Amharic language
Overview
 
Amharic is a Semitic language
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 spoken in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. It is the second most-spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, and the official working language of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Thus, it has official status and is used nationwide. Amharic is also the official or working language of several of the states within the federal system. It has been the working language of government, the military, and of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the predominant Oriental Orthodox Christian church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All...

 throughout medieval and modern times.
Encyclopedia
Amharic is a Semitic language
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 spoken in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. It is the second most-spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, and the official working language of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Thus, it has official status and is used nationwide. Amharic is also the official or working language of several of the states within the federal system. It has been the working language of government, the military, and of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the predominant Oriental Orthodox Christian church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All...

 throughout medieval and modern times. Outside Ethiopia, Amharic is the language of some 2.7 million emigrants. It is written using Amharic Fidel, ፊደል, which grew out of the Ge'ez abugida—called, in Ethiopian Semitic languages
Ethiopian Semitic languages
Ethiopian Semitic is a language group, which together with Old South Arabian forms the Western branch of the South Semitic languages. The languages are spoken in both Ethiopia and Eritrea...

, ፊደል fidel ("alphabet", "letter", or "character") and አቡጊዳ abugida (from the first four Ethiopic letters, which gave rise to the modern linguistic term abugida
Abugida
An abugida , also called an alphasyllabary, is a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is obligatory but secondary...

).

Consonant and vowel phonemes

There is no agreed way of transliterating Amharic into Roman characters.
The Amharic examples in the sections below use one system that is common, though not universal, among linguists
specializing in Ethiopian Semitic languages. The Amharic ejectives sound very sharp and correspond to the Proto-Semitic
Proto-Semitic language
Proto-Semitic is the hypothetical proto-language ancestral to historical Semitic languages of the Middle East. Locations which have been proposed for its origination include northern Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant with a 2009 study proposing that it may have originated around...

 "emphatic consonants", usually transcribed with a dot
Dot (diacritic)
When used as a diacritic mark, the term dot is usually reserved for the Interpunct , or to the glyphs 'combining dot above' and 'combining dot below'...

 below the letter. The consonant and vowel charts give these symbols in parentheses where they differ from the standard IPA
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 symbols.
Consonants
Bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Dental Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m n ɲ (ñ)
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
ejective
Ejective consonant
In phonetics, ejective consonants are voiceless consonants that are pronounced with simultaneous closure of the glottis. In the phonology of a particular language, ejectives may contrast with aspirated or tenuis consonants...

pʼ (p', p̣) tʼ (t') kʼ (q)
Affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

voiceless tʃ (č)
voiced
ejective
Ejective consonant
In phonetics, ejective consonants are voiceless consonants that are pronounced with simultaneous closure of the glottis. In the phonology of a particular language, ejectives may contrast with aspirated or tenuis consonants...

tsʼ (s') tʃʼ (č', č̣)
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiceless f s ʃ (š) h
voiced z ʒ (ž)
Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

l j (y) w
Rhotic
Rhotic consonant
In phonetics, rhotic consonants, also called tremulants or "R-like" sounds, are liquid consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including "R, r" from the Roman alphabet and "Р, p" from the Cyrillic alphabet...

r

Vowels
Front Central Back
High i ɨ (ə) u
Mid e ə (ä) o
Low a



Fidel signs

Amharic Fidel is an abugida
Abugida
An abugida , also called an alphasyllabary, is a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is obligatory but secondary...

, in that each character represents a consonant+vowel combination, and the characters are organized in groups of similar symbols on the basis of both the consonant and the vowel. The following chart represents the basic forms of the consonants, ignoring the so-called "bastard" (Amh. ዲቃላ ) labiovelarized forms of each consonant (represented by the addition of a superscripted "w," i.e. ) and not including the wholly labiovelarized consonants (Ge'ez
Ge'ez alphabet
Ge'ez , also called Ethiopic, is a script used as an abugida for several languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea but originated in an abjad used to write Ge'ez, now the liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Church...

 ), , and . Some phonemes can be represented by more than one series of symbols: , /s'/, and (the last has four distinct letter forms). The citation form for each series is the consonant+/ä/ form, i.e. the first column of fidel. You will need a font that supports Ethiopic, such as [ftp://ftp.ethiopic.org/pub/fonts/TrueType/gfzemenu.ttf GF Zemen Unicode], in order to view the fidel.

Non-speakers are often disconcerted or astonished by the remarkable similarity of many of the symbols. This is mitigated somewhat because, like many Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, Amharic uses triconsonantal root
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

s in its verb morphology. The result of this is that a fluent speaker of Amharic can often decipher written text by observing the consonants, with the vowel variants being supplemental detail.

