For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Omotic languages.

Omotic languages

.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}@media all and (max-width:500px){.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{width:auto!important;clear:none!important;float:none!important))You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in Swedish. (November 2018) Click [show] for important translation instructions. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 312 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Swedish Wikipedia article at [[:sv:Omotiska språk]]; see its history for attribution. You may also add the template ((Translated|sv|Omotiska språk)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Ethiopia, Sudan
Native speakers
7.9 million
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic
  • Omotic
  • North Omotic
  • South Omotic
  • ISO 639-5omv
    Omotic languages:
    Neighboring languages:

    The Omotic languages are a group of languages spoken in southwestern Ethiopia, in the Omo River region and southeastern Sudan in Blue Nile State. The Geʽez script is used to write some of the Omotic languages, the Latin script for some others. They are fairly agglutinative and have complex tonal systems (for example, the Bench language). The languages have around 7.9 million speakers.[1] The group is generally classified as belonging to the Afroasiatic language family, but this is disputed by some.

    Four separate "Omotic" groups are accepted by Glottolog 4.0 and Güldemann (2018): North Omotic, Dizoid (Maji), Mao, and Aroid ("South Omotic").[2]


    The North and South Omotic branches ("Nomotic" and "Somotic") are universally recognized, with some dispute as to the composition of North Omotic. The primary debate is over the placement of the Mao languages. Bender (2000) classifies Omotic languages as follows:

    Apart from terminology, this differs from Fleming (1976) in including the Mao languages, whose affiliation had originally been controversial, and in abolishing the "Gimojan" group.[clarification needed] There are also differences in the subclassification of Ometo, which is not covered here.

    Hayward (2003)

    Hayward (2003) separates out the Mao languages as a third branch of Omotic and breaks up Ometo–Gimira:

    Blench (2006)

    Blench (2006) gives a more agnostic classification:[3]

    Bosha† is unclassified; Ethnologue lists it as a dialect of Kafa but notes it may be a distinct language.


    Omotic is generally considered the most divergent branch of the Afroasiatic languages. In early work up to Greenberg (1963), the languages had been classified in a subgroup of Cushitic, called most often "West Cushitic". Fleming (1969) argued that it should instead be classified as an independent branch of Afroasiatic, a view which Bender (1971) established to most linguists' satisfaction,[4] though a few linguists maintain the West Cushitic position[5] or that only South Omotic forms a separate branch, with North Omotic remaining part of Cushitic.[citation needed] Blench notes that Omotic shares honey-related vocabulary with Cushitic but not cattle-related vocabulary, suggesting that the split occurred before the advent of pastoralism.[6] A few scholars have raised doubts that the Omotic languages are part of the Afroasiatic language family at all,[7][8] and Theil (2006) proposes that Omotic be treated as an independent family.[9] However, the general consensus, based primarily on morphological evidence, such as pronominal prefixes, Grammatical number and plural form, prefix conjugation and Vowel Harmony is that membership in Afroasiatic is well established.[10][11][12]

    The Aroid (South Omotic) languages were first included in "West Cushitic" by Greenberg; they were excluded from earlier classifications by Italian Cushiticists such as Enrico Cerulli and Mario Martino Moreno,[13] and their inclusion in Omotic remains contested.


    Hammarström, et al. in Glottolog does not consider Omotic to be a unified group, and also does not consider any of the "Omotic" groups to be part of the Afroasiatic phylum. Glottolog accepts the following as independent language families.

    These four families are also accepted by Güldemann (2018), who similarly doubts the validity of Omotic as a unified group.[2]



    The Omotic languages have a morphology that is partly agglutinative and partly fusional:

    • Agglutinating: Yem am-se-f-∅-à go+plural+present+3. Person+Femininum “they go”[14]
    • Fusional: Aari ʔíts-eka eat+3. Person Pl. Converb “by eating”[15]

    Inflection through suprasegmental morphemes is found in individual languages such as Dizi and Bench; Historically, these are partly reflexes of affixes:

    • Bench sum˩ "name", sum-s˦ "to name"

    The nominal morphology is based on a nominative-accusative-absolutive system; For verbal morphology, a complex inflection according to categories such as tense/aspect, interrogative - declarative and affirmative - negative as well as agreement is more predicative characterizing forms with the subject. In syntax, the word order subject-object-verb (SOV) is generally valid; Postpositions are used, which can be considered typical for both SOV languages in general and for the Ethiopian region.


