Languages of Somalia


Languages of Somalia

The number of different languages spoken in Somalia is very small in comparison with most African countries. The majority of Somali nationals (including persons of non-Somali origin) speak the Somali language.

Somali is the official language of Somalia. The standard language, also called Common Somali, is thought to be based on a variation spoken in the Northern region of the country. Somali is spoken throughout the country. It is the language featured in books, on television and in the marketplace.

Af-Maay, a dialect of Somali, is confined mainly to the southwest.

The Somali language belongs to the East Cushitic branch of the larger Afro-Asiatic language family.

Two small non-Somali ethnic groups speak dialects of Swahili: the Bajuni people speak Kibajuni and the Bravanese speak Chimwiini.

Arabic is widely spoken in Somalia in religion, commerce and education. Many Somalis also speak English, especially in the former British protectorate of Somaliland in the northwestern part of the country. Italian is also spoken, but mostly among older generations of Somalis.

Languages in education and government

"See also: The language and literacy issue"

In the pre-revolutionary era, English became dominant in the school system and in government, which caused some conflict between elites from northern and southern Somalia. However, the overarching issue was the development of a socio-economic stratum based on mastery of a foreign language. The relatively small proportion of Somalis (less than 10 percent) with a grasp of such a language--preferably English--had access to government positions and the few managerial or technical jobs in modern private enterprises. Such persons became increasingly isolated from their non-literate Somali-speaking brethren, but because the secondary schools and most government posts were in urban areas the socio-economic and linguistic distinction was in large part a rural-urban one. To some extent, it was also a north-south distinction because those educated in the Italian system and even in Italian universities found it increasingly difficult to reach senior government levels.

Even before the 1969 revolution, Somalis had become aware of social stratification and the growing distance, based on language and literacy differences, between ordinary Somalis and those in government. The 1972 decision to designate an official Somali Latin script and require its use in government demolished the language barrier and an important obstacle to rapid literacy growth.

In the years following the institution of the Somali Latin script, Somali officials were required to learn the orthography and attempts were made to inculcate mass literacy--in 1973 among urban and rural sedentary Somalis, and in 1974-75 among nomads. Although a few texts existed in the new script before 1973, in most cases new books were prepared presenting the government's perspective on Somali history and development. Somali scholars also succeeded in developing a vocabulary to deal with a range of subjects from mathematics and physics to administration and ideology.

By the late 1970s, sufficient Somali materials were available to permit the language to be the medium of instruction at all school levels below the university. Arabic was taught to all students, beginning at the elementary level and continuing into the secondary phase.

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=SO "Ethnologue" report on "Languages of Somalia"]
* [http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/afrique/somalie.htm "L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde", "Somalie"]
* [http://www.panafril10n.org/wikidoc/pmwiki.php/PanAfrLoc/Somalia PanAfriL10n page on Somalia]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Somalia — Somali Republic Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliya جمهورية الصومال‎ Jumhūriyyat as Sūmāl‎ …   Wikipedia

  • Languages of the African Union — The languages of the African Union (AU) are languages used by citizens within the member states of the AU. The Union has defined all languages of Africa as official, and currently uses Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese as its working… …   Wikipedia

  • Languages of Africa — There are an estimated 2000 languages spoken in Africa. [ [http://www.panafril10n.org/wikidoc/pmwiki.php/PanAfrLoc/MajorLanguages Major Languages of Africa] ] About a hundred of these are widely used for inter ethnic communication. They fall into …   Wikipedia

  • Somalia — Somalian, adj., n. /soh mah lee euh, mahl yeuh/, n. an independent republic on the E coast of Africa, formed from the former British Somaliland and the former Italian Somaliland. 9,940,232; 246,198 sq. mi. (637,653 sq. km). Cap.: Mogadishu.… …   Universalium

  • Somalia Affair — The Somalia Affair was a Canadian military scandal in the mid 1990s. It began with the brutal 1993 beating death of a Somali teenager, Shidane Arone, at the hands of two Canadian soldiers participating in the United Nations humanitarian efforts… …   Wikipedia

  • Somalia — <p></p> <p></p> Introduction ::Somalia <p></p> Background: <p></p> Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation… …   The World Factbook

  • Languages of South Africa — South Africa has eleven official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Fewer than one percent of South Africans speak a first language other than an official one.[1] Most… …   Wikipedia

  • Languages of Nigeria — Linguistic map of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin …   Wikipedia

  • Languages of Muslim countries — Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur an to the Muhammad literally, word for word, in the Arabic language.Thus, Arabic is regarded as the holy language of Islam. However, there is no single Muslim language per se, as Islam, the faith of… …   Wikipedia

  • Languages of Ethiopia — Ethiopia has many indigenous languages (some 84 according to the Ethnologue, 77 according to the 1994 census)), most of them Afro Asiatic (Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic), plus some that are Nilo Saharan. Charles Ferguson proposed the Ethiopian… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.