Field and river

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

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

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


YONATTAN Araya, Mekelle University, College of Social Social Sciences and Languages, Ethiopia; Postdoctoral fellow of Peace and Conflict at the Institute of Dispute Resolution in Africa, College of Law, University of South Africa, South Africa

Since the introduction of Amharic as a sole federal language, the language has been perceived as hegemonic that has brought about economic and linguistic inequalities, and linguistic resistance. However, in Ethiopia, empirical research on language hegemony and resistance, and economic inequalities has a substantial gap and has never used critical discourse analysis as an instrument to unmask dominance and inequalities interlinked with the use Amharic of as a federal language. Hence, the main objective of this study is to bridge this gap. To this effect, qualitative data were gathered through interviews from 40 purposely selected key informants, as well as through questionnaire from 218 randomly selected postgraduate students of Addis Ababa University. The data were categorized and analyzed through critical discourse and thematic analyses. That is, qualitative data gathered through interview and questionnaires were categorized into various themes; then, the data were analyzed by selecting the themes and linking them. Also, Amharic dominance and the resultant inequalities were revealed through critical discourse analysis. Results indicate that the use of Amharic only as a federal language has resulted in cultural inequalities, linguistic hegemony and resistance, and asymmetrical economic opportunities. Amharic hegemony is reflected in many social fields such as the mass media, film and music industry, and federal offices where the language is used as a medium of recruitment for jobs as well for communications in business and the mass media which eventually excludes other languages speakers from high economic, cultural, and social statues. As a result, dominant languages speakers are pressing for the use of their own languages, along with Amharic, as federal languages. Such arguments have in turn made the continuity of the status of Amharic questionable. Therefore, it is concluded that these practices are threats for societal and political stability which could cause national strife if remedial actions are not taken timely. It is also suggested that the use of either English, which is a culturally neutral language to all linguistic groups, or all major indigenous languages as federal languages is a viable policy option to eliminate linguistic hegemony and resistance, and inequitable economic opportunities.