Chart of Amharic fidels
ä u i a e ə o
h
l
h
m
s
r
s
š
q
b
t
h
n
ñ
k
h
w
z
y
d
g
t
č
p
s
s
f
p
"v"

Gemination

As in most other Ethiopian Semitic languages
Ethiopian Semitic languages
Ethiopian Semitic is a language group, which together with Old South Arabian forms the Western branch of the South Semitic languages. The languages are spoken in both Ethiopia and Eritrea...

, gemination
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

 is contrastive
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 in Amharic. That is, consonant length can distinguish words from one another; for example, alä 'he said', allä 'there is'; 'he hits', 'he is hit'. Gemination is not indicated in Amharic orthography, but Amharic readers seem not to find this to be a problem. This property of the writing system is analogous to the vowels of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 or the tones
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

 of many Bantu languages, which are not normally indicated in writing. The noted Ethiopian novelist Haddis Alemayehu
Haddis Alemayehu
Haddis Alemayehu , also transliterated Hadis Alamayahu, was a Foreign Minister and novelist from Ethiopia. His Amharic novel is considered a classic of modern Ethiopian literature....

, who was an advocate of Amharic orthography reform, indicated gemination in his novel by placing a dot above the characters whose consonants were geminated, but this practice has not caught on.

Personal pronouns

In most languages, there is a small number of basic distinctions of person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

, number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

, and often gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 that play a role within the grammar of the language. We see these distinctions within the basic set of independent personal pronoun
Personal pronoun
Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

s, for example, English I, Amharic እኔ ; English she, Amharic እሷ . In Amharic, as in other Semitic languages, the same distinctions appear in three other places within the grammar of the languages.
Simple Amharic Sentences
You may construct simple Amharic sentences by using subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 and predicate
Predicate (grammar)
There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar. Traditional grammar tends to view a predicate as one of two main parts of a sentence, the other being the subject, which the predicate modifies. The other understanding of predicates is inspired from work in predicate calculus...

. Here are a few simple sentences.

Ethiopia is in Africa.
Ethiopia Africa wist Nat.

Here the word wist Nat is almost similar to saying she’s inside, which assumes Ethiopia has a female gender. Another example.

The boy is asleep.
Liju tegn-tual.

The word Liju (The boy/boy) has its roots from Lij (child). The predicate following Liju tells us the boy has already slept, tegn-tual.

* The hyphen used here is an aid to help pronounce the word in the right way. It does not indicate a compound.

The weather is Good.
Ayeru Des-yilal or similarly , Ayeru t’-iru naew .

Ayeru directly refers to the weather while des-yila shows happiness.

He came to the city.
Esu Ketema me – t’ -a.

me – t’ -a / Esu me – t’ -a should refer to he came, where ketema is the city.

* t’ indicates special emphasis here—pronounce by placing your tongue in between your upper and lower front teeth.

She watched TV.
Esua TV ayech.

Subject–verb agreement
All Amharic verbs agree
Agreement (linguistics)
In languages, agreement or concord is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. Agreement happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates....

 with their subjects
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

; that is, the person, number, and (second- and third-person singular) gender of the subject of the verb are marked by suffixes or prefixes
Affix
An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

 on the verb. Because the affixes that signal subject agreement vary greatly with the particular verb tense
Grammatical tense
A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

/aspect
Grammatical aspect
In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

/mood
Grammatical mood
In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

, they are normally not considered to be pronouns and are discussed elsewhere in this article under verb conjugation.

Object pronoun suffixes
Amharic verbs often have additional morphology that indicates the person, number, and (second- and third-person singular) gender of the object of the verb.
አልማዝን አየኋት
Almaz-ACC
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

I-saw-her
'I saw Almaz'
While morphemes such as -at in this example are sometimes described as signaling object
Object (grammar)
An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

 agreement, analogous to subject agreement, they are more often thought of as object pronoun suffixes
Affix
An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

 because, unlike the markers of subject agreement, they do not vary significantly with the tense/aspect/mood of the verb. For arguments
Verb argument
In linguistics, a verb argument is a phrase that appears in a syntactic relationship with the verb in a clause. In English, for example, the two most important arguments are the subject and the direct object....

 of the verb other than the subject or the object, there are two separate sets of related suffixes, one with a benefactive meaning (to, for), the other with an adversative or locative meaning (against', to the detriment of, on', at).
ለአልማዝ በሩን ከፈትኩላት
bärrun käffätku-llat
for-Almaz door-DEF
Definiteness
In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context and entities which are not ....

