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  • The Somali language is a member of the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.

  • It is most closely related to Oromo and Afar. Somali has borrowed a certain number of words from Arabic since the arrival of Islam, mainly in the religious domain. It has also borrowed words from English and Italian from colonial times.

  • It is spoken mostly in Somalia and adjacent parts of Djibouti (majority), Ethiopia, and Kenya. Its speakers are known as the Somalis. Because of the civil war and migration, speakers are found all over the world. The exact number of speakers is unknown but is estimated to be between 15 and 25 million.

  • Somali written in the Latin alphabet.

  • Saeed (1999) divides the dialects into 3 main groups: Northern, Benaadir and Maay. Northern Somali (or Northern-Central Somali) is also known as Common or Standard Somali. Benaadir is also known as Coastal Somalia - it is spoken on the Banaadir Coast (from Cadale to south of Baraawe, including Mogadishu), and in the immediate hinterland. The coastal dialects have additional phonemes which do not exist in Common Somali.

  • The Digil and Mirifle (sometimes called Rahanweyn) live in the southern areas of Somalia. Recent research (Diriye Abdullahi, 2000) has shown that, although previously classified with Somali, their languages and dialects are incomprehensible to Somali speakers. The most important language of the Digil and Mirifle is Maay. Other languages in this category are the Jiido, the Dabare, the Garre, and Tunni Central. Of all these, the Jiido is the most incomprehensible to Somali speakers. One important aspect in which the languages of the Digil and Mirifle differ from Somali is the lack of pharyngeal sounds.

  • Somali is an agglutinative language.

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