Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 March 2011
Tigre, an Ethio-Semitic language spoken in Eritrea by a predominantly Muslim population, is known to have remained in intensive contact with Arabic since at least the nineteenth century. In the present article we attempt to survey the lexical and grammatical features of Tigre which are potentially attributable to Arabic influence. The genealogical proximity of Arabic and Ethio-Semitic complicates the task, as borrowed features and common retentions are not always easily distinguishable. In the lexical domain, the Arabic impact is undoubtedly conspicuous: thus, even in the core vocabulary Arabic loanwords are more prominent than in any other Ethio-Semitic language. Nevertheless, for many individual lexemes the borrowing hypothesis remains to be substantiated. Recent Arabic influence is probably responsible for a few relatively superficial features of Tigre phonetics and morphology. Several more deeply-rooted features may in principle be due to a more ancient and more intensive contact with Arabic: the specific influence of the ejectives on the vowels; the grammatical categories of singulative and diminutive; the diversity of verbal noun patterns in the basic stem; and several types of broken plural formation.