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Christopher Ehret

Distinguished Research Professor

Contact Information

Office  7290 Bunche Hall
Phone  310-825-4093

African Kinship Materials

Sample Khoisan 100 Word Lists

Bantu Subclassifications 

World deictic roots

Selected Publications


(C. Ehret and Patricia Ehret, eds.) A Dictionary of Sandawe: The Lexicon and Culture of a Khoesan People of Tanzania. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2012.

History and the Testimony of Language. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2011.

The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002.

A Historical-Comparative Reconstruction of Nilo-Saharan. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2001.

An African Classical Age: Eastern and Southern Africa in World History, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 400. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.

(C. Ehret and M. Posnansky, eds.) The Archaeological and Linguistic Reconstruction of African History. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982.

The Historical Reconstruction of Southern Cushitic Phonology and Vocabulary. Berlin: Reimer, 1980.

Ethiopians and East Africans: The Problem of Contacts. Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1974.

Southern Nilotic History: Linguistic Approaches to the Study of the Past. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1971.

Historical Essays

“Holocene migrations as determined from linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Chapter 13 in Ness, I. & P. Bellwood (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

“Africa in World History: The Long, Long View.” Chapter 25 in J. H. Bentley (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

“Sudanic Civilization.” Chapter 7 in Michael Adas (ed.), Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History, pp. 224-274. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, for the American Historical Association, 2001.

(asterisks identify monographic research articles)

Linguistic Method in History and Archaeology 

“Linguistic Archaeology.” African Archaeological Review 29, 2 (2012): 109-130.

“Loanword Histories and the Demography of Migration.” In Graciela S. Cabana and Jeffrey J. Clark (eds.), Rethinking Anthropological Perspectives on Migration, pp. 207-228. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2011.

“Linguistic Testimony and Migration Histories.” In Jan Lucassen, Leo Lucassen, and Patrick Manning (ed.), Migration History in World History, pp. 113-154. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010.

Review article of R. Blench, Archaeology, Language, and the African Past. Journal of African Archaeology 6, 2 (2008): 259-265.

“Writing African History from Linguistic Evidence.” Chapter 3 in John Edward Philips (ed.), Writing African History, pp. 86-111. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2005.

“Language Family Expansions: Broadening our Understanding of Cause from an African Perspective.” Chapter 14 in P. Bellwood and C. Renfrew (ed.), Examining the Farming/ Language Dispersal Hypothesis, pp. 163-176. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2003.

“The Establishment of Iron-Working in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa: Linguistic Inferences on Technological History,” Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 16/17 (2001): 125-175.

“Testing the Expectations of Glottochronology against the Correlations of Language and Archaeology in Africa.” Chapter 15 in C. Renfrew, A. McMahon, and L. Trask (ed.), Time Depth in Historical Linguistics, Vol. 2, pp. 373-399. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000.

“Language and History.” Chapter 11 in B. Heine and D. Nurse (ed.), African Languages: An Introduction, pp. 272-297. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

“Language Change and the Material Correlates of Language and Ethnic Shift,” Antiquity 62, no. 236 (1988): 564-574.

(C. Ehret and M. Kinsman) “Shona Dialect Classification and its Implications for Iron Age History in Southern Africa,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 14, 3 (1981): 401-443.

“The Demographic Implications of Linguistic Change and Language Shift.” In C. Fyfe and D. McMaster (ed.), African Historical Demography, Vol. 2, pp. 153-182. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre of African Studies, 1981.

“Historical Inference from Transformations in Cultural Vocabularies,” Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 2 (1980): 189-218.

“Linguistic Evidence and its Correlation with Archaeology,” World Archaeology 8, 1 (1976): 5-18.

“Language Evidence and Religious History.” In T. O. Ranger and I. N. Kimambo (ed.), The Historical Study of African Religion, pp. 45-49. London, Berkeley: Heinemann and University of California Press, 1972.

“Linguistics as a Tool for Historians,” Hadith 1 (1968): 119-133. Nairobi: East African Publishing House, for Historical Association of Kenya.

