Afroasiatic languages

Summary

The Afroasiatic languages (or Afro-Asiatic), also known as Hamito-Semitic,[2] or Semito-Hamitic,[3] and sometimes also as Afrasian, Erythraean or Lisramic,[4] are a language family of about 300 languages that are spoken predominantly in Western Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahara/Sahel.[5] With the exception of its Semitic branch, all other branches of the Afroаsiatic family are spoken exclusively on the African continent.

Afroasiatic
Afrasian
Geographic
distribution
North Africa, Western Asia, Horn of Africa, Sahel, and Malta
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Proto-languageProto-Afroasiatic
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5afa
Glottologafro1255
Detailed Afroasiatic map.svg
Distribution of the Afro-Asiatic languages

Afroasiatic languages have over 500 million native speakers, which is the fourth-largest number of native speakers of any language family (after Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, and Niger–Congo).[6] The phylum has six branches: Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Semitic, and Omotic.[4][7] The most widely spoken modern Afroasiatic language or dialect continuum by far is Arabic, a de facto group of distinct language varieties within the Semitic branch. The languages that evolved from Proto-Arabic have around 313 million native speakers, concentrated primarily in the Middle East and North Africa.[8]

In addition to the languages spoken today, Afroasiatic includes many ancient languages, such as Egyptian, which forms a distinct branch of the family; and within the Semitic family, Akkadian, Hebrew, Phoenician, other Caananite languages, Amorite, Ugaritic and Aramaic. While there is no consensus among historical linguists concerning the original homeland of the Afroasiatic family or the period when the parent language (i.e. Proto-Afroasiatic) was spoken, most agree that it was located within a region of Northeast Africa. Proposed specific locations include the Horn of Africa, Egypt, the eastern Sahara, and the Levant.

EtymologyEdit

In the early 19th century, linguists grouped the Berber, Cushitic and Egyptian languages within a "Hamitic" phylum, in acknowledgement of these languages' genetic relation with each other and with those in the Semitic phylum.[failed verification][9] The terms "Hamitic" and "Semitic" were etymologically derived from the Book of Genesis, which describes various Biblical tribes descended from Ham and Shem, two sons of Noah.[10] By the 1860s, the main constituent elements within the broader Afroasiatic family had been worked out.[9]

Friedrich Müller introduced the name "Hamito-Semitic" for the entire language family in his Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft (1876).[11] Maurice Delafosse (1914) later coined the term "Afroasiatic" (often now spelled "Afro-Asiatic"). However, it did not come into general use until Joseph Greenberg (1950) formally proposed its adoption. In doing so, Greenberg sought to emphasize the fact that 'Hamitic' was not a valid group and that language cladistics did not reflect race.[12][page needed] In current scholarly usage, the most commonly used names are "Afroasiatic", "Hamito-Semitic", and "Semito-Hamitic".[13]

Individual scholars have also called the family "Erythraean" (Tucker 1966) and "Lisramic" (Hodge 1972). In lieu of "Hamito-Semitic", the Russian linguist Igor Diakonoff later suggested the term "Afrasian", meaning "half African, half Asiatic", in reference to the geographic distribution of the family's constituent languages.[citation needed]

Distribution and branchesEdit

 
A map showing the linguistic tree of Afroasiatic languages (Ehret 2006)
 
Some linguists' proposals for grouping within Afroasiatic

Scholars generally treat the Afroasiatic language family as including at least the following five branches:

A sixth family's inclusion in Afroasiatic is disputed by a minority of scholars:

Although there is general agreement on these six families, linguists who study Afroasiatic raise some points of disagreement, in particular:

  • The Omotic language branch is the most controversial member of Afroasiatic because the grammatical formatives to which most linguists have given the greatest weight in classifying languages in the family "are either absent or distinctly wobbly" (Hayward 1995). Greenberg (1963) and others considered it a subgroup of Cushitic, whereas others have raised doubts about its being part of proper Afroasiatic at all (e.g. Theil 2006).[1]
  • The Afroasiatic identity of Ongota is also broadly questioned, as is its position within Afroasiatic among those who accept it, due to the "mixed" appearance of the language and a paucity of research and data. Harold Fleming (2006) proposes that Ongota constitutes a separate branch of Afroasiatic.[14] Bonny Sands (2009) [15][page needed] finds the proposal by Savà and Tosco (2003) the most convincing: namely that Ongota is an East Cushitic language with a Nilo-Saharan substratum. In other words, it would appear that the Ongota people once spoke a Nilo-Saharan language but then shifted to speaking a Cushitic language but retained some characteristics of their earlier Nilo-Saharan language.[1]
  • Beja, sometimes listed as a separate branch of Afroasiatic, is more often included in the Cushitic branch, which has a substantial degree of internal diversity.
  • There is no consensus on the interrelationships of the five non-Omotic branches of Afroasiatic (see § Subgrouping below). This situation is not unusual, even among long-established language families: scholars also frequently disagree on the internal classification of the Indo-European languages, for instance.
  • The extinct Meroitic language has been proposed (Bruce Trigger, 1964,[16] 1977[17]) as an unclassified Afroasiatic language, because it shares the phonotactics characteristic of the family, but there is not enough evidence to secure a classification (Fritz Hintze, 1974,[18][19][page needed])
  • The classification of Kujargé within Afroasiatic is not agreed upon. Blench (2008) notes that much of the basic vocabulary looks Cushitic, and speculates that Kujargé could even be a conservative language transitional between Chadic and Cushitic.[20]

