From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The term Semitic languages is the traditional way of refering to those languages which constitute the Northeastern subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic languages.
The Eastern Semitic Languages
The Central Semitic languages
North & West Central Semitic languages
- Canaanite languages
- Aramaic language
- Ugaritic language -- extinct
South Central (Arabic) languages
The South Semitic languages
Western (within South Semitic)
- Ethiopic languages
- Old South Arabian -- extinct
Eastern (within South Semitic)
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 masculine adjective
- gdola means "big" (feminine adjective)
- giddel means "he grew" (transitive verb)
- gadal means "he grew" (intransitive verb)
- higdil means "he magnified" (transitive verb)
- 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, but more usually with biconsonantal roots; e.g. in Kabyle afeg means "fly!", while affug means "flight", and yufeg means "he flew.