SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Appleyard, David L. (1975) The Semitic Basis of the Amharic Lexicon. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (58MB) | Preview


This thesis sets out to examine the make-up of the Amharic vocabulary, principally from the point of view of Amharic as a Semitic language. There can be no doubt that Amharic is a Semitic language in accordance with all the tenets and methods of standard language classification. Typically this does not rely primarily on lexical evidence, but more on the "conservative" levels of analysis, such as morphology. The level of the lexicon probably occupies the opposite position to morphology in so fair as it is typically the least conservative and the most subject to innovation and outside influence. It is this sensitivity of the lexicon to extra-linguistic factors such as ethnic contacts, cultural patterns and directions, influences from outside the community (political, commercial, or intellectual), find so on that provides the value of this kind of study of the vocabulary of a language. The first part of this thesis examines the Semitic basis of the Amharic lexicon from the angle of the straightforward dictionary-list and then from the evidence of various texts, the latter taking into account the important factor of relative word frequencies. The figures from these analyses reveal that approximately 73% of the identifiable roots in the lexicon are of inherited Semitic origin and that this proportion increases to an average of 85% in the texts; that is to say, that, generally speaking, the higher frequency roots are overwhelmingly of inherited Semitic origin. The principal other constituent sources of vocabulary in Amharic are, in descending order, Cushitic (especially Agaw), Arabic, Ge'ez, Aramaic and Hebrew, and finally European languages. The second part of this thesis examines in detail, by means of individual etymological discussions of representative items, a number of semantic fields chosen to cover a wide spectrum of culturally specific and non-specific vocabulary. The overall trend here reflects the principle that much of the general, or basic vocabulary of Amharic in all fields is inherited Semitic, whilst loan elements, of whatever origin, are typically names of specific objects.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:14

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item