Amharic Language

Amharic Language a degenerate Shemitic dialect, mixed with many African words, spoken with the greatest purity in Amhara, one of the principal divisions of the Abyssinian empire. SEE ABYSSINIA. It is apparently referred to by Agatharcides (Hudson, Geogr. Min. 1, 46), about B.C. 120, under the name Καμάρα λέξις, as the language of the Troglodytes of Ethiopia. It began to prevail in Abyssinia over the Geez language about A.D. 1300, and is more or less prevalent throughout that country to the present day. Its literature is nearly confined to a few theological treatises and translations of portions of the Holy Scriptures, which have been printed mostly by the British and Foreign Bible Society, in Ethiopic characters. (See Gesenius, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopadie, s.v. Amharische Sprache.) The Amharic has the same alphabet as the Ethiopic, with the addition of seven characters, which have, respectively, the sound nearly of sh, ch (soft), nasal n, guttural (German) ch, weak (French) ch, g (soft), and z (as in azure). The vowels and diphthongs are the same in number and sound as in Ethiopic; also the same rules of pronunciation prevail as in that language. The formation of nouns differs very little from the Ethiopic. The indication of gender is the same. Declension takes place by means of certain particles; but the accusative case exhibits the peculiar Arabic "nunnation." SEE

ARABIC LANGUAGE. The verb appears in four modifications, as active (neuter), a two-form factive, and passive. The proeterite, present, and future are clearly distinguished by a change in formation. Besides the "conjunctive" form of the present imperative and infinitive, there is also a peculiar kind of participle. Numerals and pronouns are, as to their form and use, entirely after the Shemitic analogies. The same is almost universally true of the particles. In the arrangement of words the nominative follows the other cases, and some of the conjunctions are placed at the end of the sentence. The best known specimens of Amharic literature are contained in Ehbragzer's Catechesis Christ. linguae Amharico (Rome, 1787). Ludolph prepared a brief Grammatica lingue Amharicoe, with a Lexicon Amharico-latinum attached (Frcf. 1698, fol.). The Church Mission Society (of Great Britain) has published a Grammar of the Amharic Language, by Isenberg (Lond. 1842, 8vo). Further details may be found in Jowett's Christian Researches, p. 197-213; Platt, Ethiopic MSS. (Lond. 1823); Seetzen, Linguistischer Nachlass (Leipz. 1816-18), p. 145 sq.; Schmid's Bibl. f. Kritik. 1, 307-310. SEE ETHIOPIC LANGUAGE.

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