The term Semitic languages is the traditional way of refering to those languages which constitute the Northeastern subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic languages. In linguistics, it has gradually come to be realized that "Semetic" is a term of some heated cultural objection and is thus no longer considered perfectly politically correct.

The most common Semitic languages spoken today are Arabic, Amharic, Hebrew, and Tigrinya.

Table of contents
1 The Eastern Semitic Languages
2 The Central Semitic languages
3 The South Semitic languages
4 Common characteristics

The Eastern Semitic Languages

The Central Semitic languages

North & West Central Semitic languages

South Central (Arabic) languages

The South Semitic languages

Western (within South Semitic)

  • Ethiopic languages
    • North
    • South
      • Transverse
        • Amharic language
        • Argobba language
        • Harari language
        • East Gurage languages
          • Selti language
          • Wolane language
          • Zway language
          • Ulbare language
          • Inneqor language
      • Outer
        • Soddo language
        • Goggot language
        • Muher language
        • West Gurage languages
          • Masqan language
          • Ezha language
          • Gura language
          • Gyeto language
          • Ennemor language
          • Endegen language
  • Old South Arabian -- extinct

Eastern (within South Semitic)

  • Soqotri language
  • Mehri language
  • Jibbali language
  • Harusi language
  • Bathari language
  • Hobyot language

Common characteristics

These languages all exhibit a pattern of words consisting of triconsonantal roots, with vowel changes, prefixes, and suffixes used to inflect them. For instance, in Hebrew:
gdl means "big" but is no part of speech and not a word, just a root
gadol means "big" and is an adjective
giddel means "he magnified"
magdelet means "magnifier" (lens)

spr is the root for "count" or "recount"
sefer means "book" (containing tales which are recounted)
sofer means "scribe" (Masoretic scribes counted verses)
mispar means "number".

Other Afro-Asiatic languages show similar patterns; e.g. in Tamashek Tawa akhluk means "creation" and ikhlakdu "he created".