While looking for sites to explain to a friend the relationship between Ge’ez and Amharic (this is a good one), I stumbled across one that contained the following bizarre information:

Tigre became a written language at the end of the 19th century, when Swedish missionaries translated the Bible into it using Ge-ez script. The use of Ge-ez script to write Tigre is a barrier to many Muslims, because Ge-ez is the holy language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Tigre Muslims would prefer their language to be written in Arabic script. As a result, in spite of the presence of a Bible, and a government newspaper in Tigre, most Tigre speakers choose not to read in their own language.


  1. What a great script! And how sensible of the Swedish missionaries – politically-correct before their time.

    Funny to think that importing something like the Latin alphabet might have been more acceptable to the Muslims than what they got.

  2. A similar but less extreme instance of this is Serbo-Croat, where the Serbs use Cyrillic and the Croats Latin. (For the NSW Higher School Certificate students can choose only one of Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian or Slovenian.)

  3. Dave: I know of a number of instances where people choose one writing system over another at least partly for religious reasons (cf. Maltese written in Roman letters rather than Arabic), but this is the only case I’ve seen where people refuse to write or read their own language at all because of the script!

  4. i know this is an old discussion but just opened it and cannot help saying that in the original posting there is a huge posting… amharic is in NO WAY derived from geez. Geez, like Tigre and Tigrinya, are Northern Ethio-Semitic languages, Amharic, like Argobba, Gafat etc. are Southern Ethio-Semitic. Besides, neither Tigre or Tigrinya descend from Geez. The parallel with Latin is good but in the place of Latin there was another proto-Ethio-Semitic language, Geez, Tigre, Tigrinya and Proto-South-Ethio-Semitic were among its daughters. Tigre was probably spoken already before Aksumite times, together with Geez.

  5. sorry i meant a huge problem 🙂

  6. Thanks for the explanation, and there’s no need to apologize — I love comments on old threads! (That’s why I try not to close them, despite the annoyance of having to constantly delete spam.)

  7. salam in tigre salam in tgrenia salam in amhric maza in tigre maziew in tigrenia mata,a you want to go on i speak all of them to say they are not relted

  8. David Marjanović says

    The Serbs use both — one every other day in school, for example. A rather amazing situation.
    Slovenian and Macedonian are different languages.

  9. As a native Tigre speaker, I am curious about where this information came from. All students growing up in Tigre-speaking areas learn in Tigre in Ge’ez script until the 6th grade. Eastern Sudan, which also has many Tigre speakers, uses the Arabic script informally for Tigre for apparent reasons. However, I have never heard of any Tigre speaker not using the Ge’ez script because of an aversion to its Christian ties. I would like to know the source of this information.

    For anyone interested, there is a site of the Tigre language and its speakers SpeakTigre.com.

  10. The link to the Beja Project was dead, so I replaced it with an archived link; unfortunately, they don’t give a source for their information. Thanks for providing a site about Tigre!

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