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Afroasiatic
Geographic
distribution:
Horn of Africa, North Africa, Sahel, Southwest Asia, West Africa, East Africa
Genetic
classification
:
One of the world's major language families
Subdivisions:
Cushitic group (unity debated)
Omotic group (inclusion debated)[1]
ISO 639-2 and 639-5: afa
Afroasiatic-en.svg

The Afroasiatic languages constitute a language family with about 375 living languages (SIL estimate) and more than 350 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Southwest Asia, as well as parts of the Sahel, West Africa and East Africa. The most widely spoken Afroasiatic language is Arabic, with over 280 million native speakers.[2] In addition to languages now spoken, Afroasiatic includes several ancient languages, such as Ancient Egyptian, Biblical Hebrew, and Akkadian.

The term "Afroasiatic" (often now spelled as Afro-Asiatic) was coined by Maurice Delafosse (1914). It did not come into general use until it was adopted by Joseph Greenberg (1950) to replace the earlier term "Hamito-Semitic", following his demonstration that Hamitic is not a valid language family. The term "Hamito-Semitic" remains in use in the academic traditions of some European countries. Some authors now replace "Afro-Asiatic" with "Afrasian", or, reflecting an opinion that it is more African than Asian, "Afrasan". Individual scholars have called the family "Erythraean" (Tucker 1966) and "Lisramic" (Hodge 1972).

Contents

Distribution and branches

Some linguists' proposals for grouping within Afroasiatic

The Afroasiatic language family is usually considered to include the following branches:

While there is general agreement on these six families, there are some points of disagreement among linguists who study Afroasiatic. In particular:

  • Omotic is the most controversial member of Afroasiatic since the grammatical formatives "to which Afroasiaticists have tended to attach the greatest importance are either absent or distinctly wobbly" (Hayward 1995). Greenberg (1963) and others considered it a subgroup of Cushitic, while others have raised doubts about it being part of Afroasiatic at all (e.g. Theil 2006).[1]
  • The Afroasiatic identity of Ongota is 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.[3] Bonny Sands (2009) believes the most convincing proposal is by Savà and Tosco (2003), namely that Ongota is an East Cushitic language with a Nilo-Saharan substratum. In other words, the Ongota people would appear to have once spoken a Nilo-Saharan language but then shifted to speaking a Cushitic language, while retaining some characteristics of their earlier Nilo-Saharan language.[1]
  • Beja is sometimes listed as a separate branch of Afroasiatic but is more often included in the Cushitic branch, which has a high degree of internal diversity.
  • Whether the various branches of Cushitic actually form a language family is sometimes questioned, but not their inclusion in Afroasiatic itself.
  • There is no consensus on the interrelationships of the five non-Omotic branches of Afroasiatic (see "Overview of classifications" below). This situation is not unusual, even among long-established language families: there are also many disagreements concerning the internal classification of the Indo-European languages, for instance.

Classification history

In the 9th century, the Hebrew grammarian Judah ibn Quraysh of Tiaret in Algeria was the first to link two branches of Afroasiatic together; he perceived a relationship between Berber and Semitic. He knew of Semitic through Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

In the course of the 19th century, Europeans also began suggesting such relationships. In 1844, Theodor Benfey suggested a language family consisting of Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic (calling the latter "Ethiopic"). 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.

Friedrich Müller named the traditional "Hamito-Semitic" family in 1876 in his Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft. He defined it as consisting of a Semitic group plus a "Hamitic" group containing Egyptian, Berber, and Cushitic; he excluded the Chadic group. These classifications relied in part on non-linguistic anthropological and racial arguments (see Hamitic hypothesis).

Leo Reinisch (1909) proposed linking Cushitic and Chadic, while urging a more distant affinity to Egyptian and Semitic, thus foreshadowing Greenberg, but his suggestion found little resonance.

Marcel Cohen (1924) rejected the idea of a distinct Hamitic subgroup and included Hausa (a Chadic language) in his comparative Hamito-Semitic vocabulary.

Joseph Greenberg (1950) strongly confirmed Cohen's rejection of "Hamitic", added (and sub-classified) the Chadic branch, and proposed the new name "Afroasiatic" for the family. Nearly all scholars have accepted Greenberg's classification.

