History of the Somali Language:
Interesting Facts about Somali
- The name Somali originally came from the words ‘soo’ and ‘mal’ which mean ‘go and milk it’, which is a reference to the traditional nomadic pastoral society of the Somalis.
- There is approximately 16.6 million Somali speakers around the world, with around 8.3 million of them being residents of Somalia and Djibouti and the rest being residents of Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya.
- Parts of present day Somalia formed part of the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum between the 2nd and 7th Centuries, with Arab tribes establishing the Sultanate of Adal along the coast which borders the Gulf of Aden.
- Many present day Somalis are Sunni Muslims and due to the historical influence of Islam, there are many religious and other terms borrowed from the Arabic language, with a significant borrowing from Persian as well as colonial English and Italian.
- The Somali language attained official language status in the 1970’s and so many new Somali words were created to express concepts in the governmental and educational fields.
- The Somali coastline is 3300km long, connecting both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean which makes it the longest coastline in Africa.
- The tsunami and earthquake that occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2004 had a devastating impact on Somalia, with 289 people reported dead or missing and hundreds left homeless.
- Although Somalia is one of the African countries with the lowest HIV infection rates, around 35% of Somali children under five years old die from dehydration and other epidemics.
- Although Somalia is considered by many to be a 3rd world country, it has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Africa.
Somali to English and English to Somali Translation Services
- Somali was a language with a purely oral tradition until the Osmanya alphabet, which was written from left to right and had letter names taken from Arabic, was developed in 1920.
- It was not until 1972 when Italian and British colonial powers arrived in Somalia that a Latin alphabet was adopted with a number of indigenous writing systems being developed in the early 20th Century.
- The Latin version of the Somali alphabet is currently the most widely used script and was designed by linguistics specifically for the written Somali language, and although it is almost exactly the same, it doesn’t use the letters z, p, and v.
. At least four different scripts have been used to write Somali through its history, they include two native alphabets the Borama script and the Osmanya script, an alphabet derived from Latin and one from Arabic called Wadaad’s writing.
• Somali script uses 21 consonant phonemes and 5 basic vowels. It is an agglutinative language and uses several markers for number, gender and case.
• Somali was also written in a script called Borama or Gadabuursi which was invented by Sheikh Abdurahman Sheikh Nuur of Borama in 1933. However, its use was limited to the small circle of the Sheikh and his associates. At present the official script is based on the Latin alphabet.
• The dialectical variations of Somali are divided into three main groups. They are Benaadir, Maay and Northern. Standard Somali is based on the Northern dialect.
• Somali vocabulary has many loanwords from Persian, Arabic and also from Italian and English due to colonial rule in the past.
• Afar and Oromo languages are the closest relatives of Somali.