Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


Jan RETSÖ, Gothenburg University, Sweden

Geez is classified as one of the classical literary languages within the Semitic group. Its position within that group, however, is debated. According to the old classification it belongs to the southern branch of the West Semitic group, thus closely related to Arabic and the languages of South Arabia and more distantly to Hebrew and Aramaic. According to the new classification developed since the 1950ies by scholars like G. Garbini, R. Voigt and R. Hezron Geez belongs to the peripheral Semitic languages together with South Arabian and Akkadian, thus distinct from teh Central Semitic group consisting of Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic & co. The discussion has mainly been concentrated on classificatory problems, paying less attention to diachronic developments. This paper will discuss two main issues in the debate, viz. the structure of the verbal system and the case-marking system in Geez, comparing them with the Semitic complex as a whole and suggesting some new ideas about the position of Geez in the history of the Semitic languages. The main claim will be that Geez, in some respects, is more archaic than usually assumed.