the cuneiform script they adapted from the Sumerians, while the sparsely attested Eblaite disappeared with the city, and Amorite is attested only from proper names.

For the 2nd millennium, somewhat more data are available, thanks to the spread of an invention first used to capture the sounds of Semitic languages — the alphabet. Proto-Canaanite texts from around 1500 BC(E) yield the first undisputed attestations of a West Semitic language (although earlier testimonies are possibly preserved in Middle Bronze Age alphabets), followed by the much more extensive Ugaritic tablets of northern Syria from around 1300 BC(E). Incursions of nomadic Aramaeans from the Syrian desert begin around this time. Akkadian continued to flourish, splitting into Babylonian and Assyrian dialects.

1st millennium BC(E)

In the 1st millennium BC(E), the alphabet spread much further, giving us a picture not just of Canaanite but also of Aramaic, Old South Arabian, and early Ge'ez. During this period, the case system, once vigorous in Ugaritic, seems to have started decaying in Northwest Semitic. Phoenician colonies spread their Canaanite language throughout much of the Mediterranean, while its close relative Hebrew became the vehicle of a religious literature, the Torah and Tanakh, that would have global ramifications. However, as an ironic result of the Assyrian Empire's conquests, Aramaic became the "lingua franca" of the Fertile Crescent, gradually pushing Akkadian, Hebrew, Phoenician, and several other languages to extinction (although Hebrew remained in use as a liturgical language), and developing a substantial literature. Meanwhile, Ge'ez texts beginning in this era give the first direct record of Ethiopian Semitic languages.

Common Era / A.D.

Syriac, a descendent of Aramaic used in the northern Levant and Mesopotamia, rose to importance as a literary language of early Christianity in the 3rd to 5th centuries and continued into the early Islamic era.

With the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, the ascent of Aramaic was dealt a fatal blow by the Arab conquests, which made another Semitic language — Arabic — the official language of an empire stretching from Spain to Central Asia.

With the patronage of the caliphs and the prestige of its liturgical status, it rapidly became one of the world's main literary languages. Its spread among the masses took much longer; however, as native populations outside the Arabian Peninsula gradually abandoned their mother tongues for Arabic and as Bedouin tribes settled in conquered areas, it became the main language of not only central Arabia, but also Yemen, [Nebes, Norbert, "Epigraphic South Arabian," in von Uhlig, Siegbert, "Encyclopaedia Aethiopica" (Wiesbaden:Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), pps.335.] the Fertile Crescent, and Egypt. Most of the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) followed, particularly in the wake of the Banu Hilal's incursion in the 11th century, and Arabic became the native language even of many inhabitants of Spain. After the collapse of the Nubian kingdom of Dongola in the 14th century, Arabic began to spread south of Egypt; soon after, the Beni Hassan brought Arabization to Mauritania.

Meanwhile, Semitic languages were diversifying in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where, under heavy Cushitic influence, they split into a number of languages, including Amharic and Tigrinya. With the expansion of Ethiopia under the Solomonic dynasty, Amharic, previously a minor local language, spread throughout much of the country, replacing languages both Semitic (such as Gafat) and non-Semitic (such as Weyto), and replacing Ge'ez as the principal literary language (though Ge'ez remains the liturgical language for Christians in the region); this spread continues to this day, with Qimant set to disappear in another generation.

Present situation

Arabic is spoken natively by majorities from Mauritania to Oman, and from Iraq to the Sudan. As the language of the Qur'an and as a "lingua franca", it is widely studied in much of the non-Arabic-speaking Muslim world as well. Its spoken form is divided into a number of dialects, some not mutually comprehensible, united by a single written form. Maltese, genetically a descendant of the extinct Siculo-Arabic dialect, is the principal exception, having adopted a Latin orthography in accordance with its cultural situation and the influence of Romance vocabulary and grammar over the language's history.

Despite the ascendancy of Arabic in the Middle East, other Semitic languages are still to be found there. Hebrew, long extinct as a colloquial language and in use only in Jewish literary, intellectual, and liturgical activity, was revived at the end of the 19th century by the Jewish linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, and has become the main language of Israel, while remaining the language of liturgy and religious scholarship of Jews worldwide.

Several small ethnic groups, especially the Assyrians, continue to speak Aramaic dialects (especially Neo-Aramaic, descended from Syriac) in the mountains of northern Iraq, eastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, and northeast Syria, while Syriac itself, a descendant of Old Aramaic, is used liturgically by Syrian and Iraqi Christians.

