Hadiya Ethiopia: Traditional food in cowry shells decorated storage containers Feb 2015

State of Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language of Ethiopia

Recently I started gathering information on Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa), language of Hadiya (Hadiyya) people and one of the languages in Ethiopia, primarily through online searches.  I was interested in online and offline Hadiyyisa vocabulary and grammar learning tools and books, contents written or produced in Hadiyyisa, et cetera.  The non-availability of information got me thinking about whether the language is developing as it should, given the supposed language-based self-rule gained by the speaker community more than 20 years ago.  The more I looked into the issue, the more I started to see that Hadiyyisa might actually be losing ground as a living heritage language.

Then I started looking into the phenomenon and the science of language endangerment and extinction and what research says about the process. What I found about dying languages made me even more sensitive to the issue. I started to relate the defined stages of language endangerment and extinction to the trends I see in Hadiyyisa language. I also learned that many other low-resourced languages in Ethiopia face similar challenges, some even worse than Hadiyyisa.

In this article, using existing research and my own observations, I attempt to spotlight these worrisome weakening trends of Hadiyyisa (also other similarly situated languages by implication) to help the speech community appreciate how it is now at risk endangerment.  I also propose practical ways in which we can tackle the issue and revitalize our heritage language and other weakening and endangered languages in the country.

Linguistic Highlights of Hadiyya Language, Hadiyyisa

Spoken by Hadiya people – Primarily spoken by Hadiya people in the Hadiya Zone of Ethiopia, Hadiyya language is known by its speakers as Hadiyyisa or Hadiyyisa. It has 1.4 million total speakers and is a mother tongue to 1.25 million of them according to 2007 census of Ethiopia with about 600,000 monolingual speakers.1

Ethnic Group – Ethnic Hadiya population was projected to be 1.6 million by 2017 by Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency.2

But 1.8 million according to CIA’s The World Factbook estimate as of March 2018 that shows Hadiya accounting for 1.7% out of Ethiopia’s total population of 105,350,020.3

Hadiya Ethiopia: Women and a man. Women are wearing traditional clothing, hairdo, and beauty decorations. Seems that the man is in traditional clothing minus the hat, sunglasses, and the shoes Feb 2015
Hadiya Ethiopia: Women and a man. Women are wearing traditional clothing, hairstyle, beauty decorations, and articles (Feb 2015) Credit: Hadiya Bahel Kires Facebook Page.

Language Family – It is one of the languages in Afro-Asiatic language family predominantly spoken in West Asia/Middle East, Horn of Africa, North Africa, and parts of the Sahel.  Languages in the family include Arabic, Oromo, Hausa, Amharic, Somali, Hebrew, Tigrinya, Kabyle, Tamazight, and many more.

Language Subfamily – It belongs to Cushitic subfamily that include Oromo, Somali,  Sidamo, Afar, Agew, Gedeo, Saho, and Beja to name a few, and East branch of the subfamily (along with Oromo, Somali, Sidamo, Afar, and more). Lastly, it is a member of languages in the Highland East Cushitic sub-branch that include Alaba-K’beena, Burji,  Gedeo, Kambata, Libido, & Sidamo (Sidaamu afoo).

This Wikipedia article provides an overview of Hadiyyisa.


74% of Languages in Ethiopia’s Southern Region State are Cataloged as Endangered

Please indulge my alarmist tone in this article, but the intent is to illicit action before it is too late. While this is about Hadiyyisa, it is not the only language in the country facing the challenge and it would be helpful to consider the context.  There are even more ill-fated heritage languages in Ethiopia.  45 languages are recognized as endangered in the country by The Endangered Languages Project,4

part of a global catalog of endangered languages by the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity. That represents more than 56% of Ethiopia’s over 80 heritage languages. Yes, being faced with facts is indeed alarming; I would prefer to be proven wrong 10, 20, 30 years from now than staying silent about my genuine concern on the subject.

What is even more ominous is that out of the 45 endangered Ethiopian languages listed there, about 40 of them are in the southern administrative regional state (known as Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region or SNNPR).   That is 40 out of 54 languages in the region, meaning that the regional state risks losing 74% its heritage languages if nothing is done to prevent the trend.  It is important to mention that language endangerment and extinction is not limited to Cushitic, Nilo-Saharan and Omotic languages of Ethiopia.  Ethio-Semitic language Gafat has been extinct for some time as noted in the volume published in 2016 by Linguistic Capacity Building: Tools for the Inclusive Development of Ethiopia project in Oslo Studies in Language journal (abbreviate as LCBTIDE project in sections below) team titled Multilingual Ethiopia: Linguistic Challenges and Capacity Building Effort 5

I will  refer to this volume as MELCCBE in subsequent sections)  Also another Semitic language, Argobba is said to be on the verge of extinction at present.

I hope others, primarily those who know these heritage languages and cultures natively and scholars take up advocacy, preservation, documentation, and revival/re-development efforts for each.  Hadiyyisa happens to be the language to which I am close to and can comment on more intelligently with a native linguistic and cultural familiarity. It is not formally in the endangered list for now.  Whether a language is endangered or weakening, the issues involved and the prescribed solutions are the same.

To be sure the urgency level is even higher for languages that are placed in endangered languages list. Hadiyyisa too can find itself in the endangered list if its weakening trend is to continue.  It would just be a matter of time. Therefore, in this article we might as well discus the issues as if Hadiyyisa is already there – it really is just a technicality.

Hadiyyisa Baby Names are Almost Extinct. Is the Language Next?

I do not think that Hadiya no longer give their children Hadiyyisa names is tangential issue when discussing the weakening of Hadiyyisa. The two are absolutely related, but more importantly the near extinction of Hadiya names would serve us as a warning that, if nothing is done, the language itself will have the same fate in a generation or two.

