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Re: THEORY: A possible Proto-World phonology

From:Vima Kadphises <vima_kadphises@...>
Date:Friday, June 30, 2000, 15:42
BP Jonsson <bpj@...> wrote:

"I heard recently that some "minor" languages of Ethiopia may be the closest
to PS. Is this widely held?"

 There is a langauge spoken by fewer than 20 people, who live along the Woito
River in SW Ethiopia, which is considered to be the 7th (if you consider Beja
part of the Cushitic family) or 8th (if you consider Beja separate) branch of
Afro-Asiatic, and thus equal (for the purposes of reconstruction) to all the
Semitic languages, Berber, Egyptian, Cushitic, Omotic, or Chadic. This language
is called "Ongota."

 You might also have read about the Mahrian languages ("Modern South Arabian"
or MSA, which looks too much like Modern Standard Arabic) spoken on the border
between Yemen and Oman in the Arabian peninsula. These languages preserve the
consonantal repertoire of Proto-Semitic (ejectives, lateral fricatives, and
all) with comparatively few sound changes (for example, in Mehri PS *s becomes
h in some environments - "the head" is He-roh). Almost all of the males in the
population are bilingual, and language death for the Mahrian languages cannot
be far away (there is one dialect spoken on the island of Socotra (very
isolated, found off the coast of Somalia) which has some potential to survive.

"*As I said yesterday I adhere to the view that the whole family originated
in the Nile area, Semitic entering Asia from Ethiopia through Arabia."

NB that the (Semitic) Ethiopian languages, entered Ethiopia through Arabia (this
is reasonably well attested by the archaeology, scattered written sources, and
the languages themselves). This of course doesn't prove that the Afro-Asiatic
family could not have originated along the Nile (in fact, it would be nearly
impossible to prove otherwise, given the great diversity of languages along the
Nile and the comparative homogeneity of, eg. the Semitic languages, or even the
languages of the Maghreb).


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