The Tigrinya language (ትግርኛ, tigriñā) belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family and is spoken by the Tigray-Tigrinya ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. There are roughly 7 million speakers of the Tigrinya language, and it is one of the official working languages of Eritrea (along with Arabic) and a recognized minority language in Ethiopia, where it is the fourth most widely spoken language (after Amharic, Oromo, and Somali).
There are also significant communities of Tigrinya speakers in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. In the United States, Tigrinya is spoken mainly among the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, with sizeable populations in California, Virginia, Texas, and Maryland, and particularly in the Washington, DC Metro Region.
There are numerous dialects of Tigrinya, with key differences in phonetics, lexicon, and grammar, and there is no widely-accepted standard form of the language.
Tigrinya largely follows the structure of other related Ethiopian Semitic languages. The default word order of Tigrinya is subject-object-verb (SOV). Nouns are either masculine or feminine, although most nouns for inanimate objects do not have a fixed gender. Verbs must agree with their subject in gender, second and third person personal pronouns are distinguished by gender, and adjectives and determiners must agree in gender with the word they modify. Verbs in Tigrinya consist of a root form with three consonants and are divided into several classes, as is the case with Amharic, and the verb root can be modified through the use of prefixes or internal changes. Tigrinya, however, has developed some unique features not found in other related Semitic languages.
While the majority of Tigrinya vocabulary is Ethiopian Semitic in origin, there are a significant number of loanwords from Arabic (as a result of the shared Islamic faith) and Italian, which was the language of the colonial administration before World War II. In more recent times, Tigrinya has seen an increase in the use of English loanwords. Tigrinya is written in the Ge’ez script. The Ge’ez script is an abugida (alphasyllabary) wherein a consonant-vowel sequence is written as a unit, and includes 26 consonantal letters. It is written from left to right.
FUN FACTS: The first written example of Tigrinya is a text of local laws found in the district of Logosarda, in southern Eritrea, which dates from the 13th century. Also, most Tigray names have specific meanings, and people refer to one another by their first names. If one wished to distinguish between several people with that name, one would add the person’s father’s name, and their grandfather’s name if further distinction is required.
At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer document translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Tigrinya. Whether you need to translate a birth certificate from Tigrinya to English, need a Tigrinya interpreter for an immigration hearing, or want to localize your website into Tigrinya in order to market your products and services in Eritrea and Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa, PGLS is here to help with all of your Tigrinya language needs