What is the origin of Semitic languages?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by arauca, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. arauca Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,564
    Semitic languages How did they started and were did they started
     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    51,799
    By definition in the Middle East.
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. arauca Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,564
    I agree with you , there is something more fundamental then just middle east.
    Like Ethiopia , Yemen, why are they Semites , were is the origin, how did they start with such name ?
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    51,799
    It was some German linguist who decided to group them together. It's on wikipedia.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    The Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, Ge'ez, Aramaic, and a number of dead languages like Phoenician and Akkadian) form one of the six branches of the Afroasiatic language family. The other five are Berber (hard to classify, it could be several very closely related languages or a rather large dialect continuum of one language), Chadic (Hausa is the only member most of us have heard of but there are many others), Cushitic (Oromo and Somali have the most speakers), Omotic (it has many members that I know nothing about) and Egyptian (one of the oldest recorded languages; its modern form Coptic was spoken until a few hundred years ago).

    I must note that although this classification system is widely used, linguists are not all in agreement and it's possible that one or more of the branches is not actually part of the family. The evidence for the relationships is not as strong and well-documented as it is among, say, the Indo-European languages.

    That said, you can imagine how hard it would be to figure out where the Urheimat of the original Afroasiatic tribe was. We can tell that the Indo-Europeans started out on the Pontic Steppe because their language had words for all the plants and animals and topographical and meteorological phenomena that are found there. But it's not so easy to back-trace the vocabularies of the individual Afroasiatic languages. There's been too much borrowing from the languages of the neighboring tribes.

    And we have exactly the same problem with their DNA. The Semitic tribes in Asia can be said to have recognizable genotypes, but the Semitic tribes in Africa like the Berbers and the various Ethiopian peoples, and for sure the people of the other five branches, have intermarried so intensively with the other African people that their roots are hard to trace.

    We don't even know if the first Afroasiatic people arose in southwestern Asia and some of their people got adventurous and went exploring in Africa, or if it was exactly the other way round. Both the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians are well attested back through several thousand years of history because they were the first people to invent or borrow the technology of writing. (It originated in Egypt but the Sumerians elevated it to a high art.) But before the era of written records, it's really hard to figure out what the ancestors of those people were doing or even where they were.

    We know that as the rich land of North Africa dried out and became the Sahara Desert, all the African tribes that were living there migrated south. (This is why the San or "Bushmen", some of whom crossed over into Asia 50-60KYA and became the ancestors of all non-African people, now live much further south on the continent.) It's tempting to assume when the technology of agriculture was first invented in Mesopotamia, that some newly Neolithic Mesopotamians crossed over into that empty part of Africa and used their superior food production technology (primarily irrigation in this case--North African life seems to have spread out from the Nile delta) to establish colonies in a place where the Paleolithic Africans could not feed themselves by hunting and gathering.

    But there's no reason not to suspect that just one or two colonies were established, and the native Africans (who were just as intelligent as any other humans; their failure to invent agriculture was the result of the continent's north-south orientation, the same problem that inhibited its spread in the Americas) simply observed them cultivating plants and herding animals and said, "Hey we can do that too. Lets go round up a few ostriches and some buffalo."

    The dominant ethnic group during the founding of North African culture could have been a native African people, who then migrated east into southwestern Asia, intermarried with the natives, and became the Semites.

    Your guess is as good as mine, or as anybody else's. There are still a lot of mysteries on this planet, and that's one of them.

    Of course if you talk to the members of the modern Afroasiatic tribes (and I don't mean to use the word "tribe" in any condescending way: the Europeans are members of the Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Hellenic, Slavic, etc. tribes), they'll give you a story that reinforces their own tribal pride. The Arabs, Jews, Lebanese and Aramaeans will tell you that they've always lived in Asia, and the Berbers, Ethiopians, Somalis and Egyptians will tell you that they've always lived in Africa.
     
  9. arauca Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,564
    How did the Semitic language got yo Yemen and Ethiopia ? since it is a long distance from the nucleus
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    No one knows where the "nucleus" was. The Afroasiatic family might have originated in North Africa or in southwestern Asia. So the Semitic subgroup might have broken off as a separate branch in Egypt or in Mesopotamia.

    It wasn't all that difficult to cross over between northwestern Africa and southwestern Asia. Humans started doing that in the Paleolithic Era, sixty thousand years ago, when our species first migrated out of Africa.

    Besides, from Yemen to Ethiopia is not very far. The Austronesian family extends from Madagascar to Hawaii and Easter Island. The Indo-European family extended from Ireland to Sri Lanka in the Middle Ages, before modern transportation took it to Chile, Alaska and New Zealand. The Dene-Yeniseian family spreads from Siberia to Arizona.
     
  11. arauca Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,564


    I would add my speculation.
    As the Jews moved in the Sinai desert by the Red sea some individual groups my have wondered south if the Red sea and ended by Sharm All shekh and crossed into Arabic peninsula and wondered toward Yemen and Ethiopia.
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Your timeline is way off. By the time Hebrew came into existence as a separate language, a great many other Semitic languages were also established, including Phoenician, Arabic, Aramaic, Ugaritic and Syriac.

    Written records in Eblaite and Akkadian go back to 2500BCE, long before the emergence of the Hebrew ethnic group in Canaan.

    Afroasiatic is the second most-studied language family on earth, and the Semitic branch of it has been studied almost as intensively as the Indo-European family. We have a pretty thorough history of the various Semitic peoples all the way back to the invention of writing.

    There's no room for speculation about events that occurred during historical times. ("History" is written. Events that occurred before writing was invented, and must therefore be studied by means other than simply reading more-or-less contemporary accounts of them, are called "prehistoric.")

    The migrations that resulted in the Semitic-speaking (and other Afroasiatic-speaking) tribes living where they were, at the point in time when anthropological research first identifies their ancestors, happened many thousands of years before the biblical tales, i.e., in prehistory.

    Throughout the first millennium BCE, Yemen was a crossroads of culture and was host to several strong empires, including the Minaeans, Sabaeans, Hadramites and Qatabanians. They were all Arabian people who spoke Old South Arabic.

    As for Ethiopia, Semitic languages have been spoken there since at least 2000BCE, again long before the migrations you speak of took place.

    When writing was invented around 3000BCE, allowing ancient people to communicate with us directly for the first time, Semitic-speaking people already lived in both northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia. So we have not yet found a way to determine the direction of their migration.
     

Share This Page