|Ethiopic, Ethiosemitic, Abyssinian|
|Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan|
Ethiopian Semitic (also Ethio-Semitic, Ethiosemitic, Ethiopic or Abyssinian) is a family of languages spoken in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. They form the western branch of the South Semitic languages, itself a sub-branch of Semitic, part of the Afroasiatic language family.
With 57,500,000 total speakers as of 2019, including around 25,100,000 second language speakers, Amharic is the most widely spoken language of Ethiopia and second-most commonly spoken Semitic language in the world (after Arabic). Tigrinya has 7 million speakers and is the most widely spoken language in Eritrea. There is a small population of Tigre speakers in Sudan, and it is the second-most spoken language in Eritrea. The Ge'ez language has a literary history in its own Ge'ez script going back to the first century AD. It is no longer spoken but remains the liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, as well as their respective Eastern Catholic counterparts.
The "homeland" of the South Semitic languages is widely debated, with some sources, such as A. Murtonen (1967) and Lionel Bender (1997), suggesting an origin in Ethiopia, and others suggesting the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. A study based on a Bayesian model suggested the latter. This statistical analysis could not estimate when or where the ancestor of all Semitic languages diverged from Afroasiatic but it suggested that the divergence of East, Central, and South Semitic branches occurred in the Levant. According to current thinking, Semitic originated from an offshoot of a still earlier language in North Africa, perhaps in the southeastern Sahara, and desertification forced its inhabitants to migrate in the fourth millennium BC - some southeast into what is now Ethiopia, others northeast out of Africa into Canaan, Syria and the Mesopotamian valley.
The modern Ethiopian Semitic languages all share subject–object–verb (SOV) word order as part of the Ethiopian language area, but Ge'ez had verb-subject-object (VSO) order in common with other Semitic languages spoken in what is now Yemen.
The division of Ethiopic into northern and southern branches was proposed by Cohen (1931) and Hetzron (1972) and garnered broad acceptance, but has been challenged by Rainer Voigt, who concludes that the northern and southern languages are closely related.
Hudson (2013) recognises five primary branches of Ethiosemitic. His classification is below.
((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link), and Faber, Alice (2005). "Genetic Subgrouping of the Semitic Languages". The Semitic Languages. Routledge. pp. 6–7..
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