Cushitic languages

The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was traditionally identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947 (in Masudi's Arabic history Meadows of Gold). The most populous Cushitic language is Oromo with about 35 million speakers, followed by Somali with about 18 million speakers, and Sidamo in Ethiopia with about 2 million speakers. Other languages with more than one million speakers are Hadia (1.6 million), Kambata (1.4 million), and Afar (1.5 million).

Composition

There are six clearly valid groups of languages which are usually included in the Cushitic family (Beja, Agaw, Sidamic, Lowland East Cushitic, Dullay, and South Cushitic), as well as a few poorly classified languages (Yaaku, Dahalo, Aasax and Kw'adza, Boon, and the Cushitic element of Mbugu). However, there is a wide range of opinions as to how they are interrelated.

The Beja language, or North Cushitic, is sometimes placed outside Cushitic proper, though there is no evidence that the rest of Cushitic forms a valid group.

The positions of the Dullay languages and Yaaku are uncertain. These have traditionally been assigned to an East Cushitic branch along with Highland (Sidamic) and Lowland East Cushitic. However, Hayward believes East Cushitic may not be a valid node and that its constituents should be considered separately when attempting to work out the internal relationships of Cushitic.

Hetzron (1980:70ff) and Ehret (1995) have suggested that the Rift languages (South Cushitic) are a part of Lowland East Cushitic, the only one of the six groups with much internal diversity.

Cushitic was traditionally seen as also including the Omotic languages, then called West Cushitic. However, this view has largely been abandoned, with Omotic generally agreed to be an independent branch of Afroasiatic, primarily due to the work of Harold C. Fleming (1974) and M. Lionel Bender (1975).

Tagged as:

Languages of Ethiopia, Cushitic languages

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