In Arabic-dominated Yemen and Oman, on the southern rim of the Arabian Peninsula, a few tribes continue to speak Modern South Arabian languages such as Mahri and Soqotri, very different both from the surrounding Arabic and from the (presumably related) languages of the Old South Arabian inscriptions.

Historically linked to the peninsular homeland of the South Arabian languages, Ethiopia and Eritrea contain a substantial number of Semitic languages, of which Amharic and Tigrinya in Ethiopia, and Tigre and Tigrinya in Eritrea, are the most widely spoken. Both Amharic and Tigrinya are official languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea, respectively, while Tigre, spoken in the northern Eritrean and central lowlands, as well as parts of eastern Sudan, has over one million speakers. A number of Gurage languages are to be found in the mountainous center-south of Ethiopia, while Harari is restricted to the city of Harar. Ge'ez remains the liturgical language for Christians in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


The Semitic languages share a number of grammatical features, although variation has naturally occurred - even within the same language as it evolved through time, such as Arabic from the 6th century AD to the present.

Word order

The reconstructed default word order in Proto-Semitic is Verb Subject Object (VSO), possessed–possessor (NG), and noun–adjective (NA). In Classical and Modern Standard Arabic, this is still the dominant order: "ra'ā muħammadun farīdan." (lit. saw Muhammad Farid, "Muhammad saw Farid"). However, VSO has given way in most modern Semitic languages to typologically more common orders (e.g. SVO); in many modern Arabic dialects, for example, the classical order VSO has given way to SVO, and the same happened in Hebrew and Maltese (due to Europeanisation). Modern Ethiopian Semitic languages are SOV, possessor–possessed, and adjective–noun, probably due to Cushitic influence; however, the oldest attested Ethiopian Semitic language, Ge'ez, was VSO, possessed–possessor, and noun–adjective [] .

Cases in nouns and adjectives

The proto-Semitic three-case system (nominative, accusative and genitive) with differing vowel endings (-u, -a -i); fully preserved in Qur'anic Arabic (see i`rab), Akkadian, and Ugaritic; has disappeared everywhere in the many colloquial forms of Semitic languages, although Modern Standard Arabic maintains such case endings in literary and broadcasting contexts. An accusative ending -n is preserved in Ethiopian Semitic. [cite journal | first=Sabatino | last=Moscati | year=1958 | title=On Semitic Case-Endings | journal=Journal of Near Eastern Studies | volume=17 | issue=2 | pages=142–43 | doi=10.1086/371454 "In the historically attested Semitic languages, the endings of the singular noun-flexions survive, as is well known, only partially: in Akkadian and Arabic and Ugaritic and, limited to the accusative, in Ethiopic.] Additionally, Semitic nouns and adjectives had a category of state, the indefinite state being expressed by nunation.

Number in nouns

Semitic languages originally had three grammatical numbers: singular, dual, and plural. The dual continues to be used in contemporary dialects of Arabic, as in the name for the nation of Bahrain ("baħr" "sea" + "-ayn" "two"), and sporadically in Hebrew ("šana" means "one year", "šnatayim" means "two years", and "šanim" means "years"), and in Maltese ("sena" means "one year", "sentejn" means "two years", and "snin" means "years"). The curious phenomenon of broken plurals - e.g. in Arabic, "sadd" "one dam" vs. "sudūd" "dams" - found most profusely in the languages of Arabia and Ethiopia, and still common in Maltese, may be partly of proto-Semitic origin, and partly elaborated from simpler origins.

Verb aspect and tense

The aspect systems of West and East Semitic differ substantially; Akkadian preserves a number of features generally attributed to Afro-Asiatic, such as gemination indicating the imperfect, while a stative form, still maintained in Akkadian, became a new perfect in West Semitic. Proto-West Semitic maintained two main verb aspects: perfect for completed action (with pronominal suffixes) and imperfect for uncompleted action (with pronominal prefixes and suffixes). In the extreme case of Neo-Aramaic, however, even the verb conjugations have been entirely reworked under Iranian influence.

Morphology: triliteral roots

All Semitic languages exhibit a unique pattern of stems consisting typically of "triliteral", or 3-consonant consonantal roots (2- and 4-consonant roots also exist), from which nouns, adjectives, and verbs are formed in various ways: e.g. by inserting vowels, doubling consonants, and/or adding prefixes, suffixes, or infixes.