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.

Several scholars, including Harold Fleming and Robert Hetzron, have since questioned the traditional inclusion of Beja in Cushitic.

Subgrouping

Greenberg (1963) Newman (1980) Fleming (post-1981) Ehret (1995)
  • Semitic
  • Egyptian
  • Berber
  • Cushitic
    • Western Cushitic
      (equals Omotic)
  • Chadic
  • Berber-Chadic
  • Egypto-Semitic
  • Cushitic

(excludes Omotic)

  • Omotic
  • Erythraean:
    • Cushitic
    • Ongota
    • Non-Ethiopian:
      • Chadic
      • Berber
      • Egyptian
      • Semitic
      • Beja
  • Omotic
  • Cushitic
  • Chadic
  • North Afro-Asiatic:
    • Egyptian
    • Berber
    • Semitic
Orel & Stobova (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 (if Omotic is not included in Cushitic). 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.[4]
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Christopher Ehret (1995) groups Egyptian, Berber, and Semitic together in a "North Afro-Asiatic" subgroup.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Alexander Militarev (2000), on the basis of lexicostatistics, groups Berber with Chadic and both more distantly with Semitic, as against Cushitic and Omotic.

Position among the world's languages

Afroasiatic is one of the four language families of Africa identified by Joseph Greenberg in his book The Languages of Africa (1963). It is the only one that extends outside of Africa, via the Semitic branch.

There are no generally accepted relations between Afroasiatic and any other language family. However, several proposals grouping Afroasiatic with one or more other language families have been made. The best-known of these are the following:

Origins and common features

Present tense verbal paradigms in several Afroasiatic languages:
number Arabic
write
Coptic
die
Kabyle
fly
Somali
bring
Beja
eat
Hausa
drink
singular 1 ˀaktubu timou ttafgeɣ keenaa tamáni ina shan
2f taktubīna temou tettafgeḍ keentaa tamtínii kina shan
2m taktubu kmou tamtíniya kana shan
3f smou tettafeg tamtíni tana shan
3m yaktubu fmou yettafeg keenaa tamíni yana shan
dual 2 taktubāni
3f
3m yaktubāni
plural 1 naktubu tənmou nettafeg keennaa támnay muna shan
2m taktubūna tetənmou tettafgem keentaan támteena kuna shan
2f taktubna tettafgemt
3m yaktubūna semou ttafgen keenaan támeen suna shan
3f yaktubna ttafgent

Common features of the Afroasiatic languages include:

  • a two-gender system in the singular, with the feminine marked by the /t/ sound
  • VSO typology with SVO tendencies
  • a set of emphatic consonants, variously realized as glottalized, pharyngealized, or implosive
  • a templatic morphology in which words inflect by internal changes as well as with prefixes and suffixes

All Afroasiatic subfamilies show evidence of a causative affix s, but a similar suffix also appears in other groups, such as the Niger-Congo languages.

Semitic, Berber, Cushitic (including Beja), and Chadic support possessive suffixes.

Tonal languages appear in the Omotic, Chadic, and Cushitic branches of Afroasiatic, according to Ehret (1996). The Semitic, Berber, and Egyptian branches do not use tones phonemically.

Cognates

Some important Afroasiatic cognates are:

  • b-n- 'build' (Ehret: *bĭn), attested in Chadic, Semitic (*bny), Cushitic (*mĭn/*măn 'house'), Berber (*bn) and Omotic (Dime bin- 'build, create').
  • m-t 'die' (Ehret: *maaw), attested in Chadic (for example, Hausa mutu), Egyptian (mwt *muwt, mt, Coptic mu), Berber (mmet, pr. immut), Semitic (*mwt), and Cushitic (Proto-Somali *umaaw/*-am-w(t)- 'die'). Also Mot, Canaanite god of death.
  • s-n 'know', attested in Chadic, Berber, Egyptian and Semitic (Hebrew š-n 'learn, study').
  • l-s 'tongue' (Ehret: *lis' 'to lick'), attested in Semitic (*lasaan/lisaan), Egyptian (ns *ls, Coptic las), Berber (ils), Chadic (for example, Hausa harshe), and possibly Omotic (Dime lits'- 'lick').
  • s-m 'name' (Ehret: *sŭm / *sĭm), attested in Semitic (*sm), Berber (ism), Chadic (for example, Hausa suna), Cushitic, and Omotic (though some see the Berber form, ism, and the Omotic form, sunts, as Semitic loanwords.) The Egyptian smi 'report, announce' offers another possible cognate.
  • d-m 'blood' (Ehret: *dîm / *dâm), attested in Berber (idammen), Semitic (*dam), and Chadic. Compare Cushitic *dîm/*dâm, 'red'.

