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The Semitic languages are a branch of the
Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...

Afroasiatic language family
. They are spoken by more than 330 million people across much of
West Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hem ...

West Asia
, the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fr ...

Horn of Africa
, and latterly
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
,
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies south of Italy, east of Tunisi ...

Malta
, in the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the contin ...
, and in large
immigrant Immigration is the international movement of people to a destination country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship ...

immigrant
and expatriate communities in
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
,
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered ...

Europe
, and
Australasia Australasia is a region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. ...

Australasia
. The terminology was first used in the 1780s by members of the
Göttingen school of history Göttingen (, , ; nds, Chöttingen) is a college town, university city in Lower Saxony, central Germany, the Capital (political), capital of Göttingen (district), the eponymous district. The River Leine runs through it. At the end of 2019, th ...
, who derived the name from
Shem Shem (; he, שֵׁם ''Šēm''; ar, سام, Sām ''Sḗm''; : ሴም, ''Sēm'') was one of the in the and the . The children of Shem were , , , and , in addition to unnamed daughters. , the patriarch of the , the and the , was one of t ...
, one of the three
sons of Noah The Generations of Noah or Table of Nations, broadly referred to as ''Origines Gentium'', is a genealogy of the sons of Noah, according to the Hebrew Bible (Book of Genesis, Genesis ), and their dispersion into many lands after Genesis flood na ...
in the
Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In beginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrative, creation of the world, the early history of humanity, Israel' ...

Book of Genesis
. Semitic languages occur in written form from a very early historical date in West Asia, with
East Semitic The East Semitic languages are one of three divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. ...
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
and
Eblaite Eblaite (, also known as Eblan ISO 639-3 ISO 639-3:2007, ''Codes for the representation of names of languages – Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages'', is an international standard for language codes in the ISO 63 ...
texts (written in a script adapted from Sumerian
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
) appearing from the 30th century BCE and the 25th century BCE in
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
and the north eastern
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
respectively. The only earlier attested languages are
Sumerian
Sumerian
,
Elamite Elamite, also known as Hatamtite, is an extinct language that was spoken by the ancient Elamites. It was used in present-day southwestern Iran from 2600 BC to 330 BC. Elamite works disappear from the archeological record after Alexander the Great ...
(2800 BCE to 550 BCE), both
language isolate Language isolates are languages that cannot be classified into larger language families with any other languages. and are two of the most commonly cited language isolates, but there are many others. A language isolate is a language that is unr ...
s,
Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and ethnic groups * Egyptians, a national group in North Africa ** Egyptian culture, a complex and stable culture with thousands of years of r ...
, and the unclassified
Lullubi Lullubi, Lulubi ( akk, 𒇻𒇻𒉈: ''Lu-lu-bi'', akk, 𒇻𒇻𒉈𒆠: ''Lu-lu-biki'' "Country of the Lullubi"), more commonly known as Lullu, were a group of tribes during the 3rd millennium BC, from a region known as ''Lulubum'', now the Shar ...

Lullubi
(30th century BCE).
Amorite The Amorites (; Sumerian language, Sumerian 𒈥𒌅 ''MAR.TU''; Akkadian language, Akkadian ''Amurrūm'' or ''Tidnum''; Egyptian language, Egyptian ''Amar''; he, אמורי ''ʼĔmōrī''; grc, Ἀμορραῖοι) were an ancient Semitic lan ...
appeared in Mesopotamia and the northern Levant circa 2000 BC, followed by the mutually intelligible
Canaanite languages The Canaanite languages, or Canaanite dialects, are one of the three subgroups of the Northwest Semitic languages Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages The Semitic languages ...
(including Hebrew, Phoenician, Moabite, Edomite and Ammonite, and perhaps Ekronite, Amalekite and Sutean), the still spoken
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
, and
Ugaritic Ugaritic () is an extinct , classified by some as a of the and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the discovered by French in 1929 at , including several major literary texts, notably the . It has be ...
during the 2nd millenium BC. Most scripts used to write Semitic languages are
abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to th ...

abjad
sa type of
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

alphabet
ic script that omits some or all of the vowels, which is feasible for these languages because the consonants are the primary carriers of meaning in the Semitic languages. These include the
Ugaritic Ugaritic () is an extinct , classified by some as a of the and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the discovered by French in 1929 at , including several major literary texts, notably the . It has be ...

Ugaritic
,
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...

Phoenician
,
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...

Aramaic
,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...

Hebrew
,
SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...
,
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
, and ancient South Arabian alphabets. The
Geʽez script Geʽez (Geʽez Geʽez (; , ' or Geëz, and sometimes referred to in scholarly literature as Classical Ethiopic), is an ancient South Semitic language of the Ethio-Semitic branch language A language is a structured system of comm ...
, used for writing the Semitic languages of
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
and
Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a ...

Eritrea
, is technically an
abugida An abugida (, from Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental Writing systems#Segmental writing system, writing system in which consonant-vowel sequences are writt ...
a modified abjad in which vowels are notated using
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that ...
marks added to the consonants at all times, in contrast with other Semitic languages which indicate diacritics based on need or for introductory purposes.
Maltese Maltese may refer to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to Malta * Maltese alphabet * Maltese cuisine * Maltese culture * Maltese language, the Semitic language spoken by Maltese people * Maltese people, people from Malta or of Maltese ...
is the only Semitic language written in the
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequ ...

Latin script
and the only Semitic language to be an official language of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
. The Semitic languages are notable for their
nonconcatenative morphology Image:Nonconcatenative-muslim-derivation.png, Diagram of one version of the derivation of the Arabic word ''muslim'' in autosegmental phonology, with root consonants associating (shown by dotted grey lines). Nonconcatenative morphology, also calle ...
. That is, word
roots A root In vascular plant Vascular plants (from Latin ''vasculum'': duct), also known as Tracheophyta (the tracheophytes , from Greek τραχεῖα ἀρτηρία ''trācheia artēria'' 'windpipe' + φυτά ''phutá'' 'plants'), form a lar ...
are not themselves syllables or words, but instead are isolated sets of consonants (usually three, making a so-called ''
triliteral root The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental r ...
''). 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 K-T-B ( he, כ-ת-ב ; ar, ك-ت-ب ) is a triconsonantal root of a number of Semitic languages, Semitic words, typically those having to do with writing. The words for "office", "writer" and "record" all reflect this root. Most notably, the Arab ...
''. From this root, words are formed by filling in the vowels and sometimes adding additional consonants, e.g. كتاب ''kitāb'' "book", كتب ''kutub'' "books", كاتب ''kātib'' "writer", كتّاب ''kuttāb'' "writers", كتب ''kataba'' "he wrote", يكتب ''yaktubu'' "he writes", etc.


Name and identification

The similarity of the Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic languages has been accepted by all scholars since medieval times. The languages were familiar to Western European scholars due to historical contact with neighbouring
Near Eastern The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
countries and through
Biblical studies Biblical studies is the academic application of a set of diverse disciplines to the study of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian diale ...
, and a comparative analysis of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic was published in Latin in 1538 by
Guillaume Postel Guillaume Postel (25 March 1510 – 6 September 1581) was a French linguist, astronomer, Cabbalist, diplomat, professor, and religious universalist. Born in the village of Barenton in Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, N ...

Guillaume Postel
. Almost two centuries later,
Hiob Ludolf Hiob or Job Ludolf ( la, Iobus Ludolfus or '; 15 June 1624– 8 April 1704), also known as Job Leutholf, was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or peopl ...

Hiob Ludolf
described the similarities between these three languages and the
Ethiopian Semitic languages Ethiopian Semitic (also Ethio-Semitic, Ethiosemitic, Ethiopic or AbyssinianIgor Mikhailovich DiakonoSemito-Hamitic Languages: An Essay in Classification - Google Books" Nauka, Central Department of Oriental Literature, (1965) pp 12) is a family o ...
. However, neither scholar named this grouping as "Semitic". The term "Semitic" was created by members of the
Göttingen School of History Göttingen (, , ; nds, Chöttingen) is a college town, university city in Lower Saxony, central Germany, the Capital (political), capital of Göttingen (district), the eponymous district. The River Leine runs through it. At the end of 2019, th ...
, and specifically by August Ludwig von Schlözer (1781).
Johann Gottfried Eichhorn Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (16 October 1752, in Dörrenzimmern – 27 June 1827, in Göttingen Göttingen (, also , ; nds, Chöttingen) is a college town, university city in Lower Saxony, Germany, the Capital (political), capital of Göttingen ...

