- Tigrinya: ትግርኛ (tigriññā)
Tigrinya (Ge'ez: ትግርኛ, tigriññā), also spelled Tigrigna, Tigrina, less commonly Tigrinian, Tigrinyan, is a Semitic language spoken by the Tigray-Tigrinya people in central Eritrea (there referred to as the "Tigrinya" people), where it is one of the two official languages of Eritrea, and in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia (whose speakers are called "Tigray"), where it also has official status, and among groups of emigrants from these regions, including some of the Beta Israel now living in Israel. Tigrinya is also spoken by the Jeberti (Muslim Tigrinya) in Eritrea. Tigrinya should not be confused with the related Tigre language, which is spoken in the lowland regions in Eritrea to the north and west of the region where Tigrinya is spoken.
History and literatureThe earliest written example of Tigrinya is a text of local laws found in the district of Logosarda, southern Eritrea which date from the 13th century.
In Eritrea, during British administration, the Ministry of information put out a weekly newspaper in Tigrinya which cost 5 cents and sold 5,000 copies weekly. At the time it was reported to be the first of its kind.
Tigrinya (along with Arabic) was one of Eritrea's official languages during its short-lived federation with Ethiopia; in 1958 it was replaced with Amharic prior to its annexation.
SpeakersThere is no generally agreed upon name for the people who speak Tigrinya. A native of Tigray is referred to in Tigrinya as (male), (female), or tegaru(plural). In Eritrea, Tigrinya speakers are officially known as the Bihér-Tigrigna which means nation of Tigrigna/Tigrinya speakers. Bihér roughly means nation in the ethnic sense of the word in Tigrinya, Tigre and Amharic as well as in Ge'ez from where all these languages originate. Muslim native Tigrigna speakers are known as the Jeberti, an Arabic name which implies conversion to Islam among Africans and is also used by a Somali sub-clan.
In Ethiopia, Tigrinya is the third most spoken language, after Amharic and Oromo, while in Eritrea, Tigrinya is by far the most spoken language (see Demographics of Eritrea). Tigrigna is spoken by immigrants in Italy, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada and United States.
Tigrinya dialects differ phonetically, lexically, and grammatically. However, speakers and readers apparently have no difficulty understanding each other. So far no dialect appears to be accepted as a standard. This article does not pretend to cover dialectal variation.
Consonant phonemesTigrinya has a fairly typical set of phonemes for an Ethiopian Semitic language. That is, there is a set of ejective consonants and the usual seven-vowel system. Unlike many of the modern Ethiopian Semitic languages, Tigrinya has preserved the two pharyngeal consonants which were apparently part of the ancient Ge'ez language and which, along with [x'], a velar or uvular ejective fricative, make it easy to distinguish spoken Tigrinya from related languages such as Amharic, though not from Tigre, which has also maintained the pharyngeal consonants.
The charts below show the phonemes of Tigrinya. The sounds are shown using the same system for representing the sounds as in the rest of the article. When the IPA symbol is different, it is indicated in square brackets.
The consonant /v/ appears in parentheses because it occurs only in recent borrowings from European languages.
Vowel phonemesThe sounds are shown using the same system for representing the sounds as in the rest of the article. When the IPA symbol is different, it is indicated in square brackets.
GeminationGemination, a linguistic term meaning the doubling of a consonantal sound, is meaningful in Tigrinya, i.e. it affects the meaning of words. While gemination plays an important role in the morphology of the Tigrinya verb, it is normally accompanied by other marks. But there is a small number of pairs of words, which are only differentiable from each other by gemination, e.g. k'ärräbä, "he came near"; k'äräbä, "he was near". All the consonants, with the exception of the pharyngeal and glottal, are amenable to gemination.
AllophonesThe velar consonants /k/ and /k'/ are pronounced differently when they appear immediately after a vowel and are not geminated. In these circumstances, /k/ is pronounced as a velar fricative. /k'/ is pronounced as a fricative, or sometimes as an affricate. This fricative or affricate is more often pronounced further back, in the uvular place of articulation (although it is represented in this article with [x']). All of these possible realizations - velar ejective fricative, uvular ejective fricative, velar ejective affricate and uvular ejective affricate - are cross-linguistically very rare sounds.
Since these two sounds are completely conditioned by their environments, they can be considered allophones of /k/ and /k'/. This is especially clear from verb roots in which one consonant is realized as one or the other allophone depending on what precedes it. For example, for the verb meaning cry, which has the triconsonantal root , there are forms such as ምብካይ mǝbkay (to cry) and በኸየ bäxäyä (he cried), and for the verb meaning steal, which has the triconsonantal root , there are forms such as ይሰርቁ yǝsärk'u (they steal) and ይሰርቕ yǝsärrǝx' (he steals).