DemographicsEdit

In descending order of the number of speakers, widely-spoken Afroasiatic languages include:

Classification historyEdit

In the 9th century the Hebrew grammarian Judah ibn Quraysh of Tiaret in Algeria became the first to link two branches of Afroasiatic together; he perceived a relationship between Berber and Semitic. He knew of Semitic through his study of Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic.[11] In the course of the 19th century, Europeans also began suggesting such relationships. In 1844, Theodor Benfey proposed a language family consisting of Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic (he called the latter "Ethiopic").[35] In the same year T.N. Newman suggested a relationship between Semitic and Hausa, but this would long remain a topic of dispute and uncertainty.[citation needed]

Friedrich Müller named the traditional Hamito-Semitic family in 1876 in his Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft ("Outline of Linguistics"), and defined it as consisting of a Semitic group plus a "Hamitic" group containing Egyptian, Berber, and Cushitic; he excluded the Chadic group.[citation needed] It was the Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius (1810–1884) who restricted Hamitic to the non-Semitic languages in Africa, which are characterized by a grammatical gender system. This "Hamitic language group" was proposed to unite various, mainly North-African, languages, including the Ancient Egyptian language, the Berber languages, the Cushitic languages, the Beja language, and the Chadic languages. Unlike Müller, Lepsius saw Hausa and Nama as part of the Hamitic group. These classifications relied in part on non-linguistic anthropological and racial arguments. Both authors used the skin-color, mode of subsistence, and other characteristics of native speakers as part of their arguments for grouping particular languages together.[36]

 
Distribution of the Afroasiatic/Hamito-Semitic languages in Africa

In 1912, Carl Meinhof published Die Sprachen der Hamiten ("The Languages of the Hamites"), in which he expanded Lepsius's model, adding the Fula, Maasai, Bari, Nandi, Sandawe and Hadza languages to the Hamitic group. Meinhof's model was widely supported in the 1940s.[36] Meinhof's system of classification of the Hamitic languages was based on a belief that "speakers of Hamitic became largely coterminous with cattle herding peoples with essentially Caucasian origins, intrinsically different from and superior to the 'Negroes of Africa'."[37] However, in the case of the so-called Nilo-Hamitic languages (a concept he introduced), it was based on the typological feature of gender and a "fallacious theory of language mixture". Meinhof did this although earlier work by scholars such as Lepsius and Johnston had substantiated that the languages which he would later dub "Nilo-Hamitic" were in fact Nilotic languages, with numerous similarities in vocabulary to other Nilotic languages.[38]

Leo Reinisch (1909) had already proposed linking Cushitic and Chadic while urging their more distant affinity with Egyptian and Semitic. However, his suggestion found little acceptance. Marcel Cohen (1924) rejected the idea of a distinct "Hamitic" subgroup and included Hausa (a Chadic language) in his comparative Hamito-Semitic vocabulary. Finally, Joseph Greenberg's 1950 work led to the widespread rejection of "Hamitic" as a language category by linguists. Greenberg refuted Meinhof's linguistic theories and rejected the use of racial and social evidence. In dismissing the notion of a separate "Nilo-Hamitic" language category, in particular, Greenberg was "returning to a view widely held a half-century earlier". He consequently rejoined Meinhof's so-called Nilo-Hamitic languages with their appropriate Nilotic siblings.[9] He also added (and sub-classified) the Chadic languages, and proposed a new name, "Afroasiatic", for the family. Almost all scholars have accepted this classification as the new and continued consensus.

