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Tigrigna 

Tigrinya
Merhaba – Welcome

Tigrinya (Tigrinya, Tigray, Tigriññā, ትግርኛ) is a member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. It is closely related to Amharic,Tigré and Ge’ez, an extinct language that is still used in religious practice. It is distantly related to Arabic and Hebrew.

Status

Ethiopia
According to the 2007 census, Tigrigna is spoken by 4.3 million people in Ethiopia, 2.8 million of whom are monolingual speakers of the language. It is the third most commonly spoken language in Ethiopia where it serves as a lingua franca among the country’s different ethnic groups. It is used in the mass media, education, and in government and non-governmental agencies. Population total of all countries is estimated at 6.9 million (Ethnologue).

Eritrea

Tigrigna is spoken by 2.5 million people in Eritrea where it is the de facto national language. It is the most spoken language in the country, and is used in mass media, education, and goverment (Ethnologue).

Israel
There are 10,000 speakers of Tigrigna in Israel (Ethnologue).

Dialects

There is no significant dialectal variation in Tigrigna, but scholars usually divide the language into two mutually intelligible dialects:

Structure

Sound system

Vowels

Tigrigna has seven vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that distinguish word meaning. Vowel sequences are not permitted. There is some disagreement among linguists as to whether Tigrinya has long vowels in addition to short ones.

Front Central Back
Close
i
ɨ
u
Mid
e
ə
o
Open
a
  • /ɨ/ = similar to e in roses
  • /ə/ = a in about

 

Consonants

Tigrigna has a rich consonant system. It has preserved the two pharyngeal consonants /ħ/ and /ʕ/ from the ancient Ge’ez language.

  • Consonant clusters do not occur at the beginning of words.
  • All consonants, except for pharyngeal and glottal, can be doubled (geminated) by holding them for a longer period than their single counterparts. Whether a consonant is single or double makes a difference in word meaning. In writing, double consonants are represented by a double consonant letter.
  • A distinguishing feature of Tigrigna consonants is the presence of emphatic sounds, e.g., /p’/, /t’/, /k’/, //ts’/, and /tʃ”/Emphatic consonants are pronounced with the root of the tongue retracted.
  • /kʷ/, /kʷ’/ are pronounced with a simultaneous rounding of the lips.
  • Consonants in parentheses occur only in borrowed words.

 

Palatal Pharyngeal
plain labialized
voiceless plain
p
t
k
ʔ
voiceless emphatic
p’
t’
k’
kʷ’
voiced
b
d
g
voiceless plain
f
s
ʃ
(x)
(xʷ)
ħ
h
voiceless emphatic
s’
(x’)
(xʷ’)
voiced
(v)
z
ʒ
ʕ
Affricates voiceless plain
ts
voiceless emphatic
ts’
tʃ’
voiced
m
n
ɲ
x
l
Flap/trill
r
w
j
  • /p’, t’, k’, kʷ’, s’, ts’, tʃ’, kʷ’/ are ejective consonants with no equivalents in English.
  • /kʷ, kʷ’/ are pronounced with rounded lips.
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ = s in pleasure
  • /tʃ/ = ch in chap
  • /ʒ/ = s in vision
  • /dʒ/ = j as in joy
  • /ʔ/ = sound between the vowels in uh-oh
  • /ħ, ʕ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /ɲ/ = second n in canyon
  • /j/ = y in yet

 

Grammar

Tigrigna uses suffixes and prefixes attached to roots for representing grammatical information. As in other Semitic languages, morphology is based on tri-consonant roots, from which nouns, adjectives, and verbs are formed by vowel insertion along with prefixation and suffixation.

