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Muher language

Native speakers
(undated figure of 90,000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sgw

Muher (Muxar) is an Ethiopian Semitic language belonging to the Gurage group. It is spoken in the mountains north of Cheha and Ezhana Wolene in Ethiopia. The language has two dialects, which are named after the first-person singular pronoun "I" they use: Ana uses əni/anä, Adi uses adi/ädi (similar to the related language Soddo). The language is sometimes written in a modified Arabic (Ajam) or Amharic script.[2][3]It has approximately 90,000 speakers.[1]


Consonant Phonemes in Muher[4]
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar/Glottal
Stop Voiceless t c k
Voiced b d ɟ g
Ejective kʼʷ
Affricate t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ
Fricative Voiceless f fʷ s ʃ ç h
Voiced z ʒ
Nasal m mʷ n ɲ
Liquid r l
Glide j w

The phonemic status of the glottal stop is uncertain.[5] In some cases, /kʼ/ or /kʷ/ may be reduced to [ʔ] or [ʔʷ], respectively, postvocalically.

Vowel Phonemes in Muher[4]
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ɨ (ə)

ɑ̈ (ɜ)

Open ɑ

The basic syllable structure of Muher is C(C)V(C)(C)


Like many Semetic languages, Muher has triconsonantal roots for verbs and nominals.

Personal pronouns both substitute for subjects and function as possessive suffixes on nominals.

Gender Singular Plural
Pronoun Possessive Pronoun Possessive
1 Common ɑ̈di -ddi ɨɲɲɑ -nnɑ
2 Male (-)dɑ̈-hɑ̈ (-)dɑ̈-hɨmʷ
Female (-)dä-ç (<*dähʲ) (-)dɑ̈-hmɑ
3 Male hʷɑ -hʷt(ɑ) (-)hinnɑ̈mʷ
Female (-)çɑ/(-)hijɑ (-)hinnɑ̈mɑ

Definiteness is marked by the definite suffix -we.

Muher has a decimal number system. The teens are formed by ɑsrɑ̈- plus the digits, usually preceded by -m.

Digit Gloss
ɑtt/kʼunɑ 'one'
hʷett 'two'
sɔɑst/sost 'three'
ɑrbɑ̈tt 'four'
ɑmmɨst 'five'
sɨddɨst 'six'
sɑ̈bɑ̈tt/sɑ̈bɑtt 'seven'
simmutt 'eight'
ʒɑ̈tʼɑ̈ 'nine'
ɑssir/ɑsrɑ̈ 'ten'


The basic word order of Muher is SOV. However, a known argument always has to precede a new argument, regardless of their function. Primary conjugations differentiate between the perfective and imperfective aspects. The subject and object are marked on the verb. Object markers are divided into the categories Light and Heavy. Heavy object markers are those who occur with impersonal and plural subjects. Light markers are any others. Light markers may differ based on if the aspect is perfective or non-perfective.

Object Markers[6]
Object Marker Light Heavy
Perfective Non-perfective
1SG -e -e -rɨ
2SG Masc. -nnɑhɑ̈ -hɑ̈ -kkɑ̈
2SG Fem. -nnɑç -kc
3SG Masc. -nn -ʷ/-nn -ʲ/-ʷ (-c)
3SG Fem. -nnɑ -ːɑ/-nnɑ -jɑ/-wɑ (-cɑ)
1PL -(ɑ̈)nɑ̈ -ɑ̈nɑ̈ -nnɑ̈
2PL Masc. -nnɑhmʷ -hɨmʷ -kkɨmʷ
2PL Fem. -nnɑhmɑ -hmɑ -kkimɑ
3PL Masc -nnɑ̈mʷ -ːɑ̈mʷ/-nnɑ̈mʷ -jɑ̈mʷ/-wɑ̈mʷ (-cɑ̈mʷ)
3PL Fem -nnɑ̈mɑ -ːɑ̈mɑ/-nnɑ̈mɑ -jɑ̈mɑ/-wɑ̈mɑ (-cɑ̈mɑ)



  1. ^ a b Shumneka Nurga, Awlachew (2021-04-23), Ado, Derib; Gelagay, Almaz Wasse; Johannessen, Janne Bondi (eds.), "Language contact and its effects on language use of the Gurage varieties of Muher", Grammatical and Sociolinguistic Aspects of Ethiopian Languages, IMPACT: Studies in Language, Culture and Society, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 65–90, doi:10.1075/impact.48.03shu, ISBN 978-90-272-0833-0, retrieved 2024-02-26
  2. ^ Meyer, Ronny (2017-02-10). "The Ethiopic Script: Linguistic Features and Socio-cultural Connotations". Oslo Studies in Language. 8 (1). doi:10.5617/osla.4422. ISSN 1890-9639.
  3. ^ Goldenberg, G. (2009). From Speech to Writing in Gurage-Land: First Attempts to Write in the Vernacular. In Egyptian, Semitic and General Grammar: Workshop in Memory of HJ Polotsky (8-12 July 2001), edited by Gideon Goldenberg and Ariel Shisha-Halevy (Vol. 184, p. 196).
  4. ^ a b c Huehnergard, John; Pat-El, Na’ama (2019-02-18). The Semitic Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-65538-8.
  5. ^ Meyer, Ronny (2011-12-23), "72. Gurage", 72. Gurage, De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 1220–1257, doi:10.1515/9783110251586.1220, ISBN 978-3-11-025158-6, retrieved 2024-02-26
  6. ^ Leslau, Wolf (1996). Essays on Gurage Language and Culture: Dedicated to Wolf Leslau on the Occasion of His 90th Birthday, November 14th, 1996. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-03830-0.

Further reading

  • Cohen, Marcel (1936). Etudes d’éthiopien méridional. Paris: Geuthner.
  • Hetzron, Robert (1977). The Gunnan-Gurage languages. Napoli : Istituto Orientale di Napoli.
  • Leslau, Wolf (1979). Etymological Dictionary of Gurage (Ethiopic). 3 vols. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. (ISBN 3-447-02041-5)
  • Leslau, Wolf (1981). Ethiopians Speak: Studies in Cultural Background, Part IV : Muher. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner. (ISBN 3-515-03657-1)
  • Meyer, Ronny (2005). "The morpheme yä- in Muher", in: Lissan - Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 19/1, pp. 40–63.
  • Polotsky, Hans Jakob (1939). "L labialisé en gouragué mouher", in: GLECS 3, pp. 66–68 [=Collected Papers by H. J. Polotsky (Jerusalem: Magnes press 1971), pp. 516–518].
  • Rose, Sharon (1996). "Allomorphy and Morphological Categories in Muher", in: G. Hudson (ed.), Essays in Gurage Language and Culture (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag), pp. 205–227.
  • Rose, Sharon (2000). "Velar Lenition in Muher Gurage", in: Lingua Posnaniensis 42, pp. 107–116.

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Muher language
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