Central Cushitic
Ethiopia and central Eritrea
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic

The Agaw or Central Cushitic languages are Afro-Asiatic languages spoken by several groups in Ethiopia and, in one case, Eritrea. They form the main substratum influence on Amharic and other Ethiopian Semitic languages.[1]


The Central Cushitic languages are classified as follows (after Appleyard):

(Kunfal, spoken west of Lake Tana, is poorly recorded but most likely a dialect of Awngi)[2]
  • Bilen–Xamtanga:
(dialects Qwara – nearly extinct, spoken by Beta Israel formerly living in Qwara, now in Israel; Kayla – extinct, formerly spoken by some Beta Israel, transitional between Qimant and Xamtanga)

There is a literature in Agaw but it is widely dispersed: from medieval texts containing passages in the Qimant language, now mostly in Israeli museums, to the modern Bilen language with its own newspaper, based in Keren, Eritrea. Historical material is also available in the Xamtanga language, and there is a deep tradition of folklore in the Awngi language.


Central Cushitic languages are characterised by the presence of /ŋ/, /ɣ/, /z/, and central vowels, while they lack ejectives, implosives, pharyngeals, consonant gemination, vowel length, and the consonant /ɲ/.[3]

See also



  1. ^ Hetzron (1976, p. 5)
  2. ^ Joswig/Mohammed (2011)
  3. ^ Zelealem, [Mollaligne] Leyew. 2020. Central Cushitic. In: Rainer Vossen and Gerrit J. Dimmendaal (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of African Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.