Semitic languages

The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. They constitute a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. The most widely spoken Semitic languages today are Arabic (206 million native speakers), Amharic (27 million), Hebrew (about 7 million), Tigrinya (6.7 million), and Aramaic (about 2.2 million).

Semitic languages are attested in written form from a very early date, with texts in Eblaite and Akkadian appearing from around the middle of the third millennium BC, written in a script adapted from Sumerian cuneiform. However, most scripts used to write Semitic languages are abjads — a type of alphabetic script that omits some or all of the vowels, which is feasible for these languages because the consonants in the Semitic languages are the primary carriers of meaning. Among them are the Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, and South Arabian alphabets. The Ge'ez alphabet, used for writing the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea, is technically an abugida — a modified abjad in which vowels are notated using diacritic marks added to the consonants. Maltese is the only Semitic language written in the Latin script and the only official Semitic language of the European Union.

The Semitic languages are well known for their nonconcatenative morphology. That is, word roots are not themselves syllables or words, but instead are isolated sets of consonants (usually three, making a so-called triliteral root). Words are composed out of roots not so much by adding prefixes or suffixes, but rather by filling in the vowels between the root consonants (although prefixes and suffixes are often added as well). For example, in Arabic, the root meaning "write" has the form k – t – b. From this root, words are formed by filling in the vowels, e.g. kitāb "book", kutub "books", kātib "writer", kuttāb "writers", kataba "he wrote", yaktubu "he writes", etc.

 

History

Origins

11th century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible with Targum
Page from a 15th century Bible in Ge'ez (Ethiopia & Eritrea)

The Semitic family is a member of the larger Afroasiatic family, all of whose other five or more branches are based in Africa. Largely for this reason, the ancestors of Proto-Semitic speakers are believed by many to have first arrived in the Middle East from North Africa, possibly as part of the operation of the Saharan pump, around the late Neolithic. Diakonoff sees Semitic originating between the Nile Delta and Canaan as the northernmost branch of Afroasiatic. Blench even wonders whether the highly divergent Gurage languages indicate an origin in Ethiopia (with the rest of Ethiopic Semitic a later back migration). However, an opposing theory is that Afroasiatic originated in the Middle East, and that Semitic is the only branch to have stayed put; this view is supported by apparent Sumerian and Caucasian loanwords in the African branches of Afroasiatic.A recent Bayesian analysis of alternative Semitic histories supports the latter possibility and identifies an origin of Semitic languages in the Levant around 3,750 BC with a single introduction from southern Arabia into Africa around 800 BC.

In one interpretation, Proto-Semitic itself is assumed to have reached the Arabian Peninsula by approximately the 4th millennium BC, from which Semitic daughter languages continued to spread outwards. When written records began in the late 4th millennium BC, the Semitic-speaking Akkadians were entering Mesopotamia from the deserts to the west, and were probably already present in places such as Ebla in Syria. Akkadian personal names began appearing in written record in Mesopotamia from the late 29th Century BC.

2nd millennium BC

By the late 3rd millennium BC, East Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Eblaite dominated in Mesopotamia and north east Syria, while West Semitic languages such as Amorite, Canaanite and Ugaritic were probably spoken from Syria to the Arabian Peninsula, although Old South Arabian is considered by most to be South Semitic although data is sparse. The Akkadian language of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia had become the dominant literary language of the Fertile Crescent, using the cuneiform script which was adapted from the Sumerians. The Middle Assyrian Empire facilitated the use of Akkadian as a 'lingua franca' in many regions outside its homeland. The related but more sparsely attested Eblaite disappeared with the city, and Amorite is attested only from proper names in Mesopotamian records.

For the 2nd millennium, somewhat more data are available, thanks to the spread of an invention first used to capture the sounds of Semitic languages — the alphabet. Proto-Canaanite texts from around 1500 BC yield the first undisputed attestations of a West Semitic language (although earlier testimonies are possibly preserved in Middle Bronze Age alphabets), followed by the much more extensive Ugaritic tablets of northern Syria from around 1300 BC. Incursions of nomadic Semitic Aramaeans, and later still Chaldeans, from the Syrian desert begin around this time. Akkadian continued to flourish, splitting into Babylonian and Assyrian dialects.

