Somali is an Afro-Asiatic language used as the official language of Somalia since January 1973, along with Arabic. It is also Somaliland’s official language. It is taught in schools and used in media and administration in Somalia. It is the most spoken and officially recognized Cushitic language, followed by Oromo.
The Somali Language in a Nutshell
95% of Somalia’s population uses the Somali language. The language is also spoken in other Horn of Africa countries, including North Eastern Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. The global Somali-speaking population also increased due to the bloody Somali civil war in the 1990s as many war refugees sought political asylum in America, Europe, and the Middle East.
According to World Data, over 21.5 million people use this Cushitic language worldwide. This is a significant statistic, especially for companies that do business with Somali-speaking countries and people of their descent. If you do not speak Somali, you can hire human Somali to English translation services to access Somali content and reach a wider audience.
Primarily, the Somali language has three broad dialect groups. The three dialects further divide into sub-dialects. Here is a brief explanation of the main dialects:
Also known as Coastal Somali, this dialect is spoken on the Benaadir coast along the Central Indian Ocean coast as well as in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu newspinup. The Benaadir dialect and Northern Somali are mutually intelligible.
Northern Somali is the most popular of all three dialects. It is also known as Standard Somali. Estimates show that about 85% of Somali speakers use this particular dialect. It is the main dialect in most parts of Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.
Maay dialect is what you hear among the communities of Baidoa and Rahanweyn in the southern regions of Somalia. It is also the common dialect in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia. Maay is not mutually intelligible with Benaadir, but Maay speakers can understand Standard Somali.
The Somali Language Structure
The Somali language writing makes use of Arabic and Latin alphabets. Other alphabets used are the Kaddare, Borama, and Osmanya alphabets which are all native to Somalia. It is an agglutinative language with inflection tendencies. Let’s look at some of the linguistic properties of the language.
- Somali Alphabets
The Somali alphabet has 26 letters consisting of 5 vowels and 21 consonants. The five vowel phonemes often vary from dialect to dialect igadgetnewstoday. Speakers also use vowel length and inflection to change a word’s meaning. Longer vowels are shown either with double vowels or a macron over the vowel. For example, “inán” means girl, while “ínan” means boy.
Somali consonants do not have the consonants /p/, /v/, and /z/. It has consonants produced at the back of the oral cavity.
- Word Structure and Syntax
Somali has a subject-object-verb (SOV) word order. Speakers form verbs by adding a suffix to a stem or with prefixes for conjunction. Commonly, a noun will precede its modifying adjective, i.e., noun phrases are head-initial. Plural nouns also take up the opposite gender’s singular form. Pronouns, on the other hand, are either emphatic or verbal.
- Tone and Stress
In Somali, tonal variation is what indicates lexical and grammatical differences. For example, the word “daméer” means male donkey igadgetnow, while “dameér” refers to a female donkey.
- Writing Style and Vocabulary
20% of Somali’s vocabulary is Arabic due to the religious and trade association that the countries in the Horn of Africa have with people from the Arabian Peninsula. Additionally, the Somali vocabulary consists of Italian and English words due to the influence of colonizers.
The officially recognized writing system of Somali is the Somali Latin alphabet. It is the general style for Somali transcription and uses the English Latin alphabet (except for /p/, /v/, and /z/). Other recognized Somali writing styles include Kaddare, Osmanya, and Borama alphabets.
Somali is one of the unique languages in the world. Among its unusual features is the polarity of gender. Another unique aspect is that when writing, it is the subject that is marked instead of the object. The communities and countries that use the language have a vibrant heritage foodiesfact. Taking an interest in Somali and those who speak the language through translation and transcription can be vital for enhanced cultural interchange and business success.