Wales – Cymru - mmxiii -
ISBN 978 1 897999 85 1
Introduction A book with this small number of pages can give, alas, but a sample of the vocabulary of Classical Ethiopic (Ge‘ez), but we hope that what we have been able to gather here may prove useful to those few select and discerning souls who undertake the study of this ancient tongue. It seems that the language of ancient Ethiopia, later the language of its Christian literature and liturgy, was brought from South Arabia (Yemen), retaining its Semitic character and echoing both Arabic and Hebrew in its vocabulary and construction. Like the former, it retains the value of consonants in all positions, but gains in simplicity by dispensing with the definite article: like the latter, it abounds in “of” constructions, using a special form, the construct, for the first noun of the pair. An archaic feature in Ethiopic is the retention of –A accusative. Word recognition is hampered by the prefixing of “and”, “that”, “from”, and so on, and by the lack of a sign to show the doubling of consonants so necessary to define emphatic forms of the verbs - many ordinary verbs are emphatic in form anyway. Prefixes that refine the meaning or mode of verbs include the reflexiveይት- YıT- (compare Hebrewהת־ -hith) and the long Î- ,ኢ-, which makes it negative (as inኢገብረ “he has not done”).We need scarcely remind Ethiopianists that the modern languages Amharic and Tigrinya, although they make use of the Ethiopic script, are very much different phenomena, especially the former: Tigrinya, if you like, is the Italian of the Ethiopic Latin, although actually more complex, with its phrasal verbs and the like, while retaining much of the flavour of the elder speech: indeed, Ethiopic commends itself to the student by its relative straightforwardness and accessibility, especially to those with some acquaintance with one of the other Semitic languages. Some knowledge of the Christian Scriptures is also desirable if the reader wishes to understand the cultural milieu in which the literature exists.