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Somali (Latin: ; Wadaad: ;
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 s ...
: 𐒖𐒍 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘 ) is an
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
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 The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜 ...

Cushitic
branch. It is spoken as a mother tongue by
Somalis The Somalis ( so, Soomaalida 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒆𐒖, ar, صوماليون) are an Cushitic peoples, East Cushitic ethnic group native to the Horn of Africa who share a common ancestry, culture and history. The Somali language is the ...

Somalis
in
Greater Somalia Greater Somalia ( so, Soomaaliweyn 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒓𐒗𐒕𐒒, ar, الصومال الكبرى ''As-Sūmal al-Kubra'') is a concept to unite all ethnic Somalis comprising the regions in or near the Horn of Africa The Horn of A ...

Greater Somalia
and the
Somali diaspora The Somali diaspora refers to Somalis The Somalis ( so, Soomaalida 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒆𐒖, ar, صوماليون) are an Cushitic peoples, East Cushitic ethnic group native to the Horn of Africa who share a common ancestry, culture a ...
. Somali is an official language of
Somalia Somalia,, Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constitutio ...

Somalia
,
Somaliland Somaliland ( so, Soomaaliland; ar, صوماليلاند ', '), officially the Republic of Somaliland ( so, Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliland, ar, جمهورية صوماليلاند ''Jumhūrīyat Ṣūmālīlānd''), is a de facto sovereign ...

Somaliland
, and
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 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 The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsu ...

Djibouti
as well in northeastern
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
. 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 In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...
although the
Arabic alphabet The Arabic alphabet ( ar, الْأَبْجَدِيَّة الْعَرَبِيَّة, ' or , ', ), or Arabic abjad, is the as it is codified for writing . It is written from right to left in a style and includes 28 letters. Most letters hav ...

Arabic alphabet
and several Somali scripts like
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 s ...
and the
Borama script The Gadabuursi script also known as the Borama alphabet (Borama: ) , is a Writing system, writing script for the Somali language. It was devised around 1933 by Sheikh Abdurahman Sh. Nur of the Gadabuursi clan. History Though not as widely know ...
are informally used.Lewis, I.M. (1958)
The Gadabuursi Somali Script
''Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies'',
University of London The University of London (UoL; abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londin in post-nominals Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply post-nominals, are letters placed after a p ...
, Vol. 21, pp. 134–156.


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: ...
in addition to Afar and Saho. Somali is the best-documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies of the language dating back to the late 19th century.


Geographic distribution of Somali

The Somali language is spoken in Somali inhabited areas of
Somalia Somalia,, Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constitutio ...

Somalia
,
Somaliland Somaliland ( so, Soomaaliland; ar, صوماليلاند ', '), officially the Republic of Somaliland ( so, Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliland, ar, جمهورية صوماليلاند ''Jumhūrīyat Ṣūmālīlānd''), is a de facto sovereign ...

Somaliland
,
Djibouti Djibouti, ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsu ...

Djibouti
,
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
,
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
,
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 by members of the
Somali diaspora The Somali diaspora refers to Somalis The Somalis ( so, Soomaalida 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒆𐒖, ar, صوماليون) are an Cushitic peoples, East Cushitic ethnic group native to the Horn of Africa who share a common ancestry, culture a ...
. It is also spoken as an adoptive language by a few ethnic minority groups and individuals in Somali majority regions. Somali is the most widely spoken Cushitic language in the region followed by Oromo and Afar. As of 2019, there were approximately 21.8 million speakers of Somali, spread in
Greater Somalia Greater Somalia ( so, Soomaaliweyn 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒓𐒗𐒕𐒒, ar, الصومال الكبرى ''As-Sūmal al-Kubra'') is a concept to unite all ethnic Somalis comprising the regions in or near the Horn of Africa The Horn of A ...

Greater Somalia
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 A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups with ...
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 ( 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
,
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
and
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
.


Official status

Constitutionally, Somali and
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
are the two
official languages An official language, also called state language, is a language given a special status in a particular jurisdiction (area), country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a country's official language refers to the language used in government (j ...
of
Somalia Somalia,, Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constitutio ...

Somalia
. 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 th ...
'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 ...

