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The Gafat language is an extinct South Ethiopian Semitic language that was once spoken along Abbay River (Blue Nile) in Ethiopia, and later speakers pushed south of Gojjam in modern day Eastern Wellega Oromoia region.[2][3] Gafat was related to Harari and Gurage dialects.[4] The records of this language are extremely sparse. There is a translation of the Song of Songs written in the 17th or 18th Century held at the Bodleian Library.

Native toEthiopia
Extinct(date missing)
Language codes
ISO 639-3gft

Charles Beke collected a word list in the early 1840s with difficulty from the few who knew the language, having found that "the rising generation seem to be altogether ignorant of it; and those grown-up persons who profess to speak it are anything but familiar with it."[5] The most recent accounts of this language are the reports of Wolf Leslau, who visited the region in 1947 and after considerable work was able to find a total of four people who could still speak the language. Edward Ullendorff, in his brief exposition on Gafat, concludes that as of the time of his writing, "one may ... expect that it has now virtually breathed its last."[6]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gafat". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Lipinski, Edward. Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. Peeters Publishers. p. 89.
  3. ^ The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 3. p. 128.
  4. ^ Pankhurst, Richard. The Ethiopian Borderlands. The Red Sea Press. p. 89. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  5. ^ Charles T. Beke, "Abyssinia: Being a Continuation of Routes in That Country", Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, 14 (1844), p. 41
  6. ^ Ullendorff, Edward. The Ethiopians: An Introduction to Country and People, Second Edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 131.


  • Adelung, Johann Christoph. (1812). Mithridates, oder allgemeine Sprachkunde. Berlin. [vol. 3, p. 124-125: the same page from the Gafat text of the Song of Songs as in Bruce 1804 below].
  • Beke, Charles Tilstone. (1846). "On the Languages and Dialects of Abyssinia and the Countries to the South", in: Proceedings of the Philological Society 2 (London), pp. 89–107.
  • Bruce, James. (1804). Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, In the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773. 2nd ed. Edinburgh. [vol. 2, pp. 491–499: "Vocabulary of the Amharic, Falashan, Gafat, Agow and Tcheretch Agow Languages"; vol. 7, plate III: a page from the Gafat text of the Song of Songs].
  • Leslau, Wolf (1944), "The Position of Gafat in Ethiopic", in Language 20, pp. 56–65.
  • Leslau, Wolf. (1945). Gafat Documents: Records of a South-Ethiopic Language. American Oriental Series, no. 28. New Haven.
  • Leslau, Wolf. (1956). Etudes descriptive et comparative du gafat (éthiopien méridional). Paris: C. Klincksieck.
  • Ludolf, Hiob, Historia Aethiopica. Francofurti ad Moenum. [there are 3 sentences in Gafat with Latin translation in chapter 10, §60].
  • Franz Praetorius. (1879). Die amharische Sprache. Halle. pp. 13–14.

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