Languages of Somalia
See language map.
[See also SIL publications on the languages of Somalia.]
Somali Democratic Republic, Jamhuriyadda Dimugradiga Somaliya. Formerly British and Italian Somaliland. 8,196,000. National or official languages: Somali, Standard Arabic, English. Most of the Arabic and all of the people from India and Italy have left. Literacy rate: 24%–40% (1977 C. Brann). Immigrant languages: Italian (4,000), Ta’izzi-Adeni Spoken Arabic (11,500). Information mainly from B. Andrzejewski 1975, 1978; D. Biber 1984; M. Lamberti 1986; A. Mansur 1986; K. Menkhaus 1989. Blind population: 10,000 (1982 WCE). The number of individual languages listed for Somalia is 13. Of those, all are living languages.
Arabic, Standard [arb] Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic
Aweer [bob] Few if any in Somalia (1991). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Rendille-Boni
Boon [bnl] 59 (2000). Middle Jubba region, Jilib District, scattered in the bush in settlements of 2 or 3 houses with nearest relatives. Alternate names: Af-Boon. Dialects: There are similarities to Somali [som]. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East Nearly extinct.
Dabarre [dbr] 23,000 (2006). Dabarre around Dhiinsoor District, May region; Iroole in Baraawe District, Lower Shabeelle region, and Qansax Dheere. Alternate names: Af-Dabarre. Dialects: Dabarre, Iroole (Af-Iroole). A very distinctive language in the Digil clan family. Dialects are clan names. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali
English [eng] Classification: Indo-European, Germanic, West, English
Garre [gex] 57,500 (2006). Ethnic population: Possibly several hundred thousand (1992). Mostly south, especially Wanle Weyn-Buur Hakaba; Baydhaba, Dhiinsoor, Buurhakaba, and Qoryooley districts; Middle and Lower Shabeelle and Bay regions. Alternate names: Af-Garre. Dialects: Reportedly linguistically similar to Boni [bob]. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali
Jiiddu [jii] 23,000 (2006). Lower Shabeelle Bay and Middle Jubba regions, Qoryooley, Dhiinsoor, Jilib, and Buurhakaba districts. Alternate names: Af-Jiiddu, Jiddu. Dialects: Distinct from Somali [som] and Tunni [tqq], usually grouped under the Digil dialects or languages. Different sentence structure and phonology from Somali. More similar to Somali than to Baiso [bsw]. Some similarities to Konsoid languages and to Gedeo [drs], Alaba-Kabeena [alw], Hadiyya [hdy], and Kambaata [ktb]. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali
Maay [ymm] 1,860,000 in Somalia (2006). South, Gedo region, Middle and Lower Shabeelle, Middle and Lower Jubba, Baay, and Bakool regions. Also in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, United States. Alternate names: Af-Maay, Af-Maay Tiri, Af-May, Af-Maymay, Rahanween, Rahanweyn. Dialects: Af-Helledi. May be more than one language; the dialects form a continuum. Standard Somali [som] is difficult or unintelligible to Maay speakers, except when learned through mass communications, urbanization, and internal movement. Different sentence structure and phonology from Somali. The Rahanwiin (Rahanweyn) clan confederacy speak various Maay dialects or languages. Af-Helledi is a Maay secret language used by hunters. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali
Mushungulu [xma] 23,000 (2006). South, Lower Jubba region, Jamaame District center; urban areas: Kismaayo and Muqdisho. Alternate names: Kimushungulu, Mushunguli. Dialects: May be the same as, or intelligible with, Zigula [ziw] or Shambala [ksb]. Classification: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, G, Zigula-Zaramo (G.30)
Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji [gax] 41,600 in Somalia (2000). Gedo region. Alternate names: Southern Oromo. Dialects: Borana (Booran, Boran). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo
Somali [som] 8,340,000 in Somalia (2006). Population total all countries: 13,871,700. Widespread. Also in Canada, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Finland, Italy, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Yemen. Alternate names: Af-Maxaad Tiri, Af-Soomaali, Common Somali, Standard Somali. Dialects: Northern Somali, Benaadir, Af-Ashraaf (Ashraaf). Northern Somali is basis for Standard Somali. Readily intelligible to Benaadir Somali speakers, but difficult or unintelligible to most Maay [ymm]. Those in Merka and Muqdisho speak Af-Ashraaf, a distinct variety which may have limited inherent intelligibility with Standard Somali. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali
Swahili [swh] 184,000 in Somalia (2006). Mwini in Baraawe (Brava), Lower Shabeelle, and scattered in southern towns; Bajun in Kismaayo District and nearby coast. Most fled to Kenya due to civil war. Dialects: Mwini (Mwiini, Chimwiini, Af-Chimwiini, Barwaani, Bravanese), Bajuni (Kibajuni, Bajun, Af-Bajuun, Mbalazi, Chimbalazi). Classification: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, G, Swahili (G.40)
Tunni [tqq] 23,000 (2006). Lower Shabeelle and Middle Jubba regions, Dhiinsoor, Baraawe, and Jilib districts. Alternate names: Af-Tunni. Dialects: Distinct from Somali [som] or Jiiddu [jii], usually grouped under the Digil dialects or languages. Different sentence structure and phonology from Somali [som]. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali
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