World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Central Semitic languages

Article Id: WHEBN0002900198
Reproduction Date:

Title: Central Semitic languages  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Semitic languages, West Semitic languages, Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Canaanite languages
Collection: Central Semitic Languages, Semitic Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Central Semitic languages

Central Semitic
Middle East and North Africa
Linguistic classification: Afro-Asiatic
Glottolog: cent2236[1]

The Central Semitic languages are a proposed intermediate group of Semitic languages, comprising the Late Iron Age, modern dialect of Arabic (prior to which Arabic was a Southern Semitic language), and older Bronze Age Northwest Semitic languages (which include Aramaic, Ugaritic, and the Canaanite languages of Hebrew and Phoenician). In this reckoning Central Semitic itself is one of three divisions of Semitic along with East Semitic (Akkadian) and South Semitic (South Arabian, and the Semitic languages of Ethiopia).

Distinctive features of Central Semitic languages include the following:[2]

  • The realization of the common Semitic emphatic consonants as pharyngealized rather than ejectives:
    • E.g. Proto-Semitic *ṭ [tʼ] and *ṣ [tsʼ] are realized as [tˤ] and [sˤ] in Arabic and Neo-Aramaic, in contrast to remaining ejectives in South Arabian and in Ethiopian Semitic.
    • Additionally, Proto-Semitic *ḳ [kʼ] becomes a uvular stop [q].
  • An innovative negation marker *bal, of uncertain origin.
  • The generalization of t as the suffix conjugation past tense marker, levelling an earlier alternation between *k in the first person and *t in the second person.
  • A new prefix conjugation for the non-past tense, of the form ya-qtulu, replacing the inherited ya-qattal form (these are schematic verbal forms, as if derived from an example triconsonantal root q-t-l).
  • Levelling of vowels in verb prefixes. The evidence of Akkadian suggests four Proto-Semitic prefixes: *ʔa-, *ta-, *ni-, *yi-. In Central Semitic, all prefixes have the same vowel within a given verb paradigm. This however developed slightly differently in the different languages: Arabic has generalized a in all prefixes, while Northwest Semitic has generalized either a or i, depending on the verb stem in question.

Different classification systems disagree on the precise structure of the group. The most common approach divides it into Arabic and Northwest Semitic, while SIL Ethnologue has South Central Semitic (including Arabic and Hebrew) vs. Aramaic.

The main distinction between Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages is the presence of broken plurals in the former. The majority of Arabic masculine non-human nouns form plurals in this manner (called inanimate plural), whereas almost all nouns in the Northwest Semitic languages form their plurals with a suffix. For example, the Arabic بيت bayt ("house") becomes بيوت buyūt ("houses"); the Hebrew בית bayit ("house") becomes בתים battīm ("houses").


  • Sabatino Moscati (1980). An Introduction to Comparative Grammar of Semitic Languages Phonology and Morphology. Harrassowitz Verlag.  
  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Central Semitic".  
  2. ^ Faber, Alice (1997). "Genetic Subgrouping of the Semitic Languages". In  

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.