1st millennium BC

9th century Syriac manuscript

In the 1st millennium BC, the alphabet spread much further, giving us a picture not just of Canaanite but also of Aramaic, Old South Arabian, and early Ge'ez. During this period, the case system, once vigorous in Ugaritic, seems to have started decaying in Northwest Semitic. Phoenician colonies (such as Carthage) spread their Canaanite language throughout much of the Mediterranean, while its close relative Hebrew became the vehicle of a religious literature, the Torah and Tanakh, that would have global ramifications. However, as an ironic result of the Assyrian Empire's vast conquests, Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Fertile Crescent and much of the Near East, gradually pushing Akkadian, Hebrew, Phoenician-Canaanite, and several other languages to extinction, although Hebrew and Akkadian remained in use as liturgical languages, Hebrew in particular developing a substantial literature. Meanwhile, Ge'ez texts, imported from Arabia in the 8th Century BC, give the first direct record of Ethiopian Semitic.

Common Era (AD)

Page from a 12th century Qur'an in Arabic

Syriac, a Mesopotamian descendant of Aramaic used in North Eastern Syria, Assyria (Assuristan) and Mesopotamia, rose to importance as a literary language of early Christianity in the 3rd to 5th centuries and continued into the early Arab Islamic era.

With the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, the ascendancy of Aramaic was dealt a fatal blow by the Arab conquests, which made another Semitic language — Arabic — the official language of an empire stretching from Spain to Central Asia.

Approximate distribution of Semitic language around the 1st century A.D.

With the patronage of the caliphs and the prestige of its liturgical status, it rapidly became one of the world's main literary languages. Its spread among the masses took much longer; however, as many (although not all) of the native populations outside the Arabian Peninsula only gradually abandoned their languages in favor of Arabic. As Bedouin tribes settled in conquered areas, it became the main language of not only central Arabia, but also Yemen,the Fertile Crescent, and Egypt. Most of the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) followed, particularly in the wake of the Banu Hilal's incursion in the 11th century, and Arabic became the native language of many inhabitants of Spain. After the collapse of the Nubian kingdom of Dongola in the 14th century, Arabic began to spread south of Egypt; soon after, the Beni Ḥassān brought Arabization to Mauritania.

Meanwhile, Semitic languages were diversifying in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where, under heavy Cushitic influence, they split into a number of languages, including Amharic and Tigrinya. With the expansion of Ethiopia under the Solomonic dynasty, Amharic, previously a minor local language, spread throughout much of the country, replacing languages both Semitic (such as Gafat) and non-Semitic (such as Weyto), and replacing Ge'ez as the principal literary language (though Ge'ez remains the liturgical language for Christians in the region); this spread continues to this day, with Qimant set to disappear in another generation.

Present situation

Map showing the distribution of Semitic (orange) and other Afro-Asiatic language speakers today

Arabic is the native language of majorities from Mauritania to Oman, and from Iraq to the Sudan. As the language of the Qur'an and as a lingua franca, it is studied widely in the non-Arabic-speaking Muslim world as well. Its spoken form is divided into a number of varieties, some not mutually comprehensible, united by a single written form. The principal exception to this almost universal use of Arabic script is the Maltese language, genetically a descendant of the extinct Sicilian Arabic dialect. The Maltese alphabet is based on the Latin script with the addition of some letters with diacritic marks and digraphs. Maltese is the only Semitic official language within the European Union.

Despite the ascendancy of Arabic in the Middle East, other Semitic languages still exist. Hebrew, long extinct as a colloquial language and in use only in Jewish literary, intellectual, and liturgical activity, was revived in spoken form at the end of the 19th century by the Jewish linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. It has become the main language of Israel, while remaining the language of liturgy and religious scholarship of Jews worldwide.

Several smaller ethnic groups, in particular the Christian Assyrians and Gnostic Mandeans, continue to speak and write Mesopotamian Aramaic dialects (especially Neo-Aramaic, descended from Syriac) in northern Iraq, south eastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, and northeast Syria and the Caucasus. These dialects still contain a number of Akkadian loan words. Syriac itself, a descendant of Mesopotamian Old Aramaic, is used liturgically by Lebanese (the Maronites), Syrian and Assyrian Christians throughout Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Turkey.

In Arabic-dominated Yemen and Oman, on the southern rim of the Arabian Peninsula, a few tribes continue to speak Modern South Arabian languages such as Mahri and Soqotri. These languages differ greatly from both the surrounding Arabic dialects and from the (unrelated but previously thought to be related) languages of the Old South Arabian inscriptions.

