The Cushitic languages, a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, are spoken in the countries located in the Horn of Africa. There are five countries where the Cushitic languages are used. They are Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti.
The Cushitic family is divided into six main groups. They are North Cushitic (also known as Beja), Central Cushitic (also known as Agau), South Cushitic, Highland East Cushitic, Lowland East Cushitic and the Omo-Tana group.
There are five major languages of the Cushitic branch. These languages are considered to be dominant both in terms of a number of speakers and geographical extension. These languages are Oromo, Somali, Sidamo, Afar, and Bedawi.
The Oromo language has about 24 million speakers in such countries as Ethiopia and Kenya. The Somali language is mainly spoken in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. The total population of the Somalia speakers is about 12.6 million people. The Sidamo language has about 1.9 million speakers in Ethiopia. The Agar language is spoken in Eritrea and has about 1.4 million speakers. The Bedawi language is spoken in Sudan and has about 1.2 million speakers.
The remaining languages of the Cushitic branch have significantly smaller populations. Some of them can even be endangered on the brink of extinction. Cushitic languages with more than 500,000 speakers include Somali, Oromo West Central, Oromo Eastern, Oromo Borana-Arsi-Guji, Sidamo, Afar, Bedawi, Hadiyya, Gedeo, Kambaata, and Maay.
It is worth to mention that West Cushitic languages are forming a separate branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, known as Omotic. The Omotic branch is made up of 28 languages. The dominant Omotic languages are Gamo-Gofa-Dawro, Wolaytta, Kafa, Bench, Aari, and Koorete.
From all languages of the Cushitic branch, only the Somali language enjoys an official status. Along with Arabic, Somali is considered to be one of the national languages of Somalia.
The other Chusitic language used in Ethiopia for official government purposes, commerce, by the media and the educational sector, is the Oromo language. The Oromo language is also considered to be a trade language.
It is important to mention that most Cushitic languages have several dialects. Also, in most cases, they are mutually intelligible.
Languages of the Cushitic branch has many loanwords from such languages as Amharic, Arabic, Portuguese, French, English, and Nilo-Saharan languages.
When it comes to the written form of Cushitic languages, several scripts are used. For example, the written Oromo is mainly based on the Latin alphabet (Qubee). The Bedawi language uses the Arabic-based script. When it comes to such Cushitic language as Afar, both Latin alphabet or Ge’ez script can be used.