Johann Gottfried Eichhorn
, (1787) coined the name "Semitic" in the late 18th century to designate the languages closely related to Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew. The choice of name was derived from
Shem Shem (; he, שֵׁם ''Šēm''; ar, سام, Sām ''Sḗm''; : ሴም, ''Sēm'') was one of the in the and the . The children of Shem were , , , and , in addition to unnamed daughters. , the patriarch of the , the and the , was one of t ...
, one of the three sons of Noah in the genealogical accounts of the biblical
Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In beginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrative, creation of the world, the early history of humanity, Israel' ...

Book of Genesis
, or more precisely from the
Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, Greek spoken and written d ...
rendering of the name, . Eichhorn is credited with popularising the term, particularly via a 1795 article "Semitische Sprachen" (''Semitic languages'') in which he justified the terminology against criticism that Hebrew and Canaanite were the same language despite Canaan being "
Hamitic Geographic identifications of Flavius Josephus, c. 100 AD; Japheth's sons shown in red, Ham (son of Noah), Ham's sons in blue, Shem's sons in green. Hamites is the name formerly used for some North African peoples in the context of a Scientifi ...
" in the
Table of Nations The Generations of Noah or Table of Nations, broadly referred to as ''Origines Gentium'', is a genealogy of the sons of Noah In the traditions of Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world o ...

Table of Nations
. Previously these languages had been commonly known as the "" in European literature. In the 19th century, "Semitic" became the conventional name; however, an alternative name, "", was later introduced by
James Cowles Prichard James Cowles Prichard, Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (11 February 1786 – 23 December 1848) was a British physician and ethnologist with broad interests in biological anthropology, physical anthropology and psychiatry. His influential ''Resear ...

James Cowles Prichard
and used by some writers.


History


Ancient Semitic-speaking peoples

The origin of Semitic-speaking peoples is still under discussion. Several locations were proposed as possible sites of a prehistoric origin of Semitic-speaking peoples:
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
, the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
, the
Eastern Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct Amer ...

Eastern Mediterranean
region, the
Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
, and
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
. Some claim that the Semitic languages originated in the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
around 3800 BC, and were introduced to the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fr ...

Horn of Africa
at about 800 BC from the southern Arabian peninsula, and to
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
via
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3 ...
n colonists at approximately the same time. Others assign the arrival of Semitic speakers in the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fr ...

Horn of Africa
to a much earlier date and say that the view that Proto-Semitic speaking groups in the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fr ...

Horn of Africa
originated in
Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion of the larger geographical region of Asia, as defined by some academics, UN bodies and other institutions. It is almost entirely a part of the Middle East, and includes Anat ...

Western Asia
cannot be supported by archaeological, epigraphic and linguistic evidence. Some of these claim that Proto-Semitic separated from
Afroasiatic Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...

Afroasiatic
in the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fr ...

Horn of Africa
and that the original road of Semitic migration into the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
was from
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
. Semitic languages were spoken and written across much of the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
and
Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of ...

Asia Minor
during the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age sys ...
and
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's pa ...
, the earliest attested being the
East Semitic The East Semitic languages are one of three divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. ...
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
of the
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
n, northeast Levantine and southeastern
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
n polities of Akkad,
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
and
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
(effectively modern
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
, southeast
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
and northeast
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
), and the also East Semitic
Eblaite Eblaite (, also known as Eblan ISO 639-3 ISO 639-3:2007, ''Codes for the representation of names of languages – Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages'', is an international standard for language codes in the ISO 63 ...
language of the kingdom of
Ebla Ebla (Sumer Sumer ()The name is from '; ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", ifrom ''The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary''). Literally, "land of the native ...

Ebla
in the northeastern
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
. The various extremely closely related and
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
Canaanite languages The Canaanite languages, or Canaanite dialects, are one of the three subgroups of the Northwest Semitic languages Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages The Semitic languages ...
, a branch of the
Northwest Semitic languages Northwest Semitic is a division of the Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family ...
included
Amorite The Amorites (; Sumerian language, Sumerian 𒈥𒌅 ''MAR.TU''; Akkadian language, Akkadian ''Amurrūm'' or ''Tidnum''; Egyptian language, Egyptian ''Amar''; he, אמורי ''ʼĔmōrī''; grc, Ἀμορραῖοι) were an ancient Semitic lan ...
, first attested in the 21st century BC,
Edomite Edom (; Edomite language, Edomite: ; he, Wiktionary:אדום, אֱדוֹם , lit.: "red"; Akkadian language, Akkadian: , ; Egyptian language, Ancient Egyptian: ) was an ancient kingdom in Transjordan (region), Transjordan located between Mo ...
,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
,
Ammonite *Belemnoidea—an extinct group of . {{fossil cephalopods, state=collapsed Prehistoric cephalopods by classification Coleoidea ...
, Moabite,
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...
(
Punic The Punic people or Western Phoenicians, were a group of Semitic people, Semitic peoples in the Western Mediterranean who traced their origins to the Phoenicians of the coasts of Western Asia. In modern scholarship, the term 'Punic' – the Lati ...
/ Carthaginian),
Samaritan Hebrew Samaritan Hebrew () is a reading tradition used liturgically by the Samaritans The Samaritans (; Samaritan Hebrew: , ' (, 'Guardians/Keepers/Watchers (of the Torah)'); he, שומרונים, ''Shomronim''; ar, السامريون, ''al-Sāmir ...
,
Ekron The city of Ekron (Philistine The Philistines were an ancient people who lived on the south coast of Canaan from the 12th century BC until 604 BC, when their polity, after having already been subjugated for centuries by Assyria, was finally ...

Ekron
ite,
Amalekite Amalek (; he, עֲמָלֵק, ''‘Ámālēq'', ar, عماليق ''‘Amālīq'') is a nation described in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew ...
and
Sutean The Suteans (: ''Sutī’ū'', possibly from : ''Šetī’u'') were a possibly who lived throughout the and c. 1350 BC, and later also lived in . They are mentioned in eight of the 382 . Like the , they traditionally worked as mercenaries, and ...
. They were spoken in what is today
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
,
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
,
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part ...

Lebanon
, the
Palestinian territories The term "Palestinian territories" has been used for many years to describe the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 within the former Mandatory Palestine, British Mandate for Palestine, namely the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and t ...

Palestinian territories
,
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; tr. ') is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In ge ...

Jordan
, the northern
Sinai peninsula The Sinai Peninsula, or simply Sinai (now usually ) (, ), is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other ...

Sinai peninsula
, some northern and eastern parts of the
Arabian peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
, southwest fringes of
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
, and in the case of Phoenician, coastal regions of
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous , after in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11. ...

Tunisia
(
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading hub of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the . The city developed from a n colony ...

Carthage
),
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
and
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , religion = , official_languages = , languages_type = Oth ...

Algeria
, and possibly in
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies south of Italy, east of Tunisi ...

Malta
and other Mediterranean islands.
Ugaritic Ugaritic () is an extinct , classified by some as a of the and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the discovered by French in 1929 at , including several major literary texts, notably the . It has be ...
, a
Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It would have emerged from Common Semitic in the Early Bronze Age. It is first attested ...
language closely related to but distinct from the Canaanite group was spoken in the kingdom of
Ugarit Ugarit (; uga, 𐎜𐎂𐎗𐎚, ''ʼUgart''; ar, أُوغَارِيت ''Ūġārīt'' or ''Ūǧārīt''; he, אוּגָרִית ''Ugarit'') was an ancient port city in northern Syria, in the outskirts of modern Latakia, discovered by accident ...

Ugarit
in north western Syria. A hybrid Canaano-Akkadian language also emerged in Canaan (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon) during the 14th century BC, incorporating elements of the Mesopotamian East Semitic Akkadian language of Assyria and Babylonia with the West Semitic Canaanite languages.
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
, a still living ancient
Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It would have emerged from Common Semitic in the Early Bronze Age. It is first attested ...
language, first attested in the 12th century BC in the northern
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
, gradually replaced the East Semitic and Canaanite languages across much of the Near East, particularly after being adopted as the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
of the vast
Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire (Assyrian cuneiform Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disam ...

Neo-Assyrian Empire
(911-605 BC) by
Tiglath-Pileser III Tiglath-Pileser III (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo up Chiswick_Press.html"_;"title="Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press">Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press_ A_logo_(abbreviation_of_logotype,_from__el.html" ;"title="Chiswick_ ...
during the 8th century BC, and being retained by the succeeding
Neo-Babylonian The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Second Babylonian Empire and historically known as the Chaldean Empire, was the last of the Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن '; grc, Μεσοποταμία; S ...