Nouns and pronouns

  • Like other Afro-Asiatic languages, Tigrigna has two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. Grammatical gender normally coincides with biological gender for people and animals. The gender of most inanimate nouns is not predictable from their form. Nouns are not marked for gender, but modifiers and articles are.
  • 2nd and 3rd person personal pronouns are marked for gender.
  • Adjectives and determiners agree with the nouns they modify in gender.
  • There are two numbers: singular and plural. As in ArabicTigre, and Ge’ez, noun plurals are formed both through the addition of suffixes to the singular form, e.g., gäza ‘house’ and gäzawətti ‘houses’ and through the vowel changes in the root (broken plural), e.g., faras ‘horse’, afras ‘horses.’
  • Tigrigna has definite but no indefinite articles.

 

Verbs
Like other Semitic languages, Tigrigna has a very elaborate verb morphology.

  • Verb roots usually consist of a set of three to five consonants. Different verb forms are derived by applying vowels and suffixes to the roots. A verb form normally has one or more suffixes and prefixes. Sometimes consonants are geminated (doubled).
  • Verbs are marked for person, number, and gender.
  • There are two aspects: imperfective and perfective.
  • Compound tenses are expressed by means of auxiliary verbs.
  • There are four moodsindicativeimperative, and optative.
  • Verbs are marked for voice: active and passive.
  • Verbs are marked for positive and negative.
  • Verbs agree with their subject and sometimes with the direct or indirect object.
  • There are several different classes of verbs, each modifying its stem in a number of different ways.

 

Word order
The basic word order in Tigrigna is Subject-Object-Verb. Modifiers precede the nouns they modify.

Vocabulary

The basic lexicon of Tigrigna is Semitic in origin. Words are based on consonantal roots that can be used in different templates. Roots can have three to five consonants. The templates themselves are consonant-vowel sequences, such as CVCV. Tigrigna has also borrowed heavily from Ge’ezItalian, and English. Examples of loanwords are mekina ‘car’, beera ‘beer’, farmacha ‘pharmacy’.

Hello Selam
Goodbye Dehaan kun
Welcome Merhaba
Please Bejaka (masculine), bejakee (feminine)
Thank you Yekanyeley
I am sorry Aytehazeley
Excuse me Yikrie-ta
Yes Uwe
No Aykonen

 

Below are Tigrigna numbers 1-10.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
hadde
kelete
seleste
arbaate
hamushte
shedushte
shewate
shemonte
teshate
aserte

Writing

Tigrigna is written with an adapted version of the Ge’ez (Ethiopic) script. Originally developed for the Ge’ez language, it first appeared in writing during the 13th century. It is a syllabic script in which each symbol represents a CV (Consonant + Vowel) syllable. The orthography does not mark gemination (doubling of consonants).

Written records include religious texts produced by missionaries. Today, there is a growing number of printed material, including textbooks and literature.

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tigrinya in the Ge’ez (Ethiopic) script and in romanization. Note that “::” represents a period.

ዓንቀፅ 1
ብመንፅር ክብርን መሰልን ኩሎም ሰባት እንትውለዱ ነፃን ማዕሪን እዮም፡፡ ምስትውዓልን ሕልናን ዝተዓደሎም ብምዃኖም ንሕድሕዶም ብሕውነታዊ መንፈስ ክተሓላለዩ ኦለዎም፡፡
Bəmäns̤ər kəbrən mäsälen kulom säbat əntəwläṣu näs̤an maʿərän əyom. Məstəwʿalen ḥəlenan zətäʿadälom bəməxʷanom bəḥəwnätawi mänfäs kətäḥalaläyu aläwom.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Tigrinya?
There is no data on the difficulty of Tigrinya for speakers of English.

4 Responses to Tigrigna

  1. isabella

    We will try.

     
  2. Jesse B.

    Excellent introduction to Tigrinya. Thank you!
    Would you happen to have all those words/phrases written down?

    Thanks again!:)

     
  3. z

    why did they ues fasiledes castles picture for tigrigna language fasiledes castles is not in the tigray region it’s in amhara region and they did even not put fasiledes castles in the amharic language but they just put villege that was not even in the amhara region. why did they not ues axsum picture for tigrigna language but they just put fasiledes castles that was not even in that region ues correct picture?

     

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