For instance, the root k-t-b, (dealing with "writing" generally) yields in Arabic:

:"kataba" كتب "he wrote" (masculine):"katabat" كتبت "she wrote" (feminine):"kutiba" كتب "it was written" (masculine):"kutibat" كتبت "it was written" (feminine):"kitāb- " كتاب "book" (dash - here shows end of stem before various case endings):"kutub- " كتب "books" (plural):"kutayyib- " كتيب "booklet" (diminutive):"kitābat- " كتابة "writing":"kātib- " كاتب "writer" (masculine):"kātibat- " كاتبة "writer" (feminine):"kātibūn(a) " كاتبون "writers" (masculine):"kātibāt- " كاتبات "writers" (feminine):"kuttāb- " كتاب "writers" (broken plural):"katabat- " كتبة "writers" (broken plural):"maktab- " مكتب "desk" or "office":"maktabat- " مكتبة "library" or "bookshop":"maktūb- " مكتوب "written" (participle) or "postal letter" (noun)

and the same root in Hebrew (where it appears as k-t-Unicode|ḇ):

:"kataUnicode|vti" כתבתי "I wrote":"kataUnicode|vta" כתבת "you ("m") wrote":"kataUnicode|v" כתב "he wrote" or "reporter" ("m"):"katteUnicode|vet" כתבת "reporter" ("f"):"kattaUnicode|va" כתבה "article" (plural "katavot" כתבות):"miUnicode|ḵtaUnicode|ḇ" מכתב "postal letter" (plural "miUnicode|ḵtaUnicode|ḇim" מכתבים):"miUnicode|ḵtaUnicode|ḇa" מכתבה "writing desk" (plural "miUnicode|ḵtaUnicode|ḇot" מכתבות):"ktoUnicode|ḇet" כתובת "address" (plural "ktoUnicode|ḇot" כתובות):"ktaUnicode|ḇ" כתב "handwriting":"katuUnicode|ḇ" כתוב "written" ("f" "ktuUnicode|ḇa" כתובה):"hiUnicode|ḵtiUnicode|ḇ" הכתיב "he dictated" ("f" "hiUnicode|ḵ

tiUnicode|ḇa" הכתיבה):"hitkatteUnicode|ḇ" התכתב "he corresponded ("f" "hitkatUnicode|ḇa" התכתבה):"niUnicode|ḵtaUnicode|ḇ" נכתב "it was written" ("m"):"niUnicode|ḵteUnicode|ḇa""' נכתבה "it was written" ("f"):"ktiUnicode|ḇ" כתיב "spelling" ("m"):"taUnicode|ḵtiUnicode|ḇ" תכתיב "prescript" ("m"):"meUnicode|ḵuttaUnicode|ḇ" מכותב "a person on one's mailing list" ("meUnicode|ḵutteUnicode|ḇet" מכותבת "f"):"ktubba" כתובה "ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract)" ("f") (note: b here, not Unicode|ḇ)

In Maltese, the consonantal roots are referred as the "mamma" of each word, which can be determined by reference to the masculine past tense of the applicable verb. In the case of the verb "to write", the masculine past tense would be "kiteb" (k-t-b), so that the following nouns and verbs can be formed, using the same "mamma" always in the same order, but inserting different vowels and, occasionally additional consonants:

:"jiena ktibt" "I wrote":"inti ktibt" "you wrote" ("m" or "f"):"huwa kiteb" "he wrote":"hija kitbet" "she wrote":"aħna ktibna" "we wrote":"intkom ktibtu" "you ("pl") wrote":"huma kitbu" "they wrote":"huwa miktub" "it is written":"kittieb" "writer":"kittieba" "writers":"ktieb" "book":"kotba" "books"

In Tigrinya and Amharic, this root survives only in the noun "kitab", meaning "amulet", and the verb "to vaccinate". Ethiopic-derived languages use a completely different root (Unicode|ṣ-Unicode|ḥ-f) for the verb "to write" (this root exists in Arabic and is used to form words with close meaning to "writing", such as ṣaḥāfa "journalism", and ṣaḥīfa "newspaper" or "parchment").

Verbs in other non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic languages show similar radical patterns, but more usually with biconsonantal roots; e.g. Kabyle "afeg" means "fly!", while "affug" means "flight", and "yufeg" means "he flew" (compare with Hebrew "uf", "te'ufah" and "af").