-ACC
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

I-opened-for-her
'I opened the door for Almaz'
በአልማዝ በሩን ዘጋሁባት
bärrun zäggahu-bbat
on-Almaz door-DEF
Definiteness
In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context and entities which are not ....

-ACC
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

I-closed-on-her
'I closed the door on Almaz (to her detriment)'
Morphemes such as -llat and -bbat in these examples will be referred to in this article as prepositional object pronoun suffixes because they correspond to prepositional phrases such as for her and on her, to distinguish them from the direct object pronoun suffixes such as -at 'her'.

Possessive suffixes
Amharic has a further set of morphemes that are suffixed to nouns, signalling possession
Possession (linguistics)
Possession, in the context of linguistics, is an asymmetric relationship between two constituents, the referent of one of which possesses the referent of the other ....

: ቤት bet 'house', ቤቴ bete, my house, ቤቷ; betwa, her house.


In each of these four aspects of the grammar, independent pronouns, subject–verb agreement, object pronoun suffixes, and possessive suffixes, Amharic distinguishes eight combinations of person, number, and gender. For first person, there is a two-way distinction between singular (I) and plural (we), whereas for second and third persons, there is a distinction between singular and plural and within the singular a further distinction between masculine and feminine (you m. sg., you f. sg., you pl., he, she, they).

Amharic is a pro-drop language
Pro-drop language
A pro-drop language is a language in which certain classes of pronouns may be omitted when they are in some sense pragmatically inferable...

. That is, neutral sentences in which no element is emphasized normally do not have independent pronouns: ኢትዮጵያዊ ነው 'he's Ethiopian,' ጋበዝኳት ‘gabbäzkwat I invited her. The Amharic words that translate he, I, and her do not appear in these sentences as independent words. However, in such cases, the person, number, and (second- or third-person singular) gender of the subject and object are marked on the verb. When the subject or object in such sentences is emphasized, an independent pronoun is used: እሱ ኢትዮጵያዊ ነው 'he's Ethiopian', እኔ ጋበዝኳት 'I invited her', እሷን ጋበዝኳት I invited her.

The table below shows alternatives for many of the forms.
The choice depends on what precedes the form in question, usually whether this is a vowel or a consonant, for example, for the 1st person singular possessive suffix, አገሬ agär-e 'my country', ገላዬ gäla-ye 'my body'.
Amharic Personal Pronouns
English Independent Object pronoun suffixes Possessive suffixes
Direct Prepositional
Benefactive Locative/Adversative
I እኔ
you (m. sg.) አንተ
you (f. sg.) አንቺ
he እሱ
she እሷ
-at -wa
we እኛ
you (pl.) እናንተ
they እነሱ


Within second- and third-person singular, there are two additional "polite" independent pronouns, for reference to people that the speaker wishes to show respect towards.
This usage is an example of the so-called T-V distinction
T-V distinction
In sociolinguistics, a T–V distinction is a contrast, within one language, between second-person pronouns that are specialized for varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy, familiarity, or insult toward the addressee....

 that is made in many languages.
The polite pronouns in Amharic are እርስዎ you sg. pol. and እሳቸው s/he pol.. Although these forms are singular semantically—they refer to one person—they correspond to third-person plural elsewhere in the grammar, as is common in other T-V systems
T-V distinction
In sociolinguistics, a T–V distinction is a contrast, within one language, between second-person pronouns that are specialized for varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy, familiarity, or insult toward the addressee....

. For the possessive pronouns, however, the polite 2nd person has the special suffix -wo your sg. pol.

For possessive pronouns (mine, yours, etc.), Amharic adds the independent pronouns to the preposition yä- 'of': የኔ yäne 'mine', ያንተ yantä yours m. sg., ያንቺ yours f. sg., የሷ yässwa hers, etc.

Reflexive pronouns

For reflexive pronoun
Reflexive pronoun
A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that is preceded by the noun, adjective, adverb or pronoun to which it refers within the same clause. In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent...

s ('myself', 'yourself', etc.), Amharic adds the possessive suffixes to the noun ራስ 'head': ራሴ 'myself', ራሷ 'herself', etc.

Demonstrative pronouns

Like English, Amharic makes a two-way distinction between near ('this, these') and far ('that, those') demonstrative
Demonstrative
In linguistics, demonstratives are deictic words that indicate which entities a speaker refers to and distinguishes those entities from others...

 expressions (pronouns, adjectives, adverbs). Besides number, as in English, Amharic also distinguishes masculine and feminine gender in the singular.
Amharic Demonstrative Pronouns
Number, Gender Near Far
Singular Masculine ይህ
Feminine ይቺ , ይህች ያቺ
Plural እነዚህ እነዚያ

There are also separate demonstratives for formal reference, comparable to the formal personal pronouns: እኚህ 'this, these (formal)' and እኒያ 'that, those (formal)'.