As reported in MELCCBE volume cited above, Dr. Zelealem Leyew, under the title What is in the name? Personal Names in Hadiyya found facts that are extremely interesting and unsettling at the same time. His research mainly attempts to “describe the system behind personal names in Hadiyya” and his paper “analyses the semantics of personal names” and how they show and “express social, economic and political circumstances accompanying  the birth of a child

The descriptive research is well designed and the findings are fascinating, but what the researcher found as a side effect was most interesting to me. This quote captures the main part about disappearing Hadiyyisa names:

One hundred randomly selected names from Hoommachcho, comprising forty-seven grade two students and fifty-three grade one students, indicate that five percent are Hadiyya names and 95 percent are Amharic names. The five percent with Hadiyya names are all males; consequently, all of the females had Amharic names. Data also show that among fathers of the current youngest generation, 26 percent have Hadiyya names, 63 percent have Amharic names, and 11 percent have Biblical names that follow the Amharic pattern. Among grandfathers, 19 percent have Amharic names and 81 percent have Hadiyya names. Hence, Hadiyya names have given way to Amharic and Biblical names increasingly over recent generations.

The battle to preserver Hadiya names for Hadiya kids seems to be a lost one, but should we give up?  It is very disconcerting to see that we regressed from 81% Hadiya names in grandfather generation (probably 40 or 50 years ago) to 5% for boys and 0% Hadiya names for girls now.  If you think this can’t happen to the language itself, don’t be so sure.  A few decades ago our parents and grandparents may have thought the same about Hadiya names disappearing, but reality now is that it has happened. Almost.

Other similarly situated ethnic groups share this challenge, but it seems that Hadiya’s problem in this regard exemplifies one of the deepest. It is difficult to explain why Hadiya parents are not giving their children the beautiful and always meaning-rich Hadiya names.  The country is supposedly less prejudicial about non-Amharic names and there is no forced assimilation policy (although we can see the momentum that the legacy of such policies created is difficult to stop without educational, cultural revival, and other initiatives).  One would think that Hadiya names only add to the diversity of names in the country, the reflection of its multi linguistic and multicultural ethnic groups.

To answer my own question, no, we  should not give up on the battle to bring back Hadiya names for babies.  It will be tragic to no longer have names such as Eerbetoo (wonderful/worthy son, Erlandee for female ), Haabaamee (miraculous girl/woman, Haabaamoo for male), Fiitoo’o (bloom/flower for female), Waamishoo (God’s blossom for male, Waamishaa for female), Aashaamoo (who brings abundance for male), Mixxooree (pronounced mit’-ooree girl who resolved my yearning/longing), Caakkeeboo (pronounced t∫’aakk-eeb-o, one who brought light, glory – for male, female version very close to this), Haydaamoo (one who brought honor – for male, female version is very close to this), Dileebee (one who ushered victory – for female but male version is Dileeboo), et cetera.

If you are Hadiya, you may be able to add even more elegant names that showcase people’s enduring cultural values. I also understand I may have misspelled or made mistakes on the names above. I am using examples to make a larger point.

I am not at all innocent of this offense.  I am just now waking up to the fact and I have promised myself to change this habit when and if I get an opportunity to name a baby in my family.


What Researchers Says About Preventing Language Loss

There are 9 key ingredients that anthropologist Akira Yamamoto has identified to avoid language loss for endangered languages as quoted by David Crystal in his book Language Death,6

the only work we would like to note here as representative of literature on the subject.  As we discussed above the key factors are probably the same whether a language is endangered or in decline (Hadiyyisa’s case).  Verbatim, the nine points are:

  1. There must be a dominant culture that favors linguistic diversity
  2. The endangered community must possess an ethnic identity that is strong enough to encourage language preservation
  3. The creation and promotion of programs that educate students on the endangered language and culture
  4. The creation of school programs that are both bilingual and bicultural
  5. For native speakers to receive teacher training
  6. The endangered speech community must be completely involved
  7. There must be language materials created that are easy to use
  8. The language must have written materials that encompass new and traditional content
  9. The language must be used in new environments and the areas the language is used (both old and new) must be strengthened

How many of these must-haves does Hadiyyisa speech community possess?  I will attempt tie my discussion back to these factors throughout the rest of this article, but in my general assessment:

  • Factor one is only partly met at the federal level because the funding and initiatives are inadequate at the federal government level for these efforts.
  • Factors 2 to 9, more or less dependent on the speech community itself.
  • Hadiya people have “ethnic identity that is strong” to satisfy factor 2’s first part, but it does not seem that we are satisfying the second part “enough to encourage language preservation“.
  • For factors 3 to 9, I do not think adequate amount of work is done by Hadiya speech community, due to lack of awareness of the risk and perhaps also due to insufficient funding.

Should We Worry About Loss of Heritage Language?

Yes. For the country, loss of a language is a loss of its sociocultural diversity and part of its rich heritage. What is the implication of loss of heritage language for the speaker community? Understanding this will help the heritage language community recognize the risk it is facing.  Loss of heritage language is a loss of unique expressions of ideas, narrative continuity, ancestral wisdom, cultural heritage, history, identity, wholeness, link to the past, and more. Yes, indeed, these items matter to the speech community.

Most people know instinctively that a loss of culture is undesirable, but language loss and culture loss are inextricably linked since heritage language is a big part of its associated culture. The frustration is that, in general, the gradual nature of the process of language loss makes it difficult to comprehend the risk properly.

We believe it is time for people in the Southern state and other minority language communities of Ethiopia to recognize the risk, work together, and find creative solutions to preserve and revive their heritage languages.

Declining Use of Hadiyyisa by Native Speakers

For a careful observer, it becomes clear that Hadiyyisa is at risk of becoming extremely marginalized and moribund language perhaps even gradually lose the cultural heritage embedded in the language within a generation. We have observed that natives are abandoning its use.

And this is happening…

Despite the official plan to make Hadiyya the government’s official language in the administrative zone of Hadiya…

According to a report7

I read, the government’s working language remains to be Amharic. (Even my recent check showed that the governments posts on its social median and website only in one language: Amharic.) We think the situation is in divergence to points 6 through 9 of Yamamoto’s factors above.