Greenberg developed his model fully in his book The Languages of Africa (1963), in which he reassigned most of Meinhof's additions to Hamitic to other language families, notably Nilo-Saharan. Following Isaac Schapera and rejecting Meinhof, he classified the Khoekhoe language as a member of the Khoisan languages, a grouping that has since proven inaccurate and excessively motivated on the presence of click sounds.[1] To Khoisan he also added the Tanzanian Hadza and Sandawe, though this view has been discredited as linguists working on these languages regard them as linguistic isolates.[39][40] Despite this, Greenberg's classification remains a starting point for modern work on many languages spoken in Africa, and the Hamitic category (and its extension to Nilo-Hamitic) has no part in this.[40]

Since the three traditional branches of the Hamitic languages (Berber, Cushitic and Egyptian) have not been shown to form an exclusive (monophyletic) phylogenetic unit of their own, separate from other Afroasiatic languages, linguists no longer use the term in this sense. Each of these branches is instead now regarded as an independent subgroup of the larger Afroasiatic family.[41]

In 1969, Harold Fleming proposed that what had previously been known as Western Cushitic is an independent branch of Afroasiatic, suggesting for it the new name "Omotic". This proposal and name have met with widespread acceptance.

Based on typological differences with the other Cushitic languages, Robert Hetzron proposed that Beja has to be removed from Cushitic, thus forming an independent branch of Afroasiatic.[42] Most scholars, however, reject this proposal, and continue to group Beja as the sole member of a Northern branch within Cushitic.[43][44][page needed]

Glottolog does not accept that the inclusion or even unity of Omotic has been established, nor that of Ongota or the unclassified Kujarge. It therefore splits off the following groups as small families: South Omotic, Mao, Dizoid, Gonga–Gimojan (North Omotic apart from the preceding), Ongota, and Kujarge.

SubgroupingEdit

Proposed Afroasiatic sub-divisions
Greenberg (1963) Newman (1980) Fleming (post-1981) Ehret (1995)
  • Semitic
  • Egyptian
  • Berber
  • Cushitic
    • Northern Cushitic
      (equals Beja)
    • Central Cushitic
    • Eastern Cushitic
    • Western Cushitic
      (equals Omotic)
    • Southern Cushitic
  • Chadic
  • Berber–Chadic
  • Egypto-Semitic
  • Cushitic

(excludes Omotic)

  • Omotic
  • Erythraean
    • Cushitic
    • Ongota
    • Non-Ethiopian
      • Chadic
      • Berber
      • Egyptian
      • Semitic
      • Beja
  • Omotic
    • North Omotic
    • South Omotic
  • Erythrean
    • Cushitic
      • Beja
      • Agaw
      • East–South Cushitic
        • Eastern Cushitic
        • Southern Cushitic
    • North Erythrean
      • Chadic
      • Boreafrasian
        • Egyptian
        • Berber
        • Semitic
Orel & Stolbova (1995) Diakonoff (1996) Bender (1997) Militarev (2000)
  • Berber–Semitic
  • Chadic–Egyptian
  • Omotic
  • Beja
  • Agaw
  • Sidamic
  • East Lowlands
  • Rift
  • East–West Afrasian
    • Berber
    • Cushitic
    • Semitic
  • North–South Afrasian
    • Chadic
    • Egyptian

(excludes Omotic)

  • Omotic
  • Chadic
  • Macro-Cushitic
    • Berber
    • Cushitic
    • Semitic
  • North Afrasian
    • African North Afrasian
      • Chado-Berber
      • Egyptian
    • Semitic
  • South Afrasian
    • Omotic
    • Cushitic

Little agreement exists on the subgrouping of the five or six branches of Afroasiatic: Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, and Omotic. However, Christopher Ehret (1979), Harold Fleming (1981), and Joseph Greenberg (1981) all agree that the Omotic branch split from the rest first.

Otherwise:

  • Paul Newman (1980) groups Berber with Chadic and Egyptian with Semitic, while questioning the inclusion of Omotic in Afroasiatic. Rolf Theil (2006) concurs with the exclusion of Omotic but does not otherwise address the structure of the family.[45]
  • Harold Fleming (1981) divides non-Omotic Afroasiatic, or "Erythraean", into three groups, Cushitic, Semitic, and Chadic-Berber-Egyptian. He later added Semitic and Beja to Chadic-Berber-Egyptian and tentatively proposed Ongota as a new third branch of Erythraean. He thus divided Afroasiatic into two major branches, Omotic and Erythraean, with Erythraean consisting of three sub-branches, Cushitic, Chadic-Berber-Egyptian-Semitic-Beja, and Ongota.[citation needed]
  • Like Harold Fleming, Christopher Ehret (1995: 490) divides Afroasiatic into two branches, Omotic and Erythrean. He divides Omotic into two branches, North Omotic and South Omotic. He divides Erythrean into Cushitic, comprising Beja, Agaw, and East-South Cushitic, and North Erythrean, comprising Chadic and "Boreafrasian." According to his classification, Boreafrasian consists of Egyptian, Berber, and Semitic.[citation needed]
  • Vladimir Orel and Olga Stolbova (1995) group Berber with Semitic and Chadic with Egyptian. They split up Cushitic into five or more independent branches of Afroasiatic, viewing Cushitic as a Sprachbund rather than a language family.[citation needed]
  • Igor M. Diakonoff (1996) subdivides Afroasiatic in two, grouping Berber, Cushitic, and Semitic together as East-West Afrasian (ESA), and Chadic with Egyptian as North-South Afrasian (NSA). He excludes Omotic from Afroasiatic.[citation needed]
  • Lionel Bender (1997) groups Berber, Cushitic, and Semitic together as "Macro-Cushitic". He regards Chadic and Omotic as the branches of Afroasiatic most remote from the others.[46]
  • Alexander Militarev (2000), on the basis of lexicostatistics, groups Berber with Chadic and both more distantly with Semitic, as against Cushitic and Omotic. He places Ongota in South Omotic.[citation needed]

