Afar Language

Afar (Qafár af) is a Lowland East Cushitic language spoken in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. It is believed to have 1.5 million speakers, the Afar. The basic word order in Afar, like in other East Cushitic languages, is subject–object–verb. Its speakers have a literacy rate of between one and three per cent. Its closest relative is the Saho language.

In Eritrea, Afar is recognized as one of nine national languages which formally enjoy equal status (though Tigrinya and Arabic are by far of greatest significance in official usage). There are daily broadcasts in the national radio and a translated version of the Eritrean constitution. In education, however, Afar speakers prefer Arabic – which many of them speak as a second language – as the language of instruction. In the Afar Region of Ethiopia, Afar is partially used in some of the few schools, while Amharic is the region's working language.

The consonants of the Afar language in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):
      Labial     Alveolar     Retroflex     Palatal     Velar     Pharyngeal     Glottal
Stops     voiceless             t  [t]                   k  [k]            
voiced       b  [b]       d  [d]       x  [ɖ]             g  [ɡ]            
Fricatives     voiceless       f  [f]       s  [s]                         c  [ħ]       h  [h]
voiced                                     q  [ʕ]      
Nasals       m  [m]       n  [n]                              
Approximants       w  [w]       l  [l]             y  [j]                  
Tap             r  [r]                            

Consonants which close syllables are released, e.g., akʰˈme.
Vowels and stress

            a [ʌ]
            e [e]
            i [i]
            o [o]
            u [u]
            aa [aː]
            ee [eː]
            ii [iː]
            oo [oː]
            uu [uː]

Sentence final vowels of affirmative verbs are aspirated (and stressed), e.g. abeh = /aˈbeʰ/ 'He did.' Sentence final vowels of negative verbs are not aspirated (nor stressed), e.g. maabinna = /ˈmaabinna/ 'He did not do.' Sentence final vowels of interrogative verbs are lengthened (and stressed), e.g. abee? = /aˈbeː/ 'Did he do?' Otherwise, stress in word-final.


Syllables are of the form (C)V(V)(C). One exception is the three-consonant cluster -str-.

Writing system

Afar may be written either with the Latin script or Ge'ez.

Linguists of the Institut des Langues de Djibouti, the Eritrean Ministry of Education and the Ethiopian Afar Language Studies & Enrichment Center are working to develop a standardized written version of Afar in order to facilitate alphabetization of its speakers.
Latin alphabet
A, B, T, S, E, C, K, X, I, D, Q, R, F, G, O, L, M, N, U, W, H, Y
a, ba, ta, sa, e, ca, ka, xa, i, da, qa, ra, fa, ga, o, la, ma, na, u, wa, ha, ya

Tagged as:

Languages of Ethiopia, Afar, Afar Language


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