RESOURCES FOR LEARNING GE'EZ: THE CLASSICAL LANGUAGE OF ETHIOPIA

RESOURCES FOR LEARNING GE'EZ-- THE CLASSICAL LANGUAGE OF ETHIOPIA

October 25, 2011

2: Nouns

Like other Semitic languages, most Ethiopic words can be boiled down to three, or sometimes two or four, consonantal roots. All Ethiopic words have gender, however, unlike other semitic languages, Ge'ez gender rules are extremely lax. Aside for nouns for human beings, nearly all other Ge'ez nouns have variable genders i.e. a noun like (ቤት: bét: house) will appear in some texts as masculine and in others are feminine! It completely depends on the author's preference. Ge'ez words also do not have a definite or indefinite article so:
ብእሲ
bə’si
a man
the man
ክታብ
kətab
a book
the book
ቤት
bét
a house
the house








Ge’ez plurals can be a little tricky – for the most part, they fall into four categories:

(a) Many male human nouns have the “-an” ending:
ሊቅ
liq
Elder
:
ሊቃን
liqan
Elders



(b) Many nouns, both male and female, have the “-at” ending:
ነቢይ
nebiy
Prophet
:
ነቢያት
nebiyat
Prophets
ንግሥት
nəgəšt
Queen
:
ንግሥታት
nəgəštat
Queens





(c) Biconsonantal words typically have the “-ew” ending:
አብ
eb
Father
:
አበው
ebew
Fathers
አኍ
exʷ
Brother
:
አኀው
exew
Brothers





(d) All other words have broken plurals i.e. there is an internal vowel change in the word. These types of plurals become intuitive after a while – the trick is to recognize the three letter root:
There is no real way to predict broken plurals, but after a while they’ll become intuitive
ሀገር
heger
City
:
አህጉር
ehgur
Cities
ንጉሥ
nəguš
King
:
ነገሥት
negešt
Kings
ቤት
bét
House
:
አብያት
ebyat
Houses








Note: Two very important nouns have completely irregular plurals:
ብእሲ
bə’si
Man
:
ሰብእ
seb'
Men
ብሲት
bə’sit
Woman
:
አንስት
enəst
Women






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