Ge'ez is the classical language of Ethiopia. As a member of the Semitic language family its relatives include familiar languages like Hebrew and Arabic. Ge'ez is really important for students of Greco-Roman Judaism and the history of Christianity. The Christianization of Ethiopia (4th century CE) led to the translation of Jewish/Christian writings into Ge'ez, including important Jewish writings like 1 Enoch and Jubilees. We have since lost most of the earlier Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic versions of these Jewish texts, so they only exist today in their entirety in Ge'ez translation. This makes it an important language for students of early Judaism. Beyond these Jewish writings the Ethiopian manuscript tradition contains many Christian works translated from Greek and Arabic, and also includes indigenous Ethiopian Christian resources -- most of which have not been translated into English. For those interested in studying non-western Christian history, learning the Ge'ez language will be very rewarding.
Ge'ez will be much easier to learn if you have already studied a Semitic language like Hebrew or Arabic. Or if you just happen to be fluent in Amharic already.
If you'd like to find other Ancient Bookshelf posts that include or deal with Ge'ez in any way, click here.
Ge'ez is rarely taught for credit in North American universities. The CARLA Less Commonly Taught Language Database lists only one university that offers it: Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. It has been taught at other universities, however, including:
University of Chicago by Prof. Rachel Hasselbach-Andee
University of Toronto by Prof. Robert Holmstedt
University of Washington by Prof. Hamza Zafer
There are opportunities to learn Ge'ez in Germany, for example:
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München by Prof. Loren Stuckenbruck
There of course several scholars who know and can teach Ge'ez, but may not have an official course listing at their institution.
Lambdin, Thomas. Introduction to Classical Ethiopic.
Lambdin's grammar offers a good introduction to Ge'ez. The entire grammar is in transliteration, including the vocabulary lists and exercises (with the exception of one reading sample at the end). This is helpful since the Ethiopic script does not reflect things like gemination (doubling of letters). However, it can also make it difficult to start reading and translating texts, since printed editions are going to be in the Ethiopic script.
Raineri, Osvaldo. Introduzione Alla Lingua Ge'ez.
This is the Italian translation of Lambdin, which has the vocabulary and exercises in Ge'ez script rather than transliteration.
Dillman, August and James A. Chrichton. Ethiopic Grammar.
Dillman's classic and monumental grammar in English translation. Dillman has more information than Lambdin, particularly in areas of syntax. If you're serious about learning Ethiopic this is an important book to have, and can be a great companion and complement to Lambdin. Lambdin will still be the most accessible starting point, however.
Gragg, Gene. "Ge'ez (Aksum)." Pages 427-453 in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages.
An overview of the Ge'ez language for those with a linguistic bent.
Leslau, Wolf. A Concise Dictionary of Ge'ez.
This is the shorter version of Leslau's Comparative Dictionary of Ge'ez. The longer work is English-Ge'ez/Ge'ez to English and is in transliteration. This shorter version is only Ge'ez-English and has its entries in the Ethiopic script. It is more affordable and portable than the larger volume, and once you start reading texts you might find that it's easier to search for words in the Ethiopic script, rather than having to find them in transliteration. The larger dictionary is on Google Books, and I've often been able to use the search feature to pull up English-Ge'ez entries when needed.
There are several classic grammars available as PDFs online.
You can download and print our flashcards that can be used with Lambdin's grammar.
Ethiopic Jubilees Reading Guide: 11:1-10/The Rise of Civilization
Vocabulary list and notes.
Ethiopic Jubilees Reading Guide: The Aqedah, 17:15-18:16
Vocabulary list and notes.
You can access books from the Ethiopic Old and New Testaments on this wonderful website.
Links to two videos about Ge'ez from Endangered Language Association Toronto.
The Ethiopic Writing System: A Typographic Approach.
M.A. Dissertation by Jeremie Hornus.
Because Ethiopic has so many different characters in its syllabary, it can take a while to learn how to type in the script! This Unicode chart will show you the codes you need. If you have not used Unicode there are resources online to help you figure it out. For Mac users you change the language of your keyboard to "Unicode Hex Input." You can then hold down your 'option' key and type in the four digit/letter code from the chart above. To use the Unicode hex codes with windows see this article. Windows users have more options than us Mac people, and some of this is discussed here.
[Stay Tuned! I have some more downloadable resources I'll be adding]
[Last update: February 12th 2017]