Linguistics, Genetics, and Anthropology 

“Deep-Time Historical Contexts of Crow and Omaha Systems: Perspectives from Africa.“ Chapter 7 in Thomas R. Trautmann and Peter M. Whiteley (eds.), Crow-Omaha: New Light on a Classic Problem of Kinship Analysis. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012.

“Reconstructing Ancient Kinship: Practice and Theory in an African Case Study.” In Doug Jones and Bojka Milicic (ed.). Kinship and Language: Per Hage and the Renaissance of Kinship Studies. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2011.

(A. Kitchen, C. Ehret, S. Assefa, and C. Mulligan.) "Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Semitic languages identifies an Early Bronze Age origin of Semitic in the Near East." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276: 1668 (7 August 2009): 2703-2710.

(Sarah A. Tishkoff, Floyd A. Reed, Françoise R. Friedlaender, Christopher Ehret, Alessia Ranciaro, et al.) “The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans.” Science 324 (22 May 2009): 1035-1044.

“Reconstructing Ancient Kinship in Africa.” In Nicholas J. Allen, Hilary Callan, Robin Dunbar, and Wendy James (eds.), Early Human Kinship: From Sex to Social Reproduction, pp. 200-231, 259-269. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

(Elizabeth T. Wood, Daryn A. Stover, C. Ehret, Giovanni Destro-Bisol, Gabriella Spedini, Howard McLeod, Leslie Louie, Mike Bamshad, Beverley I. Strassmann, Himla Soodyall, and Michael F. Hammer) “Contrasting Patterns of Y Chromosome and mtDNA Variation in Africa: Evidence for Sex-biased Demographic Processes.” European Journal of Human Genetics, April 2005, pp. 1-10.

History, East Africa

“The Eastern Kenya Interior, 1500-1800.” In E. S. Atieno Odhiambo (ed.), African Historians and African Voices, pp. 33-46. Basel: P. Schlettwein Publishers, 2001.

“The East African Interior.” Chapter 22 in M. Elfasi and I. Hrbek (ed.), Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, pp. 616-642. (Vol. III, General History of Africa). UNESCO, University of California Press, and Heinemann, 1988.

“Between the Coast and the Great Lakes.” Chapter 19 in D. T. Niane (ed.), Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries, pp. 481-497. (Vol. IV, General History of Africa). UNESCO, University of California Press, and Heinemann, 1984.

(C. Ehret and D. Nurse) “The Taita Cushites,” Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 3 (1981): 125-168.

(L. J. Wood and C. Ehret) “The Origins and Diffusions of the Market Institution in East Africa,” Journal of African Studies 5 (1978): 1-17.

“Aspects of Social and Economic Change in Western Kenya, 500-1800.” Chapter 1 in B. A. Ogot (ed.), Kenya Before 1900, pp. 1-20. Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1977.

(E. A. Alpers and C. Ehret) “Eastern Africa.” In Richard Grey (ed.), Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 4 (1600-1790), pp. 469-536. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

“The Nineteenth Century Roots of Economic Imperialism in Kenya,” Kenya Historical Review 2, 2 (1974): 279-283.

(C. Ehret, T. Coffman, L. Fliegelman, A. Gold, M. Hubbard, D. Johnson, and D. E. Saxon) “Some Thoughts on the Early History of the Nile-Congo Watershed,” Ufahamu 5, 2 (1974): 85-112.

“Cushites and the Highland and Plains Nilotes to 1800.” Chapter 8 in B. A. Ogot (ed.), Zamani: A Survey of East African History, new edition, pp. 150-169. London, Nairobi: Longmans, 1974 (this is a largely rewritten version of second item with this title)

“Cushites and the Highland and Plains Nilotes.” Chapter 8 in B.A. Ogot and J. A. Kieran (ed.), Zamani: A Survey of East African History, pp. 158-176. London, Nairobi: Longmans and East African Publishing House, 1968.

History, Northeastern Africa 

“The Eastern Horn of Africa, 1000 BC to 1400 AD: The Historical Roots.” In A. J. Ahmed (ed.), The Invention of Somalia, pp. 233-262. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 1995.