Below, I quote an interesting part from this mid-project report published online in July 2014 titled Field Report of The Cushitic Group, and was authored by Leyew, Zelealem; Mazengia, Shimelis of LCBTIDE project team (the team later published a final MELCCBE volume I cited above in 2016 which would inform us that the switch has not happened even by then as we will see later):

Although preparations are underway, Hadiyyisa has not yet attained the status of being a language of administration. Hadiyyisa does not seem to figure in the linguistic landscape of Hosa’na. Names of commercial establishments, information on signboards and advertisements on billboards are written in Amharic. Where there is an accompanying language, that language is English. The preliminary reason obtained concerning the prominent role of Amharic is that it is considered as the gateway to live and work anywhere in Ethiopia. The same rationale applies to English internationally.

To enhance the capacity of Hadiyyisa beyond its social functions for a more effective mother tongue education and for administrative as well as cultural functions, there is a lot to be done. First and foremost, the useful role of the language should be set clearly to all those concerned vis-à-vis second, third, etc languages and a concerted effort should be made for its development

This points out that Yamamoto’s factors 3 to 5 are not fulfilled.

Despite Hadiyyisa being the language of instructions for children in the zone through grade four…

School In Hosanna Hadiya Ethiopia

This is not going smoothly according to the same report we mentioned above. I quoted here the relevant part:

According to the consultant teachers, introducing English along with Hadiyyisa at grade one level has created confusion as both languages are written in the Latin script. For instance, such English words as feed /fi:d /, cat /kΘt/ and six /sIks/ are read as [ke:p] and /fe:d/, /c’at/ and /sIt’/ respectively, transposing the Hadiyyisa pronunciation to English. The problem has been reported to be more serious in relation to self-contained classes where the same teacher reads one form in two different fashions. As regards textbooks, it was indicated that they were prepared in a hurry and now they need to be revised and properly tuned for the respective grade levels. Concerning teachers, it was stated that the recruitment criteria should include capacity and inclination; furthermore, Hadiyyisa teachers should be given in-service training periodically and should also be accorded proper motivation.

The portion that starts with “As regards to textbooks…” is more troubling as the issues within are fundamental. At least 3-5 of Yamamoto’s factors, thus, are not fulfilled.

Despite the recent establishment of Wachamo University in the zone…

We would like to see this institution to be a leader and a vital research institution for local communities including Hadiya in many academic disciplines.  On its website, Wachamo University lists two promising departments in this regard: Department of Hadiyisa Language and Literature and Department of History and Heritage Management. This is hopeful.

We do not doubt that scholars in these and other departments are working hard and generating research outputs of significance for the nearby communities (traditionally on the margins of scholarly studies).  No doubt they are also conducting research on issues of significance to the country.  But the departmental sections of the website do not make available any of these outputs. For example, for a long time we were unable to find Hadiyyisa alphabet and its orthography to learn how to write in Hadiyyisa correctly – one can expect Wachamo university to be one of the prime sources for this whether or not it had a hand in its creation. (We found this eventually in Oslo University website tucked away in MELCCBE volume cited above. We know this is not the only piece of Ethiopian knowledge one has to go to the West in order to find).

The absence of such resources makes one wonder if the university community has come to terms with the fact that the best way to disseminate knowledge and information is via website, online.  We do not doubt they wish to reach out and teach the world (including Hadiya in diaspora who would love to give their kids ancestral knowledge) about Hadiya or other local communities’ history, language, and heritage. We suspect only that they are not using the power of the Internet to do so.  Is it because of resource constraint or the lack of awareness of the value of Internet to globalize information?

It seems that the weakening trend is imperceptible to Hadiya living in Ethiopia…

It might be difficult to notice this phenomenon (we suspect) for people of Hadiya background that still live within Ethiopia relative to those residing in the diaspora, perhaps because those in the diaspora have better memory of the past having been removed from the present changes. The situation is analogous to the common expression about a frog in slowly boiling water not recognizing its impending gradual death.

We have observed that most urban Hadiyyisa speakers, young and older generation alike, use Amharic as the language of choice even when they communicate with each other.  Even Hadiya living in smaller towns and rural areas do this to a considerable extent.  Their social media posts are mostly in Amharic using latin scripts (transliterated) or Ge’ez scripts.

Urban Hadiya people are not teaching their children Hadiyyisa…

It is extremely uncommon to see urban dwelling Hadiya teaching their ancestor’s language to their kids.  This is true whether they live in Hosanna, the zonal capital; Hawassa, the regional state capital; Addis Ababa, the country’s capital; or in the diaspora. There are challenges, some of which are mentioned in this article such as the lack of proper materials in alphabet, spelling, grammar, and other resources. However, it is possible to overcome them. Maybe we are the ones that can help create those resources (this Hadiyyisa Resource Page is my attempt at creating one).

Some of My Own Observations

These are illustrative examples from my observations (you probably have your own if you have Hadiya background). In addition, I think you can relate to my anecdotal report if you have a background of other endangered/weakening languages.

Even Hadiya elders seriously adulterate Hadiyyisa in their speech…

Imagine you are back home from diaspora in Hadiyyaland and you are witnessing a month-long Maskalaa celebration, the most exalted of all holidays there.

You already know many ritual events start with elders’ blessing. You also know that one of the most sacred rituals is the ceremony of blessing the bull before the slaughter.  You are watching this elder bless the bull.

You expect elders to use pure, less diluted Hadiyyisa unlike the younger generation or the urban dwellers. The setting, you assumed, calls for the use of an unadulterated Hadiyyisa.

You estimate his age to be about 80. Contrary to you expectation, his blessing speech contained 10-15% Amharic words, even phrases. For example, he inserted a word phrase lafa’ilaka’a, Amharic term mixed with Hadiyyisa verb, replacing a common Hadiya equivalents badatakka’a or yakitakka’a  (roughly meaning you have worked hard).

This scene is from YouTube video we watched recently. Does it portend well to the long-term survival of the language when even the rural elders in such a setting start mixing more and more terms of their own language with that of supposedly more prestigious language?