What is especially interesting about these pairs of phones is that they are distinguished in Tigrinya orthography. Because allophones are completely predictable, it is quite unusual for them to be represented with distinct symbols in the written form of a language.
SyllablesA Tigrinya syllable may consist of a consonant-vowel or a consonant-vowel-consonant sequence. When three consonants (or one geminated consonant and one simple consonant) come together within a word, the cluster is broken up with the introduction of an epenthetic vowel /ǝ/, and when two consonants (or one geminated consonant) would otherwise end a word, the vowel /i/ appears after them, or (when this happens because of the presence of a suffix) ǝ is introduced before the suffix. For example,
- ከብዲ käbdi 'stomach', ልቢ lǝbbi 'heart'
- -äy 'my', ከብደይ käbdäy 'my stomach', ልበይ lǝbbäy 'my heart'
- -ka 'your (masc.)', ከብድኻ käbdǝxa 'your (masc.) stomach', ልብኻ lǝbbǝxa 'your (masc.) heart'
- -n...-n 'and', ከብድን ልብን käbdǝn lǝbbǝn 'stomach and heart'
Stress is neither contrastive nor particularly salient in Tigrinya. It seems to depend on gemination, but it has apparently not been systematically investigated.
- Main article: Tigrinya grammar
Typical grammatical featuresGrammatically, Tigrinya is a typical Ethiopian Semitic (ES) language in most ways:
- A Tigrinya noun is treated as either masculine or feminine. However, most inanimate nouns do not have a fixed gender.
- Tigrinya nouns have plural, as well as singular, forms, though the plural is not obligatory when the linguistic or pragmatic context makes the number clear. As in Tigre and Ge'ez (as well as Arabic), noun plurals may be formed through internal changes ("broken" plural) as well as through the addition of suffixes. For example, ፈረስ färäs 'horse', ኣፍራሰ ’afras 'horses'.
- Adjectives behave in most ways like nouns. Most Tigrinya adjectives, like those in Tigre and Ge'ez, have feminine and plural (both genders) forms. For example, ጽቡቕ s'ǝbbux' 'good (m.sg.)', ጽብቕቲ s'ǝbbǝx'ti 'good (f.sg.)', ጽቡቓት s'ǝbbux'at 'good (pl.)'
- Within personal pronouns and subject agreement inflections on verbs, gender is distinguished in second person as well as third. For example, ተዛረብ täzaräb 'speak! (m.sg.)', ተዛረቢ täzaräbi 'speak (f.sg.)'.
- Possessive adjectives take the form of noun suffixes: ገዛ gäza 'house', ገዛይ gäza-y 'my house', ገዛኺ gäza-xi 'your (f.sg.) house'.
- Verbs are based on consonantal roots, most consisting of three consonants: 'break', ሰበረ säbärä 'he broke', ይሰብር yǝsäbbǝr 'he breaks', ምስባር mǝsbar 'to break'.
- Within the tense system there is a basic distinction between the perfective form, conjugated with suffixes and denoting the past, and the imperfective form, conjugated with prefixes and in some cases suffixes, and denoting the present or future: ሰበሩ säbär-u 'they broke', ይሰብሩ yǝ-säbr-u 'they break'.
- As in Ge'ez and Amharic, there is also a separate "gerundive" form of the verb, conjugated with suffixes and used to link verbs within a sentence: ገዲፍካ ተዛረብ gädifka täzaräb 'stop (that) and speak (m.sg.)'.
- Verbs also have a separate jussive/imperative form, similar to the imperfective: ይስበሩ yǝ-sbär-u 'let them break'.
- Through the addition of derivational morphology (internal changes to verb stems and/or prefixes), verbs may be made passive, reflexive, causative, frequentative, reciprocal, or reciprocal causative: ፈለጡ fälät'-u 'they knew', ተፈልጡ tä-fält'-u 'they were known', ኣፈልጡ ’a-fält'-u 'they caused to know (they introduced)', ተፋለጡ tä-falät'-u 'they knew each other', ኣፋለጡ ’a-f-falät'-u 'they caused to know each other'.
- Verbs may take direct object and prepositional pronoun suffixes: ፈለጠኒ fälät'ä-nni 'he knew me', ፈለጠለይ fälät'ä-lläy 'he knew for me'.
- Negation is expressed through the prefix ay- and, in independent clauses, the suffix -n: ኣይፈለጠን ay-fälät'ä-n 'he didn't know'.
