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  1. Cushitic languages — Wikipedia Republished // WIKI 2 › en › Cushitic_languages
    • Official Status
    • Origin and Prehistory
    • Typological Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Extinct Languages
    • Reconstruction
    • Comparative Vocabulary
    • See Also
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    The Cushitic lan­guages with the great­est num­ber of total speak­ers are Oromo (37 million), So­mali (22 million), Beja (3.2 million), Sidamo (3 million), and Afar(2 million). Oromo serves as one of the of­fi­cial work­ing lan­guages of Ethiopia and is also the work­ing lan­guage of sev­eral of the states within the Ethiopian fed­eral sys­tem in­clud­ing Oro­mia, Harari and Dire Dawa re­gional states and of the Oro­mia Zone in the Amhara Re­gion. So­mali is one of two of­fi­cial lan­guages of So­ma­lia and three of­fi­cial lan­guages of Somaliland. It also serves as a lan­guage of in­struc­tion in Djibouti, and as the work­ing lan­guage of the So­mali Re­gionin Ethiopia. Beja, Afar, Blin and Saho, the lan­guages of the Cushitic branch of Afroasi­atic that are spo­ken in Er­itrea, are lan­guages of in­struc­tion in the Er­itrean el­e­men­tary school curriculum. The con­sti­tu­tion of Er­itrea also rec­og­nizes the equal­ity of all na­tively spo­ken languages. Ad­di­tion­ally, Afar i...

    Christo­pher Ehret ar­gues for a uni­fied Proto-Cushitic lan­guage in the Red Sea Hills as far back as the Early Holocene. Based on ono­mas­tic ev­i­dence, the Med­jay and the Blem­myes of north­ern Nubia are be­lieved to have spo­ken Cushitic lan­guages re­lated to the mod­ern Beja lan­guage. Less cer­tain are hy­pothe­ses which pro­pose that Cushitic lan­guages were spo­ken by the peo­ple of the C-Group cul­ture in north­ern Nubia, or the peo­ple of the Kerma cul­turein south­ern Nubia.


    Most Cushitic lan­guages have a sim­ple five-vowel sys­tem with phone­mic length (/a a: e e: i i: o o: u u:/); a no­table ex­cep­tion are the Agaw lan­guages, which do not con­trast vowel length, but have one or two ad­di­tional cen­tral vow­els. The con­so­nant in­ven­tory of many Cushitic lan­guages in­cludes glot­talic con­so­nants, e.g. in Oromo, which has the ejec­tives /pʼ tʼ tʃʼ kʼ/ and the im­plo­sive /ᶑ/. Less com­mon are pha­ryn­geal con­so­nants /ħ ʕ/, which ap­pear e.g. in So­mali...


    The phy­lum was first des­ig­nated as Cushitic in 1858.The Cushitic lan­guages usu­ally in­clude the fol­low­ing branches: 1. North Cushitic (Beja) 2. Central Cushitic (Agaw languages) 3. East Cushitic 3.1. Lowland East Cushitic 3.2. Highland East Cushitic 3.3. Yaaku-Dullay 3.4. Dahalo 4. South Cushitic These clas­si­fi­ca­tions have not been with­out con­tention, and many other clas­si­fi­ca­tions have been pro­posed over the years.


    Beja con­sti­tutes the only mem­ber of the North­ern Cushitic sub­group. As such, Beja con­tains a num­ber of lin­guis­tic in­no­va­tions that are unique to it, as is also the sit­u­a­tion with the other sub­groups of Cushitic (e.g. idio­syn­cratic fea­tures in Agaw or Cen­tral Cushitic). Het­zron (1980) ar­gues that Beja there­fore may com­prise an in­de­pen­dent branch of the Afroasi­atic family. How­ever, this sug­ges­tion has been re­jected by most other scholars.The char­ac­ter­is­tics o...

    Other divergent languages

    There are also a few poorly-clas­si­fied lan­guages, in­clud­ing Yaaku, Da­halo, Aasax, Kw'adza, Boon, the Cushitic el­e­ment of Mbugu (Ma'a) and On­gota. There is a wide range of opin­ions as to how the lan­guages are interrelated. The po­si­tions of the Dul­lay lan­guages and of Yaaku are un­cer­tain. They have tra­di­tion­ally been as­signed to an East Cushitic sub­branch along with High­land (Sidamic) and Low­land East Cushitic. How­ever, Hay­ward thinks that East Cushitic may not be a va...

    A num­ber of ex­tinct pop­u­la­tions have been pro­posed to have spo­ken Afroasi­atic lan­guages of the Cushitic branch. Mar­i­anne Bech­haus-Gerst (2000) pro­posed that the peo­ples of the Kerma Cul­ture – which in­hab­ited the Nile Val­ley in pre­sent-day Sudan im­me­di­ately be­fore the ar­rival of the first Nu­bian speak­ers – spoke Cushitic languages. She ar­gues that the Nilo-Sa­ha­ran No­biin lan­guage today con­tains a num­ber of key pas­toral­ism re­lated loan­words that are of proto-High­land East Cushitic ori­gin, in­clud­ing the terms for sheep/goatskin, hen/cock, live­stock en­clo­sure, but­ter and milk. How­ever, more re­cent lin­guis­tic re­search in­di­cates that the peo­ple of the Kerma cul­ture (who were based in south­ern Nubia) in­stead spoke Nilo-Sa­ha­ran lan­guages of the East­ern Su­danic branch, and that the peo­ples of the C-Group cul­ture to their north (in north­ern Nubia) and other groups in north­ern Nubia (such as the Med­jay and Belm­myes) spoke Cushi...

    Christo­pher Ehret pro­posed a re­con­struc­tion of Proto-Cushitic in 1987, but did not base this on in­di­vid­ual branch reconstructions. Grover Hud­son (1989) has done some pre­lim­i­nary work on High­land East Cushitic, David Ap­p­le­yard (2006) has pro­posed a re­con­struc­tion of Proto-Agaw, and Roland Kießling and Maarten Mous (2003) have jointly pro­posed a re­con­struc­tion of West Rift South­ern Cushitic. No re­con­struc­tion been pub­lished for Low­land East Cushitic, though Paul D. Black wrote his (un­pub­lished) dis­ser­ta­tion on the topic in 1974.No com­par­a­tive work has yet brought these branch re­con­struc­tions to­gether.

    Basic vocabulary

    Sam­ple basic vo­cab­u­lary of Cushitic lan­guages from Vossen & Dim­men­daal (2020:318) (with PSC de­not­ing Proto-South­ern Cushitic):


    Com­par­i­son of nu­mer­als in in­di­vid­ual Cushitic languages:

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