Semitic and Afro-Asiatic

Authored by: Gene Gragg

The Semitic Languages

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415731959
eBook ISBN: 9780429025563
Adobe ISBN:


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By the mid-19th century, a number of scholars were already convinced that certain languages and language families of Africa, specifically Ancient Egyptian and Coptic, the Berber languages of North Africa, and newly discovered Cushitic languages in and around the Horn of Africa might be historically related as “sister languages” to Semitic (Lottner 1860). These languages were sometimes grouped together under the term “Hamitic,” which was extended by some authors to include Hausa and a number of related languages in the Lake Chad area (as well as, by others, to some highly unlikely candidates such as Bushman or Hottentot, included on the basis of ethnographic aprioris, or isolated or purely typological resemblances). In 1947, in an important synthesis of previous work and work done by himself and his colleagues through the 1930s, Marcel Cohen proposed 521 sets of what he considered to be plausible “Hamito-Semitic” lexical cognates, using the best available Semitic, Egyptian, Berber and Cushitic sources – and now including, if tentatively, more than 60 items from Hausa.

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