Neo-Babylonian
and
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
s. The ''Chaldean language'' (not to be confused with
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
or its Biblical variant, sometimes referred to as ''Chaldean'') was a
Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It would have emerged from Common Semitic in the Early Bronze Age. It is first attested ...
language, possibly closely related to Aramaic, but no examples of the language remain, as after settling in south eastern Mesopotamia from the Levant during the 9th century BC, the
Chaldea Chaldea () was a small country that existed between the late 10th or early 9th and mid-6th centuries BCE, after which the country and its people were absorbed and assimilated into the indigenous population Babylonia. Semitic language, Semitic-s ...
ns appear to have rapidly adopted the Akkadian and Aramaic languages of the indigenous Mesopotamians.
Old South Arabian languages Old South Arabianhttp://e-learning.tsu.ge/pluginfile.php/5868/mod_resource/content/0/dzveli_armosavluri_enebi_-ugarituli_punikuri_arameuli_ebrauli_arabuli.pdf (or Ṣayhadic or Yemenite) is a group of four closely related extinct language Ex ...
(classified as South Semitic and therefore distinct from the Central Semitic language of
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
which developed over 1000 years later) were spoken in the kingdoms of
Dilmun Dilmun, or Telmun, (Sumerian: , later 𒉌𒌇(𒆠), ni.tukki = DILMUNki; ar, دلمون) was an ancient East Semitic The East Semitic languages are one of three divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematic ...
,
Meluhha or Melukhkha (''Me-luḫ-ḫaKI'' ) is the Sumerian name of a prominent trading partner of Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian language, Akkadian '; Sumerian language, Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civ ...
,
Sheba Sheba (; he, ''Šəḇāʾ''; ar, سبأ ''Sabaʾ''; Ge'ez: ሳባ ''Saba'') is a kingdom mentioned in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scriptures, including the , the , and the . These texts are almos ...

Sheba
, Ubar,
Socotra Socotra or Soqotra (; ar, سُقُطْرَىٰ ), located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea, is the largest of the four islands in the Socotra Archipelago. The territory is located near major shipping routes and is officially ...

Socotra
and Magan, which in modern terms encompassed part of the eastern coast of
Saudi Arabia (''Shahada'') , national_anthem = "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia, " "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia" , image_map = Saudi Arabia (orthographic projection).svg , capital = Riyadh , coordinates ...

Saudi Arabia
, and
Bahrain Bahrain ( ; ar, البحرين, al-Baḥrayn, , locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain ( ar, مملكة البحرين, links=no '), is a country in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf. The Island country, island nation c ...

Bahrain
,
Qatar Qatar (, , or ; ar, قطر, Qaṭar ; local vernacular pronunciation: ), officially the State of Qatar,) is a country in Western Asia. It occupies the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and shares it ...

Qatar
,
Oman Oman ( ; ar, عُمَان ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ar, سلْطنةُ عُمان ), is a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. Formerly a maritime empire, Oman is the oldest continuously in ...

Oman
and
Yemen ) , image_map = Yemen on the globe (Yemen centered).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Sana'a Sanaa ( ar, صَنْعَاء, ' , Yemeni Arabic: ; Old South Arabian: 𐩮 ...

Yemen
. South Semitic languages are thought to have spread to the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fr ...

Horn of Africa
circa 8th century BC where the
Ge'ez
Ge'ez
language emerged (though the direction of influence remains uncertain).


Common Era

SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...

Syriac
, a 5th-century BC Assyrian, Mesopotamian descendant of Aramaic used in northeastern
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
,
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
and south east
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, rose to importance as a literary language of early
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of ...

Christianity
in the third to fifth centuries and continued into the early
Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", "ah gawd"; see interjection An interjection is a word or ex ...
ic era. The
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
language, although originating in the
Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
, first emerged in written form in the 1st to 4th centuries CE in the southern regions of The
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
. With the advent of the early Arab conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, Classical Arabic eventually replaced many (but not all) of the indigenous Semitic languages and cultures of the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
. Both the Near East and North Africa saw an influx of Muslim Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, followed later by non-Semitic Muslim
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subreg ...
and
Turkic peoples The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethnic groups of Central Asia, Central, East Asia, East, North Asia, North and West Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa, who speak Turkic languages.. "Turkic peoples, any of various peoples w ...
. The previously dominant Aramaic dialects maintained by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians gradually began to be sidelined, however descendant dialects of
Eastern Aramaic The Eastern Aramaic languages have developed from the varieties of Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent lang ...
(including the
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
influenced
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or simply Assyrian ( or ''Sūreṯ''), also known as Syriac, Eastern Syriac, Neo-Syriac and Modern Syriac, is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also kn ...
,
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, or simply Chaldean, is a Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language spoken throughout a large region stretching from the Nineveh plains, in northern Iraq, together with parts of southeastern Turkey. Chaldean Neo-Aramaic is mutual inte ...
,
Turoyo Turoyo (''Ṭūroyo''), also referred to as modern Surayt (''Sūrayṯ''), or modern Suryoyo (''Sūryōyō''), is a Central Neo-Aramaic language, and represents the only remaining living language among western variants of Syriac language The ...
and Mandaic) survive to this day among the
Assyrians Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disambiguation) * SS Assyrian, SS ''Assyrian'', seve ...
and
Mandaeans Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) are an ethnoreligious group An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by ...
of northern
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
, northwestern
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
, northeastern
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
and southeastern
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
, with up to a million fluent speakers.
Western Aramaic The Western Aramaic languages represent a specific group of Aramaic languages, once spoken widely throughout the ancient Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediter ...
is now only spoken by a few thousand
Aramean The Arameans (Old Aramaic language, Old Aramaic: 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; Greek language, Greek: Ἀραμαῖοι; Syriac language, Syriac: ܐܪ̈ܡܝܐ / Ārāmāyē) were an ancient Semitic languages, Semitic-speaking people in the Near East, fi ...
Syriac Christians Syriac Christianity ( syr, ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ / ''Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā''; ar, مسيحية سريانية, ''masīḥiyyat suryāniyya'') represents a distinctive branch of Eastern Christianity, whose formative Christian theo ...

Syriac Christians
in western
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
. The Arabs spread their Central Semitic language to
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
(
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
,
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
,
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous , after in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11. ...

Tunisia
,
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , religion = , official_languages = , languages_type = Oth ...

Algeria
,
Morocco ) , image_map = Morocco (orthographic projection, WS claimed).svg , map_caption = Location of Morocco in northwest Africa.Dark green: Undisputed territory of Morocco.Lighter green: Western Sahara, a United Nations lis ...

Morocco
and northern
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
and
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
), where it gradually replaced Egyptian
Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern Egypt but also in Sudan and Libya * Coptic language, a Northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century * Coptic alphabet, th ...
and many
Berber languages The Berber languages, also known as the Amazigh languages (Berber name: , ; Neo-Tifinagh: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ, Tuareg Tifinagh: ⵜⵎⵣⵗⵜ, , ), are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They comprise a group of closely related l ...

Berber languages
(although Berber is still largely extant in many areas), and for a time to the
Iberian Peninsula The Iberian Peninsula , ** * Aragonese Aragonese or Aragones may refer to: * Something related to Aragon, an autonomous community and former kingdom in Spain * the Aragonese people, those originating from or living in the historical region ...

Iberian Peninsula
(modern
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
,
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who ...

Portugal
and
Gibraltar ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen" , song = "Gibraltar Anthem" , image_map = Gibraltar location in Europe.svg , map_alt = Location of Gibraltar in Europe , map_caption = United Kingdom shown in pale green , mapsize = 290px , image_map2 = ...

Gibraltar
) and
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies south of Italy, east of Tunisi ...

Malta
. With the patronage of the caliphs and the prestige of its
liturgical Liturgy is the customary public worship Worship is an act of religion, religious wikt:devotion, devotion usually directed towards a deity. For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a god. An act of worship ma ...
status, Arabic 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 The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
only gradually abandoned their languages in favour of Arabic. As
Bedouin The Bedouin, Beduin or Bedu (; , singular ; , singular ) are nomadic Arab Tribes who have historically inhabited the desert regions in the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, Upper Mesopotamia, and North Africa. However, the Arabian Peninsula is th ...

Bedouin
tribes settled in conquered areas, it became the main language of not only central Arabia, but also Yemen, the
Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an establishe ...

Fertile Crescent
, and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
. Most of the
Maghreb The Maghreb (; ar, المغرب, al-Maghrib, lit=the west), also known as Northwest Africa, is the western part of North Africa and the Arab world. The region includes Algeria, Libya, Mauritania (also considered part of West Africa), Morocco and ...

Maghreb
followed, specifically in the wake of the
Banu Hilal The Banu Hilal ( ar, بنو هلال or ) was a confederation of Arabian tribes The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peni ...
's incursion in the 11th century, and Arabic became the native language of many inhabitants of
al-Andalus
al-Andalus
. After the collapse of the
Nubia Nubia () (Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubian") and literally means "(lan ...

