|ISO 639-2 / 5||cus|
The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken primarily in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia), as well as the Nile Valley (Sudan and Egypt), and parts of the African Great Lakes region (Tanzania and Kenya) by Cushitic peoples.
The Cushitic languages with the greatest number of total speakers are Oromo (25 million),Somali (16.2 million),Beja (3.2 million),Sidamo (3 million), and Afar (2 million). Oromo is the working language of the Oromia Region in Ethiopia. Somali is one of two official languages of Somalia, and as such is the only Cushitic language accorded official language status at the country level. It also serves as a language of instruction in Djibouti, and as the working language of the Somali Region in Ethiopia. Beja, Afar, Blin and Saho, the languages of the Cushitic branch of Afroasiatic that are spoken in Eritrea, are languages of instruction in the Eritrean elementary school curriculum. The constitution of Eritrea also recognizes the equality of all natively spoken languages. Additionally, Afar is a language of instruction in Djibouti, as well as the working language of the Afar Region in Ethiopia.
The phylum was first designated as Cushitic around 1858. Historical linguistic analysis and archaeogenetics indicate that the languages spoken in the ancient Kerma culture of what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan, as well as those spoken in the Savanna Pastoral Neolithic culture of the Great Lakes region, likely belonged to the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family.
The Cushitic languages are usually considered to include the following branches:
This classification has not been without contention, and many other classifications have been proposed over the years.
|Greenberg (1963)||Hetzron (1980)||Fleming (post-1981)||Orel & Stobova (1995)|
|Diakonoff (1996)||Militarev (2000)||Tosco (2000)||Ehret (2011)|
(Does not include Omotic)
Beja is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family, constituting the only member of the Northern Cushitic subgroup. As such, Beja contains a number of linguistic innovations that are unique to it, as is also the situation with the other subgroups of Cushitic (e.g. idiosyncratic features in Agaw or Central Cushitic). Hetzron (1980) argues that Beja therefore may comprise an independent branch of the Afroasiatic family. However, this suggestion has been largely ignored by the linguistic community. The characteristics of Beja that differ from those of other Cushitic languages are instead generally acknowledged as normal branch variation. These unique features are also attributed to the fact that the Beja language, along with the Saho-Afar dialect cluster, are the most conservative forms of Cushitic speech.
Joseph Halévy (1873) identified linguistic similarities shared between Beja and other neighboring Cushitic languages (viz. Afar, Agaw, Oromo and Somali). Leo Reinisch subsequently grouped Beja with Saho-Afar, Somali and Oromo in a Lowland Cushitic sub-phylum, representing one half of a two-fold partition of Cushitic. Moreno (1940) proposed a bipartite classification of Beja similar to that of Reinisch, but lumped Beja with both Lowland Cushitic and Central Cushitic. Around the same period, Enrico Cerulli (c. 1950) asserted that Beja constituted an independent sub-group of Cushitic. During the 1960s, Archibald N. Tucker (1960) posited an orthodox branch of Cushitic that comprised Beja, East Cushitic and Agaw, and a fringe branch of Cushitic that included other languages in the phylum. Although also similar to Reinisch's paradigm, Tucker's orthodox-fringe dichotomy was predicated on a different typological approach. Andrzej Zaborski (1976) suggested, on the basis of genetic features, that Beja constituted the only member of the North Cushitic sub-phylum. Due to its linguistic innovations, Robert Hetzron (1980) argued that Beja may constitute an independent branch of the Afroasiatic family. Hetzron's suggestion was arrived at independently, and was criticized or rejected by other linguists (Zaborski 1984 & 1997; Tosco 2000; Morin 2001). Appleyard (2004) later also demonstrated that the innovations in Beja, which Hetzron had identified, were centered on a typological argument involving a presumed change in syntax and also consisted of only five differing Cushitic morphological features. Marcello Lamberti (1991) elucidated Cerulli's traditional classification of Beja, juxtaposing the language as the North Cushitic branch alongside three other independent Cushitic sub-phyla, Lowland Cushitic, Central Cushitic and Sidama. Didier Morin (2001) assigned Beja to Lowland Cushitic on the grounds that the language shared lexical and phonological features with the Afar and Saho idioms, and also because the languages were historically spoken in adjacent speech areas. However, among linguists specializing in the Cushitic languages, Cerulli's traditional paradigm is accepted as the standard classification for Beja.
