Ashraf dialect

Ashraf (Somali: Af-Ashraaf) is a speech variety of uncertain classification within the East Omo-Tana sub-branch found in the Marka district of the Lower Shebelle region and Banaadir region of southern Somalia.

Native toSomalia
Language codes
ISO 639-3(included in som)


According to Blench (2006) there are two sub-dialects: Shingani and Lower Shebelle.[1] As noted in recent work on the speech variety, Green & Jones (2016)[2]:

"What we hope to have illustrated in this talk is that while Marka (Af Ashraaf) may be similar in certain ways to both Northern Somali and Maay, it nonetheless boasts a number of unique properties, particularly in its morphology, that we believe merit its treatment not as a Somali or Maay dialect, but as a language variety of its own"

A similar level of skepticism towards the labelling of other Omo-Tana languages in Somalia (such as Maay, Dabarre, Jiddu, so forth) is expressed in Tosco (2012)[3]:

Tosco's revised model for classifying Omo-Tana, acknowledging both the sociolinguistic situation of Cushitic languages in Somalia labeled as "dialects" of Somali and their actual classification as languages apart from Somali

"It is well-known that the term 'dialects' may refer to different 'things'. Within Somalia, it is safe to say that all the Somali dialects are 'dialects' from a sociolinguistic point of view, that is, in terms of their social role, their general absence in written media, and the speakers' acceptance of Northern-Central Somali as a common medium. From a strictly linguistic point of view, however, mutual comprehension should be assessed and dialects labelled accordingly (as mutually understandable varieties of a language). No classification so far does that."


The phonological inventory of Ashraaf is as follows:

Consonant phonemes
  Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-

Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Plosive b     t d     ɖ k ɡ ʔ  
Fricative (ɸ) (β) f (ð) s ʃ ɣ χ ħ ʕ h
Nasal   m     n            
Trill           r                
Approximant               j      
Lateral approximant           l            
Front Central Back
Close /i/, /iː/ /u/, /uː/
Mid /e/, /eː/ /o/, /oː/
Open /a/, /aː/

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List (ms)
  2. ^ Green, Christopher & Jones, Evan. (2016). A first look at the morphophonology of Marka (Af-Ashraaf) and a comparison to its neighbors.[1]
  3. ^ The Unity and Diversity of Somali Dialectal Variants. In: Nathan Oyori Ogechi, Jane A. Ngala Oduor and Peter Iribemwangi (eds.), The Harmonization and Standardization of Kenyan Languages. Orthography and other aspects. Cape Town: The Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS): 2012: 263-280

Further readingEdit

  • Christopher R. Green & Evan Jones. 2019. Notes on the morphology of Marka (AfAshraaf). In Emily Clem, Peter Jenks & Hannah Sande (eds.), Theory and description in African Linguistics: Selected papers from the 47th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, 119–133. Berlin: Language Science Press. doi:10.5281/zenodo.3367132
  • Ajello, Roberto. 1984. Il focus nell'idioma degli Ashraaf di Shingaani. In Puglielli, Annarita (ed.), Aspetti morfologici, lessicali e della focalizzazione, 133-146. Roma: Dipartimento per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, Ministero degli Affari Esteri (Italia).