- The copula and the verb of existence in the present are irregular: ኣሎ ’allo 'there is, he exists', እዩ 'he is', የለን or የልቦን yällän or yälbon 'there isn't, he doesn't exist', ኣይኰነን aykʷänän 'he isn't', ነበረ näbärä 'he existed, he was, there was', ይኸውን yǝ-xäwwǝn 'he will be', ይነብር yǝ-näbbǝr 'he will exist, there will be'.
- The verb of existence together with object suffixes for the possessor expresses possession ('have') and obligation ('must'): ኣሎኒ ’allo-nni 'I have, I must' (lit. 'there is (to) me').
- Relative clauses are expressed by a prefix attached to the verb: ዝፈለጠ zǝ-fälät'ä 'who knew'
- Cleft sentences, with relative clauses normally following the copula, are very common: መን እዩ ዝፈለጠ män ǝyyu zǝ-fälät'ä 'who knew?' (lit. 'who is he who knew?').
- There is an accusative marker used on definite direct objects. In Tigrinya this is the prefix nǝ-. For example, ሓጐስ ንኣልማዝ ረኺቡዋ ḥagʷäs nǝ’almaz räxibuwwa 'Hagos met Almaz'.
- As in other modern ES languages, the default word order in clauses is subject-object-verb, and noun modifiers usually (though not always in Tigrinya) precede their head nouns.
Peculiarities of Tigrinya grammarTigrinya grammar is unique within ES in several ways:
- For second person pronouns, there is a separate vocative form, used to get a person's attention: ንስኻ nǝssǝxa 'you (m.sg.)', ኣታ ’atta 'you! (m.sg.)'.
- There is a definite article, related (as in English) to the demonstrative adjective meaning 'that': እታ ጓል ’ǝta gʷal 'the girl'.
- The gerundive form is used for past tense, as well as for the linking function as in Ge'ez and Amharic: ተዛሪቡ täzaribu '(he) speaking, he spoke'.
- Yes-no questions are marked by the particle ዶ do following the questioned word: ሓፍተይዶ ርኢኺ ḥaftäydo rǝ’ixi 'did you (f.sg.) see my sister?'.
- The negative circumfix ay- -n may mark nouns, pronouns, and adjectives as well as verbs: ኣይኣነን ay-’anä-n 'not me', ኣይዓብይን ay‘abǝy-ǝn 'not big'
- Tigrinya has an unusually complex tense/aspect system, with many nuances achieved using combinations of the three basic tense/aspect forms (perfect, imperfect, gerundive) and various auxiliary verbs including the copula (እዩ ǝyyu, etc.), the verb of existence (ኣሎ ’allo, etc.), and the verbs ነበረ näbärä 'exist, live', ኮነ konä 'become', ጸንሔ s'änḥe 'stay'.
- Tigrinya has compound prepositions corresponding to the preposition-postposition compounds found in Amharic: ኣብ ልዕሊ ዓራት ab lǝ‘li ‘arat 'on (top of) the bed', ኣብ ትሕቲ ዓራት ab tǝḥti ‘arat 'under the bed'
- Unlike most ES languages, Tigrinya has only one set of prepositional object verb suffixes, used both for the dative and benefactive and for locative and adversative senses: ተቐሚጣሉ täx'ämmit'a-llu 'she sat down for him or 'she sat down on it or 'she sat down to his detriment.
Writing systemTigrinya is written in the Ge'ez script, originally developed for the now-extinct Ge'ez language. Ge'ez and its script are also called "Ethiopic." The Ge'ez script is an abugida: each symbol represents a consonant+vowel syllable, and the symbols are organized in groups of similar symbols on the basis of both the consonant and the vowel. In the table below the columns are assigned to the seven vowels of Tigrinya (and Ge'ez); they appear in the traditional order. The rows are assigned to the consonants, again in the traditional order.
For each consonant in an abugida, there is an unmarked symbol representing that consonant followed by a canonical or inherent vowel. For the Ge'ez abugida, this canonical vowel is /ä/, the first column in the table. However, since the pharyngeal and glottal consonants of Tigrinya (and other Ethiopian Semitic languages) cannot be followed by this vowel, the symbols in the first column in the rows for those consonants are pronounced with the vowel /a/, exactly as in the fourth row. These redundant symbols are falling into disuse in Tigrinya and are shown with a dark gray background in the table. When it is necessary to represent a consonant with no following vowel, the consonant+ə form is used (the symbol in the sixth column). For example, the word ’ǝntay 'what?' is written እንታይ, literally ’ǝ-nǝ-ta-yǝ.
Since some of the distinctions that were apparently made in Ge'ez have been lost in Tigrinya, there are two rows of symbols each for the consonants /h/, /s/, and /s'/. In Eritrea, for /s/ and /s'/, at least, one of these has fallen into disuse in Tigrinya and is now considered old-fashioned. These less-used series are shown with a dark gray background in the chart.