Or is it part of the benign evolution of the language that we rather not have?

It seems that Hadiya youth is avoiding Hadiyyisa…

There is nothing that dooms a language more than the non-use of it by the youth of the speech community. Young people prefer, for the most part, to use Amharic language for phone conversation when talking to family members in other parts of the country and the diaspora.

In their social media posts and comments, young generation of Hadiya mostly use Amharic sentences using Latin scripts. Their second preference is the use of Amharic sentences using Ge’ez scripts.

This happens even when most of the intended consumers of the content (friends) are Hadiya. We have to give credit to the few who mix Hadiyyisa here and there – perhaps due to their innate instinct to preserve their heritage language and culture.

It is not only the youth…

Often conversations between/among Hadiya, especially in urban settings, if at all they open in Hadiyyisa, soon morph into Amharic for supposed ease of communication.

This is a vicious cycle for Hadiyyisa because the less we use it for conversations the more difficult it will be for our future conversations.

Hadiya kids can be multilingual…

In this article, you will not find an argument that Hadiya kids do not need training in Amharic and English languages. We believe it is necessary for Hadiya youth to have a good command of the Amharic language to be competitive at the country level. And competence in English allows them to compete both domestically and internationally.

They are vital. It is not about choosing one over the other.  The arguments here merely attempt to shine a light at the side that is weakening, Hadiyyisa.

No denying that formidable challenges do exist.  Problems reported in Some Observation on Hadiyyisa Orthography chapter of MELCCBE volume cited above (students scoring low in spelling in newly created written Hadiyyisa, confusion between Hadiyyisa and English system of spelling, shortages of resources and teachers, and lower competence of girls relative to boys, et cetera) can seem daunting. But these challenges can be overcome through focus and hard work by Hadiya people and others whose languages are weakening or endangered.

We can be good at all three languages. It can be done. Hadiya people have prevailed in more challenging endeavors before.

As a reminder example, let us look at one of many challenges Hadiya faced in their history and still survived (other ethnic groups similarly situated faced the same problem at the time).  In a book A history of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia by Ulrich Braukämper (in my view a researcher that produced the first comprehensive work on Hadiya history), details how Hadiya people transformed, adapted, and survived the devastating rinderpest epidemic of in the 1890s that wiped out their cattle.8

Note – This book, which we have reviewed here in our blog is such a great book about Hadiya history while we might disagree with some of Braukamper’s conclusions about aspects if Hadiya history, especially where he might have allowed biases from some informants to sip into the book a few times. It still has no equal as a comprehensive Hadiya study book.

A quote from page 275 discusses serious challenges that impacted Hadiya in the 1890s depicting, a) cultural and economic importance of cattle in the those days and even until today albeit to a lesser extent, b) the difficulty of losing them to  rinderpest epidemic, and c) that Hadiya people were forced to transform their way of living from nomadic to agro-pastoralist for survival:

Hardly any other event in the history of the Hadiyya peoples was perceived as so destructive for the core of their culture as the epidemic of rinderpest, and one can only grasp the consequences of the events at all if one considers that for these people livestock not only represented an economic means of existence, but it was linked to a sophisticated code of value concepts. Even after they had long since become settled agriculturalists, such an attitude continued existing subliminally. Cultivation became imperative in order to survive, but in the economic value ranking, the possession of cattle preserved a top position.

Adding, the book attempts to show how difficult it was for Hadiya to give up nomadic pastoralist life:

Among the nomadic and semi-nomadic Hadiyya, it had always been a common practice to bewail the death or cows or bulls which had been considered as “favourite beasts” of certain individuals. This type of lamentation largely matched that performed for people. In view of the mass death of the cattle, the expression of grief had to be generalised. Cuts and mutilations which the mourners inflicted on their bodies, particularly their ears, lost their individual meaning in this situation. The despair and cultural disorientation which beset many herders when they saw their animals dying could be vividly portrayed by informants quoting their fathers’ reports. For example, the reaction of Eree Kafichcho, a Sooro-Hadiyya, was vividly depicted. In full regalia signifying him as a war hero and killer of human enemies and dangerous animals, he rode around the country expressing his pain over the lost of cattle with the following song of lament:

My cattle [I laro], why have you gone from me? Earth, I have never ploughed you or done you any harm. My cattle have soaked you with their urine and given you their dung for fertility. You are witness that I have never dealt unjustly! Yet now because of people’s behaviour disaster has come up-on us. Ṭimbaaro, you traders, Dubamo, you peasants, hear! My cattle have passed away.

(According to Namana Dilliso)

Occasionally suicide was even committed by persons who were too desperate about the loss of their beloved cattle and others are said to have died because of grief. This allegedly happened with a Shaashoogo man Jare, whose son Guute thereafter nearly went mad. With the cry “la’lanni beedukko, la’anni lehukko” (the owner of the cattle is annihilated, the owner of the cattle is dead) he roamed about aimlessly and could only be prevented from committing suicide with difficulty.

This is just one example of events in which our ancestors faced existential threat and showed resilience and ability to adapt and learn.  This generation has not faced existential threat – it will be ridiculous to imply that. On the other hand, it seems that the survival of their culture and heritage language is at stake and the example shows that we have what it takes to overcome thes new challenges.

What is to be Done to Prevent Weakening Trend of Hadiyyisa?

“A language is often declared to be dead even before the last native speaker of the language has died” according to this linguistics article, if its use is critically low. Various linguistics literature I checked confirm that minority language would decay and die if the natives do not recognize the danger and consciously make preservation and revival efforts.

Language death is rarely a sudden event, but a slow process of each generation learning less and less of the language, until its use is relegated to the domain of traditional use, such as in poetry and song. Typically the transmission of the language from adults to children becomes more and more restricted, to the final setting that adults speaking the language will raise children who never acquire fluency.

