Lowland East Cushitic languages

Lowland East Cushitic[1] is a group of roughly two dozen diverse languages of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. Its largest representatives are Somali and Oromo.

Lowland East Cushitic
Horn of Africa
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic


Lowland East Cushitic classification from Tosco (2020:297):[2]

Highland East Cushitic is a coordinate (sister) branch with Lowland East Cushitic in Tosco's (2020) classification.[2]

'Core' East Cushitic classification form Bender (2020 [2008]: 91). Saho–Afar is excluded, making it equivalent to Tosco's Southern Lowland East Cushitic, and Yaaku is moved into Western Omo–Tana ('Arboroid'):[3]

Highland East Cushitic and Afar–Saho are coordinate (sister) branches with Lowland East Cushitic, together forming East Cushitic.


Lowland East Cushitic is often grouped with Highland East Cushitic (the Sidamic languages), Dullay, and Yaaku as East Cushitic, but that group is not well defined and considered dubious.

The most spoken Lowland East Cushitic language is Oromo, with about 35 million speakers in Ethiopia and Kenya. The Konsoid dialect cluster is closely related to Oromo. Other prominent languages include Somali (spoken by ethnic Somalis in Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya) with about 30 million speakers, and Afar (in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti) with about 1.5 million.

Robert Hetzron has suggested that the Rift languages (South Cushitic) are a part of Lowland East Cushitic,[4] and Kießling & Mous (2003) have suggested more specifically that they be linked to a Southern Lowland branch, together with Oromo, Somali, and YaakuDullay.

The vocabulary of the mixed register of Mbugu (Ma'a) may also be East Cushitic (Tosco 2002), though the grammatical basis and the other register are Bantu.

Unclassified within the Lowland languages are Girirra and perhaps the endangered Boon.

Savà and Tosco (2003) believe Ongota is an East Cushitic language with a Nilo-Saharan substratum—that is, that Ongota speakers shifted to East Cushitic from an earlier Nilo-Saharan language, traces of which still remain. However, Fleming (2006) considers it to be an independent branch of Afroasiatic.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Richard Hayward, "Afroasiatic", in Heine & Nurse, 2000, African Languages
  2. ^ a b Tosco, Mauro. 2020. East Cushitic. In: Vossen, Rainer and Gerrit J. Dimmendaal (eds.). 2020. The Oxford Handbook of African Languages, 290-299. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Bender, M. Lionel. (2020). Cushitic Lexicon and Phonology. ed. Grover Hudson. (Schriften zur Afrikanistik / Research in African Studies, 28). Berlin: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3-631-60089-4
  4. ^ Robert Hetzron, "The Limits of Cushitic", Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 2. 1980, 7–126.
  • Roland Kießling & Maarten Mous. 2003. The Lexical Reconstruction of West-Rift Southern Cushitic. Cushitic Language Studies Volume 21
  • Tosco, Mauro. 2000. 'Cushitic Overview.' Journal of Ethiopian Studies 33(2):87-121.
  • Savà, Graziano and Mauro Tosco. 2003. "The classification of Ongota". In Bender et al. eds, Selected comparative-historical Afrasian linguistic studies. LINCOM Europa.

Further readingEdit

  • Black, Paul David. 1974. Lowland East Cushitic: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Yale University. Doctoral dissertation, New Haven: Yale University.