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Tigrinya language

Pronunciation [tɨɡrɨɲa]
Native to Eritrea, Ethiopia
Region Eritrea, Tigray Region
Native speakers
6.9 million (2006 – 2007 census)
Tigrinya alphabet (Ge'ez script)
Official status
Official language in
Eritrea, Ethiopia
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ti
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3
Glottolog tigr1271
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Tigrinya (properly Tigrigna; /tɪˈɡrnjə/ (ትግርኛ təgrəñña) is an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic branch. It is mainly spoken in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa, with around 6,915,000 total speakers. Tigrinya speakers in Ethiopia (known as Tigrayans; Tigrawot; feminine Tigrāweyti, male Tigraway, plural Tegaru) number around 4,320,000 individuals, and are centered in the northern Tigray Region. The Tigrinya speakers in Eritrea (Tigrinyas) total roughly 2,540,000, and are concentrated in the southern and central areas. Tigrinya is also spoken by emigrants from these regions, including some Beta Israel.

Tigrinya should not be confused with the related Tigre language. The latter is spoken by the Tigre people, who inhabit the lowland regions of Eritrea to the north and west of the Tigrinya speech area.

Tigrinya differs markedly from the classical Ge'ez language by having phrasal verbs, and in using a word-order that places the main verb last instead of first in the sentence. There also is a strong influence of Ge'ez on Tigrinya literature, especially with terms that relate to Christian life, Biblical names, and so on. Ge'ez, because of its status within Ethiopian culture, acted as a literary medium until relatively recent times. Aside from Ge’ez, Tigrinya itself has had development into the press as the language was incorporated in a ministry newspaper that was published by the British administration of Eritrea. It sold 5000 copies weekly and was at the affordable price of five cents and it was reported to be the first of its kind in the region. However, The earliest written example of Tigrinya is a text of local laws found in Logosarda district, Southern Region, Eritrea and in northern Ethiopia, which dates from the 13th century during the reign of the Zagwe dynasty. However, the phonology of the Tigrinya language along with the morphology still strongly shows the connection to the predecessor language of Ge'ez while the connection also displays Tigriniya's semitic character.