… During language loss—sometimes referred to as obsolescence in the linguistic literature—the language that is being lost generally undergoes changes as speakers make their language more similar to the language that they are shifting to. This process of change has been described by Appel (1983) in two categories, though they are not mutually exclusive. Often speakers replace elements of their own language with something from the language they are shifting toward. Also, if their heritage language has an element that the new language does not, speakers may drop it.

Not there yet, but… – Hadiyyisa has not currently reached this point in every way. However, there are alarming signs of the elements mentioned. Yes, Hadiyyisa speakers are making their language similar to Amharic – e.g., adulteration of hadiyyisa music & art in the pop culture. Yes, Hadiyyisa speakers are replacing elements of their own language with that of Amharic – e.g., mixing Amharic words or phrases in speech when in fact apt Hadiyyisa equivalents exist. Perhaps we should throw in couple of real examples: makiin nadaa’ee while we could just as easily say kamee uushe’ee, Bete Kristaanaa while we could just say Yessuus Man Minee, et cetera. Yes, The transmission of Hadiyyisa from adult to children have weakened – e.g., as I alluded above urban Hadiya are not teaching Hadiyyisa to their kids.  Even the children and adults whose mother tongue was Hadiyyisa have diminished desire to use the language.  I am not puritan at all, but I see the need for us all to start taking notes and commit to changing our habits, myself included.

Currently dominant factor contributing to declining use of Hadiyyisa seems to be the legacy of Amharic hegemony combined with the pressures of urbanization/globalization.

Amharic’s Momentum – The seemingly unstoppable momentum of Amharic that has been established in the past is undeniable. Its power in economic and social spheres is firmly established. It is also designated language of federal government business and language of communications among people of Ethiopia. Pragmatism dictates this and we should be OK with the strategic choice.

Urbanization/Globalization – We could mention couple of the manifestations of this.

The first is the increasing migration of Hadiya youth to urban centers in search of opportunities where they have less need to use Hadiyyisa and more need to learn proper Amharic or English, e.g. within Ethiopia (Hosa’ina, Hawassa, Addis Ababa and other cities) and oversees (South Africa, Middle East, and others).

Second manifestation is the growing use of Internet and social media by young people of Hadiya ethnic group. It appears that the youth is convinced that Internet communication cannot be done in Hadiyyisa. This is unfortunate because the Internet’s promise as a positive force that can help efforts to develop Hadiyyisa into a written language is being wasted. Part of that promise can be fulfilled if more and more people use Hadiyyisa in their online and other electronic communications such as email. We should hold on to the promise by changing our habits in our electronic communications when appropriate and possible.

In the past many felt ashamed of being ethnic Hadiya and made an effort to learn Amharic in an attempt to blend in to avoid stigma.  Nowadays although for the most part shame is not a strong force, young people still feel the need to blend in to a more powerful country-wide current that is Amharic for it encompasses the pop culture, economic and social opportunities, et cetera.

Also, the powerful trend that the legacy Amharic dominance started in the past is difficult to perceive and reverse without a new appreciation of the problem.  Urbanization and globalization (I expect these to grow) are relatively new forces at play that can only be countered through admitting that there is a problem. Then we have to fortify our language and culture against extinction through the determined efforts that include development of Hadiyyisa in speech, scholarship, arts, music, media, literature, et cetera.

Generally speaking…

Programs must be launched at the zonal, regional, and federal government (since language community alone may lack expertise and resources) levels to combat the trend.  Higher education institutions at every level must lead in research and methods of development Hadiyyisa and other endangered and weakening languages.

We need to find intellectuals that prioritize and focus their work on the issue of disappearing languages, cultures, and the diversity of the country. Those with Southern background are especially well positioned to tackle the problem with which they may have first-hand experience.

There are examples of success stories of language reclamation, revitalization, even revival of dead languages (i.e. Hebrew) through speech community initiatives, some of which are listed here. Speakers of Hadiyyisa must similarly admit that it is weakening and commit to using and developing/strengthening their heritage language.

We do not want to earn criticism from future generations by doing nothing today. Some thoughts below point out some specific suggestions to strengthen Hadiyyisa, but the ideas should apply to all endangered and weakening language communities.

There are communities within Ethiopia that I think are doing a better job in revitalising their heritage language. For example, while it is still work in progress, I think Afan Oromo language has made better progress relative to other historically marginalised and low-resourced languages in Ethiopia. This is due partly to the large size of the community (also, Oromia is a state/language community unlike other marginal languages that are more likely to be at zone or woreda levels administratively). One can see fairly strong presence of Afan Oromo contents (written, audio, video),  language education tools, public and private broadcast media, et cetera. I think other communities can learn much from the one in Oromia on how to redevelop their own heritage language.

Specifics, please…

1. The easiest to put into action let’s use Hadiyyisa in our conversations…

To start with the easiest to implement commit to use of Hadiyyisa in all intra-ethnic communications (friends, family, et cetera), no matter how awkward we feel at first. We will get better with time. We will not satisfy the prime portion of Yamamoto’s requirement number two to keep our language if we do not do so.  Let’s repeat it here: “2. The endangered community must possess an ethnic identity that is strong enough to encourage language preservation

2. Believe in self-identity…

This too is part of Yamamoto’s second requirement. We can develop unwavering community self-esteem, since according to language experts; it is a key to language preservation.

As I stated before, these comments are directed at community overall. I am sure there are tireless Hadiya individuals and institutions that are involved (now and in the past) in preserving and teaching Hadiya culture and history although it seems that they are very hard to find online – indication that there are no strong institutions. (my quest to find them and to learn more about them continues. E.g., I understand that there is a Hadiya Culture and History museum in Hosanna, Hadiya Zone, but there is nothing about it online).  My thanks to the ones that are out there working hard on this issue, but we should also admit that more must be done.

If people feel good about their heritage, history, culture, and their natural identity, then they would want to preserve their language and other cultural heritages – a key to understanding Hadiya people’s place in the country. In many ways, Hadiya people are fiercely proud of their identity (like any other), but perhaps due to the luck of deep awareness of their own culture and history, they tend to not be assertive and positive about living and preserving their cultural and historical assets, including their language. How much of the Hadiya culture and history does the community itself know? This question can be directed towards young and old, but especially the young educated people.