Italian
-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, other state-run public networks like
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 ...
, regional public networks such as Puntland TV and Radio and, as well as Eastern Television Network and
Horn Cable Television Horn Cable TV (HCTV) is a Somali news broadcasting, news-based private television channel. Overview Founded in 2003, Horn Cable TV broadcasts in Somali language, Somali from its headquarters in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. The station also ...
, among other private broadcasters, air programs in Somali. Somali is recognized as an official working language in the
Somali Region The Somali Region ( so, Dawlad Deegaanka Soomaalida, am, ሱማሌ ክልል, ar, المنطقة الصومالية), also known as Soomaali Galbeed (''Somali West'') is a regional state A regional state or a regionalised unitary state, is ...

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 The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsu ...

Djibouti
, 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. The language is spoken in the Somali territories within North Eastern
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
, namely
Wajir County Wajir County ( so, Gabolka Wajeer) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern ...
,
Garissa County Garissa County ( so, Gobolka Gaarisa) is an administrative County A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh ...
and
Mandera County Mandera County ( so, Degmada Mandheera, sw, Kaunti ya Mandera) is the northeasternmost counties of Kenya, county in Kenya. Its capital and largest town is Mandera. The county is bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east and Wajir C ...
. 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 Somali Retrieved on 21 September 2013 (Latin: ; Osmanya: 𐒖𐒍 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘 ) is an Afroasiatic language belonging to the ...
, 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 th ...
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 web application, website interface, a mobile app for Android (operat ...
.


Varieties

Somali linguistic varieties are broadly divided into three main groups: Northern, Benadir and Maay. 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 The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsu ...

Djibouti
,
Somaliland Somaliland ( so, Soomaaliland; ar, صوماليلاند ', '), officially the Republic of Somaliland ( so, Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliland, ar, جمهورية صوماليلاند ''Jumhūrīyat Ṣūmālīlānd''), is a de facto sovereign ...

Somaliland
,
Somali Region The Somali Region ( so, Dawlad Deegaanka Soomaalida, am, ሱማሌ ክልል, ar, المنطقة الصومالية), also known as Soomaali Galbeed (''Somali West'') is a regional state A regional state or a regionalised unitary state, is ...

Somali Region
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
,
Northern Frontier District The North Eastern Province ( so, Gobolka Woqooyi Bari) is one of the former Provinces of Kenya, provinces in Kenya. It has a land area of 127,358.5 km2, with its capital at Garissa. Previously known as the Northern Frontier District (NFD), ...
to most parts of
Somalia Somalia,, Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constitutio ...

Somalia
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 𐒅𐒖𐒐𐒕𐒌 𐒋𐒖𐒆𐒗𐒒) also known as the ''Gulf of Berbera Berbera (; so, Barbara, ar, بربرة) is the capital of the Sahil, Somaliland, Sahil region of Soma ...

Gulf of Aden
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). The dialect of the
Isaaq The Isaaq (also Isaq, Ishaak, Isaac) ( so, Reer Sheekh Isxaaq, ar, بني إسحاق, Banī Isḥāq) is a Somali clan. It is one of the major Somali clans in the Horn of Africa, with a large and densely populated traditional territory. Perry ...
clan-family has the highest prestige of any other Somali dialect. Benadir (also known as Coastal Somali) is spoken on the central
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of and contains 97% of . Another definition is "any of the large ...

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 The United Nations uses three definitions for what constitutes a city ...

Mogadishu
. It forms a relatively smaller group. The dialect is fairly
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 ...
with Northern Somali. 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 language, Maay: ''Reewin'', Northern Somali: ''Raxanweyn'', ar, رحنوين), also known as the Digil and Mirifle () are a Somali clan. It is one of the major Somali clans in the Horn of Africa, with a large territory and de ...
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, Maay Maay, Maay: ''Kismanyy'', 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 ci ...

Kismayo
, including the city of
Baidoa Baidoa ( so, Baydhabo) is capital in the southwestern Bay A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the bod ...

