Arbore language

Arbore is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken by the Arbore people in southern Ethiopia in a few settlements of Hamer woreda near Lake Chew Bahir.[2]

Native toEthiopia
Regionextreme southwest, Omo region
Native speakers
7,200 (2007 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3arv

That the Arbore language belongs within a "Macro-Somali" (now called Omo-Tana) group was first recognized by Sasse (1974). Other members of this group are Daasanach, Bayso, Rendille, Boni and the various Somali dialects. Omo-Tana itself is a major division of Lowland East Cushitic. Arbore's nearest relatives (jointly classified as Western Omo-Tana) are Daasanach and especially the probably extinct Kenyan language of the Elmolo fishermen of Lake Turkana. The sub-grouping is justified[3] in terms of uniquely shared lexicon and certain common grammatical innovations, amongst which the generalizations of the absolute forms of the 1st person singular and 2nd person singular personal pronouns to subject function, thereby replacing the earlier Proto-Lowland East Cushitic forms, e.g. 2nd personal pronouns, e.g., 2nd person singular tai/u 'thou': ki/u 'thee', but Arbore ke 'thou' and 'thee'.


The phonology of Arbore was described by Hayward (1984). He lists the following phonemes:[4]


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Voiceless plosive (p) t c k ʔ
Voiced plosive b d ɟ g
Ejective (tʼ)
Implosive ɓ ɗ
Voiceless fricative f s ʃ h
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Lateral l
Trill r
Glide w j
  • The two phonemes /p/ and /tʼ/ are described as rare and mostly occurring in loan words.[5] The phoneme /ʃ/ is also rare, and there may be a free variation with /s/.[6]
  • All consonant phonemes except /h, ʃ, ŋ, p, ʔ/ can be geminated.[7]


Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open a


Arbore well exemplifies a number of typical Lowland East Cushitic features such as: a three-term number system (basic unit: singulative: plural) in nouns, within which "polarity" figures, i.e., gender alternations across the various number forms of a lexeme; a morphosyntax thoroughly deployed in distinguishing topic and contrastive focus; great morphophonological complexity in its verbal derivation and inflection.[8] Of historical interest is the language's preservation of at least a dozen verbs of the archaic "Prefix Conjugation", often attributed to Proto-Afroasiatic itself.


  1. ^ 2007 Census
  2. ^ Klaus Wedekind, "Sociolinguistic Survey Report of the Languages of the Gawwada, Tsamay and Diraasha Areas with Excursions to Birayle (Ongota) and Arbore (Irbore) Part II" SIL Electronic Survey Reports SILESR 2002-066. Includes a word-list of Arbore with 320 entries.
  3. ^ Hayward, Richard (1984). The Arbore Language: a First Investigation. Including a Vocabulary. Hamburg: Kuschitische Sprachstudien 2.
  4. ^ Hayward 1984, p. 51, the phoneme characters are altered to reflect the sound values according to the IPA
  5. ^ Hayward 1984, p. 51
  6. ^ Hayward 1984, p. 52
  7. ^ Hayward 1984, p. 54
  8. ^ Hayward, Richard (2003). "Arbore language". Encyclopedia Aethiopica. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Further readingEdit

  • Hayward, Dick. 1984. The Arbore Language: A First Investigation (including a vocabulary). Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
  • Sasse, Hans-Jürgen. 1974. Kuschitistik 1972. in: Voigt, W (ed.) XIII. Deutscher Orientalistentag - Vorträge, pp. 318-328. Wiesbaden: Steiner.

External linksEdit