“Social Transformation in the Early History of the Horn of Africa: Linguistic Clues to Developments of the Period 500 BC to AD 500.” In Taddese Bayene (ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 639-651. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies, 1988.

“Cushitic Prehistory.” In M. L. Bender (ed.), The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia, pp. 85-96. East Lansing: Michigan State University, 1976.

History, Sahara and Sudan 

“Linguistic Stratigraphies and Holocene History in Northeastern Africa.” In Marek Chlodnicki and Karla Kroeper (ed.), Archaeology of Early Northeastern Africa, pp. 1019-1055. Posnan: Posnan Archaeological Museum, 2006. (Studies in African Archaeology, Vol. 9.)

“The African Sources of Egyptian Culture and Language.” In Josep Cervelló (ed.), África Antigua. El Antiguo egipto, una civilizatión Africana, pp. 121-128. (Actas de la IXme Semana de Estudios Africanos del Centre D’estudis Africans de Barcelona.) Barcelona: Centre D’estudis Africans de Barcelona, 2001.

“Sudanic Civilization.” Chapter 7 in Michael Adas (ed.), Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History, pp. 224-274. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, for the American Historical Association, 2001.

“Who Were the Rock Artists? Linguistic Evidence for the Holocene Populations of the Sahara.” In Alfred Muzzolini and Jean-Loïc Le Quellec (ed.), Symposium 13d: Rock Art and the Sahara. In Proceedings of the International Rock Art and Cognitive Archaeology Congress News95. Turin: Centro Studie Museo d’Arte Prehistorica, 1999. Printout text, 16 pp. [Proceedings are published as a CD ROM: files, “ehret.htm”; “ehipa1.jpg”-“ehipa9.jpg”; “ehlist1.jpg”-“ehlist2.jpg” and ehlist1p.jpg”-“ehlist2.jpg”; “ehret1.jpg”-“ehret5.jpg” and “ehret1p.jpg”-“ehret5p.jpg”)]

“Wer waren die Felsbildkünstler der Sahara?” Almogaren 30 (1999): 77-94. (Translation into German by Werner Pichler and Christiane Hintermann of preceding article.)

“Nilo-Saharans and the Saharo-Sudanese Neolithic.” Chapter 6 in T. Shaw, P. Sinclair, B. Andah, and A. Okpoko (ed.), The Archaeology of Africa: Food, Metals and Towns, pp. 104-125. London: Routledge, 1993.

“Population Movement and Culture Contact in the Southern Sudan, c. 3000 BC to AD 1000.” In J. Mack and P. Robertshaw (ed.),Culture History in the Southern Sudan, pp. 19-48. Memoire 8. Nairobi: British Institute in Eastern Africa, 1983.

History, Southern Africa 

“The Early Livestock Raisers of Southern Africa.” Southern African Humanities 30 (December 2008): 7-35.

“Transformations in Southern African History: Proposals for a Sweeping Overview of Change and Development, 6000 BC to the present,” Ufahamu 25, 2 (1997): 54-80.

“The First Spread of Food Production to Southern Africa.” Chapter 8 in C. Ehret and M. Posnansky (ed.), The Archaeological and Linguistic Reconstruction of African History, pp. 158-181. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982.

(C. Ehret, M. Bink, T. Ginindza, E. Gottschalk, B. Hall, M. Hlatshwayo, D. Johnson, and R. L. Pouwels) “Outlining Southern African History, A Reconsideration, A.D. 100-1500,” Ufahamu 3, 2 (1972): pp. 9-27.

History, Central Africa

“Equatorial and Southern Africa, 4000 BCE-1100 CE.” In William H. McNeil, Jerry H. Bentley, David Christian, David Levison, J. R. McNeill, Heidi Roupp, and Judith P. Zinsser (eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, Vol. 2, pp. 664-670. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group, 2005.

History, African Agricultural 

“A Linguistic History of Cultivation and Herding in Northeastern Africa.” In Ahmed G. Fahmy, S. Kahlheber & A. C. D'Andrea (eds.),Windows on the African Past: Current Approaches to African Archaeobotany, Vol. 3. Frankfurt am Main: Africa Magna Verlag, 2011.

