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Macro-Somali languages

Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic

The Macro-Somali or Somaloid languages, or (in the conception of Bernd Heine, who does not include Baiso[1]), Sam languages, are a branch of the Lowland East Cushitic languages. They are spoken in Somalia, Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. The most widely-spoken member is Somali.[2]


The primary division is between Baiso and Rendille versus the remaining languages, for which Heine proposes the terms "Eastern Sam" or "Dad".[3]

Sound correspondences

The following sound correspondences hold between Rendille, Aweer and Somali:

Proto-Sam Rendille Aweer Somali notes
*b b b b
*d d d d
*g g k, -g- g
ʃ ⟨j⟩ Before the vowel *i (palatalization).
*t t t, -d- t, -d-
*c ʃ, -y- ʃ ⟨sh⟩, -j- ⟨y⟩
*k k k, -g- k, -g-
ʃ Before the vowel *i.
ɖ ɗ, -r- ɖ ⟨dh⟩ Continues Proto-East Cushitic implosive *ɗ.
*q x ʔ q Continues Proto-East Cushitic ejective *kʼ.
*f f f f
*s s s s
ħ ħ, -h- ħ ⟨x⟩
*h h, -ħ- h h
*z j d d
ħ ʔ ʕ ⟨c⟩
ħ ʔ lost
*m m m, -n m, -n
*n n n n
*l l l l
*r r r r
*w w w w, -b-
*j j j j ⟨y⟩

The Eastern Sam or Dad group is characterized by the following four changes:[4]

  • The voiceless stops *t, *c, *k became voiced *d, *j, *g when following a vowel.
  • Elsewhere, *c becomes a fricative *ʃ.
  • *z > *d.
  • *m > *n at the end of a word.

In Boni, several consonant clusters simplify:[5]

  • *mb, *nɗ, *ng > m, n, ŋ
  • *ns > s
  • *ng before *i > *ndʒ > *nʃ > ʃ


  1. ^ Heine 1978, p. 8.
  2. ^ Roger Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List (ms)
  3. ^ Heine 1978, p. 39.
  4. ^ Heine 1978, p. 40.
  5. ^ Heine 1978, pp. 18–19.


  • Heine, Berndt (December 1978). Hetzron, Robert; Schuh, Russell G. (eds.). "The Sam Languages. A History of Rendille, Boni and Somali". Afro-Asiatic Linguistics. Monographic Journals of the Near East. 6 (2). Malibu: Undena Publications. hdl:2307/858.
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Macro-Somali languages
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