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Index / Languages / Afro-Asiatic /

By country
Figures in 1000.
% is for national population
Saudi Arabia
60 0.2%
United Arab Emirates
85 1.8%
Yemen 1,000 4.2%

Language used in minority communities across eastern Middle East, native to Somalia and eastern Ethiopia. Ethnologue sets the total world speakers of Somali to be near 14 million, 8.3 million in Somalia and 4 million in Ethiopia (all 2006 estimates). LookLex estimates sets the number of Somali speakers in the Middle East to be slightly more than 1.1 million.
It is classified as part of the Afro-Asiatic language family, of the East Cushitic branch. The other most closely related language in the MENA region is Beja.
The great presence of Somali language in Yemen is mainly a reflection of modern day migration; refugees arriving here as their first leg on the long route to European welfare societies. The Somali presence in Yemen appears not to be long-lasting; those not succeeding in their route towards Europe, will most likely return to some of the many safe regions of Somalia.
Somalis in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are also not permanent residents, but foreign workers with regulated living permits.
Somali has since 1972 used a modified Latin script, then replacing Arabic script.

By Tore Kjeilen