Tigre language

ቲግሬ Tigre, ኻሳ Xasa
Spoken in Eritrea, Sudan
Native speakers 800,000 in Eritrea  (1997)
Language family
  • Semitic
    • South Semitic
      • Ethiopic
        • North Ethiopic
          • Tigre
Language codes
ISO 639-2 tig
ISO 639-3 tig

For other uses please see Tigre (disambiguation)

Tigre (Ge'ez ትግረ tigre or ትግሬ tigrē; sometimes written as Tigré, also known as Xasa in Sudan; Arabic الخاصية ḫāṣiyah) is a Semitic language, which, along with Tigrinya, is believed to be one of direct descendants of the extinct Ge'ez language. (Ge'ez is still in use as the liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.) As of 1997, Tigré was spoken by approximately 800,000 people in Eritrea.[1] The Tigre people are nearly all found in western Eritrea, with the remainder inhabiting the adjacent part of Sudan. In Eritrea, they inhabit the central and northern plateau and the Red Sea shores north of Zula. Traditionally, the local language of the Dahlak Archipelago, Dahlik, has been considered a dialect of Tigré, but recently one researcher has reassessed this view.

The Tigré people are not be confused with their neighbors to the south, the Tigrinya people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The northern Ethiopian province which is now named the Tigray Region is a territory of the Tigrinyas.

Traditionally, the Arabic alphabet was used to write Tigré, at least among Muslims. The Ge'ez alphabet has been used since the 1902 translation of the New Testament by Tewolde-Medhin Gebre-Medhin, Dawit Amanuel, and Swedish missionaries. Many Muslim Tigrés still use the Arabic alphabet.[citation needed]



Tigré has preserved the two pharyngeal consonants of Ge'ez. The Ge'ez vowel inventory has almost been preserved except that the two vowels which are phonetically close to [ɐ] and [a] seem to have evolved into a pair of phonemes which have the same quality (the same articulation) but differ in length; [a] vs. [aː]. The original phonemic distinction according to quality survives in Tigrinya and Amharic. The vowel [ɐ], traditionally named "first order vowel", is most commonly transcribed ä in Semitic linguistics.

The phonemes of Tigré are displayed below in both International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols (indicated by the IPA brackets) and the symbols common (though not universal) among linguists who work on Ethiopian Semitic languages. For the long vowel /aː/, the symbol 'ā' is used per Raz (1983). Three consonants, /p, p', x/, occur only in a small number of loanwords, hence they are written in parentheses.

As in other Ethiopian Semitic languages, the phonemic status of /ə/ is questionable; it may be possible to treat it as an epenthetic vowel that is introduced to break up consonant clusters.

Labial Dental Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless (p) t č [tʃ] k ʔ
voiced b d ǧ [dʒ] ɡ
ejective (pʼ) č' [tʃʼ]
Fricative voiceless f s š [ʃ] (x) ħ h
voiced z ž [ʒ] ʕ
Approximant l y [j] w
Rhotic r
Front Central Back
Close i ə [ɨ] u
Mid e o
Open a, ā [aː]

Consonant length

Consonant length is phonemic in Tigré (that is, a pair of words can be distinct by consonant length alone), although there are few such minimal pairs. Some consonants do not occur long; these include the pharyngeal consonants, the glottal consonants, /w/, and /j/. In this language, long consonants arise almost solely by gemination as a morphological process; there are few, if any, long consonants in word roots. Gemination is especially prominent in verb morphology.

See also


External links

'[1] Awkir


  • Voigt, Rainer (2008), "Zum Tigre", in: Aethiopica (International Journal of Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies), volume 11, Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag 2008, pp. 173–193.
  • Beaton, A.C. & A. Paul (1954). A grammar and vocabulary of the Tigre language (as spoken by the Beni Amer). Khartoum: Publications Bureau.
  • Elias, David L. (2005). Tigre of Habab: Short Grammar and Texts from the Rigbat People. Ph.D dissertation. Harvard University.
  • Leslau, Wolf. (1945) Short Grammar of Tigré. Publications of the American Oriental Society, Offprint Series, No. 18. New Haven: American Oriental Society.
  • Leslau, Wolf. (1945), "The Verb in Tigré", in: Journal of the American Oriental Society 65/1, pp. 1–26.
  • Leslau, Wolf. (1945), "Grammatical Sketches in Tigré (North Ethiopic): Dialect of Mensa", in: Journal of the American Oriental Society 65/3, pp. 164–203.
  • Leslau, Wolf. (1948), "Supplementary observations on Tigré grammar", in: Journal of the American Oriental Society 68/3, pp. 127–139.
  • Littmann, E. (1897), "Die Pronomina in Tigré", in: Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 12, pp. 188–230, 291-316.
  • Littmann, Enno. (1898), "Das Verbum der Tigre-Sprache", in: Zeitschrift für Assyrologie 13, pp. 133–178; 14, pp. 1–102.
  • Littmann, Enno. (1910–15). Publications of the Princeton expedition to Abyssinia, 4 vols. in 4, Leyden.
  • Littmann, Enno. and Höfner, Maria. (1962) Wörterbuch der Tigrē-Sprache: Tigrē-Deutsch-Englisch. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.
  • Nakano, Aki'o & Yoichi Tsuge (1982). A Vocabulary of Beni Amer Dialect of Tigre. Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa.
  • Palmer, F.R. (1956). "'Openness' in Tigre: a problem in prosodic statement", in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 18/3, pp. 561–577.
  • Palmer, F.R. (1961). "Relative clauses in Tigre", in: Word 17/1, pp. 23–33.
  • Palmer, F.R. (1962). The morphology of the Tigre noun. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Raz, Shlomo. (1980). "Tigre syntax and Semitic Ethiopian", in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 43/2, pp. 235–250.
  • Raz, Shlomo. (1980). "The morphology of the Tigre verb (Mansaʿ dialect)", in: Journal of Semitic Studies 25/1, pp. 66–84; 25/2, pp. 205–238.
  • Raz, Shlomo. (1983). Tigre grammar and texts. Malibu, California, USA: Undena Publications.
  • Sundström, R. (1914). "Some Tigre texts", in: Le Monde Orientale 8, pp. 1–15.

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