Hadiya Ethiopia: Leemo Hadiya girl preparing butter by shaking fresh milk in a clay pot (1970-1)

Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language Orthography – Alphabet and Writing

Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Orthography Primer

I decided to create a resource for basic Hadiyya orthography (Hadiyyisa alphabet and writing system). It will be updated as needed. My stimulus comes from the lack of such basic resource online. I had wanted to lean it myself, but my online searches yielded nothing – until I found it buried in an indirect source, Oslo Studies in Language scholarly journal.1 By creating this, I hope to help others who are in the same situation, and contribute towards Hadiyyisa’s development as a written language and help reverse its observed weakening trend. State of Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language of Ethiopia is an in depth article about this issue.

The Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language Alphabet


Letter (Large/small) Name/Sound Example Hadiyyisa Word(s)
A a [a] mato (one), Waa’aa (God)
B b [ba] baxo (work), lobakata (much, many)
C c [t∫’a] maceesee (hear me), cawoomoo (I’ll be silent). *
CH ch [t∫a] manchoo (man), heechaa (life)
D d [da] daddaraanchoo (merchant), danaamoo (good, beautiful)
E e [e] neesee (us), eranee (well, good)
F e [fa] hoffanee (small), fatakimaa or fatahimaa (to release)
G g [ga] gatisima (to save, to secure), gaga (self)
H h [ha] hasee (find it), halichoo (donkey)
I i [i] iihanee (mine), hinkid (how)
J j [dʒa] joraa (bad), jagara (small residence usually next to a bigger one)
K k [ka] ka (‘you’ for male), kuk (this)
L l [la] lelee (play), laroo (cows)
M m [ma] ma’ccee (ear), maree (go)
N n [na] nafaraa (meadow in front area), neesee (us)
NY ny [ɲa] adapted for loan words such as ‘sanyo’ (monday) of Amharic
O o [o] meenticcoo (woman or the woman), woroon (below)
P p [pa] adapted for loan words such as politics from English, and police from Amharic/English. However, monolingual Hadiya actually change the sound to [ba] in their speech
PH ph [p’a] aphisee (hit it), ccoophaaroo’o (food – minsed meat/greens in butter & spices) *
Q q [k’a] qoxaraa (strong), ha’qaa (wood) *
R r [ra] hurbaata (food), woro’nee (in)
S s [sa] lasagee (later), so’oo (barley)
SH sh [∫a] shokkiissoohanee (hot, burning), bashillaa (far)
T t [ta] diinatee (money or cattle), matayanoo (being busy)
TS ts [s’a] adapted for loan words such as ‘tsom’ (fasting) of Amharic *
U u [u] Uulla (earth or one’s plot/plat), hundam (all of it)
V v [va] adapted for loan words such as ‘university’ of English
W w [wa] weeraa (cedar tree), wo’oo (water)
X x [t’a] wiximaa (seeding), iix (he) *
Y y [ya] iiyyimaa (carrying), malayyee (strength, force)
Z z [za] zara (race or ethnic group)
ZH zh [ʒa] adapted for loan words such as ‘gezhii’ (governor) of Amharic
‘ (no allograph) [ʔa] ki’aakka’a (rising), liira’imito’oo (they rejoiced)

* In his work mentioned above, Dr. Shimelis Mazengia recommends the replacement of < c ph q ts x > with < c’ p’ k’ s’ t’ > respectively to facilitate learnability, regularity, simplicity, economy, and to reduce negative transferability to English orthography. However, while this is an impressive study and the recommendations are good, I am not sure of the feasibility and even the suitability of adapting it given the present stage of Hadiyyisa’s orthography. In addition, the merits of his recommendation must be evaluated carefully by the practitioners on the ground even though Dr. Mazengia’s expert advice has considerable weight should not be taken lightly. For instance, I imagine the generous use of apostrophe as he recommends make Hadiyyisa sentences and paragraphs appear complicated and messy to readers, not to mention the possible conflict and confusion with the current legitimate use this character as glottal stop in Hadiyyisa orthography.

Even if the practitioners on the ground were to accept the recommendations, I am sure they will use a balance between redeveloping what little materials that we have in Hadiyyisa plus retraining effort needed on the one hand and the long-term effectiveness of his recommended modification of the orthography. The right question maybe: do we have bigger issues to tackle such as making Hadiyyisa a literary language in the first place? I differ the answer to linguists and practitioners on the ground.

  1. Binyam Sisay Mendisu & Janne Bondi Johannessen (eds.) Multilingual Ethiopia: Linguistic Challenges and Capacity Building Efforts, Oslo Studies in Language 8(1), 2016. 201–218. (ISSN 1890-9639)

    I finally found this basic information in Dr. Shimelis Mazengia’s article in Oslo Studies in Language scholarly journal volume that was generously made available online by the publisher. My presentation here uses his work as a primary and only source.

    Linguists and educators among you may certainly offer me feedback. I would appreciate suggestions from people with such backgrounds and those that are simply practitioners of Hadiyyisa orthography globally. I suspect professionals that are in Ethiopia (educators, linguists, and other practitioners), especially on the ground in Hadiya Zone, would have valuable advice to offer. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 thoughts on “Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language Orthography – Alphabet and Writing”