    The Omotic languages have on average slightly less than thirty consonant phonemes, which is a comparatively high number, but is also found in other primary branches of Afro-Asian. Commonly used are bilabial, alveolar, velar and glottal plosive, various fricative, alveolar affricates and /w/, /y/, /l/, /r/, /m/, /n/. What is typical for the non-glottal plosives is that they are each represented by a voiced, a voiceless, and an ejective phoneme; All three types can also be found in fricatives and affricates. Most Omotic languages have additional consonants. Examples of this are the Implosive in South Omotic (/ɓ/, /ɗ/, /ɠ/) and the Retroflex of the Bench. In some cases, consonants can also occur geminated. Representatives of the Nordomotic and Mao have five to six vowel phonemes, the quantity is partly a difference in meaning; In contrast, much more extensive vowel systems are typical for South Omotic.

    All Omotic languages for which sufficient data is available are tonal languages, which usually only distinguish two tones (high and low), some languages have more tones: Dizi distinguishes three, Bench six. Certain Omotic languages such as Aari and Ganza (Mao) have tonal accent systems in which each independent word has exactly one high tone, whereas in most languages the tones are freely distributed.



    The Omotic languages distinguish between the nominal categories number, case,[16] and definiteness. These categories are marked by different suffixes, which can be fusional or analytic depending on the language. The two genders in all omotic languages for which sufficient data are available are masculine and feminine; they essentially correspond to natural gender. The case system distinguishes the omotic languages as accusative languages; other cases form various adverbial determinations. A number of omotic languages have an absolutive case, which marks the citation form and the direct object (examples from Wolaita):[17]

    • Absolute keett-a "the house"
    • Nominative keett-i "the house"

    Some common case suffixes are:

    • Nominative *-i (Gonga-Gimojan, Dizi-Sheko)
    • Accusative *-m (South Domotic)
    • Genitive *-kV (Gonga-Gimojan, Dizi-Sheko, Mao, Dime)
    • Dative *-s (Gonga-Gimojan, Dizi-Sheko, Mao?[18])

    A typological peculiarity, which is also isolated within Omotic, is the person and gender dependency of the nominative in Bench (either -i˧ or -a˧, depending on the person):

    • a˦tsin˦-a˧ “a woman” (3rd person sg. femininum)[19]
    • nun˧-a˧ "we" (1st person plural exclusive)[20]
    • nas˦i˧ “a man” (3rd person sg. masculine)[20]

    In most languages, the singular is unmarked, while the plural has its own suffix. It is possible that plural suffixes in some languages arose from a partitive construction. This is supported by the length of certain plural suffixes, formal relationships to the genitive singular and the fact that the determining suffix sometimes comes before the plural suffix, which is typologically unusual:[21]

    • Dizi kìan-à-kʾankàs dog+det.+plural “the dogs”[22]
    • Yem ʔasú-nì-kitó human+gene+plural “people”[23]


    The personal pronouns distinguish similar categories to the nouns in most omotic languages; However, the genera are usually only marked in the 3rd person singular. The personal pronouns usually have their own stem for each number-person-gender combination, to which case suffixes are then added, which are the same for all persons. Some of the pronouns show similarities with other Afro-Asian language families and can therefore be traced back to Proto-Afro-Asiatic; Certain South Omotic personal pronouns can be explained as borrowings from the neighboring Nilo-Saharan:[24]

      Singular Plural
    1. 2. 3. m. 3. f. 1. 2. 3.
    Omotic Nordomotic
     Proto-Gonga-Gimojan *ta *no *isi ? *nu~*no *int- *is-
     Proto-Dizi-Sheko *yeta *iz- *iži *iti *iš-
    Proto-Mao *ti- *hiya ? ? ? *nam ?
    Proto-Southomotic *inta *yaa/*in *nuo *naaa *wo-ta *ye-ta *ke-ta
    Other Afroasiatic: Akkadian ī k-a/k-ī š-u š-a k-unu/k-ina š-unu/š-ina
    Nilotic: Teso[25] ɛɔŋɔ ɪjɔ ŋɛsɪ ɔnɪ/ɪs(y)ɔ yɛsɪ kɛsɪ

    The case endings of the personal pronouns and the nouns are usually identical:

    • Aari: Accusative -m: yé-m "you", fatir-in-ám "the corn"

    Possessive pronouns in particular have their own forms:

    • Aari: "yours," ʔéed-te "a man's"


    Bender (1987: 33–35)[26] reconstructs the following proto-forms for Proto-Omotic and Proto-North Omotic, the latter which is considered to have descended from Proto-Omotic.

