The Origin of Amharic
Girma Awgichew Demeke
Addis Ababa University
There are basically two hypotheses on the origin of Amharic: it may be a descendent of a common Proto-Ethiosemitic language or it may have evolved as a Semitic-based pidgin, which became a creole and eventually developed into a full-fledged language. While the first hypothesis is commonly accepted in Semitic Studies, the second hypothesis, first proposed in the beginning of the 1980s, became quite popular very recently and even entered Amharic textbooks.
Girma A. Demeke’s present work thoroughly examines the arguments that seem to suppose the origin of Amharic as a pidgin. Based on chronological, historical, geographical, and linguistic grounds, Girma clearly demonstrates that the pidgin hypothesis is blatantly implausible. Not only the linguistic data on Amharic provide strong arguments against the pidgin hypothesis but also the relationship between Amharic and the remaining Ethiosemitic languages in general, and Argobba in particular, do not support it.
Girma A. Demeke’s study on the origin of Amharic also discusses controversial issues about the origin of the Ethiosemitic language group, which is of particular interest for Semitic Studies, History and Anthropology. The book incorporates most of the accessible historical documents with regard to Amharic and the language situation in former Ethiopia, which also shed some light on the Ethiopian history in general. The book is very recommendable for all readers interested in the history of Ethiosemitic languages and their speakers. (Dr. Ronny Meyer, Associate Professor, Department of Ethiopian Languages and Literature Addis Ababa University).
ISBN 9783895866890 (Hardbound). LINCOM Studies in Afroasiatic Linguistics 28. 356pp. 2009.