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Language Learning - Amharic

ASL Hours

Library Hours

The lending collection is located in the Mugar Memorial Libary stacks and is available during Mugar’s hours.

To request an out of hours appointment please contact Beth Restrick.

Regular Hours

Monday – Friday

9am – 5pm

Saturday & Sunday


Library will be closed during Holidays except veteran's Day.

Study Period Extended Hours

Please Note:  In the event of a BU weather emergency closing, the African Studies Library will be closed.

About This Guide

 ሰላም! እንኳን ወደ አማርኛ ቋንቋ መማሪያ ድረገጽ መጣችሁ::

This library guide is primarily intended for Amharic language learners at Boston University and members of the Boston Library Consortium.  It contains information on library materials, internet & community resources useful for learning and practicing Amharic.  


Culture & History Overview

Also known as Amarigna, Amarinya, there are 25 million plus speakers of Amharic in various countries of the world, mainly in Ethiopia, & also in Eritrea, according to Ethnologue.  It is the official and working language of Ethiopia. Based on 2010 census data, Ethnologue indicate that 21,600,000 of these Amharic speakers are found inside Ethiopia. 14,800,000 are monolinguals mostly in present day Amhara Region and in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa as well as in large cities of other Ethiopian regions. It is also estimated that more than 2.4 million emigrants from Ethiopia & Eritrea speaks Amharic in the diaspora mainly in North America, Europe & Australia.

Amharic is one of the Southern Semitic languages spoken in Ethiopia alongside Argoba, Tigrinya, Tigre, Geez, Guragenya, Siltee etc.. which are considered much older than the Northern Semitic languages such as Hebrew & Arabic, according to recent research findings.1 ranks Amharic as the second most-spoken Semitic language in the world.

Amharic uses a script which originated from the Ge'ez alphabet. It has 33 basic characters with each having 7 forms or variations for each consonant-vowel combination. Unlike the North Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew or Syrian, the language is written from left to right.

Amharic came to be lingua franca or widely spoken in Ethiopia from 9th century and became instrument of the state language since 14th century. Amharic has a growing body of literature especially since the advent of the 20th century. Christian religion texts dominated the previous centuries. The only texts known which are not religious texts were that of quasi-religious or philosophical treatises of Zara Yaqob and his disciple Wolde Hiywet from 17th century. Since early 19th century, diversified literature genres started to appear. The first chronicles or Gedl written in Amharic was that of Emperor Theodore's (Atse Tewodros) around 1880s. During Menelik II rule Tobya the first novel in Amharic was published in Rome by Afewerq Gabre-Yesus who was educated in Italy. Since then Amhariic is used for publishing government proclamations and records, educational or religious books as well as in all genres or forms of literature: novels, poetry, drama etc..

1 Girma A. Demeke - The Origin of Amharic. Red Sea Publishers, 2012.

Find more linguistic information and facts on Amharic language:


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