West Semitic languages

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West Semitic
Middle East and East Africa
Linguistic classification: Afro-Asiatic
Glottolog: west2786[1]

The West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub-grouping of Semitic languages. One widely accepted analysis, supported by semiticists like Robert Hetzron and John Huehnergard, divides the Semitic language family into two branches: Eastern and Western. The former consists of the extinct Eblaite and Akkadian languages, the latter of the majority of Semitic languages. It consists of the clearly defined sub-groups: Ethiopic, South Arabian, Arabic and Northwest Semitic (this including Hebrew, Aramaic and Ugaritic). The first two, Ethiopic and South Arabian, show particular common features, and are often grouped together as South Semitic. The correct classification of Arabic with respect to other Semitic languages is debated. In older classifications, it is grouped with the South Semitic languages. However, Hetzron and Huehnergard connect it more closely with the Northwest Semitic languages, to form Central Semitic. Some semiticists continue to argue for the older classification based on the distinctive feature of broken plurals. Some linguists argue that Eteocypriot was a West Semitic language spoken in ancient Cyprus.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "West Semitic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 


  • Alice Faber, "Genetic Subgrouping of the Semitic Languages", in Hetzron, ed., 2013, The Semitic Languages, Routledge