Ethiopian Semitic (also known as Ethiosemitic or Ethiopic, or in the past by a few linguists as Abyssinian due to geography[2]) is a language group which forms the Western branch of the South Semitic languages. Several Ethiopian Semitic languages are spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia, with a small population of Tigre language speakers in Sudan. Amharic, the official working language in Ethiopia, has ~62 million speakers (including second language speakers) and is the most widely spoken in the group. Tigrinya has 7 million speakers and is the most widely spoken language in Eritrea.[3][4] However, this usage is not widespread.

The division into Northern and Southern branches was established by Cohen (1931) and Hetzron (1972) and garnered broad acceptance, but this classification has recently been challenged by Dr. Rainer Voigt.[5] Dr. Voigt debunks the classification that was put forward by Cohen and Hetzron. He clearly shows the similarity and differences of Ethio Semitic Languages, and concludes that there is no bases to group them separately as north and south; they are too closely related. [6]

While focused on Semitic languages as the only branch of the broader Afroasiatic family that is also distributed outside Africa, a recent study by Kitchen et al. proposed through the use of Bayesian computational phylogenetic techniques that "contemporary Ethiosemitic languages of Africa reflect a single introduction of early Ethiosemitic from southern Arabia approximately 2800 years ago", and that this single introduction of Ethiosemitic underwent "rapid diversification" within Eritrea and Ethiopia.[7]

The Ethiopian Semitic languages all share subject–object–verb (SOV) word order as part of the Ethiopian language area.


Genealogy of the Ethiopian Semitic languages


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ethiosemitic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Igor Mikhailovich Diakonov Semito-Hamitic Languages: An Essay in Classification - Google Books": Nauka, Central Department of Oriental Literature, (1965) pp 12
  3. ^ Woldemikael, Tekle M. (April 2003). "Language, Education, and Public Policy in Eritrea". African Studies Review. 46 (1): 117–136. doi:10.2307/1514983. JSTOR 1514983. 
  4. ^ http://llacan.vjf.cnrs.fr/PDF/Publications/Senelle/DahlikBilan.pdf
  5. ^ https://es.scribd.com/mobile/document/305117272/Rainer-Voigt-North-vs-South-Ethiopian-Semitic
  6. ^ http://portal.svt.ntnu.no/sites/ices16/Proceedings/Volume%204/Rainer%20Voigt%20-%20North%20vs.%20South%20Ethiopian%20Semitic.pdf
  7. ^ [1] Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Semitic languages identifies an Early Bronze Age origin of Semitic in the Near East.
  8. ^ Samuel Shuckford, J. Talboys Wheeler The Sacred and Profane History of the World Connected - Google Books": W. Tegg, (1858) pp 72
  9. ^ "Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia - Article 5" (PDF). Federal Government of Ethiopia. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 


  • Cohen, Marcel. 1931. Études d’éthiopien méridional. Paris.
  • Hetzron, Robert. 1972. Ethiopian Semitic: studies in classification. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Weninger, Stefan. Vom Altäthiopischen zu den neuäthiopischen Sprachen. Language Typology and Language Universals. Edited by Martin Haspelmath, Ekkehard König, Wulf Oesterreicher, Wolfgang Raible, Vol. 2: 1762-1774. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.