Somali is an Afro-Asiatic language, which falls under the Cushitic branch of languages. Somali is spoken by ethnic Somali people, who can be found in Somalia. Somali is one of the best documented Cushitic languages. There are academic studies of the language which go as far back as the 19th Century. Somali speakers can also be found in the greater Somali diaspora. This includes Kenya, Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia. Due to the civil war that started in Somalia in the 1990s, the Somali population migrated to other parts of the world such as Europe, the Middle East and North America. Somali speakers can be found in the USA, Canada, Finland, UK, Sweden, Denmark, United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. The ethnic Somali population in the US can be felt. They have invested heavily in business and they are active in their communities. This is more noticeable in states such as Columbus, Minneapolis and Nashville.
After Oromo, Somali is the most spoken Cushitic language. Approximately 16.6 million people speak Somali. Out of this, 8.3 million speakers can be found in Somalia. This consists of 95% of the Somali population. Also, a majority of Djibouti citizens also speak Somali. The other official language spoken in Somalia is Arabic. Somali was declared the official language of Somalia in January 1973. It is the main language of government and it is also taught in schools. Other languages that are spoken in Somalia includes Italian and English. Somali is closely related to the Afar and Oromo languages. The Somali language has 3 dialects. The dialects have been broadly categorized into 3 groups. This includes the Northern dialects, Maay and Benaadir. Northern Somali forms the basis of the standard Somali dialect. Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims. Somali has a lot of Arabic words.
Different scripts have been used to write the language. This includes the Waadad writing system, based on an Arabic writing system known as abjad. The Borama script and the Osmanya script have been used. A Latin orthography was adopted and has been in use since 1972. Alternate names for the Somali language includes Soomaaliga, Af-Soomaali, Af-Maxaad Tiri and common Somali.