See also

Etymological bibliography

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. 1996. Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary (University of California Publications in Linguistics 126). Berkeley, California.
  • Orel, Vladimir E. and Olga V. Stolbova. 1995. Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for a Reconstruction. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-10051-2.[5]

References

  1. ^ a b c Sands, Bonny (2009). "Africa’s Linguistic Diversity". Language and Linguistics Compass 3/2 (2009): 559–580, 10.1111/j.1749-818x.2008.00124.x
  2. ^ Languages of the World
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Bibliographie Linguistique - Linguistic Bibliography

Literature

  • Barnett, William and John Hoopes (editors). 1995. The Emergence of Pottery. Washington, DC: 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.
  • Bomhard, Alan R. 1996. Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis. Signum.
  • 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. 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 March 21–23, 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. Мoscow. (Forthcoming.)
  • Newman, Paul. 1980. The Classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic. Leiden: Universitaire Pers Leiden.
  • Ruhlen, Merritt. 1991. A Guide to the World's Languages. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Sands, Bonny. 2009. "Africa’s linguistic diversity". In Language and Linguistics Compass 3.2, 559–580.
  • Theil, R. 2006. Is Omotic Afro-Asiatic? Proceedings from the David Dwyer retirement symposium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 21 October 2006.

External links


Afro-Asiatic
Geographic
distribution:
Horn of Africa, North Africa, Sahel, Southwest Asia, West Africa, East Africa
Genetic
classification
:
One of the world's major language families
Subdivisions:
Cushitic group (unity debated)
Omotic group (inclusion debated)[1]
ISO 639-2 and 639-5: afa
Distribution of Afro-Asiatic shown in yellow

The Afro-Asiatic languages constitute a language family with about 375 living languages (SIL estimate) and more than 350 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Southwest Asia, as well as parts of the Sahel, West Africa and East Africa. Arabic is the most widespread Afro-Asiatic language with over 280 million native speakers.[2] Afro-Asiatic also includes several ancient languages, such as Ancient Egyptian, Biblical Hebrew, and Akkadian.

The term "Afroasiatic" was coined by Maurice Delafosse (1914). It did not come into general use until it was adopted by Joseph Greenberg (1950) to replace the earlier term "Hamito-Semitic", following his demonstration that Hamitic is not a valid language family. The name is now most often spelled "Afro-Asiatic", though both spellings are in use. Some replace "Afro-Asiatic" with "Afrasian". Individual scholars have called the family "Erythraean" (Tucker 1966) and "Lisramic" (Hodge 1972). The term "Hamito-Semitic" remains in use in the academic traditions of some European countries.

Contents

Distribution and branches

The Afro-Asiatic language family is usually considered to include the following branches:

While there is general agreement on these six families, there are some points of disagreement among linguists who study Afro-Asiatic. In particular:

  • Omotic is the most controversial member of Afro-Asiatic since the grammatical formatives "to which Afroasiaticists have tended to attach the greatest importance are either absent or distinctly wobbly" (Hayward 1995). Greenberg (1963) and others considered it a subgroup of Cushitic, while others have raised doubts about it being part of Afro-Asiatic at all (e.g. Theil 2006).[1]
  • The Afro-Asiatic identity of Ongota is broadly questioned, as is its position within Afro-Asiatic 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 Afro-Asiatic.[1] Sands (2009) believes the most convincing proposal is Savà & Tosco (2003), that Ongota is East Cushitic with a Nilo-Saharan substratum. In other words, the Ongota would appear to have once spoken a Nilo-Saharan language but then shifted to speaking a Cushitic language, while retaining some characteristics of their earlier Nilo-Saharan language.[1]
  • Beja is sometimes listed as a separate branch of Afro-Asiatic but is more often included in the Cushitic branch, which has a high degree of internal diversity.
  • Whether the various branches of Cushitic actually form a language family is sometimes questioned, but not their inclusion in Afro-Asiatic itself.
  • There is no consensus on the interrelationships of the five non-Omotic branches of Afro-Asiatic (see "Overview of classifications" below). This situation is not unusual, even among long-established language families: there are also many disagreements concerning the internal classification of the Indo-European languages, for instance.

