The Aksumites developed Africa’s only indigenous written script, Ge’ez.
Tigrai gave Ge’ez to Ethiopia and Eritrea as Greek did Latin is to the west. Ge’ez, like Latin, was not used as a spoken language for a very long time. But like Latin, Ge’ez is the precursor of Ethiopia’s three major Semitic languages: Tigre, Tigrinya and Amharic.
“In order to convey an idea of the relationship of Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigré towards each other and towards Ge’ez, we might enlist the helpful parallel of the Romance languages. If Ge’ez is compared to Latin, Tigrinya takes the place of Italian (both because it is most closely akin to the ‘parent’ tongue and also on account of its continuance in the original home). Tigré would then be likened to Spanish and Amharic to French.’’(Edward Ullendorff qtd. in Buxton 31).
Amharic is the working language of Ethiopia and it is spoken most widely in the northwest and central part of the country. Tigrinya is mostly spoken in northern and northeastern Ethiopia. Tigré is spoken in the independent nation of Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia (Pankhurst 7-8).
Ge’ez language, also spelled Geez, liturgical language of the Tigrai, Ethiopian and Eritrea church. Ge’ez is a Semitic language of the Southern Peripheral group, to which also belong the South Arabic dialects, Tigre, Tigrinya and Amharic, one of the principal languages in the horn of Africa. Both Ge’ez and the related languages of Tigrai, Ethiopia and Eritrea are written and read from left to right, in contrast to the other Semitic languages.
Extinct as a vernacular language, Geʿez is the ancestor of the modern Tigrinya and Tigré languages of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The oldest known inscription in the language dates from the 3rd or 4th century and is written in a script that does not indicate vowels. Subsequent inscriptions found in the ancient Ethiopian capital of Aksum were written from the 4th through the 9th century in a script that does indicate vowels. The Bible was translated into Geʿez between the 5th and 7th centuries. Although the language ceased to be spoken popularly sometime between 900 and 1200, it continues as a liturgical language; the period of classical Geʿez literature was between the 13th and 17th centuries.
(This article is under development, kindly check back soon. We are also welcome individuals who have any knowledge to share on the language)