Ethiopia Population

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Languages

2,145 Comments · Ethiopian Culture

Geographical and historical factors have a great influence on the distribution of ethnic groups and languages.

With a population of over 44 million, Ethiopia has an area of 1.2 million Km2., and exhibits diverse climatic, soil and vegetation conditions.

The country is situated in one of the transitional zones between the Middle East and Africa south of the Sahara, and in its long history it has been a meeting place of ancient cultures.

Its location along the Red Sea, one of the most important trade and strategic routes both in the past and at present, has had a clear impact on the religious, ethnic and language composition of its people.

Historical findings indicate that the first people to come to Ethiopia were Hamites who later missed with the indigenous Nilotic people. The first in-migration was then followed by Semitic people who eventually settled along the coast and adjacent territories in northern and eastern Ethiopia.

They pushed their way later to the central north-west and further to the south-west. Thus Ethiopia contains in its fourteen administrative regions, a very complex pattern and a great variety of ethnic and linguistic groups.

According to Bender et al (1976 G.C) the commonest kind of language classification is into “families” which are regarded as having evolved from a single “ancestor language” called the protolanguage of the family.

Ethiopia is inhabited by four major ethnic and linguistic families; the Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilotic peoples.

These speak altogether seventy to eighty different languages of which about twelve are Semitic, twenty-two Cushitic, eighteen Omotic and eighteen Nilo-Saharan. Although the number of languages spoken as mother tongues in the country is large, fourteen languages cover about 93% of the total population, a little over two-thirds of the population is represented by only three major languages, namely Orominya, Amarinya and Tigrinya.

In Ethiopia there are three writing systems in use namely the Amharic syllabary (Geez Alphabet), the Roman alphabet and the Arabic script. Amarinya is more highly developed than other languages.

It is the most widely spoken and is the working language of the state. Tigrinya is the only other Ethiopian language which is reasonably standardized and in regular written use using the same Geez syllabary as Amarinya. English is used as a medium of instruction in the secondary school system and above; and Arabic is the religious language used by Moslem Ethiopians of various mother tongues.
 

(Source: National Atlas of Ethiopia)

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