አውጚ‎ (Awŋi)
Native toEthiopia
RegionAgew Awi Zone, Amhara Region
Native speakers
490,000 (2007 census)[1]
  • Dega
  • Kwolla
  • Northern Awngi
Geʽez script
Language codes
ISO 639-3awn
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The Awngi language, in older publications also called Awiya (an inappropriate ethnonym),[2] is a Central Cushitic language spoken by the Awi people, living in Central Gojjam in northwestern Ethiopia.

Most speakers of the language live in the Agew Awi Zone of the Amhara Region, but there are also communities speaking the language in various areas of Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region. Until recently, Kunfäl, another Southern Agaw language spoken in the area west of Lake Tana, has been suspected to be a separate language. It has now been shown to be linguistically close to Awngi, and it should be classified as a dialect of that language.[3]



Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Open e a o

The central vowel /ɨ/ is the default epenthetic vowel of the language and almost totally predictable in its occurrence.[5] Likewise, /æ/, normally an allophone of /a/, is fossilized in some words and might be justified as a separate phoneme.[6]


Labial Alveolar Palato-velar Uvular
plain labialized plain labzd
Plosive voiceless p t k q
voiced b d ɡ ɡʷ ɢ ɢʷ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ
Fricative plain f s ʃ
post-stopped s͡t ʃ͡t
Nasal m n ŋ ŋʷ
Flap r
Approximant w l j


Palmer[12] and Hetzron[13] both identified three distinctive tone levels in Awngi: high, mid and low. The low tone, however, only appears in word-final position on the vowel a. A falling tone (high-mid) appears on word-final syllables only. Joswig[14] reanalyzes the system as having only two distinctive tone levels, with the low tone being a phonetic variant of the mid tone.

Syllable structure

The Awngi syllable in most cases fits the maximum syllable template CVC (C standing for a consonant, V for a vowel). This means there is only one (if any) consonant each in the syllable onset and the rhyme. Exceptions to this happen at word boundaries, where extrametrical consonants may appear.

Phonological processes


In positions other than word-initial, Awngi contrasts geminate and non-geminate consonants. The consonants /ɢ, ɢʷ, t͡s, t͡ʃ, j, w, ʒ/, however, have no contrast in gemination.

Vowel harmony

Whenever a suffix containing the [+high] vowel i is added to a stem, a productive vowel harmony process is triggered. Hetzron calls this process regressive vowel height assimilation. The vowel harmony only takes place if the underlying vowel of the last stem syllable is e. This vowel and all preceding instances of e and o will take over the feature [+high], until a different vowel is encountered. Then the vowel harmony is blocked. Hetzron[15] provides the following example: /moleqés-á/ ‘nun’ vs. /muliqís-í/ ‘monk’.


Awngi is used as Medium of Instruction from Grade 1 to 6 in primary schools of Awi Zone. It is written with an orthography based on the Ethiopian Script. Extra fidels used for Awngi are for the sound /ŋ/ and for the sound /q/. The fidel is used for /ts/, the fidel for the sound /ɢ/. Various aspects of the Awngi orthography are yet to be finally decided.[when?][by whom?]


The Noun

The noun is marked for number and gender (masculine, feminine or plural) as well as case. The nominative is unmarked for one class of nouns, or marked by -i for masculine nouns and -a for feminine nouns. Other cases are accusative, dative, genitive, locative, directional, ablative, comitative, comparative, invocative and translative. Hetzron[16] also mentions adverbial as a case of Awngi, but an interpretation as a derivational marker seems to be more appropriate. Number, gender, and case are marked through suffixes to the noun stems.[17]

The Verb

The Awngi verbal morphology has a wealth of inflectional forms. The four main tenses are imperfective past, imperfective non-past, perfective past and perfective non-past. There are various other coordinate and subordinate forms which are all marked through suffixes to the verb stems. The following distinctions are maintained for person: 1sg, 2sg, 3masc, 3fem, 1pl, 2pl, and 3pl. Hetzron demonstrated that the Awngi verbal morphology is most economically described when it is assumed that for every verb there are four distinct stems, marked A, B, C, and D in the following table. The first stem (A) is for 3masc, 2pl, and 3pl. The second stem (B) is for 1sg only, the third stem (C) for 2sg and 3fem, and the fourth stem for 1pl only. These four stems need to be noted for every verb in the lexicon and serve as the basis for all other verbal morphology. The stems remain the same throughout all verbal paradigms, and it is possible to predict the surface form of each paradigm member with these stems and the simple tense suffixes.[6]

Singular Plural
1 B D
2 C A
3 Masc A A
Fem C A


The main verb of a sentence is always at the end. The basic word order is therefore SOV. Subordination and coordination is achieved exclusively through verbal affixation.


  1. ^ Awngi at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Hetzron 1978, p. 121.
  3. ^ Joswig & Mohammed 2011.
  4. ^ Joswig 2006, p. 786.
  5. ^ Joswig 2006, p. 792.
  6. ^ a b Hetzron 1969.
  7. ^ Joswig 2010, p. 2.
  8. ^ Joswig 2010, p. 9.
  9. ^ Joswig 2010, p. 15.
  10. ^ a b c d Hetzron 1997, pp. 478–479.
  11. ^ see Hetzron 1969, p. 7f
  12. ^ Palmer 1959, p. 273.
  13. ^ Hetzron 1969, p. 6.
  14. ^ Joswig 2009.
  15. ^ Hetzron 1997, p. 485.
  16. ^ Hetzron 1978, p. 125ff.
  17. ^ Hetzron 1978.