Tigrinya language

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Native toEritrea, Ethiopia
RegionEritrea, Tigray Region
Native speakers
6.9 million (2006 – 2007 census)[1]
Tigrinya alphabet (Ge'ez script)
Official status
Official language in
Eritrea, Ethiopia
Language codes
ISO 639-1ti
ISO 639-2tir
ISO 639-3tir
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tigrinya (sometimes written asTigrigna; /tɪˈɡrnjə/;[3] ትግርኛ təgrəñña) is an Afroasiatic language of the Ethiopian Semitic branch. It is mostly spoken in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia and has approximately 6,915,000 total speakers. There are approximately 4,320,000 Tigrinya speakers in Ethiopia and approximately 2,540,000 in Eritrea. Tigrinya is also spoken by emigrants from these regions, including some Ethiopian Jews.[4][4]

History and literature[change | change source]

The earliest written example of Tigrinya is a text of local laws found in Logosarda district, Southern Region, Eritrea and in northern Ethiopia. It is from the 13th century.[5]

Tigrinya is related to the Ethiopian Semitic language Ge'ez. Tigrinya has phrasal verbs, which Ge'ez doesn't have, and a different word order. However, the two languages have similar phonology and morphology, which show they are related.[6] Ge'ez has influenced Tigrinya literature, especially with terms that relate to Christian life.[7] Until recent times, Ge'ez was used for writing more often than Tigrinya.[8] When the British ruled Eritrea, there was a newspaper in Tigrinya.[9]

Tigrinya was one of Eritrea's official languages while it was part of Ethiopia; in 1958 it was replaced with the Southern Ethiopian language Amharic. During the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie (1930-1974), publications in Tigrinya were banned.[10] When Selassie lost power, Amharic remained the standard language.[10] In 1991, Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia. Tigrinya was the "working language" in Eritrea.

Speakers[change | change source]

There are 6,915,000 total Tigrinya speakers. Of these, approximately 4,320,000 live in Ethiopia. Most Tigrinya speakers in Ethiopia live in the Tigray region. There are approximately 2,540,000 Tigrinya speakers in Eritrea. Most of these live in the southern and central areas of the country. There are also over 10,000 Beta Israel speakers of Tigrinya.[4]

Tigrinya is the fourth most spoken language in Ethiopia after Amharic, Oromo, Somali and the most widely spoken language in Eritrea. It is also spoken by immigrants around the world. In Australia, Tigrinya is broadcast on public radio on the Special Broadcasting Service.[11]

There are two dialects of Tigrinya: Northern and Southern.[12]

Northern Dialect

  • Eritrea (Hamasien, Seraye, Akele Guzay, Anseba)
  • Ethiopia (Adwa, Axum, Shire, most areas of Agame)

Southern Dialect

  • Ethiopia (Enderta, Tembien, Raya, some areas of Agame)

Phonology[change | change source]

Tigrinya has a set of ejective consonants and seven vowels.

A Tigrinya syllable may have a consonant-vowel or a consonant-vowel-consonant sequence.

Writing system[change | change source]

Tigrinya is written in the Ge'ez script (Ethiopic script), which was originally developed for the Ge'ez language. The Ge'ez script is an abugida. Each symbol represents a consonant+vowel syllable.[13]

Tigrinya writing system
  ä u i a e (ə) o wi wa we
  ä u i a e (ə) o wi wa we

Note: Symbols falling into disuse in Tigrinya are shown with a dark gray background in the table.

References[change | change source]

  1. Tigrinya at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tigrigna". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Tigrigna". Ethnologue. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  5. "UCLA Language Materials Project Language Profiles Page: Tigrinya". UCLA. Retrieved 2006-11-10.
  6. Fellman, J. (2005). Lines on an African-Semitic language: The case of Tigrinya. Folia Linguistica, 26(1/2), 163-164. doi:10.1515/flin.26.1-2.163
  7. The Bible in Tigrigna, United Bible society, 1997
  8. Edward Ullendorff, The Ethiopians, Oxford University Press 1960
  9. Ministry of Information (1944) The First to be Freed—The record of British military administration in Eritrea and Somalia, 1941-1943. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Woldemariam, H., & Lanza, E. (2014). Language contact, agency and power in the linguistic landscape of two regional capitals of Ethiopia. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 228, 79-103.
  11. "ቀንዲ ገጽ ትግርኛ". SBS Your Language.
  12. Leslau, Wolf (1941) Documents Tigrigna (Éthiopien Septentrional): Grammaire et Textes. Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck.
  13. Rehman, Abdel. English Tigrigna Dictionary: A Dictionary of the Tigrinya Language: (Asmara) Simon Wallenberg Press. Introduction Pages to the Tigrinya Language

Bibliography[change | change source]

  • Amanuel Sahle (1998) Säwasäsǝw Tǝgrǝñña bǝsäfiḥ. Lawrencevill, NJ, USA: Red Sea Press. ISBN 1-56902-096-5
  • Dan'el Täxlu Räda (1996, Eth. Cal.) Zäbänawi säwasəw kʷ'ankʷ'a Təgrəñña. Mäx'älä
  • Rehman, Abdel. English Tigrigna Dictionary: A Dictionary of the Tigrinya Language: (Asmara) Simon Wallenberg Press. Introduction Pages to the Tigrinya Language ISBN 1-84356-006-2
  • Eritrean People's Liberation Front (1985) Dictionary, English-Tigrigna-Arabic. Rome: EPLF.
  • ----- (1986) Dictionary, Tigrigna-English, mesgebe qalat tigrinya englizenya. Rome: EPLF.
  • Kane, Thomas L. (2000) Tigrinya-English Dictionary (2 vols). Springfield, VA: Dunwoody Press. ISBN 1-881265-68-4
  • Leslau, Wolf (1941) Documents tigrigna: grammaire et textes. Paris: Libraire C. Klincksieck.
  • Mason, John (Ed.) (1996) Säwasǝw Tǝgrǝñña, Tigrinya Grammar. Lawrenceville, NJ, USA: Red Sea Press. ISBN 0-932415-20-2 (ISBN 0-932415-21-0, paperback)
  • Praetorius, F. (1871) Grammatik der Tigriñasprache in Abessinien. Halle. ISBN 3-487-05191-5 (1974 reprint)
  • Täxästä Täxlä et al. (1989, Eth. Cal.) Mäzgäbä k'alat Təgrəñña bə-Təgrəñña. Addis Ababa: Nəgd matämiya dərəǧǧət.
  • Ullendorff, E. (1985) A Tigrinya Chrestomathy. Stuttgart: F. Steiner. ISBN 3-515-04314-4
  • Ze'im Girma (1983) Lǝsanä Ag’azi. Asmara: Government Printing Press.

Other websites[change | change source]