A language of Somalia

Alternate Names
Af-Maxaad Tiri, Af-Soomaali, Common Somali, Soomaaliga, Standard Somali

6,460,000 in Somalia (2002). Total users in all countries: 14,655,700 (as L1: 14,560,100; as L2: 95,600).



Language Status

1 (National). Statutory national language (2004, Transitional Federal Charter, Article 7(1)).


Northern Somali, Benaadir, Af-Ashraaf (Ashraaf). Northern Somali is basis for standard Somali. Readily intelligible to Benaadir Somali speakers, but difficult or unintelligible to most Maay [ymm]. Those in Merka and Muqdisho speak Af-Ashraaf, a distinct variety which may have limited inherent intelligibility of standard Somali.


SOV; prepositions; noun head initial; gender (masculine/feminine); enclitic definite article; verb affixes mark number, person, gender of subject; tense; comparatives; 22 consonant and 10 vowel phonemes; tonal (3 grammatical tones: high, low, falling); inclusive/exclusive pronouns.

Language Use

Language of most of the people of the country. Also use Italian [ita], Standard Arabic [arb].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L2: 25% in cities, 10% rural. Taught in primary schools. Poetry. New media. Radio programs. Films. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible: 1979.

Arabic script, Naskh variant [Arab], no longer in use. Latin script [Latn], used since 1972. Osmanya script [Osma], no longer in use.

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