West Semitic languages

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West Semitic
Middle East and East Africa
Linguistic classification: Afro-Asiatic
Glottolog: west2786[1]

The West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub-grouping of ancient Semitic languages. The term was first coined in 1883 by Fritz Hommel.[2][3][4]

The grouping, supported by semiticists like Robert Hetzron and John Huehnergard, divides the Semitic language family into two branches: Eastern and Western. The East Semitic languages consist of the extinct Eblaite and Akkadian languages, while the remaining majority of Semitic languages form the West Semitic languages grouping. It consists of the clearly defined sub-groups: Ethiopic, South Arabian, Arabic and Northwest Semitic (this including Hebrew, Aramaic and Ugaritic). The first two, Ethiopic and South Arabian, show particular common features, and are often grouped together as South Semitic. The correct classification of Arabic with respect to other Semitic languages is debated.[citation needed] In older classifications, it is grouped with the South Semitic languages. However, Hetzron and Huehnergard connect it more closely with the Northwest Semitic languages, to form Central Semitic. Some semiticists continue to argue for the older classification based on the distinctive feature of broken plurals. Some linguists also argue that Eteocypriot was a West Semitic language spoken in ancient Cyprus.[citation needed]


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "West Semitic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook, Chapter V, page 425
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. Fritz Hommel, Die semitischen Volker und Sprachen als erster Versuch einer Encyclopadie der semitischen Sprach- und Alterthums-Wissenschaft, (1883)


  • Alice Faber, "Genetic Subgrouping of the Semitic Languages", in Hetzron, ed., 2013, The Semitic Languages, Routledge