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Somali Retrieved on 21 September 2013 (Latin: ;
Osmanya The Osmanya script ( so, Farta Cismaanya 𐒍𐒖𐒇𐒂𐒖 𐒋𐒘𐒈𐒑𐒛𐒒𐒕𐒖), also known as Far Soomaali (𐒍𐒖𐒇 𐒘𐒝𐒈𐒑𐒛𐒘, "Somali writing") and, in Arabic, as al-kitābah al-ʿuthmānīyah, is a writing scri ...
: 𐒖𐒍 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘 ) is an
Afroasiatic Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family of about 300 languages that are spoken predominantly in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of the Sahel. W ...
language belonging to the
Cushitic The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken primarily in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland) as well as the Nile Valley (Sudan and Egypt), and parts of the A ...
branch. It is spoken as a mother tongue by
Somalis Somalis ( so, Soomaalida) are an East Cushitic ethnic group native to the Horn of Africa who share a common ancestry, culture and history. The Somali language is the shared mother tongue of ethnic Somalis, which is part of the Cushitic branch of ...
in
Greater SomaliaGreater Somali ( so, Soomaaliweyn 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒓𐒗𐒕𐒒, ar, الصومال الكبير ''As-Sumal al-Kabir'') is a concept to unite all ethnic Somalis comprising the regions in or near the Horn of Africa in which ethnic Somalis li ...
and the
Somali diaspora The Somali diaspora refers to Somalis who were born in Greater Somalia and reside in areas of the world that they were not born in. The civil war in Somalia greatly increased the size of the Somali diaspora, as many Somalis moved from Greater Somali ...
. Somali is an official language of
Somalia Somalia,; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the Northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to ...
and
Somaliland Somaliland ( so, Somaliland; ar, صوماليلاند ', '), officially the Republic of Somaliland ( so, Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliland, ar, جمهورية صوماليلاند ''Jumhūrīyat Ṣūmālīlānd''), is a self-declared sovereign st ...
, a national language in
Djibouti Djibouti ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti , officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the north, a ...
, and a working language in the
Somali Region The Somali Regional State ( so, Dawlad Deegaanka Soomaalida, am, የሶማሌ ክልል, ar, المنطقة الصومالية), also known as Soomaali Galbeed (''Somali West'') is the largest and easternmost of the ten regions (''Kililoj'') of ...

Somali Region
of
Ethiopia Ethiopia (; am, ኢትዮጵያ, , aa, Itiyoophiyaa, gez, ኢትዮጵያ, om , Itoophiyaa, so, Itoobiya, ti , ኢትዮጵያ), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shar ...

Ethiopia
and also in North Eastern
Kenya Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya ( sw, Jamhuri ya Kenya), is a country in Eastern Africa. At , Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by total area. With a population of more than 47.6 million people in the 2019 census, Kenya is the ...
. It is used as an adoptive language by a few neighboring ethnic minority groups and individuals. The Somali language is written officially with the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language and its extensions used to write modern languages. Etymology The term ''Latin alphabet'' may refer to either ...
.


Classification

Somali is classified within the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family, specifically,
Lowland East Cushitic Lowland East Cushitic is a group of roughly two dozen diverse languages of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. Its largest representatives are Somali and Oromo. Classification Lowland East Cushitic classification from Tosco (2020:297) ...
in addition to Afar and Saho. Somali is the best-documented Cushitic language, with academic studies of the language dating back to the late 19th century.


Geographic distribution

The Somali language is spoken in Somali inhabited areas of
Somalia Somalia,; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the Northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to ...
,
Djibouti Djibouti ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti , officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the north, a ...
,
Ethiopia Ethiopia (; am, ኢትዮጵያ, , aa, Itiyoophiyaa, gez, ኢትዮጵያ, om , Itoophiyaa, so, Itoobiya, ti , ኢትዮጵያ), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shar ...