Cultural asset example – Pragmatic self-rule system, merit-based consensus election, a form of democracy, no doubt – How much do we know about Hadiya’s great self-rule system that bestows power upon only the honorable people of society.  That power and position at various levels of Woshaabichoo is given by the people and power can be taken away by the same. Democracy is in fact indigenous to Hadiya.

Being born to a dignitary family does not guarantee inheritance of power and office since Hadiya culture is deeply suspicious of dynastic power. Clan hierarchy and monarchic organization of society (that have worked for other ethnic groups) never appealed to Hadiya people due to their distinct value system.

Acquiring power depends only on the consensus of the governed based on the candidate’s possession of skills, talent, wisdom, aptitude, capacity, competence (self-accumulation of wealth would go into this calculus), and virtue. This system is one that Hadiya used since ancient times and it has proven resilient through the hardest periods in Hadiya history.  Although it has been weakened at present, this self-governance has proven to be better (to this day) at resolving some difficult conflicts between people of society better than formal legal system of the country.

History examples – Independence-loving, subjugation-resistant, Hadiya always longed to rule itself Examples are mostly based on Braukämper p. 71.

History example one – Did you know that the assimilation and subjugation of Hadiya of ancient times into Ethiopia of today was a result of many wars between Hadiya and Abyssinian Empire? Hadiya kingdom had survived for centuries through independent political existence, political alliances (one of the member principalities/kingdoms of the Islamic confederation of Zaila), and on-and-off Abyssinian suzerainty, until it was annexed into Abyssinia in the end.

A note about past injustices based on ethnic identities in Ethiopia – No one should use history to develop grudge, settle scores, and create any ill will towards anyone for things that happened generations ago. To the extent that bad things have happened in the past in Ethiopia, there is no single ethnic group (e.g., Amhara) that is responsible for them. And to the extent that benefits and privileges have accrued to any ethnic group (e.g., Amhara) such as dominating culturally and linguistically, there was no grand design by the Amhara ethnic group as a whole to do so.  It has always been the elite groups within them who traded in the name of Amhara, separating brotherly peoples of the Horn of Africa with ancient linkages.  We share much in common with the vast majority of Amhara people including being oppressed by these elites, although arguably to different degrees. In fact, that is why we (Amhara & non-Amhara) should re-learn the history of Ethiopia in a new way that is devoid of emotions and platitudes. Also, no one should feel offended when historically marginalized people try learn their true past. In fact teaching truly what happened to current and future generations and discussing them are the only ways to move forward as one people. We can take a lesson from the US school systems. All public and private schools in US are religious about  teaching the ugly history of slavery  in the country’s past to kids in all levels – elementary, high school, and college. Our country fails miserably in this regard. Hiding our bad history has been tried before, but as we have already seen, it cannot be hidden forever. It is well established that in the past the elites of certain community have vanquishing the populations of other communities in the country and ethnic based suppressions have been exercised until recently. We should educate ourselves comprehensively both about the victors and the subjugated – the many times the subjugated resisted, the rebellions they initiated, the heroic deeds of those leaders.  They too are part of Ethiopian history landscape; they add a nuanced perspective to the prevailing narrative.  Let us make a point of stepping in each other’s shoes and have thoughtful conversations. We should start viewing ethnic groups in Ethiopia as siblings in a family metaphor who each have their own unique individuality. It is undeniable fact that most  siblings have lost or not been able to develop these unique attributes – their languages and cultures due to our history of ethnic based suppression mentioned above. There is no reason why a strong family unity and well-developed and strong individual sibling identities cannot co-exist. It is wrong to attribute the recent ruling elites’ power politics induced ethnic tensions in the country to newly strengthened ethnic identities. (It is doubtful that there are genuinely strong ethnic identities to begin with. National unity is not at all undermined by ethnic identities being too strong. Those that divide the country have mostly other motives such as corruption, economic exploitation, and power politics; but may use ethnic vehicles to achieve their goals. If you hail from a sibling ethnicity whose culture and language have actually developed even to the extent of becoming dominant national assets, but harbors a fear of disunity if everyone has a strong identity, I ask you to think about what you would do if it was your culture and language that are almost gone, forever. Would you not attempt to revive and redevelop them? I would also ask you to notice how fortunate you are because your language is in no danger of extinction; is a national working language for Ethiopia; is national medium of communication; has some international status; it is well studied and well developed/growing; has plenty of literature in it; has countless language teaching tools (e.g., books, online); has plenty of media content; has even invaded and adulterated other languages of the nation; and has been a major catalyst in creating one of the conditions for your culture to dominate the nation. The list can go on. The list of  benefits enjoyed by you because your culture is and will continue to be a national culture and is a representative of Ethiopian cultures in the country and abroad is the same. It can be difficult to notice these benefits if you come from the dominant language/culture sibling ethnicity or from one of the urban communities (even small cities) that have long been assimilated into the dominant culture and language. I did not even mention the psychosocial benefits that accrued to you because your language and culture is so powerful in all corners of the country. For example, your young kids do not have to wonder if their culture or language is inferior to the dominant one, affecting their sense of self-worth. We are not envious of your benefits. In fact we happy for you and we share your culture and language now that we have acquired it and made our own.  Nevertheless, we ask that you understand that we are only attempting to repair our language and culture that are already damaged. And learning about our true history is part of that effort. 

History example two – Do we know that Damot and Hadiya were the first two kingdoms that Abyssinian empire faced in its first southward expansion in AD 1316/17 under Emperor Amda Tsion? And yet in 1329 when the Emperor conducted his first listing of his provinces and dependencies, Hadiya was not in it because it has asserted itself as an independent political entity again according to Braukämper’s conclusion. It was then, therefore, Amda Tsion himself conducted an “outright conquest of Haddiya” in 1329 as Hadiya under Garaad Amano had refused to pay tribute. In his victory over Hadiya, according to Kibre Negest quoted in (Braukämper p. 71), Amda Tsion “...some he destroyed, and those that survived he took into captivity with their king“. However, that would not end Hadiya rebelion forever as it would do it against the imperial rule one more time under another leader, Garaad Mahiko.