Date of AfroasiaticEdit

Speech sample in the Semitic Neo-Aramaic language, a descendant of Old Aramaic

The earliest written evidence of an Afroasiatic language is an Ancient Egyptian inscription dated to c. 3400 BC (5,400 years ago).[47] Symbols on Gerzean (Naqada II) pottery resembling Egyptian hieroglyphs date back to c. 4000 BC, suggesting an earlier possible dating. This gives us a minimum date for the age of Afroasiatic. However, Ancient Egyptian is highly divergent from Proto-Afroasiatic,[48] and considerable time must have elapsed in between them. Estimates of the date at which the Proto-Afroasiatic language was spoken vary widely. They fall within a range between approximately 7500 BC (9,500 years ago), and approximately 16,000 BC (18,000 years ago). According to Igor M. Diakonoff (1988: 33n), Proto-Afroasiatic was spoken c. 10,000 BC. Christopher Ehret (2002: 35–36) asserts that Proto-Afroasiatic was spoken c. 11,000 BC at the latest, and possibly as early as c. 16,000 BC. These dates are older than those associated with other proto-languages.

Afroasiatic UrheimatEdit

The Afroasiatic urheimat, the hypothetical place where Proto-Afroasiatic language speakers lived in a single linguistic community, or complex of communities, before the original language dispersed geographically and divided into distinct languages, is unknown. Afroasiatic languages are today primarily spoken in West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel. Their distribution seems to have been influenced by the Sahara pump operating over the last 10,000 years.

 
Proposed migration and expansion routes of the Afroasiatic languages according to the Northeast African model

There is no definitive agreement on when or where the original homeland of the language family existed, but some link the first speakers to the first farmers in the Levant who would later spread to North and East Africa.[49] Others argue the first speakers were pre-agricultural and based in Northeast Africa.[49][50][51][52][53]

Shared features with Indo-European languages in West Asia related to food production are suggested by some scholars to support a Levantine origin for Afroasiatic languages. The Levantine hypothesis does not account for the domestication of plants endemic to the Horn of Africa such as teff, ensete, and niger seed or for the lack of evidence for intrusive agricultural populations or the cultivation of wheat, barley, or sorghum there prior to 3000 BC.[54] A Northeast African origin is supported by the majority of scholars today. The region includes the majority of the diversity of the Afroasiatic language family and has very diverse groups in close geographic proximity, which is sometimes considered a telltale sign for a linguistic geographic origin.[55][56] Igor M. Diakonoff placed the origin of the Afro-Asiatic languages in northeast Africa, with older strands south of Egypt, and newer elements straddling the Nile Delta and Sinai.[57] Christopher Ehret argues that Proto-Afroasiatic speakers in Northeast Africa developed subsistence patterns of intensive plant collection and pastoralism, which gave the population an economic advantage that impelled the expansion of the Afroasiatic languages. Ehret suggests that a Proto-Semitic- or Proto-Semito-Berber-speaking population migrated from Northeast Africa to the Levant during the late Paleolithic and eventually gave rise to the Natufian culture.[58] The linguist Roger Blench proposed southwestern Ethiopia as the most likely homeland of Afroasiatic, in part because of the high internal diversification of the Omotic branch spoken in that region.[51]

Various scholars have hypothesized on the origins of Afroasiatic based on genetic evidence. Y Haplogroup E-M215 is common among modern Afroasiatic-speaking groups and has been associated with an ancestral Afroasiatic population in Northeast Africa.[53][59] In a 2014 autosomal DNA study, Hodgson et al. postulate that the Afroasiatic languages may have been spread by an ancestral population(s) carrying a newly-identified non-African genetic component, which the researchers dub the "Ethio-Somali". The genetic component is prevalent among modern Afroasiatic-speaking populations and is found at its highest levels among those in the Horn of Africa. The researchers suggest that the original Ethio-Somali carrying population(s) probably migrated from the Near East to Northeast Africa in the pre-agricultural period (~12–23 ka) and that a descendant population migrated back to the Levant prior to 4000 BC and developed the Semitic branch of Afroasiatic.[52]