Ethiopia
,
Kenya Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya ( sw, Jamhuri ya Kenya), is a country in Eastern Africa. At , Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by total area. With a population of more than 47.6 million people in the 2019 census, Kenya is the ...
,
Yemen ) , image_map = File:Yemen on the globe (Yemen centered).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Sana'a (''De jure'')Aden (Temporary capital in exile) , coordinates = , capital_exile = Riyadh (presidential administration) , largest_city ...
and by members of the
Somali diaspora The Somali diaspora refers to Somalis who were born in Greater Somalia and reside in areas of the world that they were not born in. The civil war in Somalia greatly increased the size of the Somali diaspora, as many Somalis moved from Greater Somali ...
. It is also spoken as an adoptive language by a few ethnic minority groups and individuals in Somali majority regions. Somali is the second most widely spoken Cushitic language after Oromo. As of 2020, there were approximately 18.63 million speakers of Somali, spread in
Greater SomaliaGreater Somali ( so, Soomaaliweyn 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒓𐒗𐒕𐒒, ar, الصومال الكبير ''As-Sumal al-Kabir'') is a concept to unite all ethnic Somalis comprising the regions in or near the Horn of Africa in which ethnic Somalis li ...
of which around 7.8 million resided in Somalia. The language is spoken by an estimated 95% of the country's inhabitants, and also by a majority of the population in Djibouti. Following the start of the
Somali Civil War The Somali Civil War ( so, Dagaalkii Sokeeye ee Soomaaliya; ar, الحرب الأهلية الصومالية) is an ongoing civil war which is taking place in Somalia. It grew out of resistance to the military junta which was led by Siad Barre dur ...
in the early 1990s, the Somali-speaking diaspora increased in size, with newer Somali speech communities forming in parts of the
Middle East The Middle East is a transcontinental region in Afro-Eurasia which generally includes Western Asia (except for Transcaucasia), all of Egypt (mostly in North Africa), and Turkey (partly in Southeast Europe). The term has come into wider usa ...

Middle East
,
North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to ...

North America
and
Europe Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the continental landmass of Eurasia, and is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlant ...
.


Official status

Constitutionally, Somali and
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C. E.Wats ...
are the two
official languages An official language, also called state language, is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a country's official language refers to the language used in government (judiciary, legislature ...
of
Somalia Somalia,; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the Northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to ...
. Somali has been an official national language since January 1973, when the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) declared it the
Somali Democratic Republic The Somali Democratic Republic ( so, Jamhuuriyadda Dimuqraadiya Soomaaliyeed, ar, الجمهورية الديمقراطية الصومالية ''al-Jumhūrīyah ad-Dīmuqrāṭīyah aṣ-Ṣūmālīyah'', it, Repubblica Democratica Somala) was the n ...
's primary language of administration and education. Somali was thereafter established as the main language of academic instruction in forms 1 through 4, following preparatory work by the government-appointed Somali Language Committee. It later expanded to include all 12 forms in 1979. In 1972, the SRC adopted a Latin orthography as the official national alphabet over several other writing scripts that were then in use. Concurrently, the
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...
-language daily newspaper ''Stella d'Ottobre'' ("The October Star") was nationalized, renamed to ''Xiddigta Oktoobar'', and began publishing in Somali. The state-run
Radio Mogadishu Radio Mogadishu ''( so, Radio Muqdisho'', ar, راديو مقديشو) is the federal government-run radio station of Somalia.
has also broadcast in Somali since 1943. Additionally, the regional public networks the Puntland TV and Radio and
Somaliland National TV Somaliland National Television (SLNTV) is a Somali television channel. It is the official public service station of the government of Somaliland. Founded in 2005, it broadcasts from the country's capital of Hargeisa via terrestrial transmission, a ...
, as well as
Eastern Television Network Eastern Television Network (ETN TV) is a Somali private television channel. Overview ETN was founded in 2005. Along with the Somali Broadcasting Corporation, it is one of two stations with headquarters in Bosaso, the commercial capital of the north ...
and
Horn Cable Television Horn Cable TV (HCTV) is a Somali news-based private television channel. Overview Founded in 2003, Horn Cable TV broadcasts in Somali from its headquarters in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. The station also has studios in Mogadishu and London ...
, among other private broadcasters, air programs in Somali. Somali is recognized as an official working language in the
Somali Region The Somali Regional State ( so, Dawlad Deegaanka Soomaalida, am, የሶማሌ ክልል, ar, المنطقة الصومالية), also known as Soomaali Galbeed (''Somali West'') is the largest and easternmost of the ten regions (''Kililoj'') of ...