Nubia
n kingdom of
Dongola Dongola ( ar, wikt:دنقلا, دنقلا, Dunqulā), also spelled ''Dunqulah'', is the capital of the state of Northern, Sudan, Northern Sudan, on the banks of the Nile, and a former Latin Catholic bishopric (14th century). It should not be conf ...
in the 14th century, Arabic began to spread south of Egypt into modern
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
; soon after, the Beni Ḥassān brought
Arabization Arabization Ise vs ize, or Arabisation ( ar, تعريب ') describes both the process of growing Arab influence on non-Arab populations, causing a language shift by their gradual adoption of the Arabic language and their incorporation of the cultu ...
to
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
. A number of
Modern South Arabian languages The Modern South Arabian, or Eastern South Semitic languages, are a group of endangered language An endangered language or moribund language is a language that is at risk of disappearing as its speakers Language death, die out or language shift, s ...
distinct from Arabic still survive, such as Soqotri, Mehri and Shehri which are mainly spoken in
Socotra Socotra or Soqotra (; ar, سُقُطْرَىٰ ), located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea, is the largest of the four islands in the Socotra Archipelago. The territory is located near major shipping routes and is officially ...

Socotra
, Yemen and Oman. Meanwhile, the Semitic languages that had arrived from southern Arabia in the 8th century BC were diversifying in
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
and
Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a ...

Eritrea
, where, under heavy
Cushitic The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken primarily in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜 ...

Cushitic
influence, they split into a number of languages, including
Amharic Amharic ( or ; (Amharic: ), ', ) is an Ethiopian Semitic languages, Ethiopian Semitic language, which is a subgrouping within the Semitic languages, Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. It is spoken as a first language by the Amhara pe ...

Amharic
and
Tigrinya Tigrinya (ትግርኛ; also spelled Tigrigna) is a Semitic language spoken in Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in Eastern Africa, with its capital at Asmara. It is bordered by Ethiopia in the south, Su ...
. With the expansion of Ethiopia under the
Solomonic dynasty The Solomonic dynasty, also known as the House of Solomon, was a dynasty of the Ethiopian Empire formed in the thirteenth century. Its members claim lineal descent from the biblical Solomon, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Tradition assert ...
, Amharic, previously a minor local language, spread throughout much of the country, replacing both Semitic (such as Gafat) and non-Semitic (such as Weyto) languages, and replacing Ge'ez as the principal literary language (though Ge'ez remains the liturgical language for
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...

Christians
in the region); this spread continues to this day, with Qimant set to disappear in another generation.


Present situation

Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
is currently the native language of majorities from
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
to
Oman Oman ( ; ar, عُمَان ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ar, سلْطنةُ عُمان ), is a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. Formerly a maritime empire, Oman is the oldest continuously in ...

Oman
, and from
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
to the
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
.
Classical Arabic Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, ...
is the language of the
Quran The Quran (, ; ar, القرآن , "the recitation"), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious t ...

Quran
. It is also studied widely in the non-Arabic-speaking
Muslim world The terms Muslim world and Islamic world commonly refer to the Islamic Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodne ...

Muslim world
. The
Maltese language Maltese ( mt, Malti, links=no) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language derived from Siculo-Arabic, late medieval Sicilian Arabic with Romance languages, Romance superstrata spoken by the Maltese people. It is the national language of Malta and ...
is genetically a descendant of the extinct
Siculo-Arabic Siculo-Arabic ( ar, اللهجة العربية الصقلية) also known as Sicilian Arabic is the term used for varieties of Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiati ...
, a variety of
Maghrebi Arabic Maghrebi Arabic (Western Arabic; as opposed to Eastern or Mashriqi Arabic) is a vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The ...
formerly spoken in
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...

Sicily
. The modern
Maltese alphabet The Maltese alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet with the addition of some letters with diacritic marks and Digraph (orthography), digraphs. It is used to write the Maltese language, which evolved from the otherwise extinct Siculo-Arabic dialect ...
is based on the
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequ ...

Latin script
with the addition of some letters with
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that ...
marks and
digraphs Digraph may refer to: * Digraph (orthography) A digraph or digram (from the el, δίς ', "double" and ', "to write") is a pair of characters used in the orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a m ...
.
Maltese Maltese may refer to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to Malta * Maltese alphabet * Maltese cuisine * Maltese culture * Maltese language, the Semitic language spoken by Maltese people * Maltese people, people from Malta or of Maltese ...
is the only Semitic official language within the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
. Successful as second languages far beyond their numbers of contemporary first-language speakers, a few Semitic languages today are the base of the sacred literature of some of the world's major religions, including Islam (Arabic),
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion ...
(Hebrew and Aramaic), churches of
Syriac Christianity Syriac Christianity ( syr, ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ / ''Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā''; ar, مسيحية سريانية, ''masīḥiyyat suryāniyya'') represents a distinctive branch of Eastern Christianity Eastern Christianity compris ...

Syriac Christianity
(Syriac) and Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Christianity (Ge'ez). Millions learn these as a second language (or an archaic version of their modern tongues): many
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
s learn to read and recite the
Qur'an The Quran (, ; ar, القرآن , "the recitation"), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation in Islam, revelation from God in Islam, God (''Allah''). It is widely rega ...

Qur'an
and
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...

Jews
speak and study
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew ( ''Ivrit Miqra'it'' or ''Leshon ha-Miqra''), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroas ...
, the language of the
Torah The Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Heb ...

Torah
,
Midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

Midrash
, and other Jewish scriptures. Ethnic Assyrian followers of the
Assyrian Church of the East The Assyrian Church of the East ( syc, ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܖ̈ܝܐ, ʿĒḏtā ḏ-Maḏnḥā ḏ-ʾĀṯūrāyē, ar, كنيسة المشرق الآشورية), officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ( sy ...
,
Chaldean Catholic Church , native_name_lang = syc , image = , imagewidth = , alt = , caption = , abbreviation = , type = , main_classification = Eastern Catholic , orientation ...
,
Ancient Church of the East The Ancient Church of the East ( syr, ܥܕܬܐ ܥܬܝܩܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ''ʿĒdtā ʿAttiqtā ḏMaḏnḥā''; ar, كنيسة المشرق القديمة, ''Kanīsat al-Mašriq al-Qadīma''), officially the Ancient Holy Apostolic Catholic Chur ...

Ancient Church of the East
,
Assyrian Pentecostal Church The Assyrian Pentecostal Church ( syr, ܥܕܬܐ ܕܐܚܘܢܘ̈ܬܐ ܦܢܛܩܘܣܛܝ̈ܐ ܐܬܘܪ̈ܝܐ, ''‘Ittā d-Akhonāwāthā Pēnṭēqosṭāyē Ātūrāyē''; fa, کلیسای پنطیکاستی آشوری), is a Reformed Eastern Chri ...
,
Assyrian Evangelical Church The Assyrian Evangelical Church is a Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major br ...
and Assyrian members of the
Syriac Orthodox Church #REDIRECT Syriac Orthodox Church , native_name_lang = syc , image = Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate 2k18.jpg , imagewidth = , alt = Cathedral of Saint George , caption = Cathedral of Sai ...
both speak Mesopotamian eastern Aramaic and use it also as a liturgical tongue. The language is also used liturgically by the primarily Arabic-speaking followers of the
Maronite The Maronites ( ar, الموارنة; syr, ܡܖ̈ܘܢܝܐ) are an ethnoreligious Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christ ...
,
Syriac Catholic Church The Syriac Catholic Church ( syc, ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ, ʿĪṯo Suryayṯo Qaṯolīqayṯo, ar, الكنيسة السريانية الكاثوليكية), also known as Syriac Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, is an Eas ...
and some
Melkite The term Melkite (), also written Melchite, refers to various Eastern Christianity, Eastern Christian churches of the Byzantine Rite and their members originating in the Middle East. The term comes from the common Central Semitic Semitic root, roo ...
Christians. Greek and Arabic are the main liturgical languages of
Oriental Orthodox Christians The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Eastern Christian Eastern Christianity comprises Christian traditions and church families that originally developed during classical and late antiquity in Western Asia Western Asia, also We ...
in the Middle East, who compose the patriarchates of
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
,
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusał ...
and
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...
. Mandaic is both spoken and used as a liturgical language by the
Mandaeans Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) are an ethnoreligious group An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by ...
. Despite the ascendancy of Arabic in the Middle East, other Semitic languages still exist. Biblical 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.
Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew ( ), is the ...
is the main language of
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, with Biblical Hebrew remaining as the language of liturgy and religious scholarship of Jews worldwide. Ethnic groups, in particular the Assyrians,
Kurdish Jews Jews of Kurdistan ( he, יהודי כורדיסטן, Yehudei Kurdistan; ku, Kurdên cihû ,کوردە جووەکان, lit=Kurdish Jews) are the ancient Mizrahi Jews, Eastern Jewish communities, inhabiting the region known as Kurdistan roughly ...
, and Gnostic Mandeans, continue to speak and write Mesopotamian Aramaic languages, particularly
Neo-Aramaic languages The Neo-Aramaic or Modern Aramaic languages are varieties of Aramaic Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Imperial Aramaic: ; square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans The Arameans (Old Aram ...
descended from
SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...