Common vocabulary

: "Main article: List of Proto-Semitic stems."

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Due to the Semitic languages' common origin, they share many words and roots in common. For example:

Sometimes certain roots differ in meaning from one Semitic language to another. For example, the root "Unicode|b-y-ḍ" in Arabic has the meaning of "white" as well as "egg", whereas in Hebrew it only means "egg". The root "Unicode|l-b-n" means "milk" in Arabic, but the color "white" in Hebrew. The root "Unicode|l-ḥ-m" means "meat" in Arabic, but "bread" in Hebrew and "cow" in Ethiosemitic languages; the original meaning was most probably "food". The word "medina" (root: m-d-n) has the meaning of "city" in Arabic, and "metropolis" in Amharic, but in Modern Hebrew it means "state".

Of course, there is sometimes no relation between the roots. For example, "knowledge" is represented in Hebrew by the root "Unicode|y-d-ʿ" but in Arabic by the roots "Unicode|ʿ-r-f" and "Unicode|ʿ-l-m" and in Ethiosemitic by the root "Unicode|ʿ-w-q" and "Unicode|f-l-ṭ".


The classification given below, based on shared innovations - established by Robert Hetzron in 1976 with later emendations by John Huehnergard and Rodgers as summarized in Hetzron 1997 - is the most widely accepted today, but is still disputed. In particular, several Semiticists still argue for the traditional view of Arabic as part of South Semitic, and a few (e.g. Alexander Militarev or the German-Egyptian professor Arafa Hussein Mustafa [ [ ] ] ) see the South Arabian languages as a third branch of Semitic alongside East and West Semitic, rather than as a subgroup of South Semitic. Roger Blench notes that the Gurage languages are highly divergent and wonders whether they might not be a primary branch, reflecting an origin of Afro-Asiatic in or near Ethiopia. At a lower level, there is still no general agreement on where to draw the line between "languages" and "dialects" - an issue particularly relevant in Arabic, Aramaic, and Gurage below - and the strong mutual influences between Arabic dialects render a genetic subclassification of them particularly difficult.

The traditional grouping of the Semitic languages (prior to the 1970s), based partly on non-linguistic data, differs in several respects; in particular, Arabic was put in South Semitic, and Eblaite had not been discovered yet.

East Semitic languages

* Akkadian — extinct
* Eblaite — extinct

West Semitic languages

Central Semitic languages

Northwest Semitic languages

* Amorite — extinct
* Ugaritic — extinct
* Canaanite languages
** Ammonite — extinct
** Moabite — extinct
** Edomite — extinct
** Hebrew
*** Biblical Hebrew — Used by scholars and Rabbis and in the public reading of the Torah.
*** Mishnaic Hebrew — Used in the reading of the Talmud and other Rabbinic writings. Probably spoken among Rabbis in the Middle Ages.
*** Medieval Hebrew — Developed into Modern Hebrew.
*** Mizrahi Hebrew — Spoken in Israel, Yemen, Iraq, Puerto Rico, and New York etc.
*** Teimani Hebrew — Spoken mainly by Yemenite Jews.
*** Sephardi Hebrew — Major basis of modern pronunciation.
*** Ashkenazi Hebrew — live descendants
*** Samaritan Hebrew — Spoken in Holon, Tel Aviv and Nablus (Palestinian Authority territory).
*** Modern Hebrew — Spoken mostly in Israel.
** Phoenician — extinct
*** Punic — extinct
* Aramaic languages
** Western Aramaic languages
*** Nabataean — extinct
*** Western Middle Aramaic languages
**** Jewish Middle Palestinian Aramaic — extinct
**** Samaritan Aramaic — live descendants
**** Christian Palestinian Aramaic — extinct
*** Western Neo-Aramaic (Ma'aloula) — live descendants
** Eastern Aramaic languages
*** Biblical Aramaic — extinct
*** Hatran Aramaic — extinct
*** Syriac — live descendants
*** Jewish Middle Babylonian Aramaic — extinct
*** Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (Alqosh) — live descendants
*** Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (Urmia and Hakkari) — live descendants
*** Senaya — live descendants
*** Koy Sanjaq Surat — live descendants
*** Hertevin — live descendants
*** Turoyo — live descendants
*** Mlahso — extinct
*** Mandaic — live descendants
*** Judaeo-Aramaic — live descendants