Somali Region
of Ethiopia. Although it is not an official language of
Djibouti Djibouti ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti , officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the north, a ...
, it constitutes a major national language there. Somali is used in television and radio broadcasts, with the government-operated Radio Djibouti transmitting programs in the language from 1943 onwards. The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation also broadcasts in the Somali language in its Iftin FM Programmes. Afsoomali is spoken in North Eastern
Kenya Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya ( sw, Jamhuri ya Kenya), is a country in Eastern Africa. At , Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by total area. With a population of more than 47.6 million people in the 2019 census, Kenya is the ...
The Somali language is regulated by the
Regional Somali Language Academy The Regional Somali Language Academy (RSLA) is an intergovernmental regulating body for the Somali language in the Horn region. As of February 2015, it is based in Djibouti City. Overview On 28 June 2013, the Government of Djibouti, the Federal Gov ...
, an intergovernmental institution established in June 2013 in
Djibouti City Djibouti (also called Djibouti City; ar, مدينة جيبوتي, french: Ville de Djibouti, so, Magaalada Jabuuti, aa, Magaala Gabuuti) is the eponymous capital and largest city of Djibouti. It is located in the coastal Djibouti Region on the Gul ...
by the governments of Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia. It is officially mandated with preserving the Somali language. As of 2013, Somali is also one of the featured languages available on
Google Translate Google Translate is a multilingual neural machine translation service developed by Google, to translate text, documents and websites from one language into another. It offers a website interface, a mobile app for Android and iOS, and an applicat ...
.


Varieties

Somali linguistic varieties are broadly divided into three main groups: Afsoomali, Benadir and
Maay Af Maay commonly spelled Maay (also known as ''Af-Maay Maay,'' is a language of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family, closely related to the Somali language. It is mainly spoken in Somalia and adjacent parts of Ethiopia and Kenya. In So ...
. Northern Somali (or Nsom) forms the basis for Standard Somali. It is spoken by more than 85% of the entire Somali population, with its speech area stretching from
Djibouti Djibouti ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti , officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the north, a ...
, Northern Somalia,
Somali Region The Somali Regional State ( so, Dawlad Deegaanka Soomaalida, am, የሶማሌ ክልል, ar, المنطقة الصومالية), also known as Soomaali Galbeed (''Somali West'') is the largest and easternmost of the ten regions (''Kililoj'') of ...

Somali Region
of
Ethiopia Ethiopia (; am, ኢትዮጵያ, , aa, Itiyoophiyaa, gez, ኢትዮጵያ, om , Itoophiyaa, so, Itoobiya, ti , ኢትዮጵያ), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shar ...

Ethiopia
, North Eastern Kenya to most parts of
Somalia Somalia,; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the Northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to ...
This widespread modern distribution is a result of a long series of southward population movements over the past ten centuries from the
Gulf of Aden The Gulf of Aden ( ar, خليج عدن, so, Gacanka Cadmeed 𐒌𐒖𐒋𐒖𐒒𐒏𐒖 𐒋𐒖𐒆𐒑𐒜𐒆) also known as the ''Gulf of Berbera'' is a deepwater gulf between Yemen to the north, the Arabian Sea to the east, Djibouti to the wes ...
littoral. Lamberti subdivides Northern Somali is into three dialects: Northern Somali proper (spoken in the northwest; he describes this dialect as Northern Somali in the proper sense), the Darod group (spoken in the northeast and along the eastern Ethiopia frontier; greatest number of speakers overall), and the Lower Juba group (spoken by northern Somali settlers in the southern riverine areas). Benadir (also known as Coastal Somali) is spoken on the central
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering or 19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia to the east. To the south it is bounded by the Sou ...

Indian Ocean
seaboard, including
Mogadishu Mogadishu (, also ; so, Muqdisho or Xamar ; ar, مقديشو, Muqadīshū ; it, Mogadiscio ), locally known as Xamar or Hamar, is the capital city and most populous city of Somalia. The city has served as an important port connecting with traders ...