Historically linked to the peninsular homeland of the Old South Arabian languages, Ethiopia and Eritrea contain a substantial number of Semitic languages; the most widely spoken are Amharic in Ethiopia, Tigre in Eritrea, and Tigrinya in both. Respectively, Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia. Tigrinya is a working language in Eritrea. Tigre is spoken by over one million people in the northern and central Eritrean lowlands and parts of eastern Sudan. A number of Gurage languages are spoken by populations in the semi-mountainous region of southwest Ethiopia, while Harari is restricted to the city of Harar. Ge'ez remains the liturgical language for certain groups of Christians in Ethiopia and in Eritrea.

Phonology

The reconstruction of Proto-Semitic (PS) was originally based primarily on the Arabic language, whose phonology and morphology (particularly in Classical Arabic) is extremely conservative, and which preserves 28 out of the evident 29 consonantal phonemes.[13] Thus, the phonemic inventory of reconstructed Proto-Semitic is very similar to that of Arabic, with only one phoneme less in Arabic than in reconstructed Proto-Semitic. As such, Proto-Semitic is generally reconstructed as having the following phonemes (as usually transcribed in Semitology):

Inventory

Proto-Semitic consonant phonemes
 LabialInter-
dental
Dental/
Alveolar
PalatalVelarPharyn-
geal
Glottal
CentralLateral
Nasal *m [m]   *n [n]          
Stopvoiceless *p [p]   *t [t]     *k [k]   [ʔ]
voiced *b [b]   *d [d]     *g [ɡʲ]    
emphatic     *ṭ [tʼ]     *q [kʼ] or [q]    
Fricative
or
affricate
voiceless   *ṯ [θ] [ʃ]
*s [s] or [ts]
[ɬ] or [tɬ]   *ḫ [χ]~[x] *ḥ [ħ] *h [h]
voiced   *ḏ [ð] *z [dz] or [z]     [ʁ]~[ɣ] [ʕ]  
emphatic   *ṱ [θʼ] or [tθʼ] *ṣ [tsʼ] or [sʼ] *ṣ́ [tɬʼ] or [ɬʼ]        
Trill     *r [ɾ]          
Approximant       *l [l] *y [j] *w [w]    
  • Some argue that *s (s), *z (z), *ṣ (), *ś (ɬ), *ṣ́ (ɬʼ), *ṱ (θʼ) were affricated (/ts, dz, tsʼ, tɬ, tɬʼ, tθʼ/)

The Proto-Semitic consonant system is based on triads of related voiced, voiceless, and "emphatic" consonants. Five such triads are reconstructed in Proto-Semitic:

  • Dental stops d t ṭ
  • Velar stops g k ḳ (normally written g k q)
  • Dental sibilants z s ṣ
  • Interdental ð θ θ̣ (normally written ḏ ṯ ṱ)
  • Lateral l ɬ ɬ̣ (normally written l ś ṣ́)

The probable phonetic realization of most consonants is straightforward, and is indicated in the table with the IPA. Two subsets of consonants however call for further comment:

Emphatics

The sounds notated here as "emphatic" sounds occur in nearly all Semitic languages, as well as in most other Afroasiatic languages, and are generally reconstructed as glottalized in Proto-Semitic.  Thus, *ṭ for example represents [tʼ]. (See below for the fricatives/affricates).

In modern Semitic languages, emphatics are variously realized as pharyngealized (Arabic, Aramaic: e.g. [tˤ]), glottalized (Ethiopian Semitic languages, Modern South Arabian languages: e.g. [tʼ]), or as unaspirated (Turoyo of Tur-Abdin: e.g. [t˭]); Modern Hebrew and Maltese are exceptions to this general retention, with all emphatics merging into plain consonants under the influence of Indo-European languages (Italian/Sicilian in Maltese, German/Yiddish in Hebrew).

An emphatic labial occurs in some Semitic languages but it is unclear whether it was a phoneme in Proto-Semitic.

  • Hebrew developed an emphatic /ṗ/ phoneme to represent unaspirated /p/ in Iranian and Greek.
  • Ge'ez is unique among Semitic languages for contrasting all three of /p/, /f/, and /pʼ/. While /p/ and /pʼ/ mostly occur in loanwords (especially Greek), there are many other occurrences where the origin is less clear (e.g. hepʼä 'strike', häppälä 'wash clothes').

