§ 2. Origin and Character
§ 1. GENERAL REMARKS ON THE ETHIOPIC LANGUAGE. / Grammar / Ethiopic Grammar. Dillmann / § 2. Origin and Character § 3. Close Affinities with Arabic: — Resemblances and Difference

§ 2. In origin and essence Ethiopic is a pure Semitic speech, transplanted by people who migrated from Yemen to Abyssinia. In its sounds and laws of sounds, in its roots, inflectional expedients and word-forms, in all that is reckoned the structure and essence of a language, it bears throughout a genuine and uncorrupted Semitic stamp ([1]). All its roots may be pointed out as recurring in the other Semitic languages, especially in Arabic, although often diverging greatly in form, or preserved merely in a fragmentary condition. From the indigenous languages of these African regions only a very few names of plants and animals have been taken; while the names of the months, — which Ludolf imagined to have come from the same stock, — appear to be of decidedly Semitic origin. True, the Geʿez people learned a few stray things, about matters so external as writing, from the Greeks, with whom the Abyssinians had dealings in times even before Christ, and with whom they continued in uninterrupted intercourse up to the Mohammedan conquest of Egypt. From the Greeks also they borrowed several names and several terms of art, which passed into the flesh and blood of the language. In a similar way a number of pure Aramaic and Arabic words were adopted into it through intercourse with the Arabs, Jews and Aramaeans. But the entire sum of these contributions does not exceed the ordinary proportion of borrowed words which prevails in other languages maintained otherwise in purity. Ethiopic, from its very start, was protected against such a considerable infusion of foreign elements as we see in Syriac, by the superior richness of its vocabulary, and by the long-continued activity of the faculty of formation possessed by the language, which enabled it to produce equivalent Ethiopic expressions for notions of every kind, however abstract they might be. On the other hand the language kept itself at the same time, as regarded its structure, quite free from Greek influences. Even its Syntax, which in its flexibility, variety and marvellous faculty for co-ordinating and subordinating long phrases in one whole, so remarkably resembles Greek syntax, proves on closer investigation to be founded merely upon a very rich development, and skilful handling, of original Semitic grammatical expedients and formative tendencies. It must, of course, be granted that this peculiar leaning in the Ethiopic language to grandiose periods and bold arrangements of words was confirmed by the familiarity of Abyssinian authors with Greek ([2]) works, and was thereby stimulated to a more manifold development of its several tendencies.





[1] PRAETORIUS tries to point out Hamitic elements in the Ethiopic Lexicon: ZDMG XLIII, p. 317 sqq.

[2] V., however, PRAETORIUS, 'Grammatik der Tigrinasprache', Halle 1871, p. 2, Rem.