Some authorities hold that Egyptian civilization came from Babylonia, and that the so-called Hamitic languages are older and less specialized members of the Semitic family.
The Somali belong to the Eastern (Ethiopic) Hamitic family of tribes, of which the other chief members are the neighbouring Galla and Afar, the Abyssinian Agau and the Beja tribes between the Nubian Nile and the Red Sea.
Eutychius, patriarch of Alexandria about 930, included "Nubi" among the six kinds of writing which he mentions as current among the Hamitic peoples, and "Nubi" also appears among a list of six writings mentioned in an ancient manuscript now in the Berlin Museum.
Exiles; Ethiopic falas, a stranger), or "Jews of Abyssinia," a tribe of Hamitic stock, akin to Galla, Somali and Beja, though they profess the Jewish religion.
There is little or no physical difference between them and the typical Abyssinians, except perhaps that their eyes are a little more oblique; and they may certainly be regarded as Hamitic. It is uncertain when they became Jews: one account suggests in Solomon's time; another, at the Babylonian captivity; a third, during the 1st century of the Christian era.
The inhabitants of the interior may be divided into two classes, those namely of Bantu and those of Hamitic stock.
The languages spoken in the Uganda Protectorate belong to the following stocks: (1) Hamitic (Murle and Rendile of Lake Rudolf); (2) Masai (Bari, Elgumi, Turkana, Suk, &c.); (2a) Sabei, on the northern slopes of Elgon and on Mt Debasien; (2b) Nilotic (Acholi, Aluru, Gang, &c.); (3) Madi (spoken on the Nile between Aluru and Bari, really of West African affinities); (4) Bantu (Lu-ganda, Runyoro, Lu-konjo, Kuamba, Lihuku, the Masaba languages of west Elgon and Kavirondo, &c.); and lastly, the unclassified, isolated Lendu and Mbuba spoken by some of the pigmy-prognathous peoples.
Unyoro has played rather an important role in the past (unwritten) history of Equatorial Africa as being the region from which the ancient Gala (Hamitic) aristocracy, coming from Nileland, penetrated the forests of Bantu Africa, bringing with them the Neolithic civilization, the use of metals, and the keeping of cattle.
The characteristic triliteral roots of all the Semitic languages seemed to separate them widely from others; but certain traits have caused the Egyptian, Berber and Cushite groups to be classed together as three subfamilies of a Hamitic group, remotely related to the Semitic. The biliteral character of Coptic, and the biliteralism which was believed to exist in Egyptian, led philologists to suspect that Egyptian might be a surviving witness to that far-off stage of the Semitic languages when triliteral roots had not yet been formed from presumed original biliterals; Sethes investigations, however, prove that the Coptic biliterals are themselves derived from Old Egyptian triliterals, and that the triliteral roots enormously preponderated in Egyptian of the earliest known form; that view is, therefore, no longer tenable.
Although the Berber tongue shows a certain affinity with Semitic in the construction both of its words and sentences Berber is quite distinct from the Semitic languages; and a remarkable fact is that in spite of the enormous space over which the dialects are spread and the thousands of years that some of the Berber peoples have been isolated from the rest, these dialects show but slight differences from the long-extinct Hamitic speech from which all are derived.
Hamitic Family (5530) Unclassed Languages.
The only Semitic language is Arabic, found at Aden, where also the Hamitic Somali was returned.
The Axumites belonged originally to the Hamitic race, but the immigration of the Himyaritic tribes of southern Arabia speedily imposed a new language and civilization.
Therefore the ancient Abyssinian language, Geez, and its living dialects, Amharic and Tigrina, are Semitic, although modified by the influence of the old Hamitic Agau or Agao.
Abyssinia appears to have been originally peopled by the eastern branch of the Hamitic family, which has occupied this region from the remotest times, and still constitutes the great bulk of its inhabitants, though the higher classes are now strongly Semitized.
As regards language, several of the indigenous groups, such as the Khamtas of Lasta, the Agau or Agaos of Agaumeder ("Agao land") and the Falashas, the so-called "Jews" of Abyssinia, still speak rude dialects of the old Hamitic tongue.
They have received a tinge of Hamitic blood from the Galla people, and have high foreheads, large eyes, straight noses and thick but not pouting lips.
The question as to the ethnic affinities of the pre-dynastic Egyptians is still unsolved; but they may be regarded as, in the main, Hamitic, though it is a question how far it is just to apply a name which implies a definite specialization in what may be comparatively modern times to a people of such antiquity.
These emigrants, already affected by the Hamitic pastoral culture, and with a strain of Hamitic blood in their veins, passed rapidly down the open tract in the east, doubtless exterminating their predecessors, except such few as took refuge in the mountains and swamps.
It would appear that either Libyan (Fula) or, less probably, Hamitic, blood enters into the composition of the Zandeh peoples on the Nile-Congo watershed.
The old Kitwara empire, which comprised the plateau land between the Ruwenzori range and Kavirondo, had broken up into small states, usually governed by a Hamitic (Ba-Hima) aristocracy.
The term " Bilad-es-Sudan " (" country of the blacks ") is not altogether applicable to the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, the northern portion being occupied by Hamitic and Semitic tribes, chiefly nomads, and classed as Arabs.