    English gloss Proto-
    ashes *bend
    bird *kaf
    bite *sats’
    breast *t’iam
    claw *ts’ugum
    die *hayk’
    dog *kan
    egg *ɓul
    fire *tam
    grass *maata
    hand *kuc
    head *to-
    hear *si-
    mouth *non-
    nose *si(n)t’
    root *ts’ab-
    snake *šooš
    stand (vb.) *yek’
    this *kʰan-
    thou (2.SG) *ne(n)
    water *haats’
    we (1.PL) *nu(n)
    ye (2.PL) *int-
    green *c’il-
    house *kyet
    left *hadr-
    elephant *daŋgVr
    sister, mother *ind
    armpit *šoɓ-
    boat *gong-
    grave *duuk
    vomit *c’oš-

    Comparative vocabulary

    Sample basic vocabulary of 40 Omotic languages from Blažek (2008):[27]

    Language eye ear nose tooth tongue mouth blood bone tree water eat name
    Basketo af waytsi sints ačči B ɪnts'ɨrs no·na suuts mεk'εts B mɪts B waːtse A moy- B sumsa
    Dokka af waytsi si·nts ačči ɨrs'ɪns no·na su·ts mik'әts mittse wa·tsi m- suntsa
    Male ’aːpi waizi sied‘i ’ači ’ɪndɪrsi daŋka sugutsi mεgεtsi mitsi waːtsi mo- sunsi
    Wolaita ayf-iya; A ayp'-iya haytta sir-iya acca; A acc'a int'arsa doona suutta; Ch maččamié mek'etta mitta hatta m- sunta
    Kullo ayp'-iya haytsa siid'-iya acc'a ins'arsa doona sutsa mek'etsa barzap'-iya hatsa m- sutta
    Cancha ayp'e hayts sire acc‘a ins‘arsa doona suts mek'etsa mits haats m- sunts
    Malo ’áɸe hʌ́je síd'e ’áčʰә ’irɪ́nts dɔ́nʌ sútsʰ mεk‘ɨ́ts‘ mɪ́ts ’átsә m- sʊns
    Gofa ayp'e haytsa siide acc'a intsarsa doona sutsa mek'etta mitsa hatse m- suntsa
    Zala ayfe (h)aytsa sid'e ačča int'arsa duna tsutsa mitsa hatsa maa-
    Gamu ayp'e haytsa siire acc'a ins'arsa doona suuts mek'ets mitsa hatse m- sunts
    Dache ayfe hayts'e siyd'e acé ɪntsεrs duna suts mek'ets šara hatse m- sunts
    Dorze ayp'e waye sire acc'a ins'arsa duuna suts mek'etsa mits haats m- sunts
    Oyda ápe, ayfe B haːye sid'e ’ač, pl. o·či iláns B doːna suts mεk'εts mɪns'a haytsi mu’- suntsu
    Zayse ’áaɸε waayέ kuŋké ’acc' ints'έrε baadέ súuts' mεk'έεte mits'a wáats'i m- č'úuč'e
    Zergulla ’aːɸe wai kuŋki ’ac'e ’insәre haː’e suːts nεkεtε mintsa waːtse m- suːns
    Ganjule ’áaɸε waašέ kuŋkε gaggo ints'úrε baadέ súuts' mεk'έtε mits'i waats'i m- ts'únts'i
