**So, I am going to briefly explain my understanding of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. From my explanation you will quickly realize that I am not a linguist nor have I ever taken a linguistics course. I am just interested in the 80 + languages spoken in Ethiopia and their similarities in origin.
The native (indigenous) language of Ethiopia is in the Cushitic family. The Cushitic family is one of the 6 Afroasiatic (the former term is Hamito-Semitic...cool side note: Hamito comes from the name Ham who is the Bible Character...he is Noah's son and then Semitic comes from the name Semite who is a descendent of Shem who is also Noah's son). Going back to the Cushitic languages (oh and Cush is also a son of Noah) - Somali, Oromo, Sidamo, Komso, and Saho Afar are a few of the members of the Cushitic family....so, these dialects are closest to the native Ethiopian language.
Ethiopic (Geez) is a part of the Semitic language family (a sister family of the Cushitic family, both daughters of Afroasiatic languages or Hamito-Semitic). Ethiopic was brought by migrants from South Arabia and it was strongly used in the capital Aksum of the Ethiopian Empire (then known as the Aksumite Empire). In the 4th Century AD, the Emperor of Aksumite, Emperor Ezana converted to Christianity and so the state of Ethiopia converted to Christianity. Ethiopic (Geez) was used in the churches and it is still used in the church liturgy today. In the Ethiopic language family is Tigre, Tigrinya, and Harari.
On to the facts from factmonster:
*Extinct language of Ethiopia
*Ethiopic FAMILY TREE
I. Semitic Family
A) Afroasiatic family of languages
1. South Semitic (Ethiopic) languages
a. North Ethiopic group
*Ethiopic is also called Geez or classical Ethiopic
*Some time before the 14th cent. A.D. it ceased to be a spoken tongue in Ethiopia
*It long remained the medium for Ethiopian literature
*The liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church uses Ethiopic (Geez)
*Tigre & Tigrinya: modern languages in Ethiopia that represent the extinct Ethiopic
*Ethiopic is close to Old South Arabian lexically and grammatically
*It is suggested: its speakers came from S Arabia in the 1st millennium B.C.
*The native Cushitic tongues of Ethiopia (which are also Afroasiatic languages) exerted a degree of influence on the newly arrived Semitic language or languages with respect to grammar, vocabulary, and phonology.
*Although the script used for Ethiopic and other Semitic tongues of Ethiopia is syllabic rather than alphabetic, it seems to be derived from the alphabetic South Semitic writing of the Old South Arabian inscriptions, to which it shows many similarities.
*The reason for the syllabic development of the Ethiopic script is not known.
*Since the 4th cent. A.D., when Ethiopia was Christianized, the Ethiopic script has been written from left to right, though previously the direction of writing was from right to left.
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