South Semitic languages

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South Semitic
Yemen, Oman, Ethiopia, Eritrea
Linguistic classification Afro-Asiatic
Glottolog None

South Semitic is a putative branch of the Semitic languages. Semitic itself is a branch of the larger Afro-Asiatic language family found in (North and East) Africa and Western Asia.

South Semitic is divided into two uncontroversial branches:

The Ethiopian Semitic languages have by far the greatest numbers of modern native speakers, indeed of any Semitic language other than Arabic. 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 Eritrea and Ethiopia as a liturgical language for the Orthodox Tewahedo churches.

Southern Arabian languages have been increasingly eclipsed by the more dominant Arabic (also a Semitic language) for more than a millennium. Ethnologue lists six modern members of the South Arabian branch and 15 members of the Ethiopian branch.[1]

The "homeland" of the South Semitic languages is widely debated, with sources such as A. Murtonen (1967), and Lionel Bender (1997),[2] suggesting an origin in Ethiopia, while others suggest the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. A recent study based on a Bayesian model to estimate language change concluded that the latter viewpoint is more probable.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-07-04. 
  2. ^ Bender, L (1997), "Upside Down Afrasian", Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 50, pp. 19-34
  3. ^ 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)