[[File:|300px|right]]

Classification history

Medieval scholars sometimes linked two or more branches of Afro-Asiatic together. As early as the 9th century, the Hebrew grammarian Judah ibn Quraysh of Tiaret in Algeria perceived a relationship between Berber and Semitic. He knew of Semitic through Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

In the course of the 19th century, Europeans also began suggesting such relationships. In 1844, Theodor Benfey suggested a language family consisting of Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic (calling the latter "Ethiopic"). 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.

Friedrich Müller named the traditional "Hamito-Semitic" family in 1876 in his Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft. He defined it as consisting of a Semitic group plus a "Hamitic" group containing Egyptian, Berber, and Cushitic; he excluded the Chadic group. These classifications relied in part on non-linguistic anthropological and racial arguments (see Hamitic hypothesis).

Leo Reinisch (1909) proposed linking Cushitic and Chadic, while urging a more distant affinity to Egyptian and Semitic, thus foreshadowing Greenberg, but his suggestion found little resonance.

Marcel Cohen (1924) rejected the idea of a distinct Hamitic subgroup and included Hausa (a Chadic language) in his comparative Hamito-Semitic vocabulary.

Joseph Greenberg (1950) strongly confirmed Cohen's rejection of "Hamitic", added (and sub-classified) the Chadic branch, and proposed the new name "Afroasiatic" for the family. Nearly all scholars have accepted Greenberg's classification.

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

Several scholars, including Harold Fleming and Robert Hetzron, have since questioned the traditional inclusion of Beja in Cushitic, but this view has yet to gain general acceptance.

Subgrouping

Little agreement exists on the subgrouping of the five or six branches of Afro-Asiatic: Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, and Omotic (if Omotic is not included in Cushitic). 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 Afro-Asiatic. Rolf Theil (2006) concurs with the exclusion of Omotic, but does not otherwise address the structure of the family.[2]
  • Harold Fleming (1981) divides non-Omotic Afro-Asiatic, 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 Afro-Asiatic into two major branches, Omotic and Erythraean, with Erythraean consisting of three sub-branches, Cushitic, Chadic-Berber-Egyptian-Semitic-Beja, and Ongota.
  • 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 Afro-Asiatic, viewing Cushitic as a Sprachbund rather than a language family.
  • Christopher Ehret (1995) groups Egyptian, Berber, and Semitic together in a "North Afro-Asiatic" subgroup.
  • Igor M. Diakonoff (1996) subdivides Afro-Asiatic 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 Afro-Asiatic.
  • Lionel Bender (1997) groups Berber, Cushitic, and Semitic together as "Macro-Cushitic". He regards Chadic and Omotic as the branches of Afro-Asiatic most remote from the others.
  • Alexander Militarev (2000), on the basis of lexicostatistics, groups Berber with Chadic and both more distantly with Semitic, as against Cushitic and Omotic.

Overview of classifications

Greenberg (1963) Newman (1980) Fleming (post-1981) Ehret (1995)
  • Semitic
  • Egyptian
  • Berber
  • Cushitic
    • Western Cushitic
      (equals Omotic)
  • Chadic
  • Berber-Chadic
  • Egypto-Semitic
  • Cushitic

(excludes Omotic)

  • Omotic
  • Erythraean:
    • Cushitic
    • Ongota
    • Non-Ethiopian:
      • Chadic
      • Berber
      • Egyptian
      • Semitic
      • Beja
  • Omotic
  • Cushitic
  • Chadic
  • North Afro-Asiatic:
    • Egyptian
    • Berber
    • Semitic
Orel & Stobova (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

Position among the world's languages

Afro-Asiatic is one of the four language families of Africa identified by Joseph Greenberg in his book The Languages of Africa (1963). It is the only one that extends outside of Africa, via the Semitic branch.