The singular pronouns have combining forms beginning with zz instead of y when they follow a preposition: ስለዚህ 'because of this; therefore', እንደዚያ 'like that'. Note that the plural demonstratives, like the second and third person plural personal pronouns, are formed by adding the plural prefix እነ to the singular masculine forms.

Nouns

Amharic noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s can be primary or derived. A noun like 'foot, leg' is primary, and a noun like 'pedestrian' is a derived noun.

Gender

Amharic nouns can have a masculine or feminine gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

. There are several ways to express gender. An example is the old suffix -t for femininity. This suffix is no longer productive and is limited to certain patterns and some isolated nouns. Nouns and adjectives ending in -awi usually take the suffix -t to form the feminine form, e.g. ityop':ya-(a)wi 'Ethiopian (m.)' vs. ityop':ya-wi-t 'Ethiopian (f.)'; sämay-awi 'heavenly (m.)' vs. sämay-awi-t 'heavenly (f.)'. This suffix also occurs in nouns and adjective based on the pattern , e.g. 'king' vs. 'queen' and 'holy (m.)' vs. 'holy (f.)'.

Some nouns and adjectives take a feminine marker -it: 'child, boy' vs. 'girl'; bäg 'sheep, ram' vs. bäg-it 'ewe'; 'senior, elder (m.)' vs. 'old woman'; t'ot'a 'monkey' vs. t'ot'-it 'monkey (f.)'. Some nouns have this feminine marker without having a masculine opposite, e.g. 'spider', azur-it 'whirlpool, eddy'. There are, however, also nouns having this -it suffix that are treated as masculine: säraw-it 'army', nägar-it 'big drum'.

The feminine gender is not only used to indicate biological gender, but may also be used to express smallness, e.g. bet-it-u 'the little house' (lit. house-FEM-DEF). The feminine marker can also serve to express tenderness or sympathy.
Specifiers

Amharic has special words that can be used to indicate the gender of people and animals. For people, wänd is used for masculinity and set for femininity, e.g. wänd 'boy', set 'girl'; wänd hakim 'physician, doctor (m.)', set hakim 'physician, doctor (f.)'.
For animals, the words täbat, awra, or wänd (less usual) can be used to indicate masculine gender, and or set to indicate feminine gender. Examples: täbat 'calf (m.)'; awra doro 'cock (rooster)'; set doro 'hen'.

Plural

The plural suffix is used to express plurality of nouns. Some morphophonological
Morphophonology
Morphophonology is a branch of linguistics which studies, in general, the interaction between morphological and phonetic processes. When a morpheme is attached to a word, it can alter the phonetic environments of other morphemes in that word. Morphophonemics attempts to describe this process...

 alternations occur depending on the final consonant or vowel. For nouns ending in a consonant, plain is used: bet 'house' becomes 'houses'. For nouns ending in a back vowel
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

 (-a, -o, -u), the suffix takes the form , e.g. 'dog', 'dogs'; käbäro 'drum', 'drums'. Nouns that end in a front vowel
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

 pluralize using or , e.g. 'scholar', or 'scholars'. Another possibility for nouns ending in a vowel is to delete the vowel and use plain , as in 'dogs'.

Besides using the normal external plural (-očč), nouns and adjectives can be pluralized by way of reduplicating
Reduplication
Reduplication in linguistics is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word is repeated exactly or with a slight change....

 one of the radicals. For example, wäyzäro 'lady' can take the normal plural, yielding , but 'ladies' is also found (Leslau 1995:173).

Some kinship
Kinship
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural, or historical descent. And descent groups, lineages, etc. are treated in their own subsections....

-terms have two plural forms with a slightly different meaning. For example, 'brother' can be pluralized as 'brothers' but also as 'brothers of each other'. Likewise, 'sister' can be pluralized as ('sisters'), but also as 'sisters of each other'.

In compound words
Compound (linguistics)
In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme that consists of more than one stem. Compounding or composition is the word formation that creates compound lexemes...

, the plural marker is suffixed to the second noun: 'church' (lit. house of Christian) becomes 'churches'.
Archaic forms

Amsalu Aklilu has pointed out that Amharic has inherited a large number of old plural forms directly from Classical Ethiopic (Ge'ez)
Ge'ez language
Ge'ez is an ancient South Semitic language that developed in the northern region of Ethiopia and southern Eritrea in the Horn of Africa...

