Ethiopian Alphabet

What is Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and is a landlocked country in the region known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with many countries, most notably Eritrea, which has a history of conflict with the nations in the area and has committed various human rights violations in the last few years. Ethiopia is home to over 110 million inhabitants, making it the 2nd-most populous country in Africa. The capital city of Ethiopia is Addis Ababa, which is also the largest city in the country.

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state, including over 80 different cultural groups in the country. While there are a plethora of faiths, Christianity is known as the most professed faith in the country. There are significant minority groups that practice Islam and those who still adhere to traditional and historical beliefs in many pockets of the country. Addis Ababa also serves as the headquarters of the African Union and various other economic, institutional, and social constructs of the African continent. Although Ethiopia is considered an emerging power, it is rife with many problems that plague traditionally poor countries, such as a low literacy rate of 49%.

What is Ge'ez Script?

The Ge'ez script is a form of language and dialect that is used in many languages throughout Ethiopia, some parts of Eritrea, and throughout the Horn of Africa. It was originally derived from a consonant-only alphabet named abjad, which developed into the Ge'ez script, particularly for the use of the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean Orthodox and Catholic Church. The script is also used by the significant minority groups that observe Judaism throughout Ethiopia. Ge'ez language is also called the Ethiopic text.

The script itself has been adapted over time to write other languages, particularly throughout many dialects and languages of Ethiopia - there are at least 20 other languages.

History of the Ge'ez Script

Ge'ez script originally came from the Ancient South Arabian script which was initially created and centered around the country of what is now Yemen. Early inscriptions of Semitic languages in both Eritrea and Ethiopia date back to the 9th century BCE, known as an abjad, a unique consonant-only alphabet. After the 6th century BCE, variants of this script arose which later branched off into various directions, including the Ge'ez script that is used as a basis of many alphabets today. The oldest recorded use of the script can be found in the Hawulti obelisk in Eritrea.

The script has 26 consonant letters, which are comparably smaller than the inventory of 29 consonants in the South Arabian written system. According to the beliefs of Eritrea and Ethiopian Orthodox churches, the original form of the script was revealed to Enos (a notable biblical figure) as an instrument for inscribing the laws. It is a point of contention that the vowel pattern f the script reflects the South Asian system, while on the other hand, it was developed by the king of the Sabaean dynasty, which ruled both Eritrea and Ethiopia around 1300 BCE.

Ethiopian Alphabet