Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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ANBESSA Teferra, Department of Hebrew Language and Semitic Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities, Tel Aviv University, Israel

The Aim of this paper is to analyze the pre-1992 and post-1992 periods in the development of Sidaama orthography. Sidaama (self name: Sidaam-u ʔ afóo ʻtongue of Sidaamaʼ) is a Highland East Cushitic language (HEC) spoken in south-central Ethiopia. According to the 2007 census of Ethiopia, the number of Sidaama mother tongue speakers was 2,925,171 (CSA 2010: 200). The first instance of Sidaama orthography was the Gospel of Mark, which was translated by the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) using the Latin script and its publication in 1933 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Nevertheless, an important period in the orthographic development was in the 1950s and on wards when various missionary churches were established in Sidaama land. One of them is the Comboni branch of the Roman Catholic Mission which was established in 1962. The missionaries translated the Gospels, prayers and various religious materials into Sidaama using the Ethiopic script. These religious publications were easily read and understood by educated Sidaamas because of the sound design of the orthography.The post 1974 period saw the use of Sidaama as one 15 languages selected to teach the uneducated population, in particular during the 1980s National Literacy Campaign using the Ethiopic script. However, this orthography was a catastrophic failure because of a faulty matching of the seven Ethiopic orders with that of Sidaama vowels.The most dynamic development in Sidaama Orthography was witnessed since 1992 when Sidaama became a language of primary education and administration based on a Latin script. Consequently, numerous literacy primers and various books were published. The lexicon was considerably expanded by the incorporation of neologisms and radio broadcasts began in earnest. Despite the tremendous success, the orthography still has some drawbacks. A faulty representation of ejectives, the inaccurate use of /ʔ/ and /ɗ/, the unwarranted insertion of i following y, etc. can be cited. Reform of the present script is long overdue and a plea for its modification seems to have fallen on deaf ears.