The principal Cushitic
language, spoken in Somalia
, and adjoining areas of Kenya
, and Djibouti
. The Cushitic group is part of the larger Afro-Asiatic
family, and Somali is therefore distantly related to Semitic languages such as Arabic.
Formerly written in Arabic script, a new Latin orthography was been adopted for it in the 1970s. Conventions include C for the voiced pharyngeal fricative as in Cali and Cabdullaahi, and X for the voiceless pharyngeal of Maxamed. Long vowels are written as double, and the group DH represents a retroflex D.
Somali is tonal and has vowel harmony, but these are not marked in the orthography. It has two genders, including in the second person singular, and its pronominal affixes resemble those of Arabic. The affixes for the plural and for the definite article have a somewhat complicated set of possible alternations, depending on both phonetics and noun class.
There are only a few simple adjectives, the rest being formed from nouns; these adjectives form their plural by reduplication, e.g. cusub 'new', pl. cuscusub, and cad 'white', pl. cadcad. Reduplication of consonants also marks the noun plurals in one class: miis 'table', pl. miisas, and dab 'fire', pl. dabab.
To greet someone you say Ma nabad baa? 'Is it peace?' and they reply Waa nabad 'It is peace'. To say goodbye, Nabad gelyo.
Numerals one to ten: kow, laba, saddex, afar, shan, lix, toddoba, siddeed, sagaal, toban, and 100 is boqol and 1000 is kun.
The name of the country is Soomaaliya, the adjective is Soomaali, and the language is Af-Soomaali "Somali language" or Af-Soomaaliga "in the Somali language". The capital is Muqdisho and is also known as Xamar. The breakaway region of Somaliland is known in Somali by its English name.
Place names and personal names are much more commonly given in older, informal romanization than in the unfamiliar official spelling, so here is a list of correspondences:
OFFICIAL NAME ALSO SEEN AS
Beledweyne Belet Uen
Berbera Berbera (no change)
Cape Gwardafuy Cape Guardafui
Mt Surud Cad Mt Surud Ad
Mahdi Mahdi (no change)
Siyaad Barre Siad Barre
There is a lot of inconsistency out there: Cabdullaahi, Cabdulaahi, Cabdullahi, and Cabdulahi are all commonly found; the form I have chosen corresponds most closely to the Arabic. Most of the above personal names are Arabic borrowings, not native Somali. The prefix Cabd- is also seen abbreviated, e.g. C/laahi.