There are no generally accepted relations between Afro-Asiatic and any other language family. However, several proposals grouping Afro-Asiatic with one or more other language families have been made. The best-known of these are the following:

Original homeland and date

No agreement exists on where Proto-Afro-Asiatic speakers lived (i.e. the Afro-Asiatic Urheimat), though the language is generally believed to have originated in Northeast Africa.[3][4] Some scholars (such as Igor Diakonoff and Lionel Bender) have proposed Ethiopia, because it includes the majority of the diversity of the Afro-Asiatic language family and has very diverse groups in close geographic proximity, often considered a telltale sign for a linguistic geographic origin. Other researchers (such as Christopher Ehret) have put forward the western Red Sea coast and the Sahara. A minority suggests a linguistic homeland in the Levant (for instance Alexander Militarev; specifically, he identifies Afro-Asiatic with the Natufian culture), with Semitic being the only branch to stay put.[5] This is in some way supported by fact that Afro Asiatic terms dominate the nouns for early livestock and crops from Anatolia and Iran, and from the probable Asian origin of Semitic languages around 4,600 BP to 4,800 BP.

The Semitic languages are the only branch of Afro-Asiatic attested outside of Africa. The most recent research suggests that around 800 BCE Semitic speakers crossed from South Arabia back into Eritrea.[6] Others, such as A. Murtonen, dispute this view, suggesting that the Semitic branch may have originated in Ethiopia.[7] A third view, based upon similarities between Semitic and Ancient Egyptian, is that the two languages developed from a common ancestral tongue along the Nile, crossing the Sinai with the dry phase from 6000-5800 BCE, at the end of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B phase in the Levant.[8] Hunter-gatherers of the El-Harif Mesolithic culture, crossing the Sinai and from Northern Egypt, and adopting animal domestication but not agriculture, could then have created what Juris Zarins calls the Syro-Arabian nomadic pastoralism complex,[9] spreading south along the shores of the Red Sea and northeast around the edge of the "Fertile Crescent". In the Levant this development appears as the Minhata culture and later as the Yarmoukian culture, which came from the same semi-arid zone as the later Ghassulian and Semitic Amorite cultures.[10][11] However, regarding resemblances among language subgroups, recent "research into the lexicon would seem to suggest a closer relationship between Chadic and ancient Egyptian".[12]

Roger Blench says of the apparent greater diversity of Semitic in Africa compared to Asia:

The survival of epigraphic languages can be misleading; Semitic in the near East was probably once more diverse, with many languages never written and subsequently eliminated by the spread of Arabic. Some of that diversity is attested to in the records of Sabaean, the epigraphic languages of Yemen and the south Semitic languages spoken all along the coast of the Arabian peninsula and of Socotra.

Given the high diversity within the Afro-Asiatic family and the absence of a common vocabulary for agricultural items, it is suggested that the languages dispersed before the commencement of the Neolithic. Ehret[13] suggests that early Afro-Asiatic languages were involved in the domestication of Ethiopian food crops, but this is disputed by others who suggest that the words concerned are found only in the Cushitic and possibly Omotic families and that common cognates for agriculture are not present.

Given that wavy-line pottery is found widely in the Sahara from 8000 BCE,[14] and that the Neolithic agricultural technologies arrived around 5000 BCE,[15] this sets a possible context for Proto-Afro-Asiatic dispersal. As it is known that the Ethiopian farmers moved into the highlands from the direction of Nubian Sudan,[16] and attempts to translate the Meroitic script found in this area show significant Afro-Asiatic characteristics, Lionel Bender suggests that this area of the Southern Nile was the centre from which the Afro-Asiatic languages dispersed.[17] The dates of pottery and agriculture set approximate early and late dates for this linguistic dispersal. The date of Proto-Afro-Asiatic would thus lie somewhere between ca. 8000 and ca. 5000 BCE or, expressed differently, between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Climatically this was the time of a "wet Sahara" phase with large rivers and lakes. The dispersal of Afro-Asiatic may thus have been a response to the recent operation of the "Sahara pump".[18][19]

Some scholars argue that Afro-Asiatic is considerably older than this. Carleton T. Hodge (1991:141) states:

Archeological evidence indicates that the time depth of the proto-language involved is over 16,000 years, possibly 20,000 (Munson 1977, Hodge 1978). The proportion of items attested as having survived over 4,000 years within Egyptian (Hodge 1975) gives us confidence in the relatability of languages at the greater time depth (Swadesh 1959: 27).