Arabic languages

* Old North Arabian — extinct
* Arabic
** "Fusha" — (اللغة العربية الفصحى literally "eloquent"), the written language, divided by specialists into:
*** Classical Arabic — the language of the Qur'an and early Islamic Arabic literature,
*** Middle Arabic — a generic term for premodern post-classical efforts to write Classical Arabic, characterized by frequent hypercorrections and occasional lapses into more colloquial usage. Not a spoken language.
*** Modern Standard Arabic — modern literary (non-native) language used in formal media and written communication throughout the Arab World, differing from Classical Arabic mainly in numerous neologisms for concepts not found in medieval times, as well as in occasional calques on idioms from Western languages.Fact|date=February 2007
*Numerous Modern Arabic spoken dialects — roughly divided by the Ethnologue into:
**Eastern Arabic dialects
***Arabian Peninsular dialects
****Dhofari Arabic — Oman/Yemen
****Hadrami Arabic — Yemen
****Hijazi Arabic — Saudi Arabia
****Najdi Arabic — Saudi Arabia
****Omani Arabic
****Sana'ani Arabic — Yemen
****Ta'izzi-Adeni Arabic — Yemen
****Judeo-Yemeni Arabic
***Bedouin/Bedawi Arabic dialects
****Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic
****Peninsular Bedawi Arabic — Arabian Peninsula
***Central Asian dialects
****Central Asian Arabic
****Khuzestani Arabic
****Shirvani Arabic— extinct
***Egyptian Arabic — Cairo and Delta region
****Saidi Arabic — Upper Egypt
***Gulf dialects — includes speakers in Iran
****Baharna Arabic — Bahrain
****Gulf Arabic — Persian Gulf (all bordering countries)
****Shihhi ArabicUAE
***Levantine Arabic dialects
****Cypriot Maronite Arabic
****North Levantine Spoken — Lebanon, Syria
*****Lebanese Arabic
****South Levantine Spoken — Jordan, Palestinian Authority, West Bank, Israel
*****Palestinian Arabic
***Iraqi Arabic — Iraq
****Judeo-Iraqi Arabic
***Sudanese Arabic
**Maghrebi Arabic dialects
***Algerian Arabic
***Saharan Arabic
***Shuwa Arabic — Chad
***Hassaniya Arabic — Mauritania and Saharan area
***Libyan Arabic
****Judeo-Tripolitanian Arabic — Libyan dialect
***Andalusi Arabic Old Iberian Arabic — extinct
***Siculo-Arabic — Sicily, extinct
****Maltese language — separate language from, but ultimately derived from Arabic and member of the Arabic family of languages/dialects
***Moroccan Arabic
****Judeo-Moroccan Arabic
***Tunisian Arabic
****Judeo-Tunisian Arabic

Several Jewish dialects, typically with a number of Hebrew loanwords, are grouped together with classical Arabic written in Hebrew script under the imprecise term Judeo-Arabic.

South Semitic languages

Western South Semitic languages

* Old South Arabian languages — extinct, formerly believed to be the linguistic ancestors of modern South Arabian and Ethiopian Semitic languages (for which see below)
** Sabaean — extinct
** Minaean — extinct
** Qatabanian — extinct
** Hadhramautic — extinct

*Ethiopic languages (Ethio-Semitic, Ethiopian Semitic):
** North
*** Ge'ez (Ethiopic) — extinct, liturgical use in Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox Churches
*** Tigrinya — national language of Eritrea
*** Tigré
*** Dahlik language — "newly discovered"
** South
*** Transversal
***** Amharic — national language of Ethiopia
***** Argobba
**** Harari-East Gurage
***** Harari
***** East Gurage
****** Selti (also spelled Silt'e)
****** Zway (also called Zay)
****** Ulbare
****** Wolane
****** Inneqor
**** Outer
***** n-group:
****** Gafat — extinct
****** Soddo (also called Kistane)
****** Goggot
***** tt-group:
****** Mesmes — extinct
****** Muher
****** West Gurage
******* Masqan (also spelled Mesqan)
******** CPWG
********* Central Western Gurage:
********** Ezha
********** Chaha
********** Gura
********** Gumer
********* Peripheral Western Gurage:
********** Gyeto
********** Ennemor (also called Inor)
********** Endegen

Eastern South Semitic languages

These languages are spoken mainly by tiny minority populations on the Arabian peninsula in Yemen and Oman.

