Somali is an agglutinative language, using a number of markers for case, gender and number. Characteristic differences between Somali and most Indo-European languages include multiple forms of most personal pronouns, the use of particles to signify the focus of a sentence, extensive use of tone to denote differences in case and number, and gender polarity (the gender of many words is different in the singular and plural forms).

Somali contains a number of loan words from Arabic and the former colonial languages English and Italian. Somalis are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims and the language has taken much religious terminology from Arabic. From the pastoral epoch there are Arabic loan words for objects of settled living such as the Somali albaabka (the door), from the Arabic الباب al baab, which displays the same inclusion of the definite article as do many European words derived from Arabic.


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