According to Christopher Ehret (1997):

Afroasiatic is a family of much greater time depth than even most of its students realize; its first divergences trace back probably at least 15,000 years ago, not just 8,000 or 9,000 as many believe. This last point imparts a ... general lesson for historical linguists: the historical comparative method, in fact, works very well farther back in time than scholars have generally allowed, provided the family in question contains a sufficiently large number of languages from which evidence can still be obtained.

Common features

Common features of the Afro-Asiatic languages include:

  • a two-gender system in the singular, with the feminine marked by the /t/ sound
  • VSO typology with SVO tendencies
  • a set of emphatic consonants, variously realized as glottalized, pharyngealized, or implosive
  • a templatic morphology in which words inflect by internal changes as well as with prefixes and suffixes

In the verbal system, Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic (including Beja) all provide evidence for a prefix conjugation:

English Arabic (Semitic) Berber (Berber) Somali (Cushitic) Beja (verb is "arrive") Hausa (Chadic)
he dies yamuutu itmetta waadimta iktim yamutu
she dies tamuutu tmetta wedimata tiktim tamutu
they (m.) die yamuutuun tmettan wedimtaan iktimna sunmutu
you (m. sg.) die tamuutu tmettid wadimata tiktima kamutu
you (m. pl.) die tamuutuun tmettam wadimaten tiktimna sunmutu
I die ˀamuutu tmettiɣ wadimta aktim namutu
we die namuutu ntmetta wadimana niktim munmutu

All Afro-Asiatic subfamilies show evidence of a causative affix s, but a similar suffix also appears in other groups, such as the Niger-Congo languages.

Semitic, Berber, Cushitic (including Beja), and Chadic support possessive suffixes.

Tonal languages appear in the Omotic, Chadic, and Cushitic branches of Afro-Asiatic, according to Ehret (1996). The Semitic, Berber, and Egyptian branches do not use tones phonemically.

Cognates

Some important Afro-Asiatic cognates are:

  • b-n- 'build' (Ehret: *bĭn), attested in Chadic, Semitic (*bny), Cushitic (*mĭn/*măn 'house'), Berber (*bn) and Omotic (Dime bin- 'build, create').
  • m-t 'die' (Ehret: *maaw), attested in Chadic (for example, Hausa mutu), Egyptian (mwt *muwt, mt, Coptic mu), Berber (mmet, pr. yemmut), Semitic (*mwt), and Cushitic (Proto-Somali *umaaw/*-am-w(t)- 'die'). Also Mot, Canaanite god of death. (The Proto-Indo-European root *mor-/mr- 'die' is similar, evidence in favor of the classification of both Afro-Asiatic and Indo-European in the hypothetical Nostratic family.)
  • s-n 'know', attested in Chadic, Berber, Egyptian and Semitic (Hebrew š-n 'learn, study').
  • l-s 'tongue' (Ehret: *lis' 'to lick'), attested in Semitic (*lasaan/lisaan), Egyptian (ns *ls, Coptic las), Berber (ils), Chadic (for example, Hausa harshe), and possibly Omotic (Dime lits'- 'lick').
  • s-m 'name' (Ehret: *sŭm / *sĭm), attested in Semitic (*sm), Berber (ism), Chadic (for example, Hausa suna), Cushitic, and Omotic (though some see the Berber form, ism, and the Omotic form, sunts, as Semitic loanwords.) The Egyptian smi 'report, announce' offers another possible cognate.
  • d-m 'blood' (Ehret: *dîm / *dâm), attested in Berber (idammen), Semitic (*dam), Chadic, and arguably Omotic. Compare Cushitic *dîm/*dâm, 'red'.