Similarities in grammar and syntaxEdit

Verbal paradigms in several Afroasiatic languages:
Number Language → Arabic Kabyle Somali Beja Hausa
Verb → katab afeg imaad naw sha
Meaning → write fly come fail drink
singular 1 ʼaktubu ttafgeɣ imaadaa anáw ina shan
2f taktubīna tettafgeḍ timaadaa tináwi kina shan
2m taktubu tináwa kana shan
3f tettafeg tináw tana shan
3m yaktubu yettafeg yimaadaa ináw yana shan
dual 2 taktubāni
3f
3m yaktubāni
plural 1 naktubu nettafeg nimaadnaa nínaw muna shan
2m taktubūna tettafgem timaadaan tínawna kuna shan
2f taktubna tettafgemt
3m yaktubūna ttafgen yimaadaan ínawna suna shan
3f yaktubna ttafgent

Widespread (though not universal) features of the Afroasiatic languages include:

  • A set of emphatic consonants, variously realized as glottalized, pharyngealized, or implosive.
  • VSO typology with SVO tendencies.
  • A two-gender system in the singular, with the feminine marked by the sound /t/.
  • All Afroasiatic subfamilies show evidence of a causative affix s.
  • Semitic, Berber, Cushitic (including Beja), and Chadic support possessive suffixes.
  • Nisba derivation in -j (earlier Egyptian) or (Semitic)[60]
  • Morphology in which words inflect by changes within the root (vowel changes or gemination) as well as with prefixes and suffixes.

One of the most remarkable shared features among the Afroasiatic languages is the prefixing verb conjugation (see the table at right), with a distinctive pattern of prefixes beginning with /ʔ t n j/, and in particular a pattern whereby third-singular masculine /j-/ is opposed to third-singular feminine and second-singular /t-/.

According to Ehret (1996), tonal languages appear in the Omotic and Chadic branches of Afroasiatic, as well as in certain Cushitic languages. The Semitic, Berber and Egyptian branches generally do not use tones phonemically.

The Berber and Semitic branches share certain grammatical features (e.g. alternative feminine endings *-ay/*-āy; corresponding vowel templates for verbal conjugations) which can be reconstructed for a higher-order proto-language (provisionally called "Proto-Berbero-Semitic" by Kossmann & Suchard (2018) and Putten (2018)). Whether this proto-language is ancestral to Berber and Semitic only, or also to other branches of Afroasiatic, still remains to be established.[61][62]

Shared vocabularyEdit

Speech sample in Shilha (Berber branch)
Speech sample in Somali (Cushitic branch)
Speech sample in Classical Arabic (Semitic branch)

The following are some examples of Afroasiatic cognates, including ten pronouns, three nouns, and three verbs.