 (Leslau 1995:172). There are basically two archaic pluralizing strategies, called external and internal plural. The external plural consists of adding the suffix -an (usually masculine) or -at (usually feminine) to the singular form. The internal plural employs vowel quality or apophony
Apophony
In linguistics, apophony is the alternation of sounds within a word that indicates grammatical information .-Description:Apophony is...

 to pluralize words, similar to English man vs. men and goose vs. geese. Sometimes combinations of the two systems are found. The archaic plural forms are not productive anymore, which means that they are not be used to form new plurals.
  • Examples of the external plural: 'teacher', ; 'wise person', ; 'priest', ; 'word', .
  • Examples of the internal plural: 'virgin', ; hagär 'land', .
  • Examples of combined systems: 'king', ; 'star', ; 'book', .

Definiteness

If a noun is definite or specified, this is expressed by a suffix, the article, which is -u or -w for masculine singular nouns and -wa, -itwa or -ätwa for feminine singular nouns. For example:
masculine sg masculine sg definite feminine sg feminine sg definite
bet bet-u gäräd gärad-wa
house the house maid the maid


In singular forms, this article distinguishes between the male and female gender; in plural forms this distinction is absent, and all definites are marked with -u, e.g. bet-očč-u 'houses', gäräd-očč-u 'maids'. As in the plural, morphophonological
Morphophonology
Morphophonology is a branch of linguistics which studies, in general, the interaction between morphological and phonetic processes. When a morpheme is attached to a word, it can alter the phonetic environments of other morphemes in that word. Morphophonemics attempts to describe this process...

 alternations occur depending on the final consonant or vowel.

Accusative

Amharic has an accusative marker, -(ə)n. Its use is related to the definiteness of the object, thus Amharic shows differential object marking
Differential object marking
Differential object marking is a linguistic phenomenon that is present in more than 300 languages; the term was coined by Georg Bossong. In languages where DOM is active, direct objects are divided in two different classes, depending on different meanings, and, in most DOM languages, only one of...

. In general, if the object is definite, the accusative must be used.
ləǧ-u wəšša-w-ən abbarär-ä.
child-def dog-def-acc chase-3msSUBJ
'The child chased the dog.'
*ləǧ-u wəšša-w abbarär-ä.
child-def dog-def chase-3msSUBJ
'The child chased the dog.'


The accusative suffix is usually placed after the first word of the noun phrase:
Yəh-ən sä’at gäzz-ä.
this-acc watch buy-3msSUBJ


'He bought this watch.'

Nominalization

Amharic has various ways to derive nouns from other words or other nouns. One way of nominalizing consists of a form of vowel agreement (similar vowels on similar places) inside the three-radical structures typical of Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

. For example:: — 'wisdom'; 'sickness': — 'obesity'; 'cruelty': — 'moistness'; 'knowledge'; 'fatness'.
There are also several nominalizing suffixes.
  • : — 'relation'; 'Christianity'; 'laziness'; 'priesthood'.
  • -e, suffixed to place name X, yields 'a person from X': goǧǧam-e 'someone from Gojjam
    Gojjam
    Gojjam was a kingdom in the north-western part of Ethiopia, with its capital city at Debre Marqos. This region is distinctive for lying entirely within the bend of the Abbay River from its outflow from Lake Tana to the Sudan...

    '.
  • and serve to express profession, or some relationship with the base noun: 'pedestrian' (from 'foot'); 'gate-keeper' (from bärr 'gate').
  • and — '-ness'; 'Ethiopianness'; 'nearness' (from 'near').

Conjugation

As in other Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, Amharic verbs use a combination of prefixes and suffixes to indicate the subject, distinguishing 3 persons, two numbers and (in the second person singular) two genders.

Gerund

Along with the infinitive and the present participle, the gerund is one of three non-finite verb
Non-finite verb
In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

 forms. The infinitive is a nominalized verb, the present participle expresses incomplete action, and the gerund expresses completed action, e.g. bälto wädä gäbäya hedä 'Ali, having eaten lunch, went to the market'.
There are several usages of the gerund depending on its morpho-syntactic features.
Verbal use

The gerund functions as the head of a subordinate clause (see the example above). There may be more than one gerund in one sentence.
The gerund is used to form the following tense forms:
  • present perfect 'He has said'.
  • past perfect 'He had said'.
  • possible perfect 'He (probably) has said'.

Adverbial use

The gerund can be used as an adverb:
alfo alfo 'Sometimes he laughs'.
dägmo 'I also want to come'.