History example three – The Abyssinian Empire did not accomplish the complete subjugation of Hadiya people until Menelik II’s final and great invasion that brought Hadiya and other southern peoples to their knees after which it imposed punitive direct rule. Here it is helpful to note that Abyssinian kings before Menelik II never put Hadiya and some other southern powers under their direct control even when they defeated them. They only made them vassal autonomous kingdoms.

History example four – The current ethnicities of Libido, Alaba, Silt’e, Hadiya clans of the Arisi-Oromo & of Ittuu-Oromo, clans of Hadiyya origin in Wälaytta and some others got their genesis in the ancient Kingdom of Hadiya.

History example five – What about heroic and wise ancestors? What do we know about Garads Mehmad, Mahiko, Baamo; Princes Eleni; and other Hadiya figures from history?  There were those that stood against subjugation, but others stood with Abyssinian Empire because they thought tactically or strategically benefits Hadiya best interest at their time. They are all our historic heroes. To ask the question: how well do we know about Hadiya contributions in the development of the modern Ethiopian state? I am afraid not much.

History example six – What do we know about recent or contemporary accomplished Hadiya role model figures?  You may be able to name these people better than I could. Col. Bezabih and Dr. Beyene Petros are deservingly well known by Hadiya, but what about others? Surely there are many more. One example I can think of for now is Dr. Tilahun Mishago who worked tirelessly to transcribe tapped collection of oral Hadiya poetic narrative songs into German at a time Hadiyyisa orthography was still developing. His efforts culminated in a book named Praise and Teasing: Narrative Songs of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia he co-authored with  Ulrich Braukämper. (Eventually the book was translated into English and we have reviewed the book in our blog here). Braukämper and his research colleague Dr. Siegfried Seyfarth tapped the source audio in Hadiya areas in the early 70s. (By the way this proves that Braukämper loved the people and did things that we never did for ourselves to preserve our beautiful, but vanishing art form. Again, we might disagree with him on some history conclusions, but for me, he has no competition in Hadiya scholarship and Hadiya corpus development).    When we celebrate contributors such as Dr. Mishago, we inspire community self-esteem, but we also stimulate future leaders to contribute likewise.

3. Make Hadiyyisa a language of writing…

We need to lean Hadiyyisa orthography (spelling system) – We should start using Hadiyyisa in intra-ethnic written communications such as the social media, email, et cetera. To do so we can start by learning Hadiyyisa’s Latin-based alphabet and spelling system. Latin-based system was chosen for written Hadiyyisa because it spells the way it sounds. (Most Cushitic languages have done the same). This does not hold true in English language spelling system. For example, the letter ‘o’ does not have the same sound in words ‘one’ and ‘on’. However, as you can read next, we seem to have challenges in standardization resulting in less proficiency and consistency observed in research.

In LCBTIDE project report cited above and produced in 2016, in a paper titled Some Observations on Hadiyyisa Orthography 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 total). Fluent Hadiyyisa speaker dictated a passage quoted below from Onkis G/Kidaan’s book Hadiyyi Heessiinsee Kobi’llishshiinsee Hoffokam (Hadiya stories and proverbs)9

(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.”

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: 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 among levels is to be expected and the passage dictated seems very tough in my view because of its rural orientation, a potential problem for urban students, in this case elementary kids are probably entirely urban as are most high schooler. However, there is not doubt the problem he unearthed do indeed exist.

Dr. Mazengia recommends solutions to the problems.  But I don’t know if these recommendations are being implemented or even evaluated.  As a side note, it was in this work that I finally found what I have been looking for: the Hadiyyisa alphabet and spelling. The researcher’s report documented existing Hadiyyisa alphabet and introductory spelling system in this work (I have made it available in a separate Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language Orthography – Alphabet and Writing post to introduce it to wider audience), the only online source in which I could find such a great resource.

I am not certain why the zonal education administration and/or Wachamo University have not made this material available online.  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.

4. Develop Hadiyyisa literature and body of work in history, culture, art, and scholarship…

There are two problems here.

First problem – The first problem I have witnessed in this regard is the lack of distribution of existing work.  It is disappointing to see these labor of love Hadiyyisa works are not being widely available for people who want read them especially globally online (for purchase) or in libraries. The authors worked very hard to produce these book, but they are not reaching audience outside the Hadiya zone (assuming they are available there) I am listing some books that I know or I have heard of, but for the most part, I have not been able to get my hands on them. I am sure there are more that I do not know about due to the lack of wider exposure – part of the reason I can’t find the ones I know about. (Please add yours in the comments section. I may update this post to include them). My awareness of the first three books came because of my reading of Dr. Mazengia’s work, Some Observations on Hadiyyisa Orthography, cited above.

  • Onkis G/Kidaan’s 1993 book Hadiyyi Heessiinsee Kobi’llishshiinsee Hoffokam (Hadiyyisa stories and proverbs).  See reference note above for full citation.
  • Getahun Waatummo Doolle’s 2009 book Hadiyy Heessechchaa Kobi’llishsha (Hadiyyisa Stories and Proverbs).10
  • Hadiya Zone Education Desk’s 2003 book Hadiyyis-Ingilliisis Saga’l Doona (Hadiyya-Engilish Dictionar). 11
  • Braukämper and Ulrich and Tilahun Mishago’s 1999 book Praise and Teasing: Narrative Songs of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia. Frankfurt: Frobenius Institute.12 I have been able to possess a copy thanks to Prof. Braukämper and Dr. Mishago. This book is a gem.  See our review of the book in this Praise and Teasing: Narrative Songs of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia post. This book is difficult to find and buy, at least in U.S – my reason to include it in this list. Considering how important the books is for documenting the Hadiya art form that is almost extinct; it should be widely available.

