Northwest Semitic Languages

Northwest Semitic Languages

Northwest Semitic is a division of the Semitic language family, comprising the ancient languages of today's Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, western Syria, and western Jordan, along with their modern descendants.

Traditionally Northwest Semitic is divided into two sub-groups, Aramaic, and Canaanite (including Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hebrew, and Philistine). In this reckoning Northwest Semitic itself is one of three divisions of Semitic along with East Semitic (Akkadian) and South Semitic (Arabic, South Arabian, and the Semitic languages of Ethiopia).

However revisions of both the larger Semitic divisions and the place of Northwest Semitic within them have been proposed in recent years.

Common elements are to separate Ugaritic from Canaanite within Northwest Semitic, and to group Northwest Semitic with Arabic (but not South Arabian) in a higher Central Semitic grouping. This Central Semitic may be a top-level division of Semitic, or itself a subdivision of a West Semitic.

The influential SIL language institute goes further to eliminate Northwest Semitic entirely, joining Canaanite and Arabic in a South-Central group, co-equal with Aramaic, to form Central Semitic. As SIL only treats living languages, the position of the extinct Ugaritic is undefined.

Read more about Northwest Semitic Languages:  Historical Development, Phonological Characteristics

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