Syriac
, in those areas roughly corresponding to
Kurdistan Kurdistan ( ku, کوردستان ,Kurdistan ; lit. "land of the Kurds") or Greater Kurdistan is a roughly defined geo-cultural territory in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion of the large ...

Kurdistan
(
northern Iraq
northern Iraq
,
northeast The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity ...
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
,
south eastern
south eastern
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
and northwestern
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
).
Syriac language The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that ...

Syriac language
itself, a descendant of
Eastern Aramaic languages The Eastern Aramaic languages have developed from the varieties of Aramaic Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Imperial Aramaic: ; square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans The Arameans (Old ...
(Mesopotamian Old Aramaic), is used also liturgically by the
Syriac Christians Syriac Christianity ( syr, ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ / ''Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā''; ar, مسيحية سريانية, ''masīḥiyyat suryāniyya'') represents a distinctive branch of Eastern Christianity, whose formative Christian theo ...

Syriac Christians
throughout the area. Although the majority of Neo-Aramaic dialects spoken today are descended from Eastern varieties,
Western Neo-Aramaic Western Neo-Aramaic (), more commonly referred to as Siryon (), is a modern Western Aramaic language. Today, it is only spoken in three villages in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains of western Syria. Western Neo-Aramaic is the only modern language, livi ...
is still spoken in 3 villages in Syria. In Arab-dominated
Yemen ) , image_map = Yemen on the globe (Yemen centered).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Sana'a Sanaa ( ar, صَنْعَاء, ' , Yemeni Arabic: ; Old South Arabian: 𐩮 ...

Yemen
and Oman, on the southern rim of the Arabian Peninsula, a few tribes continue to speak
Modern South Arabian languages The Modern South Arabian, or Eastern South Semitic languages, are a group of endangered language An endangered language or moribund language is a language that is at risk of disappearing as its speakers Language death, die out or language shift, s ...
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 Old South Arabianhttp://e-learning.tsu.ge/pluginfile.php/5868/mod_resource/content/0/dzveli_armosavluri_enebi_-ugarituli_punikuri_arameuli_ebrauli_arabuli.pdf (or Ṣayhadic or Yemenite) is a group of four closely related extinct language Ex ...
inscriptions. Historically linked to the peninsular homeland of Old South Arabian, of which only one language, Razihi, remains, Ethiopia and Eritrea contain a substantial number of Semitic languages; the most widely spoken are
Amharic Amharic ( or ; (Amharic: ), ', ) is an Ethiopian Semitic languages, Ethiopian Semitic language, which is a subgrouping within the Semitic languages, Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. It is spoken as a first language by the Amhara pe ...

Amharic
in Ethiopia, Tigre in
Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a ...

Eritrea
, and
Tigrinya Tigrinya (ትግርኛ; also spelled Tigrigna) is a Semitic language spoken in Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in Eastern Africa, with its capital at Asmara. It is bordered by Ethiopia in the south, Su ...
in both. 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 The Gurage languages (Gurage: ጉራጌ), also known as Guragie, is a dialect-continuum language, which belong to the Semitic languages, Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken by the Gurage peop ...
are spoken by populations in the semi-mountainous region of central Ethiopia, while Harari is restricted to the city of
Harar Harar ( amh, ሐረር; Gē "the City", om, Harar, ar, هرر) is a walled city in eastern Ethiopia. It is known in Arabic as the City of Wali, Saints ( ar, مدينة الأَوْلِيَاء). Harar is the capital of the East Hararghe Zone ...

Harar
. Ge'ez remains the liturgical language for certain groups of Christians in Ethiopia and in Eritrea.


Phonology

The phonologies of the attested Semitic languages are presented here from a
comparative In general linguistics, the comparative is a syntactic construction that serves to express a comparison between two (or more) entities or groups of entities in quality or degree - see also comparison (grammar) for an overview of comparison, as well ...
point of view. See
Proto-Semitic language#Phonology
Proto-Semitic language#Phonology
for details on the phonological reconstruction of Proto-Semitic used in this article. The reconstruction of Proto-Semitic (PS) was originally based primarily on
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
, whose phonology and morphology (particularly in
Classical Arabic Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, ...
) is very conservative, and which preserves as contrastive 28 out of the evident 29 consonantal phonemes. with and merging into Arabic and becoming Arabic . Note: the fricatives *s, *z, *ṣ, *ś, *ṣ́, *ṱ may also be interpreted as affricates (/t͡s/, /d͡z/, /t͡sʼ/, /t͡ɬ/, /t͡ɬʼ/, /t͡θʼ/), as discussed in . This comparative approach is natural for the
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of d ...
s, as sound correspondences among the consonants of the Semitic languages are very straightforward for a family of its time depth. Sound shifts affecting the vowels are more numerous and, at times, less regular.


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 occurring singly after a vowel were softened to fricatives, 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 Uvulars are consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounc ...
stop .
Note: the fricatives *s, *z, *ṣ, *ś, *ṣ́, *ṱ may also be interpreted as affricates (/t͡s/, /d͡z/, /t͡sʼ/, /t͡ɬ/, /t͡ɬʼ/, /t͡θʼ/).
Notes: # Proto-Semitic was still pronounced as in Biblical Hebrew, but no letter was available in the
Early Linear Script
Early Linear Script
, so the letter ש did double duty, representing both and . Later on, however, merged with , but the old spelling was largely retained, and the two pronunciations of ש were distinguished graphically in
Tiberian Hebrew Tiberian Hebrew is the canonical pronunciation of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh committed to writing by Masoretes, Masoretic scholars living in the Jewish community of Tiberias in ancient Galilee under the Abbasid Caliphate. They wrote in the form of ...
as שׁ vs. שׂ < . # Biblical Hebrew as of the 3rd century BCE apparently still distinguished the phonemes and from and , respectively, based on transcriptions in the
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe wel ...
. As in the case of , no letters were available to represent these sounds, and existing letters did double duty: ח and ע . In both of these cases, however, the two sounds represented by the same letter eventually merged, leaving no evidence (other than early transcriptions) of the former distinctions. # Although early Aramaic (pre-7th century BCE) had only 22 consonants in its alphabet, it apparently distinguished all of the original 29 Proto-Semitic phonemes, including , , , , , and although by
Middle Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
times, these had all merged with other sounds. This conclusion is mainly based on the shifting representation of words etymologically containing these sounds; in early Aramaic writing, the first five are merged with , , , , , respectively, but later with , , , , . (Also note that due to
begadkefat Begadkefat (also begadkephat, begedkefet) is the name given to a phenomenon of lenition affecting the non- emphatic stop consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in ...
spirantization, which occurred after this merger, OAm. t > ṯ and d > ḏ in some positions, so that PS *t,ṯ and *d, ḏ may be realized as either of t, ṯ and d, ḏ respectively.) The sounds and were always represented using the pharyngeal letters , but they are distinguished from the pharyngeals in the Demotic-script papyrus Amherst 63, written about 200 BCE. This suggests that these sounds, too, were distinguished in Old Aramaic language, but written using the same letters as they later merged with. # The earlier pharyngeals can be distinguished in Akkadian from the zero reflexes of *h, *ʕ by e-coloring adjacent *a, e.g. pS ''*ˈbaʕal-um'' 'owner, lord' > Akk. ''bēlu(m)''. # Hebrew and Aramaic underwent
begadkefat Begadkefat (also begadkephat, begedkefet) is the name given to a phenomenon of lenition affecting the non- emphatic stop consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in ...
spirantization at a certain point, whereby the stop sounds were softened to the corresponding fricatives (written ''ḇ ḡ ḏ ḵ p̄ ṯ'') when occurring after a vowel and not geminated. This change probably happened after the original Old Aramaic phonemes disappeared in the 7th century BCE, and most likely occurred after the loss of Hebrew c. 200 BCE.According to the generally accepted view, it is unlikely that begadkefat spirantization occurred before the merger of and , or else and would have to be contrastive, which is cross-linguistically rare. However, Blau argues that it is possible that lenited and could coexist even if pronounced identically, since one would be recognized as an alternating allophone (as apparently is the case in Nestorian Syriac). See . It is known to have occurred in Hebrew by the 2nd century CE. After a certain point this alternation became contrastive in word-medial and final position (though bearing low
functional load In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
), but in word-initial position they remained allophonic. In
Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew ( ), is the ...
, the distinction has a higher functional load due to the loss of gemination, although only the three fricatives are still preserved (the fricative is pronounced in modern Hebrew). # In the
Northwest Semitic languages Northwest Semitic is a division of the Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family ...
, became at the beginning of a word, e.g. Hebrew ''yeled'' "boy" < ''*wald'' (cf. Arabic ''walad''). # There is evidence of a rule of assimilation of /j/ to the following coronal consonant in pre-tonic position, shared by Hebrew, Phoenician and Aramaic. # In
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic or simply Assyrian ( or ''Sūreṯ''), also known as Syriac, Eastern Syriac, Neo-Syriac and Modern Syriac, is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also kn ...
, is nonexistent. In general cases, the language would lack pharyngeal fricative (as heard in ''
Ayin ''Ayin'' (also ''ayn'' or ''ain''; transliterated ) is the sixteenth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that i ...