The orthography does not mark gemination, so the pair of words k'ärräbä 'he approached', k'äräbä 'he was near' are both written ቀረበ. Since such minimal pairs are very rare, this presents no problem to readers of the language.
- Amanuel Sahle (1998) Säwasäsǝw Tǝgrǝñña bǝsäfiḥ. Lawrencevill, NJ, USA: Red Sea Press. ISBN 1-56902-096-5
- Dan'el Täxlu Räda (1996, Eth. Cal.) Zäbänawi säwasəw kʷ'ankʷ'a Təgrəñña. Mäx'älä
- Rehman, Abdel. English Tigrigna Dictionary: A Dictionary of the Tigrinya Language: (Asmara) Simon Wallenberg Press. Introduction Pages to the Tigrinya Language ISBN 1843560062
- Eritrean People's Liberation Front (1985) Dictionary, English-Tigrigna-Arabic. Rome: EPLF.
- ----- (1986) Dictionary, Tigrigna-English, mesgebe qalat tigrinya englizenya. Rome: EPLF.
- Kane, Thomas L. (2000) Tigrinya-English Dictionary (2 vols). Springfield, VA: Dunwoody Press. ISBN 1-881265-68-4
- Leslau, Wolf (1941) Documents tigrigna: grammaire et textes. Paris: Libraire C. Klincksieck.
- Mason, John (Ed.) (1996) Säwasǝw Tǝgrǝñña, Tigrinya Grammar. Lawrenceville, NJ, USA: Red Sea Press. ISBN 0-932415-20-2 (ISBN 0-932415-21-0, paperback)
- Praetorius, F. (1871) Grammatik der Tigriñasprache in Abessinien. Halle. ISBN 3-487-05191-5 (1974 reprint)
- Täxästä Täxlä et al. (1989, Eth. Cal.) Mäzgäbä k'alat Təgrəñña bə-Təgrəñña. Addis Ababa: Nəgd matämiya dərəǧǧət.
- Ullendorff, E. (1985) A Tigrinya Chrestomathy. Stuttgart: F. Steiner. ISBN 3-515-04314-4
- Ze'im Girma (1983) Lǝsanä Ag’azi. Asmara: Government Printing Press.
- Ethnologue entry for Tigrinya
- Tigrinya classes for children of Tigrinya-speaking immigrants in Sweden, including teaching materials.
- Tigrigna online, includes an online English-Tigrinya dictionary.
- Sites with Tigrinya text or sound files (all require a Ge'ez
Unicode font such as
[ftp://ftp.ethiopic.org/pub/fonts/TrueType/gfzemenu.ttf GF Zemen
- Asmarino: Eritrean exile site.
- Meskerem: "Eritrean opposition" website.
- Eritrean government site with links to Haddas Ertra, the daily Tigrinya newspaper in Eritrea.
- Christian recordings in Tigrinya: Global Recordings website.
- Billingual Book - HYAB: Most beautiful Tigrinya / German Picture Book with fabulous tales from Eastafrica.
- Tigrina Learning and Playing Game Board - ጸወታ ፍልጠት: It provides for playfull learning the Geez script and all languages which are written with Geez alphabets.http://www.erikids.net
tigrinya in Arabic: لغة تيغرينية
tigrinya in Aragonese: Idioma tigriña
tigrinya in Breton: Tigrigneg
tigrinya in Bulgarian: Тигриня
tigrinya in Catalan: Tigrinya
tigrinya in German: Tigrinya (Sprache)
tigrinya in Spanish: Tigriña
tigrinya in Esperanto: Tigraja lingvo
tigrinya in Basque: Tigrinyera
tigrinya in Persian: زبان تیگرینیا
tigrinya in French: Tigrinya
tigrinya in Korean: 티그리냐어
tigrinya in Indonesian: Bahasa Tigrinya
tigrinya in Italian: Lingua tigrina
tigrinya in Hebrew: טיגרינית
tigrinya in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kitigrinya
tigrinya in Kurdish: Tigrînya
tigrinya in Ligurian: Lengua tigrinn-a
tigrinya in Dutch: Tigrinya (taal)
tigrinya in Japanese: ティグリニャ語
tigrinya in Norwegian: Tigrinja
tigrinya in Polish: Język tigrinia
tigrinya in Portuguese: Língua tigrínia
tigrinya in Russian: Тигринья
tigrinya in Church Slavic: Тїгрїньскъ ѩзыкъ
tigrinya in Slovenian: Tigrajščina
tigrinya in Finnish: Tigrinja
tigrinya in Swedish: Tigrinska
tigrinya in Tigrinya: ትግርኛ ፊደል
tigrinya in Turkish: Tigrinya dili