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Ge'ez language

From Academic Kids

The Ge'ez language (or Gi'iz language) is an ancient language that developed in the Ethiopian Highlands of the Horn of Africa as the language of the peasantry. It later became the language of the Ethiopian imperial court; it is currently the language of use in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Ge'ez (ግዕዝ)
Spoken in: Ethiopia and Eritrea [extinct in both countries, except for liturgical use]
Region: Ethiopia
Total speakers: Extinct
Ranking:
Genetic classification: Afro-Asiatic

 Semitic
  South Semitic
   Ethiopian
    North Ethiopian
     Ge'ez

Official status
Official language of: Liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Orthodox Church, and Beta Israel
Regulated by:
Language codes
ISO 639-1
ISO 639-2gez
SILGEE
See also: LanguageList of languages

Today Ge'ez remains the main language used in the worship services of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches, though Amharic (the main lingua franca of modern Ethiopia) may be used for sermons. The Ge'ez writing system, (or 'Fidel' as it is known in Ethiopia), forms the basis for most scripts used for writing the various languages of Ethiopia.

Ge'ez is also still in use by the Beta Israel Jewish community of Ethiopia for their scriptures and liturgy.

The language has been assigned the ISO 639 code gez and the SIL code GEE.

Contents

History

The origins of the Ge'ez alphabet and the language are still controversial; as Scott Munro-hays notes, "the arguments advanced for the origins of the Ge'ez script would fill a small book." The earliest known inscriptions in Ge'ez are dated to the 3rd century AD in South Arabian script which lacked vowels. About the time of king Ezana (4th century AD), the South Arabian script was modified to include vowels, and some writers credit him with this change. However, Roger Schneider has pointed to anomalies in the known inscriptions which suggest that this vocalization occurred at an earlier time, and that Ezana was consciously employing an archaic style during his reign.

Likewise, the origins for the method of vocalizing the Ge'ez script is unclear. Some writers assume that the Greek alphabet served as the model. Yuri Kobishchanov has embraced the theories of W. Jones and Karl Richard Lepsius, who believed that the vocalization was patterned after Indian models. Kobishchanov cites a 1915 paper by A. Grohmann, which emphasized the similarities between Ge'ez and the ancient Indian Brahmi and Kharoshti alphabets.

The Ge'ez language is generally considered a South Semitic language. It has replaced the Sabaean language and alphabet (although that was still used up to around 8th century AD). Ge'ez was in turn replaced around 13th century AD by the Amharic language in the south and the Tigrigna language in the north. The Tigre language also uses the Ge'ez alphabet and is more closely related to Ge'ez then either Amharic or Tigrigna.

Ge'ez writing system

Missing image
Ethiopic_genesis.jpg
Genesis 29.11–16 in Ge'ez

The word Ge'ez is also applied to the abugida which is used to write the language. The Amharic in Ethiopia and Tigrigna in Eritrea and Ethiopia use modified forms of the Ge'ez abugida. Other languages in the Horn of Africa were also historically written using Ge'ez, such as Oromo language and Somali, but these have generally migrated to Latin-based orthographies.

Ge'ez (or "Ethiopic") has been assigned Unicode 3.0 codepoints U+1200 – U+137F (decimal 4608–4991), and given the "Supplemnt" range U+1380 - U+ 139F (decimal 4992-5023 ) and "Extended" range U+2D80 - U+2DDF (decimal 11648-11743) in Unicode 4.1:


  0123456789ABCDEF
1200 
1210 
1220 
1230 
1240    
1250     
1260 
1270 
1280    
1290 
12A0 
12B0     
12C0    
12D0  
12E0 
12F0 
1300 
1310    
1320 
1330 
1340 
1350      ፟
1360 
1370    
1380 
1390       
2D80 
2D90          
2DA0   
2DB0   
2DC0   
2DD0   
  0123456789ABCDEF


References

  • David Diringer. The Alphabet, A Key To The History of Mankind. 1968.
  • Yuri M. Kobishchanov. Axum (Joseph W. Michels, editor; Lorraine T. Kapitanoff, translator). University Park, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania, 1979. ISBN 0271005319
  • Stuart Munro-Hay. Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity. Edinburgh: University Press. 1991. ISBN 0748601066

See also

External links

  • Ethnologue report for Ge'ez (http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=GEE).
  • A chart (http://syllabary.sourceforge.net/Ethiopic/Geez.html) correlating IPA values to the Ge'ez syllabary symbols.
  • A chart (http://www.ancientscripts.com/ethiopic.html) of the Ge'ez syllabary.
  • Unicode assignments (http://www.alanwood.net/unicode/ethiopic.html) for Ethiopic characters.
  • Overview  (http://www.omniglot.com/writing/ethiopic.htm) of the language.

sl:giz de:Äthiopische Sprache

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