South Semitic languages
|Yemen, Oman, Ethiopia, Eritrea|
South Semitic is divided into two uncontroversial branches: South Arabian, on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Ethiopian Semitic, found across the Red Sea in the Horn of Africa, mainly in modern Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Ethiopian Semitic languages have by far the greatest numbers of modern native speakers. Eritrea's main languages are mainly Tigrinya and Tigre, which are North Ethiopic languages, while Amharic (South Ethiopic) is the main language spoken in Ethiopia (along with Tigrinya in the northern province of Tigray). Ge'ez continues to be used in Ethiopia as a liturgical language for the Ethiopian Church. Southern Arabian languages have withered at the expense of the more dominant Arabic (also a Semitic language) for more than a millennium. The Ethnologue lists six modern members of the South Arabian branch and 14 members of the Ethiopian branch.
The "homeland" of the South Semitic languages is widely debated, but is believed to have been the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. The modern and historic presence of South Semitic Ethiopian languages (and Ethiopic script) in Africa is believed by some to be due to a migration of South Arabian speakers from Yemen within the last few thousand years. Older research, such as by A. Murtonen (1967), and Lionel Bender (1997), suggesting that Semitic may have originated in Ethiopia, has been put into question by more recent research. In the 21st century, linguists such as Andrew Kitchen and Christopher Ehret affirm Semitic's origins in the Near East.
- Eastern: Modern South Arabian. These languages are spoken mainly by small minority populations on the Arabian peninsula in Yemen (Mahra and Soqotra) and Oman (Dhofar).
- Bender, L (1997), "Upside Down Afrasian", Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 50, pp. 19-34
- Kitchen, Andrew, Christopher Ehret, et al. 2009. "Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Semitic languages identifies an Early Bronze Age origin of Semitic in the Near East." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276 no. 1665 (June 22)