Afar language

Qafar af
Native toDjibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia
RegionHorn of Africa
Native speakers
1,973,800 (2017)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1aa
ISO 639-2aar
ISO 639-3aar
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Afar language (Afar: Qafaraf) (also known as ’Afar Af, Afaraf, Qafar af) is an Afroasiatic language belonging to the Cushitic branch. It is spoken by the Afar people inhabiting Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.


Afar is classified within the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. It is further categorized in the Lowland East Cushitic sub-group, along with Saho and Somali.[2] Its closest relative is the Saho language.[3]

Geographic distribution

The Afar language is spoken as a mother tongue by the Afar people in Djibouti, Eritrea, and the Afar Region of Ethiopia.[3]

According to Ethnologue, there are 1,379,200 total Afar speakers. Of these, 1,280,000 were recorded in the 2007 Ethiopian census, with 906,000 monolinguals registered in the 1994 census.[3]

Official status

In Djibouti, Afar is a recognized national language.[4] It is also one of the broadcasting languages of the Radio Television of Djibouti public network.

In Eritrea, Afar is recognized as one of nine national languages which formally enjoy equal status although Tigrinya and Arabic are by far of greatest significance in official usage. There are daily broadcasts on the national radio and a translated version of the Eritrean constitution. In education, however, Afar speakers prefer Arabic – which many of them speak as a second language – as the language of instruction.[5]

In the Afar Region of Ethiopia, Afar is also recognized as an official working language.[6]



The consonants of the Afar language in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):

  Labial Alveolar Retroflex Dorsal Glottal
Stops voiceless     t  [t]     k  [k]  
voiced   b  [b]   d  [d]   x  [ɖ][7]   g  [ɡ]  
Fricatives voiceless   f  [f]   s  [s]     c  [ħ]   h  [h]
voiced         q  [ʕ]  
Nasals   m  [m]   n  [n]      
Approximants   w  [w]   l  [l]     y  [j]  
Tap     r  [ɾ]  

Voiceless stop consonants which close syllables are released, e.g., [ʌkʰˈme].

Vowels and stress

  • short
    • a [ʌ]
    • e [e]
    • i [i]
    • o [o]
    • u [u]
  • long
    • aa [aː]
    • ee [eː]
    • ii [iː]
    • oo [oː]
    • uu [uː]

Sentence final vowels of affirmative verbs are aspirated (and stressed), e.g. abeh = /aˈbeʰ/ 'He did.' Sentence final vowels of negative verbs are not aspirated (nor stressed), e.g. maabinna = /ˈmaabinna/ 'He did not do.' Sentence final vowels of interrogative verbs are lengthened (and stressed), e.g. abee? = /aˈbeː/ 'Did he do?' Otherwise, stress in word-final.


Possible syllable shapes are V, VV, VC, VVC, CV, CVV and CVVC.[8]


As in most other Cushitic languages, the basic word order in Afar is subject–object–verb.[3]

Writing system

In Ethiopia, Afar is written with the Ge'ez script (Ethiopic script). Since around 1849, the Latin script has been used in other areas to transcribe the language.[3] Additionally, Afar is also transcribed using the Arabic script.[9]

In the early 1970s, two Afar intellectuals and nationalists, Dimis and Redo, formalized the Afar alphabet. Known as Qafar Feera, the orthography is based on the Latin script.[10]

Officials from the Institut des Langues de Djibouti, the Eritrean Ministry of Education, and the Ethiopian Afar Language Studies and Enrichment Center have since worked with Afar linguists, authors and community representatives to select a standard orthography for Afar from among the various existing writing systems used to transcribe the language.[9]

Latin alphabet

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
a, ba, ca, da, e, fa, ga, ha, i, ja, ka, la, ma, na, o, pa, qa, ra, sa, ta, u, va, wa, ya, za


See also


  1. ^ "Afar". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-06-19.
  2. ^ Lewis, I. (1998). Peoples of the Horn of Africa: Somali, Afar and Saho. Red Sea Press. p. 11.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Afar language". Ethnologue. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Djibouti". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  5. ^ Simeone-Senelle, Marie-Claude. "Les langues en Erythrée". Chroniques Yeménites 8, 2000 (in French). Cy.revues.org.
  6. ^ Kizitus Mpoche; Tennu Mbuh, eds. (2006). Language, literature, and identity. Cuvillier. pp. 163–164. ISBN 3-86537-839-0.
  7. ^ Hamann, Silke; Fuchs, Susanne (June 2010) [2008]. "How do voiced retroflex stops evolve? Evidence from typology and an articulatory study". Language and Speech. 53 (2): 181–216. doi:10.1177/0023830909357159. PMID 20583729. S2CID 23502367.
  8. ^ Kamil, Mohamed Hassan (2015). Afar : grammatical description of a Cuchitic Language (Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia ) (Theses thesis). Université Sorbonne Paris Cité.
  9. ^ a b "Development of the Afar Language" (PDF). Afar Friends. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Afar (ʿAfár af)". Omniglot. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Berraka". Qafaraf. Archived from the original on 2015-08-11. Retrieved 2015-08-23.


  • Loren F. Bliese. 1976. "Afar", The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia. Ed. Lionel M. Bender. Ann Arbor, Michigan: African Studies Center, Michigan State University. Pages 133–164.
  • Loren F. Bliese. 1981. A generative grammar of Afar. Summer Institute of Linguistics publications in linguistics vol. 65. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and The University of Texas at Arlington. ISBN 0-88312-083-6.
  • J. G. Colby. 1970. "Notes on the northern dialect of the Afar language", Journal of Ethiopian Studies 8:1–8.
  • R. J. Hayward and Enid M. Parker. 1985. Afar-English-French dictionary with Grammatical Notes in English. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
  • Richard J. Hayward. 1998. "Qafar (West Cushitic)", Handbook of Morphology. Ed. A. Spencer and A. Zwicky. Oxford: Blackwell. Pages 624–647.
  • Didier Morin. 1997. Poésie traditionnelle des Afars. Langues et cultures africaines, 21 / SELAF vol. 363. Paris/Louvain: Peeters.
  • Enid M. Parker. 2006. English–Afar Dictionary. Washington DC: Dunwoody Press.
  • Rainer M. Voigt. 1975. "Bibliographie des Saho–Afar", Africana Marburgensia 8:53–63.

External links

This page was last updated at 2021-06-30 05:21, update this pageView original page

All information on this site, including but not limited to text, pictures, etc., are reproduced on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), following the . Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


If the math, chemistry, physics and other formulas on this page are not displayed correctly, please useFirefox or Safari