    Gidicho ’áaɸε waašέ kuŋké gaggo ints'úrε baadέ súuts'i mεk'εte míts'i wáats'i m- ts'únts'i
    Kachama ’áaɸε uwaašέ kuŋkέ gaggo ints'úrε baadέ súuts'ε mέk‘έtee mits'i wáats'i m- ts'únts'i
    Koyra ’áɸε waayέ siid'ε gaggo ’únts'úrε ’áaša súuts' mεk‘έεte míts'e; Ce akka wáats'e múuwa súuntsi
    Chara áːpa wóːya sínt'u áč'a ’íns'ila noːná súːta mertá mítsa áːs'a ḿ-na sumá
    Bench ap (h)ay sint' gaš; san eyts' non sut mert inč so’ m’ sum
    She af ai sint' gaš ets' non sut mεrt enc so’ mma sum
    Yemsa aafa; kema odo siya a’ya terma noono anna mega i’o aka me suna
    Bworo aawa waaza šint'a gaša albeera noona ts'atts'a mak'әttsa mitta aatsa maa- šuutsa
    Anfillo aːfo waːjo šiːnto gaːššo εrɪːtso nɔːno ts'antso šaušo mɪːtso yuːro m šiːgo
    Kafa affo, aho wammo; kendo muddo gašo eč'iyo nono; koko dammo šawušo met'o ač'o mammo; č‘okko šiggo
    Mocha á·p̱o wa·mmo šit'ó gášo häč'awo no·no damo ša·wúšo mit'ó à·č'o ma̱·(hä) šəgo
    Proto-Omotic[26] *si(n)t’ *non- *haats’
    Proto-Maji[28] *ʔaːb *háːy *aːç’u *eːdu *uːs *inču *haːy *um
    Dizi ab-u aːi sin-u ažu yabɪl εd-u yεrm-u us wɪč aːi m- sɪm-u
    Shako áːb aːy B sɪnt' áːč'u érb eːd yärm uːsu íːnču áːy m̥̀- suːm
    Nayi ’aːf B haːy si.n B acu B yalb eːdu yarbm ’uːs B incus B hai m- suːm
    Mao áːfέ wáːlέ šíːnt'έ àːts'ὲ ánts'ílὲ pɔ́ːnsὲ hándέ máːlt‘έ ’íːntsὲ hàːtsὲ hà míjà jèːškέ
    Seze aːb, áːwi wέὲ šíːnté háːts'έ, haːnsì jántsílὲ/ t'agál waːndè hámbìlὲ bàk‘ílí ’innsì háːns'ì máːmɔ́ nìːší
    Hozo abbi wεεra šini ats'i S wìntə́lә waandi hambilε bak‘ilε S ’íːnti haani maa iiši
    Dime ’afe, ’aɸe k'aːme nʊkʊ F baŋgɪl; ɪts; kәsɪl ’ɨdәm ’afe; B ’app- maχse; F dzumt k‘oss; F k‘ʊs ’aχe; B haːɣo naχe; B nәːɣ- ’ɨčɨn mɨze; F naːb
    Hamer api, afi k'a(ː)m- nuki ’ats' ’ad’ab ap- zum’i leːfi ak'- noko kʊm- nam-
    Banna afi k'ami nuki atsi adʌb/adɪm afa zump'i lεfi ɑhaka/haːk'a noko its-; kum- na(a)bi
    Karo afi k'ami nuki asi attәp' M ’apo mәk'әs lefi aka nuk'o isidi
    Ari afi k'ami nuki atsi; B kasel geegi adim afa zom’i lεfi ahaka noɣa; B nɔk'ɔ its- nami
    Ubamer a·fi ɣ/k'a·mi nuki atsi admi afa mək'əs ~ -ɣ- lεfí aɣa luk'a, luɣa ’its- na·mi
    Galila a·fi k'a·mi nuki ači admi afa mәk'әs lεfí aɣa/aháɣa lu·ɣa/lo·ɣa ič- la·mi