Ayin
''). However, /ʕ/ is retained in educational speech, especially among Assyrian priests. #The Palatalization (sound change), palatalization of Proto-Semitic Gimel, gīm to Arabic jīm, is most probably connected to the pronunciation of Qoph, qāf as a gāf (this sound change also occurred in Yemenite Hebrew), hence in most of the Peninsular Arabic, Arabian peninsula (which is the homeland of the Arabic language) is jīm and is gāf , except in western and southern Yemeni Arabic, Yemen and parts of Omani Arabic, Oman where is gīm and is qāf . # Ugaritic orthography indicated the vowel after the glottal stop. #The Arabic letter ' () has three main pronunciations in Modern Standard Arabic. in north Algeria, Iraq, also in most of the Arabian peninsula and as the predominant pronunciation of Literary Arabic outside the Arab world, occurs in most of the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and most North Africa; and is used in northern Egypt and some regions in Yemen and Oman. In addition to other minor allophones. #The Arabic letter ' () has three main pronunciations in spoken Varieties of Arabic, varieties. in most of the
Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
, San'ani Arabic, Northern and Hadhrami Arabic, Eastern Yemen and parts of Oman, Southern Mesopotamian Arabic, Iraq, Upper Egypt,
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
,
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
, some parts of the Levant and to lesser extent in some parts (mostly rural) of
Maghreb The Maghreb (; ar, المغرب, al-Maghrib, lit=the west), also known as Northwest Africa, is the western part of North Africa and the Arab world. The region includes Algeria, Libya, Mauritania (also considered part of West Africa), Morocco and ...

Maghreb
. in most of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, Ta'izzi-Adeni Arabic, Southern and Tihamiyya Arabic, Western Yemen and parts of Oman, Northern Iraq, parts of the Levant especially Druze dialects. in most of the Levant and Lower Egypt, as well as some North African towns such as Tlemcen and Fez, Morocco, Fez. In addition to other minor allophones. #' can be written ', and always is in the Ugaritic#Phonology, Ugaritic and Arabic alphabet#Table of basic letters, Arabic contexts. In Ugaritic, sometimes assimilates to ', as in ''ġmʔ'' 'thirsty' (Arabic ''ẓmʔ'', Hebrew ''ṣmʔ'', but Ugaritic ''mẓmủ'' 'thirsty', root ''ẓmʔ'', is also attested). #Early
Amharic Amharic ( or ; (Amharic: ), ', ) is an Ethiopian Semitic languages, Ethiopian Semitic language, which is a subgrouping within the Semitic languages, Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. It is spoken as a first language by the Amhara pe ...

Amharic
might've had a different phonology. #The pronunciations /ʕ/ and /ħ/ for ''ʿAyin'' and ''Ḥet'', respectively, still occur among some older Mizrahi speakers, but for most modern Israelis, ''ʿAyin'' and ''Ḥet'' are realized as /ʔ, -/ and /χ ~ x/, respectively. The following table shows the development of the various fricatives in Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic through cognate words: # possibly affricated (/dz/ /tɬʼ/ /ʦʼ/ /tθʼ/ /tɬ/)


Vowels

Proto-Semitic vowels are, in general, harder to deduce due to the
nonconcatenative morphology Image:Nonconcatenative-muslim-derivation.png, Diagram of one version of the derivation of the Arabic word ''muslim'' in autosegmental phonology, with root consonants associating (shown by dotted grey lines). Nonconcatenative morphology, also calle ...
of Semitic languages. The history of vowel changes in the languages makes drawing up a complete table of correspondences impossible, so only the most common reflexes can be given: # in a stressed open syllable # in a stressed closed syllable before a geminate # in a stressed closed syllable before a consonant cluster # when the proto-Semitic stressed vowel remained stressed # pS *a,*ā > Akk. e,ē in the neighborhood of pS *ʕ,*ħ and before r. # i.e. pS *g,*k,*ḳ,*χ > Ge'ez gʷ, kʷ,ḳʷ,χʷ / _u


Grammar

The Semitic languages share a number of grammatical features, although variation — both between separate languages, and within the languages themselves — has naturally occurred over time.


Word order

The reconstructed default word order in Proto-Semitic is verb–subject–object (VSO), possessed–possessor (NG), and noun–adjective (NA). This was still the case in
Classical Arabic Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, ...
and
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew ( ''Ivrit Miqra'it'' or ''Leshon ha-Miqra''), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroas ...
, e.g. Classical Arabic رأى محمد فريدا ''ra'ā muħammadun farīdan.'' (literally "saw Muhammad Farid", ''Muhammad saw Farid''). In the modern Varieties of Arabic, Arabic vernaculars, however, as well as sometimes in Modern Standard Arabic (the modern literary language based on Classical Arabic) and
Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew ( ), is the ...
, the classical VSO order has given way to SVO. Modern Ethiopian Semitic languages follow a different word order: SOV, possessor–possessed, and adjective–noun; however, the oldest attested Ethiopian Semitic language, Ge'ez, was VSO, possessed–possessor, and noun–adjective. Akkadian was also predominantly SOV.


Cases in nouns and adjectives

The proto-Semitic three-case system (nominative case, nominative, Accusative case, accusative and genitive case, genitive) with differing vowel endings (-u, -a -i), fully preserved in Qur'anic Arabic (see ʾIʿrab), Akkadian and Ugaritic language, Ugaritic, has disappeared everywhere in the many colloquial forms of Semitic languages. Modern Standard Arabic maintains such case distinctions, although they are typically lost in free speech due to colloquial influence. An accusative ending -n is preserved in Ethiopian Semitic. In the northwest, the scarcely attested Samalian language, Samalian reflects a case distinction in the plural between nominative ''-ū'' and oblique ''-ī'' (compare the same distinction in Classical Arabic). Additionally, Semitic nouns and adjectives had a category of state, the indefinite state being expressed by nunation.


Number in nouns

Semitic languages originally had three grammatical numbers: singular, Dual (grammatical number), dual, and plural. Classical Arabic still has a mandatory dual (i.e. it must be used in all circumstances when referring to two entities), marked on nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns. Many contemporary dialects of Arabic still have a dual, as in the name for the nation of Bahrain (''baħr'' "sea" + ''-ayn'' "two"), although it is marked only on nouns. It also occurs in Hebrew in a few nouns (''šana'' means "one year", ''šnatayim'' means "two years", and ''šanim'' means "years"), but for those it is obligatory. The curious phenomenon of broken plurals – e.g. in Arabic, ''sadd'' "one dam" vs. ''sudūd'' "dams" found most profusely in the languages of Arabia and Ethiopia, may be partly of proto-Semitic origin, and partly elaborated from simpler origins.