Source: Christopher Ehret, Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).
Note: Ehret does not make use of Berber in his etymologies, stating (1995: 12): "the kind of extensive reconstruction of proto-Berber lexicon that might help in sorting through alternative possible etymologies is not yet available." The Berber cognates here are taken from the previous version of the table in this article and need to be completed and referenced.
Abbreviations: NOm = 'North Omotic', SOm = 'South Omotic'. MSA = 'Modern South Arabian', PSC = 'Proto-Southern Cushitic', PSom-II = 'Proto-Somali, stage 2'. masc. = 'masculine', fem. = 'feminine', sing. = 'singular', pl. = 'plural'. 1s. = 'first person singular', 2s. = 'second person singular'.
Symbols: Following Ehret (1995: 70), a caron ˇ over a vowel indicates rising tone, and a circumflex ^ over a vowel indicates falling tone. V indicates a vowel of unknown quality. Ɂ indicates a glottal stop. * indicates reconstructed forms based on comparison of related languages.
Proto-Afroasiatic Omotic Cushitic Chadic Egyptian Semitic Berber
*Ɂân- / *Ɂîn- or *ân- / *în- ‘I’ (independent pronoun) *in- ‘I’ (Maji (NOm)) *Ɂâni ‘I’ *nV ‘I’ jnk 'I' *Ɂn ‘I’ nek / nec ‘I, me’
*i or *yi ‘me, my’ (bound) i ‘I, me, my’ (Ari (SOm)) *i or *yi ‘my’ *i ‘me, my’ (bound) .j (1s. suffix) *-i ‘me, my’ inu / nnu / iw ‘my’
*Ɂǎnn- / *Ɂǐnn- or *ǎnn- / *ǐnn- ‘we’ *nona / *nuna / *nina (NOm) *Ɂǎnn- / *Ɂǐnn- ‘we’ jnn ‘we’ *Ɂnn ‘we’ nekni / necnin / neccin ‘we’
*Ɂânt- / *Ɂînt- or *ânt- / *înt- ‘you’ (sing.) *int- ‘you’ (sing.) *Ɂânt- ‘you’ (sing.) ntk, *ʲānt- ‘you’ (sing.) *Ɂnt ‘you’ (sing.) netta "he" (keyy / cek "you" (masc. sing.))
*ku, *ka ‘you’ (masc. sing., bound) *ku ‘your’ (masc. sing.) (PSC) *ka, *ku (masc. sing.) .k, (2s. masc. suffix) -ka (2s. masc. suffix) (Arabic) inek / nnek / -k "your" (masc. sing.)
*ki ‘you’ (fem. sing., bound) *ki ‘your’ (fem. sing.) *ki ‘you’ (fem. sing.) .ṯ, (fem. sing. suffix, < *ki) -ki (2s. fem. sing. suffix) (Arabic) -m / nnem / inem "your" (fem. sing.)
*kūna ‘you’ (plural, bound) *kuna ‘your’ (pl.) (PSC) *kun ‘you’ (pl.) .ṯn, *-ṯin ‘you’ (pl.) *-kn ‘you, your’ (fem. pl.) -kent, kennint "you" (fem. pl.)
*si, *isi ‘he, she, it’ *is- ‘he’ *Ɂusu ‘he’, *Ɂisi ‘she’ *sV ‘he’ sw, *suw ‘he, him’, sj, *siʲ ‘she, her’ *-šɁ ‘he’, *-sɁ ‘she’ (MSA) -s / nnes / ines "his/her/its"
*ma, *mi ‘what?’ *ma- ‘what?’ (NOm) *ma, *mi (interr. root) *mi, *ma ‘what?’ mj ‘what?’, ‘who?’ (Arabic, Hebrew) / mu? (Assyrian) ‘what?’ ma? / mayen? / min? "what?"
*wa, *wi ‘what?’ *w- ‘what?’ *wä / *wɨ ‘what?’ (Agaw) *wa ‘who?’ wj ‘how ...!’ mamek? / mamec? / amek? "how?
*dîm- / *dâm- ‘blood’ *dam- ‘blood’ (Gonga) *dîm- / *dâm- ‘red’ *d-m- ‘blood’ (West Chadic) jdmj ‘red linen’ *dm / dǝma (Assyrian) / dom (Hebrew) ‘blood’ idammen "bloods"
*îts ‘brother’ *itsim- ‘brother’ *itsan or *isan ‘brother’ *sin ‘brother’ sn, *san ‘brother’ aẖ (Hebrew) "brother" uma / gʷma "brother"
*sǔm / *sǐm- ‘name’ *sum(ts)- ‘name’ (NOm) *sǔm / *sǐm- ‘name’ *ṣǝm ‘name’ smj ‘to report, announce’ *ism (Arabic) / shǝma (Assyrian) ‘name’ isen / isem "name"
*-lisʼ- ‘to lick’ litsʼ- ‘to lick’ (Dime (SOm)) *alǝsi ‘tongue’ ns, *līs ‘tongue’ *lsn ‘tongue’ iles "tongue"
*-maaw- ‘to die’ *-umaaw- / *-am-w(t)- ‘to die’ (PSom-II) *mǝtǝ ‘to die’ mwt, ‘to die’ *mwt / mawta (Assyrian) ‘to die’ mmet "to die"
*-bǐn- ‘to build, to create; house’ bin- ‘to build, create’ (Dime (SOm)) *mǐn- / *mǎn- ‘house’; man- ‘to create’ (Beja) *bn ‘to build’; *bǝn- ‘house’ *bnn / bani (Assyrian) / bana (Hebrew) ‘to build’ bni / bnu / bna "to build"

There are two etymological dictionaries of Afroasiatic, one by Christopher Ehret, and one by Vladimir Orel and Olga Stolbova. The two dictionaries disagree on almost everything.[63] The following table contains the thirty roots or so (out of thousands) that represent a fragile consensus of present research:

Number Proto-Afroasiatic Form Meaning Berber Chadic Cushitic Egyptian Omotic Semitic
1 *ʔab father
2 (ʔa-)bVr bull
3 (ʔa-)dVm red, blood
4 *(ʔa-)dVm land, field, soil
5 ʔa-pay- mouth
6 ʔigar/ *ḳʷar- house, enclosure
7 *ʔil- eye
8 (ʔi-)sim- name
9 *ʕayn- eye
10 *baʔ- go
11 *bar- son
12 *gamm- mane, beard
13 *gVn cheek, chin
14 *gʷarʕ- throat
15 *gʷinaʕ- hand
16 *kVn- co-wife
17 *kʷaly kidney
18 *ḳa(wa)l-/ *qʷar- to say, call
19 *ḳas- bone
20 *libb heart
21 *lis- tongue
22 *maʔ- water
23 *mawVt- to die
24 *sin- tooth
25 *siwan- know
26 *inn- I, we
27 *-k- thou
28 *zwr seed
29 *ŝVr root
30 *šun to sleep, dream