* Bathari
* Harsusi
* Hobyot
* Jibbali (also called Shehri)
* Mehri
* Soqotri — on the islands of Soqotra, Abd el Kuri and Samha (Yemen) and in the UAE.

Living Semitic languages by number of speakers

ee also

* List of Proto-Semitic stems
* Proto-Semitic
* Proto-Canaanite alphabet
* Middle Bronze Age alphabets



* Patrick R. Bennett. "Comparative Semitic Linguistics: A Manual". Eisenbrauns 1998. ISBN 1-57506-021-3.
* Gotthelf Bergsträsser, "Introduction to the Semitic Languages: Text Specimens and Grammatical Sketches". Translated by Peter T. Daniels. Winona Lake, Ind. : Eisenbrauns 1995. ISBN 0-931464-10-2.
* Giovanni Garbini. "Le lingue semitiche: studi di storia linguistica". Istituto Orientale: Napoli 1984.
* Giovanni Garbini & Olivier Durand. "Introduzione alle lingue semitiche". Paideia: Brescia 1995.
* Robert Hetzron (ed.) "The Semitic Languages". Routledge: London 1997. ISBN 0-415-05767-1. (For family tree, see p. 7).
* Edward Lipinski. "Semitic Languages: Outlines of a Comparative Grammar". 2nd ed., Orientalia Lovanensia Analecta: Leuven 2001. ISBN 90-429-0815-7
* Sabatino Moscati. "An introduction to the comparative grammar of the Semitic languages: phonology and morphology". Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 1969.
* Edward Ullendorff, "The Semitic languages of Ethiopia: a comparative phonology". London, Taylor's (Foreign) Press 1955.
* William Wright & William Robertson Smith. "Lectures on the comparative grammar of the Semitic languages". Cambridge University Press 1890. [2002 edition: ISBN 1-931956-12-X]
*Arafa Hussein Mustafa. "Analytical study of phrases and sentences in epic texts of Ugarit." (German title: Untersuchungen zu Satztypen in den epischen Texten von Ugarit). PhD-Thesis. Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany: 1974.

External links

* [ Chart of the Semitic Family Tree] American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.)
* [ Semitic genealogical tree] (as well as the Afro-Asiatic one), presented by Alexander Militarev at his talk “Genealogical classification of Afro-Asiatic languages according to the latest data” (at the conference on the 70th anniversary of V.M. Illich-Svitych, Moscow, 2004; [ short annotations of the talks given there] ru icon)
* [ "Semitic" in SIL's Ethnologue]
* [ Ancient snake spell in Egyptian pyramid may be oldest Semitic inscription]

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  • East Semitic languages — Infobox Language family name = East Semitic region = formerly Mesopotamia familycolor = Afro Asiatic fam2 = Semitic child1 = Akkadian child2 = EblaiteThe East Semitic languages constitute one of the three major subdivisions of Semitic languages,… …   Wikipedia

  • Ethiopian Semitic languages — Ethiopian Semitic Geographic distribution: Ethiopia, Eritrea Linguistic classification: Afro Asiatic Semitic South Semitic Western …   Wikipedia

  • Central Semitic languages — Infobox Language family name = Central Semitic region = Middle East and North Africa familycolor = Afro Asiatic fam2 = Semitic fam3 = West Semitic child1 = Northwest Semitic child2 = ArabicThe Central Semitic languages are an intermediate group… …   Wikipedia

  • West Semitic languages — Infobox Language family name = West Semitic region = Middle East and East Africa familycolor = Afro Asiatic fam2 = Semitic child1 = Central Semitic child2 = South SemiticThe West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub grouping of Semitic… …   Wikipedia

  • South Ethiopian Semitic languages — Infobox Language family name=South Ethiopian Semitic region=Ethiopia familycolor=Afro Asiatic fam2=Semitic fam3=South Semitic fam4=Western fam5=Ethiopian Semitic child1=Outer South Ethiopian Semitic child2=Transversal South Ethiopian SemiticSouth …   Wikipedia

  • Transversal South Ethiopian Semitic languages — Infobox Language family name=Transversal South Ethiopian Semitic region=Ethiopia familycolor=Afro Asiatic fam2=Semitic fam3=South Semitic fam4=Western fam5=Ethiopian Semitic fam6=South child1=Amharic Argobba child2=Harari East GurageTransversal… …   Wikipedia

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