Mogadishu
. It forms a relatively smaller group. The dialect is fairly
mutually intelligible In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related varieties can readily understand each other without prior familiarity or special effort. It is sometimes used as an im ...
with Northern Somali. Now there are other languages that are spoken in Somalia which are not necessarily Afsoomali. They may be a mixture of the Somali Languages and other indigenous Languages. Such a Language is Maay and is principally spoken by the Digil and Mirifle (
Rahanweyn The Rahanweyn (Maay: ''Reewin'', so, Raxanweyn, ar, رحنوين), also known as Reer Mai is a major Somali clan. The clan resides in rich fertile lands in southern Somalia and lives on the banks of Somalia's two major rivers, the Shebelle and Jubb ...
or Sab) clans in the southern regions of Somalia. Its speech area extends from the southwestern border with Ethiopia to a region close to the coastal strip between Mogadishu and
Kismayo Kismayo ( so, Kismaayo; ar, كيسمايو, ; it, Chisimaio) is a port city in the southern Lower Juba (Jubbada Hoose) province of Somalia. It is the commercial capital of the autonomous Jubaland region. The city is situated southwest of Mogadi ...
, including the city of
Baidoa Baidoa ( so, Baydhabo) is capital in the southwestern Bay region of Somalia. In 2005, the Transitional Federal Government established temporary headquarters in Baidoa before an eventual relocation of government offices to Mogadishu. Between the y ...
. Maay is not mutually comprehensible with Northern Somali, and it differs in sentence structure and phonology. It is also not generally used in education or media. However, Maay speakers often use Standard Somali as a lingua franca, which is learned via mass communications, internal migration and urbanization. Maay is not closely related with the Somali language in sentence structure and phonology is spoken by Jiddu, Dabarre,
GarreThe Garre (Somali : ''Garre'', Arabic: غرّي ) is a major Somali clan whose origins trace back to Samaale who traces the lineage from the Arabian Peninsula through Aqiil Abu Talib. The Garre clan are considered to belong to the Digil clan famil ...
and
Tunni thumb The Tunni (Somali: Tunni) is a Somali sub-clan and make up part of the wider Rahanweyn branch. It is one of the major clans that inhabit in the South West State of Somalia and can also be found in Jubbaland.{{Cite web, title=Tunni in Somalia, u ...
varieties that are also spoken by smaller Rahanweyn communities. Collectively, these languages present similarities with Oromo that are not found in mainstream Somali. Chief among these is the lack of pharyngeal sounds in the Rahanweyn/Digil and Mirifle languages, features which by contrast typify Somali but are not Somali. Although in the past frequently classified as dialects of Somali, more recent research by the linguist
Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi ( so, Maxamed Diriye Abdullahi, ar, محمد ديري عبد الله) is a Somali-Canadian scholar, linguist, writer, translator and professor. Biography Formerly a journalist in his native Somalia, Abdullahi emigrated to ...
has shown that these varieties, including Maay, constitute separate Cushitic languages. The degree of divergence is comparable to that between
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...
and
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...
. Of the Digil varieties, Jiddu is the most incomprehensible to Benadir and Northern speakers. Despite these linguistic differences, Somali speakers collectively view themselves as speaking a common language. These assumptions however has been contested by a more recent study by Deqa Hassan that tested the mutual intelligibility between Af-Maay and Af-Maxaa speakers (Northern Somali). The study found that Af-Maay is partially mutually intelligible to Af-Maxaa (Northern Speakers) and that intelligibility increases with increased understanding of Standard Somali. Which implies understanding of standard Somali (Northern Somali) increases the chance of understanding Af-Maay. This accounts for the most significant linguistic factor that ties both language variations together. Furthermore Af-Maay is categorized as a Type 5 dialect for the overlapping common cultural history it shares with Af Maxaa speakers which explains its somewhat mutual intelligibility.


Phonology

Somali has 22 consonant
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlands and the north-west of Engl ...
s. The consonants often weaken to intervocalically. The retroflex plosive may have an implosive quality for some speakers, and intervocalically it can be realized as the flap . Some speakers produce with epiglottal trilling. is often
epiglottal A pharyngeal consonant is a consonant that is articulated primarily in the pharynx. Some phoneticians distinguish upper pharyngeal consonants, or "high" pharyngeals, pronounced by retracting the root of the tongue in the mid to upper pharynx, f ...
ized. The language has five basic
vowel A vowel is a syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in quantity (length ...
s. Each has a front and back variation as well as long or short versions. This gives a distinct 20 pure vowel sounds. It also exhibits three tones: high, low and falling. Vowels harmonize within a harmonic group, so all vowels within the group must either be front or back. The Somali orthography does not distinguish between the front and back variants of vowels, however, as there are few minimal pairs. The syllable structure of Somali is (C)V(C). Root
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not necessarily the same as a word. The main difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme sometimes does not stand alone, but a word, by definition, always st ...
s usually have a mono- or di-syllabic structure. Pitch is phonemic in Somali, but it is debated whether Somali is a
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch (linguistic tone) rather than by loudness ...
or
tonal language Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information and to convey emphasis, ...
. Andrzejewski (1954) posits that Somali is a tonal language, whereas Banti (1988) suggests that it is a pitch accent language.