Fricatives

The reconstruction of Proto-Semitic has nine fricative sounds that develop into sibilants at various points in later languages, although it is a matter of dispute whether all started as sibilants already in PS:

  • One voiced fricative, that eventually becomes, for example, both Hebrew and Arabic *z
  • Three voiceless fricatives
    • (*s₁) that becomes Hebrew *š but Arabic *s
    • (*s₂) that becomes Hebrew *ś but Arabic *š
    • *s (*s₃) that becomes both Hebrew and Arabic *s
  • Two emphatic fricatives (*ṣ, *ṣ́)
  • Three interdental fricatives
    • Voiced
    • Unvoiced
    • Emphatic *θ̣

The precise sound of the PS fricatives, notably of š, ś, s, and , remains a perplexing problem, and there are various systems of notation to describe them. The notation given here is traditional, based on their pronunciation in Hebrew, which traditionally has been extrapolated back to Proto-Semitic. The notation *s₁, *s₂, *s₃ is found primarily in the literature on Old South Arabian, although more recently it has been used by some authors discussing Proto-Semitic in order to express a non-committal view of the pronunciation of these sounds. However, the older transcription remains predominant in most literature, often even among scholars who disagree with the traditional interpretation or remain non-committal.

The traditional view as expressed in the conventional transcription and still maintained by one part of the authors in the fieldis that was a Voiceless postalveolar fricative ([ʃ]), *s was a voiceless alveolar sibilant ([s]) and ś was a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative ([ɬ]). Accordingly, *ṣ is seen as an emphatic version of s ([sʼ]); *z as a voiced version of it ([z]); and *ṣ́ as an emphatic version of ś ([[IPA|[ɬʼ]). The reconstruction of ś ṣ́ as lateral fricatives (or affricates) is not in doubt, despite the fact that few modern languages preserve these sounds. The pronunciation of ś ṣ́ as [ɬ ɬʼ] is still maintained in the Modern South Arabian languages (e.g. Mehri), and evidence of a former lateral pronunciation is evident in a number of other languages. For example, Biblical Hebrew baśam was borrowed into Ancient Greek as balsamon (hence English "balsam"), and the 8th-century Arab grammarian Sībawayh explicitly described the Arabic descendant of ṣ́ (now pronounced [dˤ] in standard pronunciation, but [ðˤ] in many conservative dialects) as a pharyngealized voiced lateral fricative [ɮˤ].

The primary disagreements concern (1) whether all of these sounds were actually fricatives in Proto-Semitic, or whether some were affricates; and (2) whether the sound designated š was pronounced [ʃ] (or similar) in Proto-Semitic, as the traditional view posits, or had the value of [s]. A separate disagreement concerns the nature of the "emphatic" consonants in Proto-Semitic: whether they were pharyngealized, as in modern Arabic and Aramaic, or ejective (often described as "glottalized" in the literature), as in the modern Ethiopian Semitic languages. This is discussed below and is partly orthogonal to the issues here, but somewhat related as well, especially given the current consensus that they were ejective rather than pharyngealized.

With respect to the traditional view, there are two dimensions of "minimal" and "maximal" modifications made:

  1. In how many sounds are taken to be affricates. The "minimal affricate" position takes only the emphatic *ṣ as an affricate [tsʼ]. The "maximal affricate" position additionally posits that *s *z were actually affricates [ts] [dz] while was actually a simple fricative [s].
  2. In whether to extend the affricate interpretation to the interdentals and laterals. The "minimal extension" position assumes that only the sibilants were affricates, while the other "fricatives" were in fact all fricatives, while the maximal update extends the same interpretation to the other sounds. Typically this means that the "minimal affricate, maximal extension" position takes all and only the emphatics are taken as affricates, i.e. emphatic *ṣ *θ̣ *ṣ́ were [tsʼ tθʼ tɬʼ]), while the "maximal affricate, maximal extension" position assumes not only the "maximal affricate" position for sibilants, but also assumes that non-emphatic *θ *ð *ś were actually affricates.

Affricates in PS were proposed long since, but the idea only seems to have met wider acceptance since the work of Alice Faber (1981)challenging the older approach. A different opinion is maintained for example by Joshua Blau (2010), who maintains that *š was indeed originally [ʃ], while also acknowledging that an affricate [tʃ] is possible.

The Semitic languages that have survived to the modern day often have fricatives for these consonants. However, Ethiopic languages and Modern Hebrew (in many reading traditions) have an affricate for *ṣ.

