Essentials of Amharic

ISBN 978-3-89645-573-4

Essentials of Amharic

Author: Anbessa Teferra, Grover Hudson. Series edited by: Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †, Bernd Heine.

Series: Study Books of African Languages Volume 18

254 pp.
2 maps, 3 diagrams, numerous tables and charts, appendix: Amharic-English / English-Amharic wordlists and writing exercises
Text language(s): English
€ 59.80

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Amharic is one of the fifty most important languages in the world, in terms of number of speakers, and political, historical, and cultural importance. Its twenty million or so speakers live mainly in Ethiopia, but as the result of emigration since the 1970s, hundreds of thousands in Amharic speakers now reside in Europe, the U.S., and Israel. Because of its importance as a Semitic, African, and Ethiopian language, Amharic more than other African languages has benefitted from the interest of linguists, who have written much on the language.

This book satisfies the need for a thorough book-length introduction to Amharic which includes an introduction to Amharic history and society (Part 1), a basic survey of the grammar including the writing system (Part 2), and lengthy Amharic-English and English-Amharic wordlists (Part 4). Amharic examples are fully presented in phonetic writing so knowledge of the Amharic writing system is not required, while much of the grammar and vocabulary are also presented in Amharic writing for those who want and expect it. For those who want to learn to read Amharic a thorough presentation of the Amharic writing system is provided, and as Part 3 a set of graded lessons to learn it, as a way to write English.

This is a book for adult learners of Amharic, for linguists, and students of Ethiopian history, society, phonetics, grammar, vocabulary, and writing system of this major language of Ethiopia.

Under these links you will find publications by the authors and further descriptions of Ethiosemitic languages and cultures:

Accompanying material:



On the linguistics level, the study offers some new perceptions and approaches to describing the Amharic language (transcription, gemination) and touches upon the very heart of essentiality. It is a product of and a material for teaching/learning Amharic, and, thanks to some grammatical and pragmatic notes, it might be an excellent starting point for further analysis in the field of applied linguistics, as well as for further exploration and description of the Amharic language.

Laura Lykowska in Studies of the Department of African Languages and Cultures, 42/2008, 90-91

“Essentials of Amharic” zeichnet sich einerseits durch ein umfangreiches Themenfeld, andererseits durch eine kompakte Darstellung der Themen aus. Durch die Vielfalt der angesprochenen Themen wird das Interesse des Lesers stets geweckt und durch Verweise auf weiterführende und ergänzende Literatur auch praktisch gedeckt. Als Lehrbuch ist es zum größten Teil methodisch und didaktisch sehr gut den Bedürfnissen eines sprachinteressierten Lesers angepasst.

Marlene Guss-Kosicka in Aethiopica, 12/2009, 278-279

Grover Hudson (Yirgalem 63-65) who for many years taught linguistics at Michigan State university where he wrote enough scholarly articles about Semitic languages to give those of us who struggled with Amharic a headache just reading the titles, has written a wonderful non-headache-inducing book called Essentials of Amharic.

As Grover tells it “the book was written for the National Defense Foreign Language fellows, basically graduate students with research plans in Ethiopia, whom I taught at Michigan State, in intensive programs, for many summers. They were much like PCVs; at least those of the ’60s.”

Essentials of Amharic was the companion volume of an unpublished textbook and served as a grammar/reference text with some basic exercises that – if the spirit and mind are willing – will bring back some Amharic from the deep recesses of our memories.

Hudson has devised entertaining exercises to raise one’s Amharic script reading skill by reading English words transliterated into Amharic script. These are more fun than the morning crossword puzzle. Also entertaining and highly educational are a set of essays about the origins of the language, the history of scripts, and, yes, the secrets of verb stems. The book written with Anbessa Teferra and published in Germany in a handsome volume by Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, Cologne.

Another ex-Peace Corps Volunteer in Herald, 36/2009, (online)

This textbook is targeted for learners who want to learn to understand and speak Amharic without necessarily bother to struggle with the cumbersome fidel writing system. To summarize my conclusion at first, I find the book in general pedagogical and uncontroversial. A diligent student can learn the essentials of Amharic from this book. [...]

I am particularly impressed with the comparative completeness and accuracy of the grammatical description within such a short space.

Kjell Magne Yri in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 161/1, 2011, 158-160

The book “Essentials of Amharic” presents a unique mixture of different categories and with regard to the heterogeneity of the targeted users certainly serves its purpose as a broad overview of different aspects of Amharic.

Andreas Wetter in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, 31/1, 2010, 145-148

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