Verb aspect and tense

All Semitic languages show two quite distinct styles of morphology used for conjugating verbs. ''Suffix conjugations'' take suffixes indicating the person, number and gender of the subject, which bear some resemblance to the pronominal suffixes used to indicate direct objects on verbs ("I saw him") and possession on nouns ("his dog"). So-called ''prefix conjugations'' actually takes both prefixes and suffixes, with the prefixes primarily indicating person (and sometimes number or gender), while the suffixes (which are completely different from those used in the suffix conjugation) indicate number and gender whenever the prefix does not mark this. The prefix conjugation is noted for a particular pattern of ' prefixes where (1) a ''t-'' prefix is used in the singular to mark the second person and third-person feminine, while a ''y-'' prefix marks the third-person masculine; and (2) identical words are used for second-person masculine and third-person feminine singular. The prefix conjugation is extremely old, with clear analogues in nearly all the families of Afroasiatic languages (i.e. at least 10,000 years old). The table on the right shows examples of the prefix and suffix conjugations in Classical Arabic, which has forms that are close to Proto-Semitic. In Proto-Semitic, as still largely reflected in East Semitic, prefix conjugations are used both for the past and the non-past, with different vocalizations. Cf. Akkadian ''niprus'' "we decided" (preterite), ''niptaras'' "we have decided" (perfect), ''niparras'' "we decide" (non-past or imperfect), vs. suffix-conjugated ''parsānu'' "we are/were/will be deciding" (stative). Some of these features, e.g. gemination indicating the non-past/imperfect, are generally attributed to Afroasiatic. Proto-Semitic had an additional form, the jussive, which was distinguished from the preterite only by the position of stress: the jussive had final stress while the preterite had non-final (retracted) stress. The West Semitic languages significantly reshaped the system. The most substantial changes occurred in the Central Semitic languages (the ancestors of modern Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic). Essentially, the old prefix-conjugated jussive or preterite became a new non-past (or imperfect), while the stative became a new past (or perfect), and the old prefix-conjugated non-past (or imperfect) with gemination was discarded. New suffixes were used to mark different moods in the non-past, e.g. Classical Arabic ''-u'' (indicative), ''-a'' (subjunctive), vs no suffix (jussive). (It is not generally agreed whether the systems of the various Semitic languages are better interpreted in terms of tense, i.e. past vs. non-past, or aspect, i.e. perfect vs. imperfect.) A special feature in classical Hebrew is the waw-consecutive, prefixing a verb form with the letter Waw (letter), waw in order to change its grammatical tense, tense or Lexical aspect, aspect. The South Semitic languages show a system somewhere between the East and Central Semitic languages. Later languages show further developments. In the modern varieties of Arabic, for example, the old mood suffixes were dropped, and new mood prefixes developed (e.g. ''bi-'' for indicative vs. no prefix for subjunctive in many varieties). In the extreme case of Neo-Aramaic, the verb conjugations have been entirely reworked under Iranian influence.


Morphology: triliteral roots

All Semitic languages exhibit a unique pattern of stems called Semitic roots consisting typically of triliteral, or three-consonant consonantal roots (two- and four-consonant roots also exist), from which nouns, adjectives, and verbs are formed in various ways (e.g., by inserting vowels, doubling consonants, lengthening vowels or by adding prefixes, suffixes, or infixes). For instance, the root
k-t-b K-T-B ( he, כ-ת-ב ; ar, ك-ت-ب ) is a triconsonantal root of a number of Semitic languages, Semitic words, typically those having to do with writing. The words for "office", "writer" and "record" all reflect this root. Most notably, the Arab ...
, (dealing with "writing" generally) yields in Arabic: :''katabtu'' كَتَبْتُ or كتبت "I wrote" (f and m) :''yuktab(u)'' يُكْتَب or يكتب "being written" (masculine) :''tuktab(u)'' تُكتَب or تكتب "being written" (feminine) :''yatakātabūn(a)'' يَتَكَاتَبُونَ or يتكاتبون "they write to each other" (masculine) :''istiktāb'' اِستِكتاب or استكتاب "causing to write" :''kitāb'' كِتَاب or كتاب "book" (the hyphen shows end of stem before various case endings) :''kutayyib'' كُتَيِّب or كتيب "booklet" (diminutive) :''kitābat'' كِتَابَة or كتابة "writing" :''kuttāb'' كُتاب or كتاب "writers" (broken plural) :''katabat'' كَتَبَة or كتبة "clerks" (broken plural) :''maktab'' مَكتَب or مكتب "desk" or "office" :''maktabat'' مَكتَبة or مكتبة "library" or "bookshop" :''maktūb'' مَكتوب or مكتوب "written" (participle) or "postal letter" (noun) :''katībat'' كَتيبة or كتيبة "squadron" or "document" :''iktitāb'' اِكتِتاب or اكتتاب "registration" or "contribution of funds" :''muktatib'' مُكتَتِب or مكتتب "subscription" and the same root in Hebrew: (A line under k and b mean a fricative, x for k and v for b.) :''kāṯaḇti'' כתבתי or כָּתַבְתִּי "I wrote" :''kattāḇ'' כתב or כַּתָּב "reporter" (''m'') :''katteḇeṯ'' כתבת or כַּתָּבֶת "reporter" (''f'') :''kattāḇā'' כתבה or כַּתָּבָה "article" (plural ''kattāḇōṯ'' כתבות) :''miḵtāḇ'' מכתב or מִכְתָּב "postal letter" (plural ''miḵtāḇīm'' מכתבים) :''miḵtāḇā'' מכתבה "writing desk" (plural ''miḵtāḇōṯ'' מכתבות) :''kəṯōḇeṯ'' כתובת "address" (plural ''kəṯōḇōṯ'' כתובות) :''kəṯāḇ'' כתב "handwriting" :''kāṯūḇ'' כתוב "written" (''f'' ''kəṯūḇā'' כתובה) :''hiḵtīḇ'' הכתיב "he dictated" (''f'' ''hiḵtīḇā'' הכתיבה) :''hiṯkattēḇ'' התכתב "he corresponded (''f'' ''hiṯkattəḇā'' התכתבה) :''niḵtaḇ'' נכתב "it was written" (''m'') :''niḵtəḇā'' נכתבה "it was written" (''f'') :''kəṯīḇ'' כתיב "spelling" (''m'') :''taḵtīḇ'' תכתיב "prescript" (''m'') :''məḵuttāḇ'' מכותב "addressee" (''meḵutteḇeṯ'' מכותבת ''f'') :''kəṯubbā'' כתובה "ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract)" (''f'') In Tigrinya and Amharic, this root used to be used widely but is now seen as an Archaic form. Ethiopic-derived languages use different roots for things that have to do with writing (and in some cases counting) primitive root: ṣ-f and trilateral root stems: m-ṣ-f, ṣ-h-f, and ṣ-f-r are used. This roots also exists in other Semitic languages like (Hebrew: ''sep̄er'' "book", ''sofer, sōp̄er'' "scribe", ''mispār'' "number" and ''sippūr'' "story"). (this root also exists in Arabic and is used to form words with a close meaning to "writing", such as ''ṣaḥāfa'' "journalism", and ''ṣaḥīfa'' "newspaper" or "parchment"). Verbs in other non-Semitic Afroasiatic languages show similar radical patterns, but more usually with biconsonantal roots; e.g. Kabyle language, Kabyle ''afeg'' means "fly!", while ''affug'' means "flight", and ''yufeg'' means "he flew" (compare with Hebrew, where ''hap̄lēḡ'' means "set sail!", ''hap̄lāḡā'' means "a sailing trip", and ''hip̄līḡ'' means "he sailed", while the unrelated ''ʕūp̄'', ''təʕūp̄ā'' and ''ʕāp̄'' pertain to flight).


Independent personal pronouns


Cardinal numerals

These are the basic numeral stems without feminine suffixes. Note that in most older Semitic languages, the forms of the numerals from 3 to 10 exhibit polarity of gender (also called "chiastic concord" or "reverse agreement"), i.e. if the counted noun is masculine, the numeral would be feminine and vice versa.


Typology

Some early Semitic languages are speculated to have had weak ergative-absolutive language, ergative features.


Common vocabulary

Due to the Semitic languages' common origin, they share some words and roots. Others differ. For example: Terms given in brackets are not derived from the respective Proto-Semitic roots, though they may also derive from Proto-Semitic (as does e.g. Arabic ''dār'', cf. Biblical Hebrew ''dōr'' "dwelling"). Sometimes, certain roots differ in meaning from one Semitic language to another. For example, the root ''b-y-ḍ'' in Arabic has the meaning of "white" as well as "egg", whereas in Hebrew it only means "egg". The root ''l-b-n'' means "milk" in Arabic, but the color "white" in Hebrew. The root ''l-ḥ-m'' means "meat" in Arabic, but "bread" in Hebrew and "cow" in Ethiopian Semitic; the original meaning was most probably "food". The word ''medina'' (root: d-y-n/d-w-n) has the meaning of "metropolis" in Amharic, "city" in Arabic and Ancient Hebrew, and "State" in Modern Hebrew. Of course, there is sometimes no relation between the roots. For example, "knowledge" is represented in Hebrew by the root ''y-d-ʿ'', but in Arabic by the roots ''ʿ-r-f'' and ''ʿ-l-m'' and in Ethiosemitic by the roots ''ʿ-w-q'' and ''f-l-ṭ''. For more comparative vocabulary lists, see Wiktionary appendices:
List of Proto-Semitic stems

