Amharic Language

Amharic is an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic branch and is a member of the Ethiosemitic group. It is spoken as a mother tongue by the Amhara, and other populations residing in major cities and towns of Ethiopia. The language serves as the official working language of Ethiopia, and is also the official or working language of several of the states within the federal system. With approximately 22 million speakers as of 2007, Amharic is the second-most commonly spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic.

Amharic is written left-to-right using a script that grew out of the Ge'ez abugida – called, in the Ethiopian Semitic languages, fidel ("writing system", "letter", or "character") and abugida (from the first four Ethiopic letters, which gave rise to the modern linguistic term abugida).

It has been the working language of courts, language of trade and everyday communications, the military, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church since the late 12th century and remains the official language of Ethiopia today. As of the 2007 census, Amharic is spoken by 21.6 million native speakers in Ethiopia and 4 million secondary speakers in Ethiopia. Additionally, 3 million emigrants outside of Ethiopia speak the language. Most of the Ethiopian Jewish communities in Ethiopia and Israel speak Amharic. In Washington DC, Amharic became one of the six non-English languages in the Language Access Act of 2004, which allows government services and education in Amharic. Furthermore, Amharic is considered a holy language by the Rastafari religion and is widely used among its followers worldwide. It is the most widely spoken language in the Horn of Africa.

Many Rastafarians learn Amharic as a second language, as they consider it to be sacred. After Haile Selassie's 1966 visit to Jamaica, study circles in Amharic were organized in Jamaica as part of the ongoing exploration of Pan-African identity and culture. Various reggae artists in the 1970s, including Ras Michael, Lincoln Thompson and Misty-in-Roots, have sung in Amharic, thus bringing the language to a wider audience. The Abyssinians, a reggae group, have also used Amharic, most notably in the song "Satta Massagana". The title was believed to mean "give thanks"; however, this phrase means "he thanked" or "he praised", as säţţä means "he gave", and amässägänä "thanks" or "praise". The correct way to say "give thanks" in Amharic is one word, misgana. The word "satta" has become a common expression in Rastafari vocabulary meaning "to sit down and partake".

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