Grammar


Morphology

Somali is an
agglutinative The middle sign is in Hungarian, which agglutinates extensively. (The top and bottom signs are in Romanian and German, respectively, both inflecting languages.) The English translation is "Ministry of Food and Agriculture: Satu Mare County Directo ...
language, and also shows properties of
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and definiten ...
. Affixes mark many grammatical meanings, including aspect, tense and case. Somali has an old prefixal verbal inflection restricted to four common verbs, with all other verbs undergoing inflection by more obvious suffixation. This general pattern is similar to the stem alternation that typifies Cairene Arabic. Changes in pitch are used for grammatical rather than lexical purposes. This includes distinctions of gender, number and case. In some cases, these distinctions are marked by tone alone (e.g. ''Ínan'', "boy"; ''inán'', "girl"). Somali has two sets of pronouns: independent (substantive, emphatic) pronouns and clitic (verbal) pronouns. The independent pronouns behave grammatically as nouns, and normally occur with the suffixed article -ka/-ta (e.g. ''adiga'', "you"). This article may be omitted after a conjunction or focus word. For example, ''adna'' meaning "and you..." (from ''adi''-''na''). Clitic pronouns are attached to the verb and do not take nominal morphology. Somali marks
clusivity In linguistics, clusivity is a grammatical distinction between ''inclusive'' and ''exclusive'' first-person pronouns and verbal morphology, also called ''inclusive "we"'' and ''exclusive "we"''. Inclusive "we" specifically includes the addressee (t ...
in the first person plural pronouns; this is also found in a number of other East Cushitic languages, such as Rendille and Dhaasanac. As in various other Afro-Asiatic languages, Somali is characterized by
polarity of genderIn linguistics, polarity of gender is when a lexical item takes the opposite grammatical gender than expected. The phenomenon is widespread in Afroasiatic languages such as Semitic and Cushitic tongues. For example, in Somali, which is a Cushitic lan ...
, whereby plural nouns usually take the opposite gender
agreementAgreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of t ...
of their singular forms. For example, the plural of the masculine noun ''dibi'' ("bull") is formed by converting it into feminine ''dibi''. Somali is unusual among the world's languages in that the object is unmarked for case while the subject is marked, though this feature is found in other Cushitic languages such as Oromo.


Syntax

Somali is a
subject–object–verb In linguistic typology, a subject–object–verb (SOV) language is one in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence always or usually appear in that order. If English were SOV, "Sam oranges ate" would be an ordinary sentence, as opposed to ...
(SOV) language. It is largely head final, with
postposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions), are a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various semantic r ...
s and with obliques preceding verbs. These are common features of the Cushitic and Semitic Afroasiatic languages spoken in the Horn region (e.g.
Amharic Amharic ( or ; (Amharic: ), ', ) is an Ethiopian Semitic language, which is a subgrouping within the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. It is spoken as a first language by the Amharas and as a lingua franca by other populations residi ...
). However, Somali noun phrases are head-initial, whereby the noun precedes its modifying adjective. This pattern of general head-finality with head-initial noun phrases is also found in other Cushitic languages (e.g. Oromo), but not generally in Ethiopian Semitic languages. Somali uses three
focus FOCUS is a fourth-generation programming language (4GL) computer programming language and development environment that is used to build database queries. Produced by Information Builders Inc., it was originally developed for data handling and analy ...
markers: ''baa'', ''ayaa'' and ''waxa(a)'', which generally mark new information or contrastive emphasis. ''Baa'' and ''ayaa'' require the focused element to occur preverbally, while ''waxa(a)'' may be used following the verb.