    See also


    1. ^ "Omotic languages". Ethnologue. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
    2. ^ a b Güldemann, Tom (2018). "Historical linguistics and genealogical language classification in Africa". In Güldemann, Tom (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of Africa. The World of Linguistics series. Vol. 11. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 58–444. doi:10.1515/9783110421668-002. ISBN 978-3-11-042606-9. S2CID 133888593.
    3. ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List
    4. ^ Hayward (2000:85)
    5. ^ Lamberti (1991), Zaborksi (1986)
    6. ^ Blench, Roger (2006). Archaeology, Language, and the African Past. Oxford: AltaMira Press. pp. 150–152. ISBN 9780759104662.
    7. ^ I. M. Diakonoff (1998) Journal of Semitic Studies 43:209: "It is quite evident that cultural ties between Proto-Semitic and the African branches of the Afrasian macrofamily must have been severed at a very early date indeed. However, the grammatical structure of [Common Semitic] (especially in the verb) is obviously close to that of Common Berbero-Libyan (CBL), as well as to Bedauye. (Bedauye might, quite possibly, be classified as a family distinct from the rest of Kushitic.) The same grammatical isoglosses are somewhat more feebly felt between Semitic and (the other?) Kushitic languages. They practically disappear between the Semitic and the Omotic languages, which were formerly termed Western Kushitic, but which actually may not be Afrasian at all, like their neighbours the Nubian languages and Meroitic."
    8. ^ Newman (1980)
    9. ^ Rolf Theil (2006) Is Omotic Afro-Asiatic? pp 1–2: "I claim to show that no convincing arguments have been presented [for the inclusion of Omotic (OM) in Afro-Asiatic (AA)], and that OM should be regarded as an independent language family. No closer genetic relations have been demonstrated between OM and AA than between OM and any other language family."
    10. ^ Gerrit Dimmendaal (2008) "Language Ecology and Linguistic Diversity on the African Continent", in Language and Linguistics Compass 2/5:841: "Although its Afroasiatic affiliation has been disputed, the allocation of Omotic within this family is now well-established, based on the attestation of morphological properties that this family shares with other Afroasiatic branches."
    11. ^ Ehret, Christopher (2010-12-17). History and the Testimony of Language. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-94759-7.
    12. ^ Lecarme, Jacqueline (2003-01-01). Research in Afroasiatic Grammar Two. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 978-90-272-4753-7.
    13. ^ Lamberti, Marcello (1991). "Cushitic and its Classifications". Anthropos: 552–561.
    14. ^ Mammo Girma: Yemsa Verb Morphology. Some Inflections and Derivations. 1986, quoted from Bender 2000, 120; Clay marking according to the different forms in Lamberti 1993, 190
    15. ^ Hayward 1990, quoted in Bender 2000, 171
    16. ^ See: R. Hayward, Y. Tsuge: Concerning case in Omotic. In: Africa and Overseas. Volume 81, pp. 21-38. 1998.
    17. ^ Bender 2000, 21
    18. ^ So Bender 2000, 212
    19. ^ Bender 2000, 127
    20. ^ a b Mary J. Breeze: Personal Pronouns in Gimira (Benchnon). In: Ursula Wiesemann (Ed.): Pronominal Systems. Narr, Tübingen 1986, ISBN 3-87808-335-1, pp. 47–70, p. 53.
    21. ^ Hayward 2003, 246; Lamberti 1993, 70 f.
    22. ^ Bender 2000.
    23. ^ Lamberti 1993, 71
    24. ^ Reconstructions according to Bender 2000, 196
    25. ^ Bender 2000, 163
    26. ^ a b Bender, Lionel M. 1987. "First Steps Toward proto-Omotic." Current Approaches to African Linguistics 3 (1987): 21–36.
    27. ^ Blažek, Václav. 2008. A lexicostatistical comparison of Omotic languages. In Bengtson (ed.), 57–148.
    28. ^ Aklilu, Yilma. 2003. Comparative phonology of the Maji languages. Journal of Ethiopian studies 36: 59–88.

    Sources cited

    • Bender, M. Lionel. 2000. Comparative Morphology of the Omotic Languages. Munich: LINCOM.
    • Fleming, Harold. 1976. Omotic overview. In The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia, ed. by M. Lionel Bender, pp. 299–323. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University.
    • Newman, Paul. 1980. The classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic. Universitaire Pers Leiden.
    • Marcello Lamberti: Materialien zum Yemsa. Studi Linguarum Africae Orientalis, Band 5. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 1993, ISBN 3-8253-0103-6.

    General Omotic bibliography

    • Bender, M. L. 1975. Omotic: a new Afroasiatic language family. (University Museum Series, 3.) Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University.
    • Blench, Roger. 2006. Archaeology, Language, and the African Past. AltaMira Press
    • Hayward, Richard J., ed. 1990. Omotic Language Studies. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.
    • Hayward, Richard J. 2003. Omotic: the "empty quarter" of Afroasiatic linguistics. In Research in Afroasiatic Grammar II: selected papers from the fifth conference on Afroasiatic languages, Paris 2000, ed. by Jacqueline Lecarme, pp. 241–261. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    • Lamberti, Marcello. 1991. Cushitic and its classification. Anthropos 86(4/6):552-561.
    • Zaborski, Andrzej. 1986. Can Omotic be reclassified as West Cushitic? In Gideon Goldenberg, ed., Ethiopian Studies: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference pp. 525–530. Rotterdam: Balkema.
    {{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
    Omotic languages
    Listen to this article

    This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
    Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
    Please download and use one of the following browsers:

    This article was just edited, click to reload
    This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

    Back to homepage

    Please click Add in the dialog above
    Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
    then click Install Now in the dialog
    Please click Open in the download dialog,
    then click Install
    Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
    then click Install

    Install Wikiwand

    Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
    Don't forget to rate us

    Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

    Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

    Enjoying Wikiwand?

    Tell your friends and spread the love:
    Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

    Our magic isn't perfect

    You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

    This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

    Thank you for helping!

    Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


    Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?