The Somali language, one of the best-documented Afro-Asiatic languages that date back to before 1900, is a member of the Cushitic branch. The Cushitic branch is made up of about 40 languages spoken in such countries as Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, and Eritrea. The Cushitic branch is also subdivided into the North, Central, South and East Cushitic branches. The Somali language belongs to the East Cushitic branch. Somali is closely related to such languages of the same branch as Afar and Oromo.
It is worth to mention that Somali is considered to be one of the most widespread languages of the Cushitic branch.
Over the period of its unique history, the language was influenced by various languages, such as Arabic, English, and Italian. As the Somalia was heavily influenced by Islam, the Somali language has borrowed a lot of words from the Arabic language. Former colonial languages such as English and Italian influenced Somali as well. Furthermore, the language also has a significant number of loanwords from the Persian language. After Somali attained official language status, many new words were created.
The Somali language has three main dialects. They are Benaadir (Coastal Somali), Maay, and Northern or Northern-Central. When it comes to the basis of the modern Somali language, the Northern-Central dialect plays a key role.
Although it is believed that Somali dates back to the ancient times, there are no proves as there is no ancient Somali script. Nevertheless, it is known that the most influential writing system to the Somali language was based on the Arabic alphabet.
After the arrival of Italian and British colonial powers, the written language saw some changes. It was influenced by the Latin-language alphabet. Even today it is considered to be the most widely used script. The modern Latin-based script is made up of 26 letters of the English-language alphabet. It is interesting to know that there are no z, p and v letters in this language.
In 1972 the Somali language gained the status of the official language of Somalia. The first dictionary of the modern Somali was published 4 years later, in 1976. The language is widely spoken in such countries as Somalia (official language), Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya and some other Somali communities in the Middle East. There are about 16 million native Somali speakers worldwide. 7 out of 16 million Somali speakers live in Somalia. It is worth to mention, that Somali is not the only official language to Somalia. The second official language of the country is Arabic. Also, thanks to the colonial history of the country, many people also speak English and Italian.