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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ALMAZ Wasse Gelagay, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

This study looks at current efforts to develop and standardize disadvantaged Ethiopian languages, which have recently begun to be introduced into education and other social settings. Article 3.5.1 of the Federal Democratic Republic Government of Ethiopia’s Education and Training Policy (1994) granted citizens a legal right to use their native languages as a medium of primary education. This legal initiative resulted in the introduction of many indigenous languages into education and other official settings. The arrival of these languages into new domains has created opportunities to standardize them, with the effect of changing their social status. Gamo is one such language which, as a result of the policy changes, has acquired a standard orthography and been introduced as a medium of instruction in schools. This research seeks to investigate the sociolinguistic aspects of standardization in the Gamo language. It mainly focuses on norm selection and norm acceptance, exploring speakers’ attitudes to Gamo and their needs and expectations regarding the standardization of the language. The research argues that, as a language newly introduced into different social domains, Gamo has to be standardized to fulfill its newly assigned social roles. As part of the standardization endeavors, there is a pressing need to establish a standard language that suits the attitudes and demands of Gamo society. A standard Gamo language would effectively play various social and instrumental roles if users of the language participated in the standardization process as much as possible. So far, we do not have sufficient information about social attitudes and needs regarding the standardization of Gamo. The research therefore helps to fill an information gap on this issue by providing valuable data about the real attitudes and needs of speakers of the language at grassroots level.