Adjectives

Adjective
Adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

s are words or constructions used to qualify nouns. Adjectives in Amharic can be formed in several ways: they can be based on nominal patterns, or derived from nouns, verbs and other parts of speech. Adjectives can be nominalized by way of suffixing the nominal article (see Nouns above). Amharic has few primary adjectives. Some examples are 'kind, generous', 'mute, dumb, silent', 'yellow'.

Nominal patterns

CäCCaC — käbbad 'heavy'; läggas 'generous'
CäC(C)iC — räqiq 'fine, subtle'; addis 'new'
CäC(C)aCa — säbara 'broken'; t'ämama 'bent, wrinkled'
— 'intelligent, smart'; ' 'hidden'
— 'worthy, dignified'; 'black'; 'holy'

Denominalizing suffixes

— 'powerful' (from hayl 'power'); 'true' (from 'truth')
— 'secular' (from aläm 'world')
-awi — 'intelligent' (from 'heart'); 'earthly' (from 'earth'); haymanot-awi 'religious' (from haymanot 'religion')

Prefix yä

yë-kětëmã 'urban' (lit. 'from the city'); 'Christian' (lit. 'of Christianity'); 'wrong' (lit. 'of falsehood')

In the same way, a relative perfectum or imperfectum can be used as an adjective by prefixing yä:
yë-běssēlē 'ripe, done' (lit. 'what has been cooked/prepared'); yë-qoyyĖ 'old' (lit. 'what remained'); yë-mm-ikkËtÃtël 'following' ('that what is following', from yë-kËtÃtëläl 'to follow'); yë-mm-ittay ŅëÕ 'visible' (lit. 'what is seen')

Adjective noun complex

The adjective and the noun together are called the 'adjective noun complex'. In Amharic, the adjective precedes the noun, with the verb last; e.g. 'a bad master'; təlləq bet särra (lit. big house he-built) 'he built a big house'.

If the adjective noun complex is definite
Definiteness
In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context and entities which are not ....

, the definite article is suffixed to the adjective and not to the noun, e.g. (lit. big-def house) 'the big house'. In a possessive construction, the adjective takes the definite article, and the noun takes the pronominal possessive suffix, e.g. (lit. big-def house-my) 'my big house'.

When enumerating adjectives using 'and', both adjectives take the definite article: (lit. pretty-def-and intelligent-def girl came) 'the pretty and intelligent girl came'. In the case of an indefinite plural adjective noun complex, the noun is plural and the adjective may be used in singular or in plural form. Thus, 'diligent students' can be rendered (lit. diligent student-PLUR) or (lit. diligent-PLUR student-PLUR).

Literature in Amharic

There is a growing body of literature in Amharic in many genres. This literature includes government proclamations and records, educational books, religious material, novels, poetry, proverb collections, technical manuals, medical topics, etc. The Holy Bible was first translated into Amharic by Abu Rumi
Abu Rumi
Abu Rumi is the name recorded as being the translator for the first complete Bible in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. Previously, only partial Amharic translations existed, and the Ethiopian Bible existed only in Ge'ez, the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia. His story is recorded...

 in the early 19th century, but has been retranslated a number of times since. The most famous Amharic novel is Fiqir Iske Meqabir (transliterated various ways) by Haddis Alemayehu
Haddis Alemayehu
Haddis Alemayehu , also transliterated Hadis Alamayahu, was a Foreign Minister and novelist from Ethiopia. His Amharic novel is considered a classic of modern Ethiopian literature....

 (1909–2003), translated into English by Sisay Ayenew with the title Love unto Crypt, published in 2005 (ISBN 978-1-4184-9182-6).

Translation companies

Because of the rapid growth of Ethiopian communities in Europe, the United States and Canada, several public service organizations started to offer Amharic language translation and interpretation services.

Rastafarians

The etymology of the word Rastafari
Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement or Rasta is a new religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, which at the time was a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black descendants of slaves. Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia , as God...

 actually comes from Amharic. Ras Tafari was the pre-regnal
Regnal name
A regnal name, or reign name, is a formal name used by some monarchs and popes during their reigns. Since medieval times, monarchs have frequently chosen to use a name different from their own personal name when they inherit a throne....

 title of Haile Selassie I, composed of the Amharic words Ras (literally "Head," an Ethiopian title equivalent to Duke
Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

), and Haile Selassie's pre-regnal given name, Tafari.