Swadesh lists for Afro-Asiatic languages


Classification

There are six fairly uncontroversial nodes within the Semitic languages:
East Semitic The East Semitic languages are one of three divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. ...
, Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic, Classification of Arabic languages, North Arabian,
Old South Arabian Old South Arabianhttp://e-learning.tsu.ge/pluginfile.php/5868/mod_resource/content/0/dzveli_armosavluri_enebi_-ugarituli_punikuri_arameuli_ebrauli_arabuli.pdf (or Ṣayhadic or Yemenite) is a group of four closely related extinct language Ex ...
(also known as Sayhadic), Modern South Arabian languages, Modern South Arabian, and Ethiopian Semitic languages, Ethiopian Semitic. These are generally grouped further, but there is ongoing debate as to which belong together. The classification based on shared innovations given below, established by Robert Hetzron in 1976 and with later emendations by John Huehnergard and Rodgers as summarized in Hetzron 1997, is the most widely accepted today. In particular, several Semiticists still argue for the traditional (partially nonlinguistic) view of Arabic as part of South Semitic, and a few (e.g. Alexander Militarev or the German-Egyptian professor Arafa Hussein Mustafa,) see the South Arabian languages as a third branch of Semitic alongside East and West Semitic, rather than as a subgroup of South Semitic. However, a new classification groups Old South Arabian as Central Semitic instead. Roger Blench notes that the
Gurage languages The Gurage languages (Gurage: ጉራጌ), also known as Guragie, is a dialect-continuum language, which belong to the Semitic languages, Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken by the Gurage peop ...
are highly divergent and wonders whether they might not be a primary branch, reflecting an origin of Afroasiatic in or near Ethiopia. At a lower level, there is still no general agreement on where to draw the line between "languages" and "dialects" an issue particularly relevant in Arabic, Aramaic and Gurage and the strong mutual influences between Arabic dialects render a genetic subclassification of them particularly difficult. A computational phylogenetic analysis by Kitchen et al. (2009), considers the Semitic languages to have originated in the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
about 5,750 years ago during the Early
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age sys ...
, with early Ethiosemitic originating from southern Arabia approximately 2,800 years ago. Evidence for gene movements consistent with this were found in Almarri et al. (2021). The Himyaritic language, Himyaritic and Sutean languages appear to have been Semitic, but are unclassified due to insufficient data. *
East Semitic The East Semitic languages are one of three divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. ...
(†) * West Semitic languages, West Semitic ** Central Semitic languages, Central Semitic *** Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic *** Classification of Arabic languages, Arabic ** South Semitic languages, South Semitic *** Western: Ethiopian Semitic languages, Ethiopian Semitic and
Old South Arabian Old South Arabianhttp://e-learning.tsu.ge/pluginfile.php/5868/mod_resource/content/0/dzveli_armosavluri_enebi_-ugarituli_punikuri_arameuli_ebrauli_arabuli.pdf (or Ṣayhadic or Yemenite) is a group of four closely related extinct language Ex ...
*** Eastern: Modern South Arabian languages, Modern South Arabian


Semitic-speaking peoples

The following is a list of some modern and ancient Semitic-speaking peoples and nations:


Central Semitic

* Ammonite language, Ammonite speakers of Ammon * Amorites 20th century BC * Arabs * Ancient North Arabian-speaking bedouins * Arameans 16th to 8th centuries BC / Akhlames (Ahlamu) 14th century BC. * Canaanite languages, Canaanite-speaking nations of the early Iron Age: *
Chaldea Chaldea () was a small country that existed between the late 10th or early 9th and mid-6th centuries BCE, after which the country and its people were absorbed and assimilated into the indigenous population Babylonia. Semitic language, Semitic-s ...
appeared in southern Mesopotamia c. 1000 BC and eventually disappeared into the general Babylonian population. * Edomites * Hebrews/Israelites founded the nation of History of ancient Israel and Judah, Israel which later split into the Kingdoms of Kingdom of Israel (Samaria), Israel and Kingdom of Judah, Judah. The remnants of these people became the
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...

Jews
and the Samaritans. * Maltese people, Maltese *
Mandaeans Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) are an ethnoreligious group An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by ...
* Moab * Nabataeans *
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3 ...
founded Mediterranean colonies including Tyre, Lebanon, Tyre, Sidon and ancient Carthage. The remnants of these people became the modern inhabitants of Lebanon. *
Ugarit Ugarit (; uga, 𐎜𐎂𐎗𐎚, ''ʼUgart''; ar, أُوغَارِيت ''Ūġārīt'' or ''Ūǧārīt''; he, אוּגָרִית ''Ugarit'') was an ancient port city in northern Syria, in the outskirts of modern Latakia, discovered by accident ...

Ugarit
, 14th to 12th centuries BC * Nasrani (Arabic term for Christian), Nasrani (Syrian Christian)


East Semitic

* Akkadian Empire ancient Semitic speakers moved into Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC and settled among the local peoples of Sumer. *Babylonia, Babylonian Empire *Assyria, Assyrian Empire *
Ebla Ebla (Sumer Sumer ()The name is from '; ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", ifrom ''The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary''). Literally, "land of the native ...

Ebla
23rd century BC


South Semitic

* Kingdom of Aksum 4th century BC to 7th century AD * Amhara people * Argobba people * Dahalik language, Dahalik people * Gurage people * Harari people * Mehri people *
Old South Arabian Old South Arabianhttp://e-learning.tsu.ge/pluginfile.php/5868/mod_resource/content/0/dzveli_armosavluri_enebi_-ugarituli_punikuri_arameuli_ebrauli_arabuli.pdf (or Ṣayhadic or Yemenite) is a group of four closely related extinct language Ex ...
-speaking peoples * Sabaeans of Yemen 9th to 1st centuries BC * Silt'e people * Tigrigni, Tigrigna People * Tigrayans, Tigray people * Tigre people * Zay people


Unknown

* Suteans 14th century BC * Thamud 2nd to 5th centuries AD


See also

* Proto-Semitic language * Middle Bronze Age alphabets


Explanatory footnotes


Notes


References

* * Bennett, Patrick R. 1998. ''Comparative Semitic Linguistics: A Manual''. Eisenbrauns. . * * * * * * * * * Gotthelf Bergsträsser, Bergsträsser, Gotthelf. 1995. ''Introduction to the Semitic Languages: Text Specimens and Grammatical Sketches''. Translated by Peter T. Daniels. Winona Lake, Ind. : Eisenbrauns. . * Garbini, Giovanni. 1984. ''Le lingue semitiche: studi di storia linguistica''. Naples: Istituto Orientale. * Garbini, Giovanni; Durand, Olivier. 1995. ''Introduzione alle lingue semitiche''. Paideia: Brescia 1995. * Goldenberg, Gideon. 2013. ''Semitic Languages: Features, Structures, Relations, Processes''. Oxford University Press. . * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Edward Lipinski (orientalist), Lipinski, Edward. 2001. ''Semitic Languages: Outlines of a Comparative Grammar''. 2nd ed. Leuven: Orientalia Lovanensia Analecta. * Mustafa, Arafa Hussein. 1974. ''Analytical study of phrases and sentences in epic texts of Ugarit.'' (German title: Untersuchungen zu Satztypen in den epischen Texten von Ugarit). Dissertation. Halle-Wittenberg: Martin-Luther-University. * Moscati, Sabatino. 1969. ''An introduction to the comparative grammar of the Semitic languages: phonology and morphology''. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. * * * * Edward Ullendorff, Ullendorff, Edward. 1955. ''The Semitic languages of Ethiopia: a comparative phonology''. London: Taylor's (Foreign) Press. * * * * * * * * * Wright, William; Smith, William Robertson. 1890. ''Lectures on the comparative grammar of the Semitic languages''. Cambridge University Press 1890. [2002 edition: ]


External links


Semitic genealogical tree
(as well as the Afroasiatic one), presented by Alexander Militarev at his talk "Genealogical classification of Afro-Asiatic languages according to the latest data" (at the conference on the 70th anniversary of Vladislav Illich-Svitych, Moscow, 2004
short annotations of the talks given there

''Pattern-and-root inflectional morphology: the Arabic broken plural''


* [https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02113751 '' Alexis Neme and Sébastien Paumier (2019), Restoring Arabic vowels through omission-tolerant dictionary lookup, Lang Resources & Evaluation, Vol 53, 1-65 pages'']
Swadesh vocabulary lists of Semitic languages
(from Wiktionary'
Swadesh-list appendix
{{Use dmy dates, date=April 2017 Semitic languages, Afroasiatic languages Aramaic languages Arabic language Hebrew language Amharic language Ge'ez language Phoenician language Akkadian language