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Index / Languages /
Semitic languages



Living languages
Figures in 1000
% of MENA population
Arabic
288,000 59.0%
Hebrew
4,150 0.9%
Aramaic
340 0.1%
South Arabian
270 0.1%
Ethiopian
65 0.1%
TOTAL
292,800 60.0%
By country
Only showing countries with more than one Semtic language. For the rest, see tables for Arabic.
Iran
1,400 1.9%
Iraq
23,300 81.0%
Israel
5,550 75.0%
Kuwait
2,220 83.0%
Lebanon
3,600 90.0%
Oman
2,750 81.0%
Saudi Arabia
22,575 91.0%
Syria
17,600 87.0%
Turkey
580 0.8%
United Arab Emirates
2,400 50.0%
Yemen
22,350 94.0%

Total calculated to the MENA, with 490 million inhabitants.

Dead languages
Akkadian
Ammonite
Amorite
Coptic
Eblaite
Moabitic
Ugaritic

Language group that includes the languages Arabic, Hebrew in the Middle East region. Semitic languages belong to the Hamito-Semitic family.
Semitic languages are characterized by roots of 3 consonants, from which a large body of verbs and nouns can be derived. Semitic writings are divided into 3 groups: The cuneiform signs of Assyria and Babylonia, and secondly the alphabet of the North Semitic. From these the alphabets of Arabic and Hebrew developed, even if these are very different styles. From North Semitic, the Greek alphabet also grew. The third form has survived into syllabic scripts of modern Ethiopian languages.
Semitic languages consist of 4 groups:

North Peripheral
Akkadian which was spoken in Assyria and Babylonia, and is the oldest Semitic language. It stopped being used as literary language in 1st century CE.

North Central
Hebrew which is the language of Israel today, Aramaic, Ugaritic, and Phoenician, where the two latter no longer exists.

South Central
Arabic in nearly all of its shapes, as well as Maltese which is an offshoot of Arabic.

South Peripheral
South Arabic dialects, and Amharic, as well as other Ethiopian languages.




By Tore Kjeilen