Central Semitic
Middle East
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic

Central Semitic languages[1][2] are one of the three groups of West Semitic languages, alongside Modern South Arabian languages and Ethiopian Semitic languages.

Central Semitic can itself be further divided into two groups: Arabic and Northwest Semitic. On the one hand, Northwest Semitic languages largely fall into either Aramaic or Canaanite languages (such as Phoenician and Hebrew). On the other hand, South Semitic can be grouped as either Ancient South Arabian (ASA) or Ancient North Arabian (ANA).[3]


Distinctive features of Central Semitic languages include the following:[4]

Different classification systems disagree on the precise structure of the group. The most common approach divides it into Arabic and Northwest Semitic, while SIL Ethnologue has South Central Semitic (including Arabic and Hebrew) vs. Aramaic.

The main distinction between Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages is the presence of broken plurals in the former. The majority of Arabic nouns (apart from participles) form plurals in this manner, whereas virtually all nouns in the Northwest Semitic languages form their plurals with a suffix. For example, the Arabic بَيْت bayt ("house") becomes بُيُوت buyūt ("houses"); the Hebrew בַּיִת bayit ("house") becomes בָּתִּים bāttīm ("houses").


  1. ^ Bennett, Patrick R. (1998). Comparative Semitic Linguistics: A Manual. ISBN 9781575060217.
  2. ^ Huehnergard, John; Pat-El, Na'ama (2013-10-08). The Semitic Languages. ISBN 9781136115882.
  3. ^ Huehnergard & Pat-El, The Semitic Languages, Routledge 2020, pg. 3
  4. ^ Faber, Alice (1997). "Genetic Subgrouping of the Semitic Languages". In Hetzron, Robert (ed.). The Semitic Languages. London: Routledge. pp. 3–15. ISBN 0-415-05767-1.