Xamtanga language

Native toEthiopia
RegionNorth Amhara Region
Native speakers
210,000 (2007 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3xan
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Xamtanga (also Agawinya, Khamtanga, Simt'anga, Xamir, Xamta) is a Central Cushitic language spoken in Ethiopia by the Xamir people.

Sound system


Front Central Back
High i ɨ u
Mid vowel ə
Low vowel a

The central vowels /ɨ ə a/ have fronted and backed allophones, depending on the adjacent consonant(s).


Labial Coronal Postalveolar
or palatal
Velar Uvular Glottal
Plain Labialized Plain Labialized
Plosives and
Voiceless t t͡ʃ k q
Voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ ɡʷ
Ejective t͡ʃʼ kʷʼ
Fricatives Voiceless f s ʃ χ χʷ h*
Voiced z
Nasals m n ŋ ŋʷ
Lateral l
Tap ɾ
Semivowels j w
  • /h/ is found only word-initial in loanwords, and may be glottal [h] or pharyngeal [ħ].
  • /t/ is alveolar before the vowel /i/, dental otherwise.
  • /q/ can be ejective [qʼ], and in some cases the ejectives appear to be in free variation with the voiceless plosives.

Phonological processes


In positions other than word-initial, Xamtanga contrasts geminate and non-geminate consonants. With most consonants, the difference between a geminate and a non-geminate is simply one of length, but the cases of /b t q/ are more complex. When not word-initial, non-geminate /b/ is realized as a bilabial [β] or labiodental fricative [v], and /t/ and /q/ are realized as affricates: [tθ qχ]. Their geminate equivalents may be realized as prolonged [bː tː qː], or can simply be short [b t q].

In word-initial position, geminate consonants do not occur, and /b t q/ are realized as plosives.



  • D.L. Appleyard (1987). "A Grammatical Sketch of Khamtanga—I". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 50 (2): 241–266. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00049028.
  • D.L. Appleyard (1987). "A Grammatical Sketch of Khamtanga—II". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 50 (3): 470–507. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00039471.
  • Appleyard, David L. (1988) "A Definite Article in Xamtanga", African Languages and Cultures 1/1, pp. 15–24.
  • Appleyard, David L. (2006) A Comparative Dictionary of the Agaw Languages (Kuschitische Sprachstudien – Cushitic Language Studies Band 24). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
  • Chloé Darmon, L'agäw xamtanga : une langue couchitique en contact avec l'amharique, In Pount. Cahiers d'études : Corne de l'Afrique - Arabie du Sud, 4, pp. 169–195, 2010

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