There are also a few poorly-classified languages, including Yaaku, Dahalo, Aasax, Kw'adza, Boon, the Cushitic element of Mbugu (Ma'a) and Ongota. There is a wide range of opinions as to how the languages are interrelated.
The positions of the Dullay languages and of Yaaku are uncertain. They have traditionally been assigned to an East Cushitic subbranch along with Highland (Sidamic) and Lowland East Cushitic. However, Hayward thinks that East Cushitic may not be a valid node and that its constituents should be considered separately when attempting to work out the internal relationships of Cushitic.
The Afroasiatic identity of Ongota is also broadly questioned, as is its position within Afroasiatic among those who accept it, because of the "mixed" appearance of the language and a paucity of research and data. Harold C. Fleming (2006) proposes that Ongota is a separate branch of Afroasiatic. Bonny Sands (2009) thinks the most convincing proposal is by Savà and Tosco (2003), namely that Ongota is an East Cushitic language with a Nilo-Saharan substratum. In other words, it would appear that the Ongota people once spoke a Nilo-Saharan language but then shifted to speaking a Cushitic language while retaining some characteristics of their earlier Nilo-Saharan language.
Cushitic was formerly seen as also including the Omotic languages, then called West Cushitic. However, this view has been abandoned. Omotic is generally agreed to be an independent branch of Afroasiatic, primarily due to the work of Harold C. Fleming (1974) and Lionel Bender (1975); some linguists like Paul Newman (1980) challenge Omotic's classification within the Afroasiatic family itself.
A number of extinct populations have been proposed to have spoken Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic branch. Peter Behrens (1981) and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst (2000) propose that the peoples of the Kerma Culture in present-day Sudan spoke Cushitic languages. The Nilo-Saharan Nobiin language today contains a number of key pastoralism related loanwords that are of proto-Highland East Cushitic origin, including the terms for sheep/goatskin, hen/cock, livestock enclosure, butter and milk. This in turn is proposed to suggest that the Kerma population - which, along with the C-Group culture, inhabited the Nile Valley immediately before the arrival of the first Nubian speakers - spoke Afroasiatic languages. On the other hand, more recent research by Claude Rilly (2010, 2016) and Julien Cooper (2017) instead indicates that the people of the Kerma culture (located in Upper Nubia) spoke Nilo-Saharan languages of the Eastern Sudanic branch, and that the peoples of the C-Group culture and Blemmyes to their north (in Lower Nubia) spoke Cushitic languages with some of the latter possibly being related to the modern Beja language. Rilly also criticizes proposals (by Behrens and Bechaus-Gerst) of significant early Afro-Asiatic influence on Nobiin, and considers evidence of substratal influence on Nobiin from an earlier now extinct Eastern Sudanic language to be stronger.
Linguistic evidence indicates that Cushitic languages were spoken in Lower Nubia, an ancient region which straddles present day Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan, before the arrival of North Eastern Sudanic languages from Upper Nubia.
Julien Cooper (2017) states that in antiquity, Cushitic languages were spoken in Lower Nubia (the northernmost part of modern day Sudan):
"In antiquity, Afroasiatic languages in Sudan belonged chiefly to the phylum known as Cushitic, spoken on the eastern seaboard of Africa and from Sudan to Kenya, including the Ethiopian Highlands."
Julien Cooper (2017) also states that Eastern Sudanic speaking populations from southern and west Nubia gradually replaced the earlier Cushitic speaking populations of this region:
"In Lower Nubia there was an Afroasiatic language, likely a branch of Cushitic. By the end of the first millennium CE this region had been encroached upon and replaced by Eastern Sudanic speakers arriving from the south and west, to be identified first with Meroitic and later migrations attributable to Nubian speakers."
"Two Afro-Asiatic languages were present in antiquity in Nubia, namely Ancient Egyptian and Cushitic."