“East African Words and Things: Agricultural Aspects of Economic Transformation in the Nineteenth Century.” In B. A. Ogot (ed.),Kenya in the Nineteenth Century (Hadith 8), pp. 152-172. Nairobi: Historical Association of Kenya, 1985.

“Historical/Linguistic Evidence for Early African Food Production.” Chapter 3 in J. D. Clark and S. Brandt (ed.), From Hunters to Farmers, pp. 26-35. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

“Agricultural History in Central and Southern Africa, ca. 1000 BC to AD 500,” Transafrican Journal of History 4, 1/2 (1974): 1-25.

“Sheep and Central Sudanic Peoples in Southern Africa,” Journal of African History 9 (1968): 213-221.

“Cattle-Keeping and Milking in Eastern and Southern African History: The Linguistic Evidence,” Journal of African History 8 (1967): 1-17.

Historical Linguistics, General 

“Stratigraphy in African Historical Linguistics.” In Henning Andersen (ed.), Language Contacts in Prehistory: Studies in Stratigraphy, pp. 107-114. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003.

“Nostratic—or Proto-Human?” Chapter 4 in C. Renfrew and D. Nettle (ed.), Nostratic: Examining a Linguistic Macrofamily, pp. 93-112. Cambridge: The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 1999.

Afroasiatic Historical Linguistics

“The Primary Branches of Cushitic: Seriating the Diagnostic Sound Change Rules.” In John Bengtson (ed.), In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory: Essays in the Four Fields of Anthropology, pp. 149-160. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2008.

“The Internal and Comparative Reconstruction of Verb Extensions in early Chadic and Afroasiatic.” In Z. Frajzyngier and E. Shay (ed.),Interaction of Morphology and Syntax: Case Studies in Afroasiatic, pp. 41-59. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2008.

“Yaakuan and Eastern Cushitic: A Historical Linguistic Overview.” In G. Takacs (ed.), Semito-Hamitic Festschrift for A. B. Dolgopolsky and H. Jungraithmayr, pp. 128-141. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 2008

“Applying the Comparative Method in Afroasiatic (Afrasan, Afrasisch).” In Rainer Voigt (ed.), „From Beyond the Mediterranean”: Akten des 7. internationalen Semitohamitistenkongresses (VII. ISHaK), Berlin 13. bis 15. September 2004, pp. 43-70. Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2007.

“The Nilo-Saharan Background of Chadic.” Chapter 4 in Paul Newman and Larry Hyman (ed.), West African Linguistics: Studies in Honor of Russell G. Schuh, pp. 56-66. Studies in African Linguistics, Suppl. 11. Columbus: Ohio State University, 2006.

“The Third Consonants in Ancient Egyptian.” In Gabor Takacz (ed.), Egyptian and Semito-Hamitic (Afro-Asiatic) Studies in Memoriam W. Vycichl, pp. 33-54. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics, Vol. XXXIX. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2003.

“Third Consonants in Chadic Verbal Roots.” In M. Lionel Bender, Gabor Takacz, and David Appleyard (ed.), Selected Comparative-Historical Afrasian Linguistic Studies: In Memory of Igor Diakonoff, pp. 61-69. LINCOM Studies in Afro-Asiatic Linguistics 14. München: LINCOM Europa, 2003.

* “Revising the Consonant Inventory of Proto-Eastern Cushitic,” Studies in African Linguistics 22, 3 (1991): 211-275.

* “The Origins of Third Consonants in Semitic Roots: An Internal Reconstruction (Applied to Arabic),” Journal of Afroasiatic Languages3, 2 (1989): 109-202.

C. Ehret, E. D. Elderkin, and D. Nurse, “Dahalo Lexis,” Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 18 (1989): 5-49

* “Proto-Cushitic Reconstruction,” Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 8 (1987): 7-180.

* (C. Ehret and M. N. Ali) “Soomaali Classification.” In T. Labahn (ed.), Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Somali Studies (Hamburg, August, 1983), Vol. 1, pp. 201-269. Hamburg: Buske Verlag, 1985.

