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Hamitic Languages

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  1. Read the text and find the answers to the following questions:

· What are the main divisions of Hamitic languages?

· Which Hamitic language has ancient records?

· Which territory does the Ethiopic division occupy?

· Which languages are added to the Hamitic family as a forth division?

The prominent importance of this family is due to a single one of its members, the Egyptian. It occupies the north-eastern corner of Africa, with the border-lands of that continent stretching westward along the whole shore of the Mediterranean, and southward to beyond the equator. It falls into three principal divisions: (I) the ancient Egyptian, with its descendant, the more modern Coptic (itself now for some centuries extinct); (2) the Libyan or Berber languages of northern Africa; (3) the Ethiopic languages of eastern Africa. Its situation thus plainly suggests the theory of its intrusion from Asia, and its gradual spread from that point.

The Egyptian is a language of extreme simplicity of structure, almost of no structure at all. Its radical words are partly monosyllabic, partly of more than one syllable. It has no derivative apparatus by which noun-stems are made from roots; the root is the stem likewise; there is nothing that can be properly called either declension or conjugation; and the same pronominal particles or suffixes have now a subjective value, indicating use as a verb, and now a possessive, indicating use as a noun. Egyptian is limited to the delta and valley of the Nile, and is the only Hamitic language which has ancient records; of the others the existing forms alone are known.

The Libyan or Berber division of the family occupies the inhabitable part of northern Africa, so far as it has not been displaced by intrusive tongues of other connection - in later times the Arabic, which since the Mahommedan conquest has been the cultivated tongue of the Mediterranean coast, while the earlier Vandal, Latin and Punic have disappeared, except in the traces they may have left in Berber dialectic speech.

The third or Ethiopic division includes as its chief members the Beja or Bisharin, the Saho, the Dankali, the Somali, and the more inland Galla; the first two lying along the Red Sea north of Semitic Abyssinia, the others south of it, to the equator. By some authorities (Lepsius, Bieck) there is added to the Hamitic family as a fourth division a group from extreme southern Africa, the Hottentot and Bushman languages.



plainly – ясно, очевидно

root – корень слова

stem – основа слова

radical – корень слова; корневой

declension – склонение

conjugation – спряжение

authorities – зд. крупные специалисты


  1. Look through the text again and find words and constructions you may use in your professional discourse (scientific terms etc.). Translate and memorize them.
  2. Find the transcription of the following words and practise pronouncing them: ancient, Mediterranean, century, conjugation, authorities.
  3. Decide whether the following statements are true or false according to the text:

· The Egyptian language has a very complicated structure.

· The Berber division was displaced by the Arabic language.

· The Hamitic family originated in Asia.

· The Coptic language evolved from the ancient Egyptian.



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