Many Rastafarians
Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement or Rasta is a new religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, which at the time was a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black descendants of slaves. Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia , as God...

 learn Amharic as a second language, as they consider it to be a sacred language. During the late 1960s study circles in Amharic were organized in Jamaica - a sort of Rastafarian parallel to the contemporary movement for civil rights in the United States. It was also a function of the post-colonial, Pan-African identity and Rastafarian awareness sweeping the ghetto after Haile Selassie’s 1966 visit to the island. Various reggae artists in the 70s, in the style later called roots
Roots reggae
Roots reggae is a subgenre of reggae that deals with the everyday lives and aspirations of the artists concerned, including the spiritual side of Rastafari and with the honoring of God, called Jah by rastafarians. It also is identified with the life of the ghetto sufferer, and the rural poor...

 reggae
Reggae
Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady.Reggae is based...

, including Ras Michael
Ras Michael
Ras Michael is a Jamaican reggae singer and Nyabinghi specialist. He also performs under the name of Dadawah.-Biography:...

, Lincoln Thompson
Lincoln Thompson
Prince Lincoln Thompson, known as Sax, was a Jamaican singer, musician and songwriter with the reggae band the Royal Rasses, and a member of the Rastafari movement...

 and Misty-in-Roots, have written songs in Amharic, thus bringing the sounds of this language to a wider audience. Especially the Abyssinians
The Abyssinians
The Abyssinians are a Jamaican roots reggae group, famous for their close harmonies and promotion of the Rastafari movement in their lyrics.-History:...

 have used Amharic as sacred languages ​​in their songs.

Satta Massagana :

A notable early attempt to use Amharic in reggae was the song Satta Massagana
Satta Massagana
Satta Massagana is a roots reggae album released by The Abyssinians officially in 1976. It is widely considered The Abyssinians crowning achievement and a classic roots reggae album....

 by the Abyssinians, mistakenly believed to mean "Give thanks". However, this "Amharic" phrase seems to have been derived from looking in a bilingual dictionary and finding the entries for "give" (actually "he gave") and for "thank" or "praise" (actually "he thanked" or "he praised"), by those unaware of the correct inflections of these verbs, the convention of always listing verbs in the past tense third person, or the pronunciation of the diacritical marks. The actual way to say "give thanks" in Amharic is only one word, misgana. Ironically, owing to the vast popularity of this song, "to satta" has even entered modern Rastafarian vocabulary
Rastafarian vocabulary
Iyaric, Livalect or Dread-talk is a created dialect of English in use among members of the Rastafari movement. African languages were lost among Africans when they were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade, and adherents of Rastafari teachings believe that English is an imposed colonial...

 as a verb meaning "to sit down and partake".

Software

The Amharic script is included in Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

, although typically no fonts are included on computers by default to display the Amharic Script. Now people can post in forums and blogs, send e-mail, or publish Web sites in Amharic. There are several free software programs, and also some commercial ones, for writing in Amharic. Some such software packages are: Keyman, GeezEdit, Hewan Amharic Software
Hewan Amharic Software
Hewan Amharic Software is a software company based in Ethiopia. It markets a word processor that conforms to the unicode standard, enabling users to write with the Ge'ez syllabary....

, AbeshaSoft and PowerGe'ez. In February 2010, Microsoft released its Windows Vista
Windows Vista
Windows Vista is an operating system released in several variations developed by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, and media center PCs...

 operating system in Amharic, enabling Amharic speakers to use its operating system in their language. Google
Google
Google Inc. is an American multinational public corporation invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program...

 has added Amharic to its Language Tools which allow typing Amharic Script online without an Amharic Keyboard.

Grammar

  • Ethnologue entry for Amharic [rewritten version of 'A modern grammar of spoken Amharic', 1941]
  • Afevork Ghevre Jesus
    Afevork Ghevre Jesus
    Āfeworq Gebre Īyesūs was an Ethiopian writer, who wrote the first novel in Amharic, Libb Wolled Tarik . Bahru Zewde writes, "Few people before or after him have demonstrated such superb mastery of the Amharic language...

     (1905) Grammatica della lingua amarica. Roma.
  • Afevork Ghevre Jesus (1911) Il verbo amarico. Roma.
  • Amsalu Aklilu & Demissie Manahlot (1990) T'iru ye'Amarinnya Dirset 'Indet Yale New! (An Amharic grammar, in Amharic)
  • Anbessa Teferra and Grover Hudson. 2007. Essentials of Amharic. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
  • Appleyard, David (1994) Colloquial Amharic, Routledge ISBN 0-415-10003-8
  • Bender, M. Lionel
    Lionel Bender (linguist)
    Marvin Lionel Bender was an American author and co-author of several books, publications and essays regarding African languages, particularly from Ethiopia and Sudan. He retired from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He did extensive work in all four language families of Ethiopia: Semitic,...

