Tigrinya (language)

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Tigrinya ( ትግርኛ - tǝgrǝñña)

Spoken in

Eritrea , Ethiopia
speaker 9 million
Official status
Official language in EritreaEritrea Eritrea region Tigray (in Ethiopia )
Flag of the Tigray Region.svg EthiopiaEthiopia 
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Tigrinya ( Tigrinya ትግርኛ tǝgrǝñña , also Tigrinnya , Italian Tigrino ), German  Tigrinian , is a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea . Together with the ancient Ethiopian language, it emerged from a common older form. Today the speakers of this language are called Tigray in Ethiopia and Tigrinya in Eritrea.

Names of the language

The language name Tigrinya is made up of the word Tigre and the ending -ɲɲa , which corresponds to the German "-isch" (as in the word "English"). Older local language names that are only used in rural areas today are Qwanqwa Habescha ("language of the Abyssinians") or simply Habescha or, especially in Tigray, Qwanqwa Tigray ("language of Tigray"). The old popular name of the Tigrinya population is Habescha . Tigray , from which the modern language name is derived, is originally a purely geographical term and refers to the old center of Tigray, the region around Aksum , the holy city of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The language name Tigrinya is also used in Eritrea today to refer to the Tigrinya-speaking population, one of the country's nine official ethnic groups. The Tigrinya speakers living on Ethiopian territory, most of whom live in Tigray, are officially called Tigray , not Tigrinya .

The Tigrinya should not be confused with the closely related Ethiosemitic Tigre, which is also spoken in Eritrea and Sudan .


The oldest surviving text of the Tigrinya dates from the 13th century and deals with common law in a region. In comparison, the oldest surviving texts in Amharic are songs and poems from the 14th century. Tigrinya was the official language together with Arabic as early as 1952-58 in the semi-autonomous region of Eritrea in the Abyssinian Empire . Today it is the national language alongside eight other languages ​​and is de facto the most important official language together with Arabic. Tigrinya is the working language in the Ethiopian regional state of Tigray .

Of the 9 million speakers worldwide, around 4.5 million live in Tigray and other regions of Ethiopia and around 2.5 million in the northern neighboring country of Eritrea .


Country name Eritrea on Tigrinya in Ethiopian script (
Hagärä Ertra )

The language was not finally written down until the beginning of the Second World War on the basis of the ancient Ethiopian script . The first Tigrinya manuscripts are known from the early 19th century. A first Tigrinya literature developed from the Tigrinya Bible translations since the 1860s.


During the Italian colonial era in the colony of Eritrea , numerous words of Italian origin - such as forchetta , macchina and cancello - found their way into the Tigrinya language.

See also


  • Zemicael Tecle: German-Tigrin dictionary . Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-447-06597-9 .
  • Thomas L. Kane: Tigrinya-English dictionary (2 volumes). Dunwoody Press, Springfield VA 2000.
  • Wolf Leslau: Documents tigrigna: grammaire et textes . Klincksieck, Paris 1941.
  • John Mason (Ed.): Säwasǝw Tǝgrǝñña, Tigrinya grammar . Red Sea Press, Lawrenceville NJ 1996.
  • Ghirmai Negash: A history of Tigrinya literature in Eritrea. The oral and the written 1890-1991 . Leiden University, Leiden 1999.
  • F. Praetorius: Grammar of the Tigriña language in Abyssinia . Hall 1871.
  • Wolbert GC Smidt: Self-names of Təgrəñña speakers (Ḥabäša, Tägaru, Təgrəñña and others) . In: Bogdan Burtea, Josef Tropper, Helen Younansardaroud (eds.): Studia Semitica et Semitohamitica . Ugarit-Verlag, Münster 2005, pp. 385–404.
  • Rainer Voigt: The Tigrin verbal system . Berlin 1977.
  • Rainer Voigt: Tigrinya . Tigrinya as National Language of Eritrea an Tigray. In: Stefan Weninger, Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet CE Watson (Eds.): The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook . Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin 2011, pp. 1153–1177.
  • E. Ullendorff: A Tigrinya chrestomathy . Steiner, Stuttgart 1985.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Abraham Negash: The Origin and Development of Tigrinya Language Publications (1886-1991). (Dissertation) Santa Clara University, 2016, p. 2
  2. Amharic. ( Memento of December 30, 2010 on the Internet Archive ) UCLA Language Materials Project
  3. Speakers of Italian in the World ( Memento of February 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) italian-language-study.com (archived website)