Vocabulary

Somali
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word as adopted from one language (the donor language) and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are simi ...
s can be divided into those derived from other Afroasiatic languages (mainly Arabic), and those of
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. A few of these languages, su ...
extraction (mainly Italian). Somali's main lexical borrowings come from Arabic, and are estimated to constitute about 20% of the language's vocabulary. This is a legacy of the Somali people's extensive social, cultural, commercial and religious links and contacts with nearby populations in the Arabian peninsula. Arabic loanwords are most commonly used in religious, administrative and education-related speech (e.g. ''aamiin'' for "faith in God"), though they are also present in other areas (e.g. ''kubbad-da'', "ball"). Soravia (1994) noted a total of 1,436 Arabic loanwords in Agostini a.o. 1985, a prominent 40,000-entry Somali dictionary. Most of the terms consisted of commonly used nouns. These lexical borrowings may have been more extensive in the past since a few words that Zaborski (1967:122) observed in the older literature were absent in Agostini's later work. In addition, the majority of personal names are derived from Arabic. The Somali language also contains a few Indo-European loanwords that were retained from the colonial period. Most of these lexical borrowings come from
English English usually refers to: * English language * English people English may also refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * ''English'', an adjective for something of, from, or related to England ** English national identity, an identity and ...

English
and
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...
and are used to describe new objects or modern concepts (e.g. ''telefishen-ka'', "television"; ''raadia-ha'', "radio"). There are as well 300 directly
Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love), emotional attraction towards another person and the courtship behaviors undertaken to express the feelings * Romance languages, a ...

Romance
loans, such as ''garawati'' for "tie" (from the
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...
'). Indeed, the most used loanwords from the Italian are "ciao" as a friendly salute, "dimuqraadi" from Italian "democratico" (democratic), "mikroskoob" from "microscopio” (microscope), "Jalaato" from "gelato" (ice cream), "baasto" from "pasta" (pasta), "bataate" from "patate" (potato), "bistoolad" from "pistol" (pistol), "fiyoore" from "fiore" (flower) and "injinyeer" from "ingegnere" (engineer). Somalis call their calendar months as Soon, soonfur, siditaal, carafa....but these changed recently. Furthermore, all the months in Somali language are now loaned words from the Italian, like "Febraayo" that comes from "febbraio" (February). Additionally, Somali contains lexical terms from Persian,
Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC: ) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in South Asia. It is the official national language and ''lingua franca'' of Pakistan. In India, Urdu is an Eighth Schedule language whose status, function, and cultural heritag ...
and
Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: हिन्दी, IAST/ISO 15919: ''Hindī''), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: मानक हिन्दी, IAST/ISO 15919: ''Mānak Hindī''), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in India. ...
that were acquired through historical trade with communities in the
Near East The Near East (Arabic: شرق أدنى, Hebrew: המזרח הקרוב, Aramaic: ܡܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, Persian: خاور نزدیک, Turkish: Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental region comprising Western A ...
and
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms. The region consists of the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka.;;;;;;;; Top ...

South Asia
(e.g. ''khiyaar'' "cucumber" from fa, خيار ''khiyār''). Some of these words were also borrowed indirectly via Arabic. As part of a broader governmental effort to ensure and safeguard the primacy of the Somali language, the past few decades have seen a push in Somalia toward replacement of loanwords in general with their Somali equivalents or
neologism A neologism (; from Greek νέο- ''néo-'', "new" and λόγος ''lógos'', "speech, utterance") is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted ...
s. To this end, the Supreme Revolutionary Council during its tenure officially prohibited the borrowing and use of English and Italian terms.