The evidence in favor of the various affricate interpretations of the sibilants consists both of direct evidence from transcriptions and of structural evidence. However, the evidence for the "maximal extension" positions that extend affricate interpretations to non-sibilant "fricatives" is largely structural. This is due both to the relative rarity of the interdentals and lateral obstruents among the attested Semitic languages, and the even greater rarity of such sounds among the various languages in which Semitic words were transcribed. As a result, even when these sounds were transcribed, the resulting transcriptions may be difficult to interpret clearly.

The narrowest affricate view (where only *ṣ was an affricate [tsʼ]) is the most accepted. The affricate pronunciation is directly attested in the modern Ethiopic languages and Modern Hebrew, as mentioned above, but in ancient transcriptions of numerous Semitic languages in various other languages. Some examples:

  • Transcriptions of Ge'ez from the period of the Axumite Kingdom (early centuries AD), e.g. ṣəyāmo rendered as Greek τζιαμω tsiamō.
  • The Hebrew reading tradition of as [ts] clearly goes back at least to medieval times, as shown by the use of Hebrew צ (*ṣ) to represent affricates in early New Persian, Old Osmanli Turkic, Middle High German, etc. Similarly, Old French c /ts/ was used to transliterate צ, e.g. Hebrew ṣɛdɛk "righteousness" and ʼarɛṣ "land (of Israel)" were written cedek, arec.
  • There is also evidence of an affricated pronunciation of ancient Hebrew and Phoenician/Punic . Punic was often transcribed as ts or t in Latin and Greek, or occasionally Greek ks; correspondingly, Egyptian names and loanwords in Hebrew and Phoenician use to represent the Ancient Egyptian palatal affricate (conventionally described as voiced but possibly instead an unvoiced ejective).
  • Aramaic and Syriac had an affricated realization of *ṣ up to some point, as seen in Old Armenian loanwords (e.g. Aram. צרר 'bundle, bunch' → OArm. 'crar' /tsɹaɹ/).
  • Older Semitic borrowings in Armenian have also /tsʰ/ and /dz/ for *s and *z.

The "maximal affricate" view applied only to sibilants also has transcriptional evidence in its favor. According to Kogan, the affricate interpretation of Akkadian s z ṣ is generally accepted.

  • Akkadian cuneiform as adapted for writing various other languages used the z- signs to represent affricates. Examples include /ts/ in Hittite, Egyptian affricate in the Amarna letters and the Old Iranian affricates /t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/ in Elamite.
  • Egyptian transcriptions of early Canaanite words with *z, *s, *ṣ use affricates ( for *s, *z, *ṣ).
  • West Semitic loanwords in the "older stratum" of Armenian reflect *s *z as affricates.
  • Greek borrowing of Phoenician ש to represent /s/, and ס *s to represent /ks/, is difficult to explain if *s had the value [s] at the time in Phoenician, but is quite explainable if it actually had the value [ts] (and even more understandable if had the value [s]).
  • Similarly, Phoenician uses ש to represent sibilant fricatives in other languages rather than ס *s down to the mid 3rd-century BC, which has been taken by Friedrich/Röllig 1999 (pp. 27-28) as evidence of an affricate pronunciation in Phoenician down to this time. On the other hand, Egyptian starts using s in place of earlier to represent Canaanite s around 1000 BC. As a result, Kogan assumes a much earlier loss of affricates in Phoenician, and assumes that the foreign sibilant fricatives in question had a sound closer to [ʃ] than [s]. (A similar interpretation for at least Latin s has been proposed by various linguists based on evidence of similar pronunciations of written s in a number of early medieval Romance languages.)

There is also a good deal of internal evidence in early Akkadian for affricate realizations of s z ṣ. Examples are that underlying ||t, d, ṭ + š|| was realized as ss (which is more natural if the law was phonetically ||t, d, ṭ + [s]|| → [tts]) and that s z ṣ shift to š before t (which is more naturally interpreted as deaffrication).

Evidence for as /s/ also exists but is somewhat less clear. It has been suggested that it is cross-linguistically rare for languages with a single sibilant fricative to have [ʃ] as this sound, and that [s] is more likely. Similarly, the use of Phoenician ש as the source of Greek s seems easiest to explain is the phoneme had the sound of [s] at the time. The occurrence of [ʃ] for in a number of separate modern Semitic languages (e.g. Neo-Aramaic, Modern South Arabian, most Biblical Hebrew reading traditions) as well as Old Babylonian Akkadian is then suggested to result from a push-type chain shift, where the change [ts] → [s] "pushes" [s] out of the way to [ʃ] in the languages in question, while a merger of the two as [s] occurs in various other languages (e.g. Arabic, Ethiopian Semitic).