“Omotic and the Subclassification of the Afroasiatic Language Family.” In R. Hess (ed.), Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Ethiopian Studies, Session B, pp. 51-62. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1980.

Bantu and Niger-Kordofanian Historical Lingustics 

“Bantu Expansions: Re-envisioning a Central Problem of Early African History,” and “Christopher Ehret Responds,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 34, 1 (2001): 5-41 and 82-87. (Pp. 42-81 consist of responses to the article from 14 scholars of African history, linguistics, and archaeology.)

“Is Krongo After All a Niger-Congo Language?” In R. Vossen, A. Mietzner, and A. Meissner (ed.), “Mehr als nur Worte. . .”: Afrikanistische Beiträge zum 65. Geburtstag von Franz Rottland, pp. 225-237. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2000.

* “Subclassifying Bantu: The Evidence of Stem Morpheme Innovation.” In L. Hyman and J.-M. Hombert (ed.), Bantu Historical Linguistics: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives. pp. 43-147. Stanford, California: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 1999).

“Bantu Origins: Critique and Interpretation,” Transafrican Journal of History 2, 1 (1972): 1-9.

Nilo-Saharan Historical Linguistics

“Language Contacts in Nilo-Saharan Prehistory.” In Henning Andersen (ed.), Language Contacts in Prehistory: Studies in Stratigraphy, pp. 135-157. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003.

“Do Krongo and Shabo Belong in Nilo-Saharan?” In R. Nicolai and F. Rottland (ed.), Fifth Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium, Nice 24-29 Août 1992. Actes/Proceedings, pp. 169-193. Cologne: Rudiger Köppe Verlag, 1995.

“Subclassification of Nilo-Saharan: A Proposal.” In M. L. Bender (ed.), Topics in Nilo-Saharan Linguistics, pp. 35-49. Hamburg: Buske, 1989.

“Nilotic and the Limits of Eastern Sudanic: Classificatory and Historical Conclusions.” In R. Vossen and M. Bechhaus-Gerst (ed.), Nilotic Studies, Part 2, pp. 377-421. Berlin: Reimer, 1983.

“Revising Proto-Kuliak,” Afrika und Übersee 64 (1981): 81-100.

“The Classification of Kuliak.” In T. Schadeberg and M. L. Bender (ed.), Nilo-Saharan, pp. 269-289. Dordrecht: Foris Publications, 1981.

“The Nilotic Languages.” Chapter 3 in E. Polome and C. P. Hill (ed.), Language in Tanzania, pp. 68-78. London: International African Institute, 1980.

Khoesan Historical Linguistics

“Toward Reconstructing Proto-South Khoisan (PSAK),” Mother Tongue 8 (2003): 65-81.

“Proposals on Khoisan Reconstruction,” Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 7, 2 (1986): 105-130.

Short Research Publications

“Ancient Egyptian as an African Language, Egypt as an African Culture.” In T. Celenko (ed.), Egypt in Africa, pp. 25-27. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art and Indiana University Press, 1996.

(C. Ehret, S. O. Y. Keita, and Paul Newman) “The Origins of Afroasiatic,” Science 306 (3 December 2004): 1680-1681.


Thomas J. Sienkiwicz (ed.). Editorial Board: Lawrence Allan Conrad, North America; Geoffrey Conrad, South America; Christopher Ehret, Africa; David A. Crain, Mesoamerica; Katherine Anne Harper, South and Southeast Asia; Robert D. Haak, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Near East; Chenyang Li, East Asia; Thomas H. Watkins, Greece, Rome, Europe. Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, 3 vols. Pasadena: Salem Press, 2002.

Mark W. Chavalas (ed.). Consulting editors: Mark S. Aldendorfer, Carole A. Barrett, Jeffrey W. Dippmann, Christopher Ehret, Katherine Anne Harper. The Ancient World, 2 vols. (Series: Great Events from History.) Pasadena: Salem Press, 2004.


African History: Early Africa; Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, Northeastern Africa, Sahara
Historical Linguistic Methods in History
Historical Linguistics: Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Kordofanian, and Khoesan language families