"The Blemmyes are another Cushitic speaking tribe, or more likely a subdivision of the Medjay/Beja people, which is attested in Napatan and Egyptian texts from the 6th century BC on."
On page 134:
"From the end of the 4th century until the 6th century AD, they held parts of Lower Nubia and some cities of Upper Egypt."
"The Blemmyan language is so close to modern Beja that it is probably nothing else than an early dialect of the same language."
Additionally, historiolinguistics indicate that the makers of the Savanna Pastoral Neolithic (Stone Bowl Culture) in the Great Lakes area likely spoke South Cushitic languages.Christopher Ehret (1998) proposes that among these languages were the now extinct Tale and Bisha languages, which were identified on the basis of loanwords.Ancient DNA analysis of a Savanna Pastoral Neolithic fossil excavated at the Luxmanda site in Tanzania likewise found that the specimen carried a large proportion of ancestry related to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture of the Levant, similar to that borne by modern Afroasiatic-speaking populations inhabiting the Horn of Africa. This suggests that the Savanna Pastoral Neolithic culture bearers may have been Cushitic speakers, who were gradually absorbed by neighboring hunter-gatherer communities in the lacustrine region.
One reconstruction of Proto-Cushitic has been proposed by Christopher Ehret. Ehret's reconstruction is not based on individual branch reconstructions. More recently, Grover Hudson has done preliminary work on Highland East Cushitic, David Appleyard has proposed a reconstruction of Proto-Agaw, and Roland Kießling and Maarten Mous have proposed a reconstruction of West Rift South Cushitic. No comparative work has yet brought these branch reconstructions together.
Members of the Federation may by law determine their respective working languages.[...] Member States of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are the Following: 1) The State of Tigray 2) The State of Afar 3) The State of Amhara 4) The State of Oromia 5) The State of Somalia 6) The State of Benshangul/Gumuz 7) The State of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples 8) The State of the Gambela Peoples 9) The State of the Harari People
Article 4 (Official language) The official languages of the state shall be Somali and Arabic.
Article 5. Official Languages[...] The official language of the Federal Republic of Somalia is Somali (Maay and Maxaa-tiri), and Arabic is the second language.
ARTICLE 7 LANGUAGES. 1. The official languages of the Somali Republic shall be Somali (Maay and Maxaatiri) and Arabic.
Somali (official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter), Arabic (official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter), Italian, English
Article 5 : L'Education et la Formation sont dispensées dans les langues officielles et dans les langues nationales. Un Décret pris en Conseil des Ministres fixe les modalités de l'enseignement en français, en arabe, en Afar et en Somali.
Languages: Arab, French (official) Afar, Somali (national)
the following other languages have been introduced in the elementary school curriculum[...] 'Afar, Beja, Bilin, and Saho (languages of the Cushitic branch of Afroasiatic)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
The equality of all Eritrean languages is guaranteed
In antiquity, Afroasiatic languages in Sudan belonged chiefly to the phylum known as Cushitic, spoken on the eastern seaboard of Africa and from Sudan to Kenya, including the Ethiopian Highlands.
The toponymic data in Egyptian texts has broadly identified at least three linguistic blocs in the Middle Nile region of the second and first millennium BCE, each of which probably exhibited a great degree of internal variation. In Lower Nubia there was an Afroasiatic language, likely a branch of Cushitic. By the end of the first millennium CE this region had been encroached upon and replaced by Eastern Sudanic speakers arriving from the south and west, to be identified first with Meroitic and later migrations attributable to Nubian speakers.
Two Afro-Asiatic languages were present in antiquity in Nubia, namely Ancient Egyptian and Cushitic.
The Blemmyes are another Cushitic speaking tribe, or more likely a subdivision of the Medjay/Beja people, which is attested in Napatan and Egyptian texts from the 6th century BC on.
From the end of the 4th century until the 6th century AD, they held parts of Lower Nubia and some cities of Upper Egypt.
The Blemmyan language is so close to modern Beja that it is probably nothing else than an early dialect of the same language.