See also

Etymological bibliography

Some of the main sources for Afro-Asiatic 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. 1996. Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary (University of California Publications in Linguistics 126). Berkeley, California.
  • Orel, Vladimir E. and Olga V. Stolbova. 1995. Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for a Reconstruction. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-10051-2.[20]

References

  1. ^ a b c Sands, Bonny (2009). "Africa’s Linguistic Diversity". Language and Linguistics Compass 3/2 (2009): 559–580, 10.1111/j.1749-818x.2008.00124.x
  2. ^ Languages of the World
  3. ^ The Origins of Afroasiatic - Ehret et al. 306 (5702): 1680c - Science
  4. ^ http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0011-3204%28199802%2939%3A1%3C139%3ATALPAI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-J&size=LARGE
  5. ^ http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1680c
  6. ^ Kitchen, Andrew, Christopher Ehret, et al. 2009. "Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Semitic languages identifies an Early Bronze Age origin of Semitic in the Near East." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276 no. 1665 (June 22)
  7. ^ Fleming, Harold C. (1968), "Ethiopic language history: testing linguistic hypotheses in an archaeological and documentary context" in Ethnohistory, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Autumn), pp. 353-388
  8. ^ Midant-Reynes, Beatrix (2000), The Prehistory of Egypt: From the First Egyptians to the First Pharaohs (Blackwell) pp. 73-75
  9. ^ Zarins, Juris (1990), “Early Pastoral Nomadism and the Settlement of Lower Mesopotamia”, (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research)
  10. ^ Perrot J. (1964), "Les deux premières campagnes de fouilles à Munhata", Syria XLI, pp. 323-345
  11. ^ Mellaart, James (1975), The Neolithic of the Near East (London: Thames and Hudson), pp. 239-241
  12. ^ Appleyard, David L. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 64, No. 1 (2001), pp. 151-152
  13. ^ Ehret, Christopher (1982), "On the antiquity of agriculture in Ethiopia" Journal of African History (Univ. of Calif. Berkeley Press)
  14. ^ Barnett, William and Hoopes, John (eds.) (1995). The Emergence of Pottery. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-517-8
  15. ^ Midant-Reynes, Beatrix (2000), The Prehistory of Egypt: From the First Egyptians to the First Pharaohs (Blackwell)
  16. ^ Harlan, Jack R. (1971) "Agricultural Origins: Centers and Noncenters" (Science 29 October 1971: Vol. 174. no. 4008), pp. 468 - 474
  17. ^ Bender, Lionel (1997), "Upside Down Afrasian", Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 50, pp. 19-34
  18. ^ Fagan, Brian (2004), The Long Hot Summer: How Climate Changed Civilisation (London: Grant Books)
  19. ^ Burroughs, William J. (2005), Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge University Press)
  20. ^ Bibliographie Linguistique - Linguistic Bibliography

Literature

  • Barnett, William and John Hoopes (editors). 1995. The Emergence of Pottery. Washington, DC: 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.
  • Bomhard, Alan R. 1996. Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis. Signum.
  • 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. 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 March 21-23, 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. Мoscow. (Forthcoming.)
  • Newman, Paul. 1980. The Classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic. Leiden: Universitaire Pers Leiden.
  • Ruhlen, Merritt. 1991. A Guide to the World's Languages. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Sands, Bonny. 2009. "Africa’s Linguistic Diversity". Language and Linguistics Compass 3/2 (2009): 559–580, 10.1111/j.1749-818x.2008.00124.x
  • Theil, R. 2006. Is Omotic Afro-Asiatic? Proceedings from the David Dwyer retirement symposium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 21 October 2006.

External links



Simple English

Afro-Asiatic is a large language family. Almost all of the languages in the Afro-Asiatic family are spoken in Africa and southwestern Asia. Most linguists believe that the origins of Afro-Asiatic lie somewhere in eastern Africa, particularly around the Horn area; this is because Afro-Asiatic languages are the most diverse there. The Afro-Asiatic language family is divided into several smaller groups such as:

  • Semitic (only Afro-Asiatic subgroup with Asian members; also spoken in Ethiopia)

-Arabic

-Hebrew

  • Egyptic

-Ancient Egyptian

  • Chadic (spoken in North African countries such as Chad and Nigeria)

-Hausa

  • Berber (spoken in northwest Africa)

-Tuareg

  • Cushitic (spoken in northeast Africa)








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