Etymological bibliographyEdit

Some of the main sources for Afroasiatic etymologies include:

  • Cohen, Marcel. 1947. Essai comparatif sur le vocabulaire et la phonétique du chamito-sémitique. Paris: Champion.
  • Diakonoff, Igor M. et al. 1993–1997. "Historical-comparative vocabulary of Afrasian," St. Petersburg Journal of African Studies 2–6.
  • Ehret, Christopher. 1995. Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary (= University of California Publications in Linguistics 126). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Orel, Vladimir E. and Olga V. Stolbova. 1995. Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for a Reconstruction. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-10051-2.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

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Works citedEdit

  • Appleyard, David (2012). "Cushitic". In Edzard, Lutz (ed.). Semitic and Afroasiatic: Challenges and Opportunities. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 9783447066952.
  • Bender, M. Lionel (1997). "Upside-Down Afrasian". Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere. Kölner Institut für Afrikanistik.
  • Blench, Roger (2006). Archaeology, Language, and the African Past. Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7591-0466-2.
  • Blench, Roger (2008). Links between Cushitic, Omotic, Chadic and the position of Kujarge (PDF). 5th International Conference of Cushitic and Omotic languages. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  • Borg, Karl. (1998). Lıngwa u lıngwıstıka. Valletta, Malta: Klabb Kotba Maltin. ISBN 99909-75-42-6. OCLC 82586980.
  • Dimmendaal, Gerrit J. (2008). "Language Ecology and Linguistic Diversity on the African Continent". Language and Linguistics Compass. 2 (5): 840–858. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818X.2008.00085.x. ISSN 1749-818X.
  • Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2021). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World". Ethnologue. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  • Frajzyngier, Zygmunt; Shay, Erin (2012). "Introduction". In Frajzyngier, Zygmunt; Shay, Erin (eds.). The Afroasiatic Languages. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–17.
  • Güldemann, Tom (2018). "Historical linguistics and genealogical language classification in Africa". In Güldemann, Tom (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of Africa. The World of Linguistics, Volume 11. Berlin: De Mouton Gruyter. pp. 58–444.
  • Hall, John A.; Jarvie, I. C. (2005). Transition to Modernity: Essays on Power, Wealth and Belief. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-02227-9. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  • Hintze, Fritz (1979). Beiträge zur meroitischen Grammatik (in German). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  • Katzner, Kenneth (2002). The Languages of the World. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-1134532889. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  • Kossmann, Maarten; Suchard, Benjamin D. (2018). "A reconstruction of the system of verb aspects in proto-Berbero-Semitic". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 81 (1): 41–56. doi:10.1017/S0041977X17001355. hdl:1887/70770. S2CID 171681222.
  • Lipiński, Edward (2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. Peeters Publishers. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-90-429-0815-4.
  • Ruhlen, Merritt (1991). A Guide to the World's Languages: Classification. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804718943. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
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  • Shirai, N. (2010). The Archaeology of the First Farmer-Herders in Egypt: New Insights into the Fayum Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic. Leiden University Press. ISBN 9789087280796.
  • Trombetti, Alfredo (1905). L'unità d'origine del linguaggio (in Italian). Bologna: Libreria Treves di Luigi Beltrami. Retrieved 28 April 2021.

