Ethiopian script

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Ethiopian script
Font Abugida
languages Old Ethiopian , Amharic , Tigrinya , Tigre , Bilen , Harari
Emergence since the 3rd century
Used in Ethiopia , Eritrea
Officially in Ethiopia , Eritrea
ancestry Himjar script
Ethiopian script
Unicode block U + 1200-U + 137F
U + 1380-U + 139F
U + 2D80-U + 2DDF
U + AB00-U + AB2F
ISO 15924 Ethi
"Democratic Federal Republic of Ethiopia " in Ethiopian script, in Latin transcription yä-ityop̣p̣əya federalawi dimokrasiyawi ripäblik
1. Book of Moses 29 : 11-16  EU in Ge'ez

The Ethiopian script ( ግዕዝ Gəʿəz , simplified: Ge'ez ) is an Abugida that developed from the Himjar script . In contrast to the other Semitic scripts, it is written from left to right. In Amharic and Tigrinya , both of which are written with this script, it is called Fidäl ( ፊደል ).

The originally pure consonant writing was changed by changing the basic shape of the consonant so that a certain change corresponds to a certain vowel , whereby the vowel following the consonant was usually represented by an "appendage" to the basic shape, for example the vowel "i" is mostly represented by a tick at the bottom right of the consonant, "e" by a ring in the same place and "u" by a tick on the right at mid-level. Therefore, linguists count the Ethiopian script like the Indian scripts among the Abugidas. However, it is not known whether and which suggestions from India were adopted in the design of the Ethiopian script. A reverse influence can be ruled out, as the Indian scripts are significantly older than the Ethiopian script.

There are outward similarities with the Armenian script in terms of character shapes. However, letters for the same or a similar sound are by no means similar, but letters that represent completely different sounds. There is some speculation that there was a cultural exchange between Armenians and Aksumites in Jerusalem in the 4th century . According to a thesis that has not been widely used, the development of writing could have benefited from this.

The Ethiopian script was systematized only in modern times. Its current form is highly systematic. Originally created for ancient Ethiopian , numerous modifications to characters were made to represent modern languages ​​such as Amharic, Tigrinya, and other languages. In addition, some of the modifications to the basic signs are not in use today and are only of etymological importance.

In addition to Amharic and Tigrinya, the Ethiopian script is still used for Harari and some Gurage languages ​​in Ethiopia and for Tigre and Bilen in Eritrea . The Oromo is no longer in Ethiopian, but since 1991 the Latin script written.

Examples of syllables in the Ethiopian script (Amharic)

Character inventory

The sound value of the vowels is slightly different in ancient Ethiopian and in Amharic. Old Ethiopian differentiates between long and short vowels , with the distinction between long and short only occurring in a, plus the ə ( Schwa ) as an ultra-short vowel or marble vowel, all other vowels were probably originally long, but have lost their length over time. Amharic does not distinguish between long and short vowels, but only between different vowel qualities .

The table below can be read as follows: The consonant on the right in the row is to be combined with the vowel at the top of the column, so ሀ represents the syllable "hə" or "hä", ሁ the syllable "hu", ሂ the syllable "hi" "and so on, see the illustration with the red letters on the right.

Amharic ä (or ə) u i a e ə, ɨ or vowelless O wa yä or yə
Old Ethiopian short light a ū ī long ā ē ə or vowelless O mostly missing is missing
Hoy H  
Lion l  
Ḥäwt H  
May m
Śäwt ś  
Rəʾs r
Sat s  
Bet b  
Täwe t  
Ḫarm H  
Near n  
ʼElf ʾ
Coffee k
Wäwe w  
ʽÄyn ʽ  
Zey z
Yeman y  
Dänt d
Gäml G
Ṣ́äppä ṣ́  
Äf f
Psa p


  • Saki Mafundikwa: Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Africa. West New York: Mark Batty Publisher, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9772827-6-0 . Pp. 51-59

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ayele Bekerie: Historical Overview of Ethiopic Writing System's Possible Influence on the Development of the Armenian alphabet. In: International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1 Summer / Autumn 2003, pp. 33–58