    . (1974) Phoneme frequencies in Amharic. Journal of Ethiopian Studies 12.1:19-24
  • Bender, M. Lionel and Hailu Fulass. (1978). Amharic verb morphology. (Committee on Ethiopian Studies, monograph 7.) East Lansing: African Studies Center, Michigan State University.
  • Bennet, M.E. (1978) Stratificational Approaches to Amharic Phonology. PhD thesis, Ann Arbor: Michigan State University.
  • Cohen, Marcel
    Marcel Cohen
    Marcel Samuel Raphaël Cohen was a French linguist. He was an important scholar of Semitic languages and especially of Ethiopian languages. He studied the French language and contributed much to general linguistics.- Life :...

     (1936) Traité de langue amharique. Paris: Institut d'Ethnographie.
  • Cohen, Marcel (1939) Nouvelles études d'éthiopien merdional. Paris: Champion.
  • Dawkins, C. H. (¹1960, ²1969) The Fundamentals of Amharic. Addis Ababa.
  • Kapeliuk, Olga
    Olga Kapeliuk
    Prof. Olga Kapeliuk is an Israeli linguist.Kapeliuk, who is professor emeritus of linguistics and African studies, was cited as being among the most important Israeli linguists and researchers of Semitic languages, especially of Ethiopian languages and modern Aramaic dialects. She has earned an...

     (1988) Nominalization in Amharic. Stuttgart: F. Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden. ISBN 3-515-04512-0
  • Kapeliuk, Olga (1994) Syntax of the noun in Amharic. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-03406-8.
  • Łykowska, Laura (1998) Gramatyka jezyka amharskiego Wydawnictwo Akademickie Dialog. ISBN 83-86483-60-1
  • Leslau, Wolf
    Wolf Leslau
    Wolf Leslau ]] November 18, 2006) was a scholar of Semitic languages and one of the foremost authorities on Semitic languages of Ethiopia.-Youth and Education:Leslau was born in Krzepice, a small town near Częstochowa, Poland...

     (1995) Reference Grammar of Amharic. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. ISBN 3-447-03372-X
  • Ludolf, Hiob
    Hiob Ludolf
    Hiob Ludolf was a German orientalist, and born at Erfurt. Edward Ullendorff rates Ludolf as having "the most illustrious name in Ethiopic scholarship".-Life:...

     (1968) Grammatica Linguæ Amharicæ. Frankfort.
  • Praetorius, Franz (1879) Die amharische Sprache. Halle: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses.

Dictionaries

  • Abbadie, Antoine d'
    Antoine Thomson d'Abbadie
    Antoine Thomson d'Abbadie d'Arrast was a French and Basque explorer, geographer, ethnologue, linguist and astronomer notable for his travels in Ethiopia during the first half of the 19th century...

     (1881) Dictionnaire de la langue amariñña. Actes de la Société philologique, t. 10. Paris.
  • Amsalu Aklilu (1973) English-Amharic dictionary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-572264-7
  • Baeteman, J.-É.
    Joseph-Émile Baeteman
    Joseph-Émile Baeteman was a French missionary and religious writer. He wrote a dictionary of Amharic that was a pioneer work and became standard for the study of that language.- Life :...

     (1929) Dictionnaire amarigna-français. Diré-Daoua
  • Gankin, É. B. (1969) Amxarsko-russkij slovar'. Pod redaktsiej Kassa Gäbrä Heywät. Moskva: Izdatel'stvo `Sovetskaja Éntsiklopedija'.
  • Guidi, I.
    Ignazio Guidi
    Ignazio Guidi was an Italian orientalist. He became Professor at the University of Rome. He is known as a Hebraist and for many translations....

     (1901) Vocabolario amarico-italiano. Roma.
  • Guidi, I. (1940) Supplemento al Vocabolario amarico-italiano. (compilato con il concorso di Francesco Gallina ed Enrico Cerulli
    Enrico Cerulli
    Enrico Cerulli was an Italian scholar of Somali and Ethiopian studies, a governor and a diplomat.-Biography:...

    ) Roma.
  • Kane, Thomas L. (1990) Amharic–English Dictionary. (2 vols.) Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-02871-8
  • Leslau, Wolf (1976) Concise Amharic Dictionary. (Reissue edition: 1996) Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20501-4 (1953 Ethiopian calendar
    Ethiopian calendar
    The Ethiopian calendar , also called the Ge'ez calendar, is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea belonging to the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Church and Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea...

    ) Käsate Bərhan Täsämma. Yä-Amarəñña mäzgäbä qalat. Addis Ababa: Artistic.

External links

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