General referencesEdit

  • Anthony, David. 2007. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Barnett, William; Hoopes, John, eds. (1995). The emergence of pottery : technology and innovation in ancient societies. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-517-8.
  • Bender, Lionel et al. 2003. Selected Comparative-Historical Afro-Asiatic Studies in Memory of Igor M. Diakonoff. LINCOM.
  • Bernal, Martin (1987). Black Athena: The linguistic evidence. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-3655-2.
  • Bomhard, Alan R. 1996. Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis. Signum.
  • Diakonoff, Igor M. 1988. Afrasian Languages. Moscow: Nauka.
  • Diakonoff, Igor M. 1996. "Some reflections on the Afrasian linguistic macrofamily." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 55, 293.
  • Diakonoff, Igor M. 1998. "The earliest Semitic society: Linguistic data." Journal of Semitic Studies 43, 209.
  • Dimmendaal, Gerrit, and Erhard Voeltz. 2007. "Africa". In Christopher Moseley, ed., Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages.
  • Ehret, Christopher. 1995. Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Ehret, Christopher. 1997. Abstract of "The lessons of deep-time historical-comparative reconstruction in Afroasiatic: reflections on Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic: Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary (U.C. Press, 1995)", paper delivered at the Twenty-fifth Annual Meeting of the North American Conference on Afro-Asiatic Linguistics, held in Miami, Florida, on 21–23 March 1997.
  • Finnegan, Ruth H. 1970. "Afro-Asiatic languages West Africa". Oral Literature in Africa, pg 558.
  • Fleming, Harold C. 2006. Ongota: A Decisive Language in African Prehistory. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1950. "Studies in African linguistic classification: IV. Hamito-Semitic." Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 6, 47–63.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1955. Studies in African Linguistic Classification. New Haven: Compass Publishing Company. (Photo-offset reprint of the SJA articles with minor corrections.)
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1963. The Languages of Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University. (Heavily revised version of Greenberg 1955.)
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1966. The Languages of Africa (2nd ed. with additions and corrections). Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1981. "African linguistic classification." General History of Africa, Volume 1: Methodology and African Prehistory, edited by Joseph Ki-Zerbo, 292–308. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 2000–2002. Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Volume 1: Grammar, Volume 2: Lexicon. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Hayward, R. J. 1995. "The challenge of Omotic: an inaugural lecture delivered on 17 February 1994". London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
  • Heine, Bernd and Derek Nurse. 2000. African Languages, Chapter 4. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hodge, Carleton T. (editor). 1971. Afroasiatic: A Survey. The Hague – Paris: Mouton.
  • Hodge, Carleton T. 1991. "Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic." In Sydney M. Lamb and E. Douglas Mitchell (editors), Sprung from Some Common Source: Investigations into the Prehistory of Languages, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 141–165.
  • Huehnergard, John. 2004. "Afro-Asiatic." In R.D. Woodard (editor), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages, Cambridge – New York, 2004, 138–159.
  • Militarev, Alexander. "Towards the genetic affiliation of Ongota, a nearly-extinct language of Ethiopia," 60 pp. In Orientalia et Classica: Papers of the Institute of Oriental and Classical Studies, Issue 5. Moscow. (Forthcoming.)
  • Newman, Paul. 1980. The Classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic. Leiden: Universitaire Pers Leiden.
  • Theil, R. 2006. Is Omotic Afro-Asiatic? Proceedings from the David Dwyer retirement symposium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 21 October 2006.
  • Wichmann, Søren; Grant, Anthony (2012). Quantitative Approaches to Linguistic Diversity: Commemorating the Centenary of the Birth of Morris Swadesh. p. 73. ISBN 978-9027202659.
  • Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003). Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-3869-5.
  • Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2012). Burning Issues in Afro-Asiatic Linguistics. Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-4438-4070-5.
  • Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2020). Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199812790 / ISBN 9780199812776

External linksEdit

  • Afro-Asiatic at the Linguist List MultiTree Project (not functional as of 2014): Genealogical trees attributed to Delafosse 1914, Greenberg 1950–1955, Greenberg 1963, Fleming 1976, Hodge 1976, Orel & Stolbova 1995, Diakonoff 1996–1998, Ehret 1995–2000, Hayward 2000, Militarev 2005, Blench 2006, and Fleming 2006
  • Afro-Asiatic and Semitic genealogical trees, presented by Alexander Militarev at his talk "Genealogical classification of Afro-Asiatic languages according to the latest data" at the conference on the 70th anniversary of V.M. Illich-Svitych, Moscow, 2004; short annotations of the talks given there (in Russian)
  • The prehistory of a dispersal: the Proto-Afrasian (Afroasiatic) farming lexicon, by Alexander Militarev in "Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis", eds. P. Bellwood & C. Renfrew. (McDonald Institute Monographs.) Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2002, p. 135–50.
  • Once More About Glottochronology And The Comparative Method: The Omotic-Afrasian case, by Alexander Militarev in "Aspects of Comparative Linguistics", v. 1. Moscow: RSUH Publishers, 2005, pp. 339–408.
  • Root Extension And Root Formation In Semitic And Afrasian, by Alexander Militarev in "Proceedings of the Barcelona Symposium on comparative Semitic", 19-20/11/2004. Aula Orientalis 23/1-2, 2005, pp. 83–129.
  • Akkadian-Egyptian lexical matches, by Alexander Militarev in "Papers on Semitic and Afroasiatic Linguistics in Honor of Gene B. Gragg." Ed. by Cynthia L. Miller. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 60. Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2007, p. 139–145.
  • A comparison of Orel-Stolbova's and Ehret's Afro-Asiatic reconstructions
  • "Is Omotic Afro-Asiatic?" by Rolf Theil (2006)
  • NACAL The North American Conference on Afroasiatic Linguistics, now in its 35th year
  • Afro-Asiatic webpage of Roger Blench (with family tree).