Well, this is perhaps the trickiest part of my entire blog because this is a page specifically on “Proto Semitic” or as I’ve named it via the page title, Simitic za-t’int (“the original Semitic).
Given, as I’ve argued, I do not agree with the current reconstruction. In the most positive light you can put it in, it is perhaps best interpreted as a very assumptive version of “Proto-Central Semitic“. Given, to accept this view of “Proto-Semitic” you have to assume that Hebrew had a lateral fricative, Semitic originated in the Middle East, and that Arabic somehow is one of the strongest languages to base the reconstruction off of. Then of course, you also have to have the mentality to force the Ethiopian Semitic language data to some how agree with the reconstruction over all, even if on extremely weak grounds. So to put it lightly, I treat “Proto-Semitic” as an abstract concept which needs to be created, and that isn’t already in existence. Basically, this is all grassroots reconstruction. What you’ll mostly get on here is reconstruction of phonology and lexicon, as opposed to syntax and grammar; of course because I’m better at the two former parts of the languages than I am at the two latter.
Either way, I have my own tentative ideas about “Proto-Semitic“:
- 8,000~7,000 kya – “Proto-Semitic” becomes distinct from whichever branch it shares the most similarity, with this distinction happening somewhere in the modern day Arsi zone of Ethiopia’s Oromiya administrative state. The speakers were sedentary farmers farming crops such as T’eff and Barley; the only two crops I can with confidence say were cultivated in the Horn of Africa at that time.
- 6,000~5,500 kya – The “Proto-Semitic” language at this stage has developed into a dialect continuum if not an early picture of Ethiopian Semitic, with an off-shoot moving into a at this time fertile Arabia where new crops and domesticates are encountered. While some languages remain in the southernmost parts of the Arabian peninsula, forming South Arabian, the early Central Semitic languages begin expanding towards the Levant and eventually Mesopotamia.
- 5,000 kya~4,000 kya – At this point the earliest picture of Semitic that can be formed via written evidence is what’s at play. While the Middle Eastern picture comprising of the East Semitic languages is taken down in writing, an undated back-migration of South Arabian-speakers into the Northern Somali peninsula happens sometime after the domestication of the camel and the desertification of the Arabian peninsula, thus forth confining any remaining agriculture to scattered oases, the Yemeni highlands, and the mountains of Dhofar.
This of course is supported by studies on Ethiopian barley domestication such as Orabi, Backes, Wolday, Yahyaoui, & Jahoor (2007) and paleoclimatology studies done on Arabia providing a reason for the agricultural expansion across the Red Sea such as Preusser (2009). It’s also noted as early as Harlan (1971) that Ethiopia was likely a center of independent agricultural development, but at the time of the writing of this piece there was no relative dates to be configured. Nonetheless, thanks to another blogger on WordPress my ideas have been somewhat mapped out:
This includes a hypothetical back-migration that I’ve reconstructed based on South Arabian loanwords in modern day Lowland East Cushitic languages which I once had introduced as:
“Then, I compared:
- “Cattle” – Somali /ħɔːlɑhɑ/ ~ Soqotri /ʔelheh/ ~ Shehri /lhoti/
- “Bull” – Somali /dibi/ ~ Harsusi /ɣɔɮəb/ ~ Shehri /ɣɔɮəb/
- “Goat” – Somali /rijɑhɑ/ ~ Mehri /tajh/ ~ Soqotri /tɛʔɛh/
- “Sheep” – Somali /idɑhɑ/ ~ Soqotri /daħ/
After putting two and two together, I felt like I had been dowsed in cold water. I’ve been dealing with South Arabian, and East Omo-Tana, for like 3 years now (?) and I’ve never noticed this? I mean I’ve repeated the idea that the Somali word ‘geel‘ being a loanword inherited from some unnamed South Arabian language that had back-migrated into the Horn of Africa sometime in antiquity, but I never noticed anything beyond that. Now, I feel stupid. I’ve spent too much time reconstructing the initial mechanisms of Semitic’s initial expansion out of the Horn of Africa that I’ve paid almost no attention to the statements I’ve made regarding the back-migration of the South Arabian-speakers and their subsequent contacts with Lowland East Cushitic-speaking peoples.”
This of course will be updated and expanded on in an extensive post I’m working on, but nonetheless it’s part of this grassroots revamp I’m planning for Semitic, all starting with the “Proto-Language“.
Enjoy my ideas, or not.