Baidoa
. 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,
Garre The Garre tribe (Somali Somali refers to an East African tribe (ethnic group) native to Somalia Somalia,; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by ...
and
Tunni The Tunni (Somali language, Somali: Tunni) is a ethnic that make up part of the wider Digil Rahanweyn branch. It is one of the major clans that inhabit in the South West State of Somalia, South West State of Somalia and can also be found in Jubalan ...
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 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 ...

Spanish
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 ...

Portuguese
. 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 List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
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 epiglottalized. The language has five basic
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables ...

vowel
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 lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon A ...
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 Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
or
tonal language Tone is the use of pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches th ...
. 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 D ...
language, and also shows properties of
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical ob ...
. 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 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 ...
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 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 pho ...
, whereby plural nouns usually take the opposite gender
agreement Agreement 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 ...
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 Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods fo ...
(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 ro ...
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 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 ...
). 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 programming language, language and development environment that is used to build database queries. Produced by Information Builders Inc., it was originally developed for d ...
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 In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
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 A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation ...
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 is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

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 ...

Italian
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) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the Court ...

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 ...

Italian
'). 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 Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
,
Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC ALA-LC (American Library Association The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonpr ...

Urdu
and
Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, North India. Hindi has been described as a Standard la ...

Hindi
that were acquired through historical trade with communities in 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 ...
and
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia cov ...

South Asia
(e.g. ''khiyaar'' "cucumber" from fa, خيار ''khiyār'' ). Other loan words have also displaced their native synonyms in some dialects (e.g. ''jabaati'' "a type of flat bread" from Hindi: चपाती '''' displacing ''sabaayad).'' Some of these words were also borrowed indirectly via Arabic. As part of a broader governmental effort of
linguistic purism Linguistic purism or linguistic protectionism is the prescriptive Linguistic prescription, or prescriptive grammar, is the attempt to establish rules defining preferred or correct usage of language. These rules may address such Linguistics, ...
in 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#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
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 condu ...
and research in Somalia uncovered ancient inscriptions in a distinct
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communic ...
.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 Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to ...
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 the 1974 report for Ministry of Information and National Guidance, this script represents the earliest written attestation of Somali. Much more recently, Somali archaeologist has published ancient inscriptions found throughout
Somaliland Somaliland ( so, Soomaaliland; ar, صوماليلاند ', '), officially the Republic of Somaliland ( so, Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliland, ar, جمهورية صوماليلاند ''Jumhūrīyat Ṣūmālīlānd''), is a de facto sovereign ...

Somaliland
. As much for much of Somali linguistic history the language was not widely used for literature, Dr. Mire's publications however prove that writing as a technology was not foreign nor scarce in the region. These piece of writing are from the Semitic
Himyarite The Himyarite Kingdom ( ar, مملكة حِمْيَر, Mamlakat Ḥimyar, he, ממלכת חִמְיָר), or Himyar ( ar, حِمْيَر, ''Ḥimyar'', xsa, 𐩢𐩣𐩺𐩧𐩣, Ḥmyrm) (fl. ''Floruit'' (), abbreviated fl. (or occasionally ...
and Sabaean languages that were largely spoken in what is modern day Yemen —"there is an extensive and ancient relationship between the people and cultures of both sides of the Red Sea coast" Mire posits. Yet, while many more such ancient inscriptions are yet to be found or analyzed, many have been "bulldozed by developers, as the Ministry of Tourism could not buy the land or stop the destruction". Besides Ahmed's Latin script, other orthographies that have been used for centuries for writing the Somali language include the long-established and
Wadaad writing ''Wadaad'' writing, also known as ''Wadaad'' Arabic, is the traditional Somali adaptation of written Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international ...
. 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.


Numbers and calendrical terms


Numbers

For all number between 11 ''kow iyo toban'' and 99 ''sagaashal iyo sagaal'' it is equally correct to switch the placement of the numbers, although larger numbers is some dialects prefer to place the 10s numeral first. For example 25 may both be written as ''labaatan iyo shan'' and ''shan iyo labaatan'' (lit. Twenty and Five & Five and Twenty). Although neither the Latin nor Osmanya scripts accommodate this numerical switching.


Multiples of 10


Names of large numbers

*the commas in the Osmanya number chart are added for clarity


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