Ethiopia has 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. The largest ethnic and linguistic groups are the Oromos, Amharas and Tigrayans.
Ge'ez is the ancient language, and was introduced as an official written language during the first Aksumite kingdom when the Sabeans sought refuge in Aksum. The Aksumites developed Ge'ez, a unique script derived from the Sabean alphabet, and it is still used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church today. Tigrigna and Amharigna (Amharic) are the modern languages which are derived from Ge'ez. Amharic is the official national language of Ethiopia. English, Arabic, Italian and French are widely spoken by many Ethiopians.
The Ethiopian languages are divided into four major language groups.These are Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic, and Nilo-Saharan.
The Semitic languages are spoken in northern, central and eastern Ethiopia (mainly in Tigray, Amhara, Harar and northern part of the Southern Peoples' State regions). They use the Ge'ez script that is unique to the country, which consists of 33 letters, each of which denotes 7 characters, making a total of 231 characters.
The Semitic Languages:
- Chaha group (Chaha, Muher, Ezha, Gumer, Gura)
- Inor group (Inor, Enner, Endegegna, Gyeto, Mesemes)
- Silt'e group (Silt'e, Ulbareg, Enneqor, Walane)
- Soddo group (Soddo, Gogot, Galila)
The Cushitic languages are mostly spoken in central, southern and eastern Ethiopia (mainly in Afar, Oromia and Somali regions). The Cushitic languages use the Roman alphabet and Ge'ez script. For example, Oromo is written in the Ge'ez script whereas Somali is written in the Roman alphabet.
The Cushitic Languages:
The Omotic languages are predominantly spoken between the Lakes of southern Rift Valley and the Omo River.
The Omotic Languages:
- Welaytta (Welamo)
The Nilo-Saharan languages are largely spoken in the western part of the country along the border with Sudan (mainly in Gambella and Benshangul regions).
The Nilo-Saharan Languages:
Ethiopian Ethnic Groups:
- Roderick Grierson and Stuart Munro-Hay, The Ark of the Covenant, 2000, published by Phoenix, London, UK, ISBN 0753810107
- Stuart Munro-Hay, Ethiopia, The Unknown Land a Cultural and Historical Guide, 2002, published by I.B. Tauris and Co. Ltd., London and New York, ISBN 1 86064 7448
- Jenny Hammond, Fire From The Ashes, A Chronicle of the Revolution in Tigray, Ethiopia, 1975-1991, 1999, published by The Read Sea Press, Inc., ISBN 1 56902 0868
- Philip Briggs, Ethiopia, The Bradt Travel Guide, Third Edition, 2002, published by Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, England, UK, ISBN 1 84162 0351
- The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (2003). The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Faith and Order. http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/indexenglish.html
- Binyam Kebede (2002). http://www.ethiopiafirst.com (4ladies.jpg, Afar-lady.jpg, Afar-girl.jpg, lady-artful-lips.jpg, Man-face-art.jpg, Man-face-art2.jpg, Somal-lady.jpg, Debra-Damo.jpg, Buitiful-girls.jpg, lady-face-art.jpg, man-hair-style.jpg, yeha.jpg, harar.jpg,). Many thanks to Binyam Kebede for his permission to copy and use these pictures from his website.
- Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Office of Population and Housing Census Commission Central Statistical Authority, November 1998, Addis Ababa
- Edward Ullendorff, Ethiopia and The Bible, The Schweich Lectures, The British Academy, Published by The Oxford University Press, first published 1968, Reprinted 1989, 1992, 1997, Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, United Kingdom, ISBN 0-19-726076-4
- Mr. Solomon Kibriye (2003). Imperial Ethiopia Homepage, http://www.angelfire.com/ny/ethiocrown. Many thanks to Mr. Solomon Kibriye for the contribution and comments he has made to this website.
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