Arabic is a Semitic language of the Arabo-Canaanite subgroup (Ruhlen 1987). Arabic and Canaanite—which includes Hebrew, Phoenician, and several extinct languages—are distantly related to Aramaic. Other even more distant relatives are the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea (such as Amharic and Tigrinya) and Akkadian, an extinct language once spoken in Mesopotamia. Semitic is a branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages, the bulk of which are spoken in Africa. Afro-Asiatic has several major branches: Semitic, Berber, Chadic (including languages such as Hausa), Cushitic (including languages such as Somali), and Ancient Egyptian, whose modern descendent, Coptic, is preserved as a liturgical language. It should be noted that the minority languages collectively known as South Arabian spoken by about 50,000 people altogether in Oman and Yemen are more closely related to the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and are not dialects of Arabic.
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