Writing system

Archaeological
excavations In archaeology, excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. An excavation site or "dig" is the area being studied. These locations range from one to several areas at a time during a project and can be conduc ...
and research in Somalia uncovered ancient inscriptions in a distinct
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs in also being a reliable form o ...
.Ministry of Information and National Guidance, Somalia, ''The writing of the Somali language'', (Ministry of Information and National Guidance: 1974), p.5 In an 1878 report to the
Royal Geographical Society The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) is one of the United Kingdom's learned societies and the professional body for geography worldwide, founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences. The Society has over 16,500 members, wi ...
of Great Britain, scientist Johann Maria Hildebrandt noted upon visiting the area that "we know from ancient authors that these districts, at present so desert, were formerly populous and civilised ..I also discovered ancient ruins and rock-inscriptions both in pictures and characters ..These have hitherto not been deciphered." According to Somalia's Ministry of Information and National Guidance, this script represents the earliest written attestation of Somali. Besides Ahmed's Latin script, other orthographies that have been used for centuries for writing the Somali language include the long-established
Arabic script#REDIRECT Arabic script ...
and
Wadaad writing ''Wadaad'' writing, also known as ''Wadaad'' Arabic, is the traditional Somali adaptation of written Arabic, as well as the Arabic script as historically used to transcribe the Somali language.Lewis, p.139-140 Originally, it referred to an ungramma ...
. According to Bogumił Andrzejewski, this usage was limited to Somali clerics and their associates, as sheikhs preferred to write in the liturgical Arabic language. Various such historical manuscripts in Somali nonetheless exist, which mainly consist of Islamic poems (qasidas), recitations and chants. Among these texts are the Somali poems by Sheikh Uways and Sheikh Ismaaciil Faarah. The rest of the existing historical literature in Somali principally consists of translations of documents from Arabic. Since then a number of writing systems have been used for transcribing the Somali language. Of these, the Somali Latin alphabet, officially adopted in 1972, is the most widely used and recognised as official orthography of the state. The script was developed by a number of leading scholars of Somali, including Musa Haji Ismail Galal, B. W. Andrzejewski and Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for transcribing the Somali language, and uses all letters of the English Latin alphabet except ''p'', ''v'' and ''z''. There are no diacritics or other special characters except the use of the apostrophe for the glottal stop, which does not occur word-initially. There are three consonant Digraph (orthography), digraphs: DH, KH and SH. Tone is not marked, and front and back vowels are not distinguished. Writing systems developed in the twentieth century include the Osmanya alphabet, Osmanya, Borama alphabet, Borama and Kaddare alphabets, which were invented by Osman Yusuf Kenadid, Abdurahman Sheikh Nuur and Hussein Sheikh Ahmed Kaddare, respectively.


Sample text


Numbers


Days of the week


Months of the year


See also

* Languages of Djibouti * Languages of Somalia * Languages of Kenya * Somali Sign Language * Somali literature * Somali Studies * Somali Latin alphabet


References


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* Abdullahi, Mohamed Diriye (2000). ''Le Somali, dialectes et histoire''. Ph.D. dissertation, Université de Montréal. * Lilias Armstrong, Armstrong, L.E. (1964). "The phonetic structure of Somali," ''Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen Berlin'' 37/3:116-161. * Bell, C.R.V. (1953). ''The Somali Language''. London: Longmans, Green & Co. * Berchem, Jörg (1991). ''Referenzgrammatik des Somali''. Köln: Omimee. * Cardona, G.R. (1981). "Profilo fonologico del somalo," ''Fonologia e lessico''. Ed. G.R. Cardona & F. Agostini. Rome: Dipartimento per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo; Comitato Tecnico Linguistico per l'Università Nazionale Somala, Ministero degli Affari Esteri. Volume 1, pages 3–26. * Dobnova, Elena Z. (1990). ''Sovremennyj somalijskij jazyk''. Moskva: Nauka. * Puglielli, Annarita (1997). "Somali Phonology," ''Phonologies of Asia and Africa, Volume 1''. Ed. Alan S. Kaye. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns. Pages 521-535. * Lamberti, M. (1986). ''Die Somali-Dialekte''. Hamburg: Buske. * Lamberti, M. (1986). ''Map of the Somali-Dialects in the Somali Democratic Republic''. Hamburg: Buske. * Saeed, John Ibrahim (1987). ''Somali Reference Grammar.'' Springfield, VA: Dunwoody Press.


External links


Somali Language Page: Resources, links and information on the Somali language.



Somali Language and Linguistics: A Bibliography

Learn101 - Learn Somali


''Lexilogos''.


Enhancing the Quality of Google Somali Translations


{{DEFAULTSORT:Somali Language Somali language, Agglutinative languages Subject–object–verb languages Vowel-harmony languages Languages of Somalia Languages of Ethiopia Languages of Kenya Languages of Djibouti