Northwest Semitic languages

Northwest Semitic languages

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The Northwest Semitic languages form a medium-level division of the Semitic language family
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

. The languages of this group are spoken by approximately eight million people today. The group is generally divided into three branches: Ugaritic
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 (extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

), Canaanite
Canaanite languages
The Canaanite languages are a subfamily of the Semitic languages, which were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, including Canaanites, Israelites and Phoenicians...

 (including Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

) and Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

. Semiticists group the Northwest Semitic languages together with Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 to form the larger Central Semitic
Central Semitic languages
The Central Semitic languages are a proposed intermediate group of Semitic languages, comprising Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages ....

 group.

The extinct Ugaritic language
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 is the earliest witness to Northwest Semitic. Phonologically
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, Ugaritic has lost the sound
The Northwest Semitic languages form a medium-level division of the
Semitic language family
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

. The languages of this group are spoken by approximately eight million people today. The group is generally divided into three branches: Ugaritic
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 (extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

), Canaanite
Canaanite languages
The Canaanite languages are a subfamily of the Semitic languages, which were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, including Canaanites, Israelites and Phoenicians...

 (including Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

) and Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

. Semiticists group the Northwest Semitic languages together with Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 to form the larger Central Semitic
Central Semitic languages
The Central Semitic languages are a proposed intermediate group of Semitic languages, comprising Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages ....

 group.

The extinct Ugaritic language
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 is the earliest witness to Northwest Semitic. Phonologically
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, Ugaritic has lost the sound
The Northwest Semitic languages form a medium-level division of the
Semitic language family
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

. The languages of this group are spoken by approximately eight million people today. The group is generally divided into three branches: Ugaritic
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 (extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

), Canaanite
Canaanite languages
The Canaanite languages are a subfamily of the Semitic languages, which were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, including Canaanites, Israelites and Phoenicians...

 (including Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

) and Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

. Semiticists group the Northwest Semitic languages together with Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 to form the larger Central Semitic
Central Semitic languages
The Central Semitic languages are a proposed intermediate group of Semitic languages, comprising Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages ....

 group.

The extinct Ugaritic language
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 is the earliest witness to Northwest Semitic. Phonologically
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, Ugaritic has lost the sound {{unicode
DAD
DAD is an abbreviation that may refer to:* D-A-D, a Danish rock band formerly known as "Disneyland After Dark"* Diode array detector, a type of detector in HPLC* Da Nang International Airport IATA airport code...

, replacing it with /sˤ/ ({{unicode
Tsade
' is the eighteenth letter in many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew ' and Arabic ' . Its oldest sound value is probably , although there is a variety of pronunciation in different modern Semitic languages and their dialects...

) (the same shift occurred in Canaanite and Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

). That this same sound became /ʕ/
Ayin
' or ' is the sixteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic . It is the twenty-first letter in the new Persian alphabet...

 in Aramaic (although in Ancient Aramaic, it was written with qoph
Qoph
Qoph or Qop is the nineteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Hebrew and Arabic alphabet . Its sound value is an emphatic or . The OHED gives the letter Qoph a transliteration value of Q or a K and a final transliteration value as a ck...

), suggests that Ugaritic is not the parent language of the group. An example of this sound shift can be seen in the word for earth: Ugaritic /ʔarsˤ/ ({{unicode|’arṣ}}), Hebrew /ʔɛrɛsˤ/ ({{unicode|’ereṣ}}) and Aramaic /ʔarʕaː/ ({{unicode|’ar‘ā’}}).

Prior to the spread of Aramaic during the Neo-Assyrian Empire (934-608 BC, see also Imperial Aramaic), they were spoken throughout the area that is covered by modern-day Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Palestine
State of Palestine
Palestine , officially declared as the State of Palestine , is a state that was proclaimed in exile in Algiers on 15 November 1988, when the Palestine Liberation Organization's National Council adopted the unilateral Palestinian Declaration of Independence...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, and the Sinai
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

. The vowel shift from *aː to /oː/
Canaanite shift
In historical linguistics, the Canaanite shift is a sound change that took place in the Canaanite dialects, which belong to the Northwest Semitic branch of the Semitic languages family. This sound change caused Proto-NW-Semitic *ā to turn into ō in Proto-Canaanite...

 distinguishes Canaanite from Ugaritic. Also, in the Canaanite group, the series of Semitic interdental
Interdental consonant
Interdental consonants are produced by placing the blade of the tongue against the upper incisors...

 fricatives
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

 become sibilants
Sibilant consonant
A sibilant is a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the sharp edge of the teeth, which are held close together. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words sip, zip, ship, chip,...

: *ð ({{unicode
Dal
Dal is a preparation of pulses which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split. It also refers to the thick stew prepared from these, an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi cuisine...

), *θ ({{unicode) and *θ̣ ({{unicode) became /z/
Zayin
Zayin is the seventh letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Aramaic , Hebrew , Syriac and Perso-Arabic alphabet...

, /ʃ/ (š
Shin (letter)
Shin literally means "Sharp" ; It is the twenty-first letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Aramaic/Hebrew , and Arabic ....

) and /sˤ/ ({{unicode
Tsade
' is the eighteenth letter in many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew ' and Arabic ' . Its oldest sound value is probably , although there is a variety of pronunciation in different modern Semitic languages and their dialects...

) respectively. The effect of this sound shift can be seen by comparing the following words:
shift Ugaritic Aramaic Biblical Hebrew translation
*ð ({{unicode
Dal
Dal is a preparation of pulses which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split. It also refers to the thick stew prepared from these, an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi cuisine...

)→/z/
Zayin
Zayin is the seventh letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Aramaic , Hebrew , Syriac and Perso-Arabic alphabet...

{{unicode|ḏhb}} דהב
/dəhab/
({{unicode|dəhaḇ}})
זהב
/zaˈhab/
zahab
gold
*θ ({{unicode)→/ʃ/ (š
Shin (letter)
Shin literally means "Sharp" ; It is the twenty-first letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Aramaic/Hebrew , and Arabic ....

)
{{unicode|ṯlṯ}} תלת
/təlaːt/
({{unicode|təlāṯ}})
שלוש/שלש
/ʃaˈloʃ/
šaloš
three
*θ̣ ({{unicode)→/sˤ/ ({{unicode
Tsade
' is the eighteenth letter in many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew ' and Arabic ' . Its oldest sound value is probably , although there is a variety of pronunciation in different modern Semitic languages and their dialects...

)
{{unicode|ṱw}} טור
/tˤuːr/
({{unicode|ṭûr}})
צור
/sˤur/
çur (ṣur)
mountain

See also

  • Aramaic language
    Aramaic language
    Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

  • Hebrew language
    Hebrew language
    Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

  • Ugaritic language
    Ugaritic language
    The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

  • Semitic Languages
    Semitic languages
    The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

  • Proto-Semitic language
    Proto-Semitic language
    Proto-Semitic is the hypothetical proto-language ancestral to historical Semitic languages of the Middle East. Locations which have been proposed for its origination include northern Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant with a 2009 study proposing that it may have originated around...