Hadiya Ethiopia: Leemo Hadiya Kidigissa mourners of the dead many on horses (1970-1)

Some Observations on Hadiyyisa Orthography – A Review

Analysis of the Study from a Hadiyyisa Speaker’s Angle


The project

An entire 2016 volume1 of Oslo Studies in Language scholarly journal (available online) was dedicated to publishing a collection of studies conducted by team of researchers from Addis Ababa University, Hawassa University, University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology under a project named as  Linguistic Capacity Building: Tools for the Inclusive Development of Ethiopia, the effort financed by:

…the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) under its NORHED program from 2014-2018. The main aim of the project is to increase the knowledge and capacity at Ethiopian universities to develop resources for disadvantaged spoken and signed languages, so that children and adult speakers of these languages will be able to use them in education and other democratic arenas. For this purpose, the project is involved in various activities, including linguistic research, preparation of short-term training for local language specialists, development of graduate programs in linguistics and communication, PhD training, corpus preparation for several languages and establishing networks between stakeholders.


The paper

In paper under the title, Some Observations on Hadiyyisa Orthography Dr. Shimelis Mazengia discusses his findings. He found a number of challenges to standardized Hadiyyisa writing system (orthography) mastery for students and teachers. He conducted experimental research where his team dictated Hadiyyisa paragraph to elementary, high school, and college students (10 students from each, 30 in total). Fluent Hadiyyisa speaker dictated a passage quoted below from Onkis G/Kidaan’s book Hadiyyi Heessiinsee Kobi’llishshiinsee Hoffokam (Hadiya stories and proverbs)2 (Unable to find a copy of this book to purchase so far):

Daageechchii qamachchii afuutta’a attoorattonam daageechchi qamachchina “Saraxxi qorosho’i iibbadinne hooshe’akkamaare, xee’aa woga” yukko. Kan ammanenne qamachchi dabaraa, “Saraxxi qorosho’i iibbadinne xee’ooisa hinkidenne laqqeena xantitto.” yaa xa’mmukko. Daageechchi odim dabaraa “Araat googinne higuhigkuuyyi wocookkoka macceesaateette.” yukkoo yakko’o.


While a monkey and an ape were chatting, the monkey said to the ape, “Flatbread of sorghum with fresh milk is absolutely delicious.” Then, the ape asked, “How do you know that flatbread of sorghum with fresh milk is delicious?” The monkey replied, “I heard it from passers by.”

The findings

Students made too many errors: Using well designed grading method, he measured frequency of spelling and other orthographic errors  against existing standardization.  To appreciate the result fully, one has to read this excellent report but, if I have to highlight one thing, it is the average number of errors made by elementary, high school, and college students were 53 (45.3%), 50 (42.74%), and 14 (11.97%) respectively.

The difference in error rate among levels (elementary, high school, college) is to be expected. In my view, the passage dictated seems very tough because of its rural orientation, a potential problem for urban students especially for elementary and most high schoolers. However, I do not think these factors invalidate his findings.  Problems do indeed exist.

Recommendations: Dr. Mazengia recommends solutions to the problems. It is not clear that the practitioners on the ground have evaluated these recommendations. I am of the opinion that these recommendations must be approached with practicality in mind. The study is much needed and clarified many challenges in Hadiyisa orthography. It is highly educational. However, Dr. Mazengia’s recommendations will need to be approached with practicality in mind. They may be too expensive and may set back by many years what little progress we now have in Hadiyyisa orthography.  Only the professionals on the ground can judge which of his recommendations would work.  Yes, we have challenges and further standardization may continue, but that is true for anything new and still maturing. If there are linguists among Hadiya people, they can end up greatly influencing this developing area. Of course, one does not have to be Hadiya to have such an impact. Of course one does not have to be Hadiya to have such an impact.

A resource found nowhere else online: As a side note, it was in this study that I finally found what I have been looking for: the Hadiyyisa alphabet and spelling. In this paper, the researcher documented existing Hadiyyisa alphabet and introductory spelling system. Using the material, I was able to teach myself some basic elements of Hadiyyisa orthography.  Having learned it, I then made it available here in Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language Orthography – Alphabet and Writing to introduce it to wider audience. I am not sure why this study would be the only online source in which I could find such a good resource and why the zonal education administration and/or Wachamo University have not made this material available online.  By making it available online in the most basic form, I am trying to fill that gap.

Other good Hadiyyisa resources found in this paper

As another side not, below I list three books Mazengia’s study used. I thought that they are good examples for what Hadiya scholars can do to develop and preserve both the language and cultural heritages of Hadiya. I was unable to find copies for my own consumption, but perhaps many of you know how to bring them to the market.  If you do, please let us know about it in the comment section of this article. While you are at it, you may also let us know other published literature similar to these that we should consider exposing in our future posts.

  • Hadiyyi Heessiinsee Kobi’llishshiinsee Hoffokam” (Hadiyyisa stories and proverbs). In Losa’n Caakka (The light of Education), Hosa’na.
  • Getahun Waatummo Doolle’s 2009 book Hadiyy Heessechchaa Kobi’llishsha (Hadiyyisa Stories and Proverbs).3
  • Hadiya Zone Education Desk’s 2003 book Hadiyyis-Ingilliisis Saga’l Doona (Hadiyya-Engilish Dictionar).4

I wish to see fair sized Hadiyyisa corpus for I know we have perfectly capable people who can create them.

  1. Binyam Sisay Mendisu & Janne Bondi Johannessen (eds.) Multilingual Ethiopia: Linguistic Challenges and Capacity Building Effort, Oslo Studies in Language 8(1) 2016. 8. (ISSN 1890-963)
  2. Onkis G/Kidaan. 1986 H.D (1993/94). “Hadiyyi Heessiinsee Kobi’llishshiinsee Hoffokam” (Hadiyyisa stories and proverbs). In Losa’n Caakka (The light of Education), Hosa’na, p. 22.
  3. Getahun Waatummo Doolle. 2002 H.D (2009/10). Hadiyy Heessechchaa Kobi’llishsha (Hadiyyisa Stories and Proverbs). Addis Ababal: Nigd Mattemiya Dirijjit.
  4. Hadiya Zone Education Desk. 1996 H.D. (2003/04). Hadiyyis-Ingilliisis Saga’l Doona (Hadiyya-Engilish Dictionar). Waachchamo.

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