On the other hand, it has been suggested that the initial merged s in Arabic was actually a "hissing-hushing sibilant", presumably something like [ɕ], which only later became [s]. This would suggest a value closer to [ɕ] or [ʃ] for Proto-Semitic , since [ts] and [s] would almost certainly merge directly to [s]. Furthermore, there is various evidence to suggest that the sound [ʃ] for existed at a time when *s was still [ts]. Examples are the Southern Old Babylonian form of Akkadian, which evidently had [ʃ] along with [ts], as well as Egyptian transcriptions of early Canaanite words, where *š *s are rendered as š . ( is an affricate and the consensus interpretation of š is [ʃ], as in modern Coptic.)

Diem (1974) suggested that the Canaanite sound change of is more natural if *š was [s], than if it was [ʃ]. However, Kogan points out numerous objections to this, among which are that *s at the time was [ts], so the change is the most likely merger regardless of the exact nature of at the time.

Evidence for the affricate nature of the non-sibilants is mostly based on internal considerations. Ejective fricatives are quite rare cross-linguistically, and when a language has such sounds, it nearly always has [s]. Hence if *ṣ was actually affricate [tsʼ], it would be extremely unusual if *θ̣ *ṣ́ were fricative [θʼ ɬʼ] rather than affricate [tθʼ tɬʼ]. According to Rodinson (1981) and Weninger (1998), the Greek place-name Mátlia with tl used to render Ge'ez (Proto-Semitic *ṣ́) is "clear proof" that this sound was affricated in Ge'ez, and thus quite possibly in Proto-Semitic as well.

The evidence for the most maximal interpretation, where all the interdentals and lateral obstruents were affricates, appears to be mostly structural (i.e. the system would be more symmetric if reconstructed this way).

The shift →h occurred in most Semitic languages (besides Akkadian, Minaian, Qatabanian) in grammatical and pronominal morphemes, and it is unclear whether reduction of began in a daughter proto-language or in PS itself. Given this, some suggest that weakened may have been a separate phoneme in PS.

Reflexes of Proto-Semitic sounds in daughter languages

Consonants

Each Proto-Semitic phoneme was reconstructed to explain a certain regular sound correspondence between various Semitic languages. Note that Latin letter values (italicized) for extinct languages are a question of transcription; the exact pronunciation is not recorded.

Most of the attested languages have merged a number of the reconstructed original fricatives, though South Arabian retains all fourteen (and has added a fifteenth from *p → f).

In Aramaic and Hebrew, all non-emphatic stops were softened to fricatives when occurring singly after a vowel, leading to an alternation that was often later phonemicized as a result of the loss of gemination.

In languages exhibiting pharyngealization of emphatics, the original velar emphatic has rather developed to a uvular stop [q].

Proto-SemiticIPAAkkadianArabic1UgariticPhoenicianHebrewModern
Hebrew
AramaicGe'ezModern
South Arabian
*bb b ب b b Phoenician beth.png b ב /b6 /v/, /b/ ב /b6 /b/ /b/
*dd d د d d Phoenician daleth.png d ד /d6 /d/ ד /d6 /d/ /d/
*gg g ج ǧ *[ɡʲ]→[d͡ʒ]1 g Phoenician gimel.png g ג /g6 /ɡ/, /dʒ/ ג /g6 /ɡ/ /ɡ/
*pp p ف f p Phoenician pe.png p פ /p6 /f/, /p/ פ /p6 /f/ /f/
*tt t ت t t Phoenician taw.png t ת /t6 /t/ ת /t6 /t/ /t/
*kk k ك k k Phoenician kaph.png k כ /k6 /χ/, /k/ כ /k6 /k/ /k/
*ṭ ط [tˤ] Phoenician teth.png ט /t/ ט /tʼ/ /tʼ/
*ḳq / q ق q q q ק q /k/ ק q /kʼ/ /kʼ/
 
*ḏð z ذ [ð] d Phoenician zayin.png z ז z /z/, /ʒ/ ז4 4/d /z/ /ð/
*zz / dz ز z z ז z /z/
*ṯθ š ث [θ] Phoenician sin.png š שׁ š /ʃ/ ש4 4/t /s/ /θ/
ʃ س</b

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Languages of Ethiopia, Semitic languages

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