These four books are examples of what Hadiya scholars can do to develop and preserve both the language and cultural heritages of Hadiya.

Second problem – The second problem in Hadiyyisa literature is that they are not developed to any adequate level.  I wish to see fair sized Hadiyyisa corpus because I know we have perfectly capable people who can create them.

5. Use written Hadiyyisa in zonal and local administration…

As I stated above in Field Report of The Cushitic Group, by 2014 only preparations were underway to switch the official working language of Hadiya Zone to Hadiyyisa from Amharic (I assume spoken administrative language is already Hadiyyisa).  It had not been implemented during his research in 2014. But the final report of by the same LCBTIDE project team confirms that the switch has not happened even by 2016.

On page 206 of his paper (part of MELCCBE volume), Shimelis Mazengia states that Hdiyyissa writing:

“…is not yet in use for administrative purposes and business. As a result, correspondences among government and private institutions are conducted in Amharic which is also the working language of the Federal State of Ethiopia.

It is likely that the situation has not changed even today. I will be happy to be corrected. What challenges kept the governments at various levels from switching to Hadiyyisa as a medium of communications for administration? While the zonal government may have its own stories about this, one thing is clear: using the heritage language Hadiyyisa for administration in the Hadiya Zone, at all levels of government, is critical part of the preservation effort for the language, see Yamamoto’s requirements 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

6. We need Hadiyyisa materials online…

The online presence culture is in its infancy in Hadiyland. The Internet culture is not yet well-developed.  Hadiyyisa speech community does not seems keep pace with times in terms of dissemination of helpful resources, materials, and tools as exemplified by lack of ready access to Hadiyyisa alphabets I discussed before.  Government bodies responsible to education and Wachamo University may have to play a leadership role in these efforts. Other entities that can get involved include public and private educational, religious, and social organizations as well as concerned people, especially scholars.  Online presence starts with knowing its value for the society.  Once we understand its value, the means to do it will not be so difficult.  We can post Hadiyyisa alphabets for the world (and Hadiya in every corner of the word) to see and learn, we can have Hadiyyisa language courses online (perhaps even interactive), we can post stories in Hadiyyisa (along their translations when possible), we can even build interactive online tool to translate Hadiyyisa to English and/or Amharic and back.

I am not aware of any good Hadiyyisa dictionary and grammar online tool.  These would be very helpful to Hadiya in the diaspora and within Ethiopia by making it easy to learn and speak Hadiyyisa for those who wish to do so. I believe there are many who share my desire for online tools. To start with, can the  Hadiyyis-Ingilliisis Saga’l Doona (Hadiyyisa-English Dictionary) published by the Hadiya Zone Education Desk cited above be available online? We suspect Wachamo University has some effort in this regard, but we need a wider public availability, preferably online, of such resource so that even Hadiya people living elsewhere can use it to train their young, among other uses.

7. Hadiya religious communities can make Hadiyyisa their local language…

Religious communities can play a significant role.  First, I want to acknowledge positive development that I have observed. I am encouraged that the Evangelical Christian communities are writing worship songs in Hadiyyisa – from observations on social media, et cetera. Besides its value in Hadiyyisa preservation, I think worshiping in mother tongue would create even better spiritual experience for the indigenous faithful.

But it seems that The Bible is still being read in Amharic with a companion Hadiyyisa translation by the translator on the spot, but I will be happy to be corrected here because my observation might be insufficient.  I understand that there is Hadiyyisa version of The Bible (I think only the New Testament) written in Ge’ez (Amharic) alphabet. My search for it online did not yield any result, but I found the audio version in the form of smart phone app discussed below. If this actually exists in text, then why is it not being used in sermons?  I have much to learn here.

My finding online shows that the New Testament has long been orally translated to Hadiyyisa and published (tape, CD) by bible.is ministry of Faith Comes by Hearing organization, part of it as early as 1935. It looks like the CD version was published in 1993. But even more handy bible.is app is available now in iTunes for iOS devices and Play Store for Android smartphone devices – very convenient to use in sermons.

One can also play Hadiyyisa Bible audio directly from http://www.bible.is/ on any computer (you will need to select Hadiyya as your language in the app or when you use the computer).  Followers of all denominations of the Christian faith can start using such Hadiyyisa biblical materials in people’s own language, which makes the messages more relatable and help preserve the language.

As mentioned above, the volume of worship songs produced by Evangelical Christians is encouraging. There is just one issue to point out in these songs. The poems used in the lyrics take a poetry-rhyming rule – rhyming at the end of verses – form Amharic while ancestral Hadiya poetry rule exists – rhyming at the beginning of verses. We can solve this problem by adhering to Hadiya’s own poetry tradition in our song writing in our future songs and other work that uses the poem form.

Orthodox Tewahedo, Catholic, and other church denominations in the zone should consider similar undertakings if they are not constrained by religious factors. As to the followers of Islamic faith, (they are substantial percentage of the population) and they too can mix Hadiyyisa in services and messages where it is religiously allowed.

8. More Hadiyyisa media contents must be produced and distributed…

More media contents must be produced by and for the speakers in Hadiyyisa. In this front; Oromo, Somali, and Afar communities can server us as great models. This is the job for all of us, not government alone.  Hadiyyisa content are almost nonexistent in popular outlet channels such as TV, radio, podcast, magazines, newspapers,social media (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et cetera). Making media available in heritage language is one of the essential tools available for the language community to fight linguistic and cultural extinctions. Hadiya must fight the weakening trend of Hadiyyisa by being both producers and consumers of Hadiyyisa media content.

There is a limited radio broadcast in Hadiyyisa according to Linguistic Capacity Building Project report cited above, but I am not sure how good the programs are and its success in attracting audience.  I imagine there are challenges with developing TV broadcast in Hadiyyisa not the least of which is the cost, but this must be the goal and it can be achieved. Please correct me if things have changed and there is any TV broadcast in Hadiyyisa.

Internet has made is easy for an individual or group to reach global audience. I have yet to see single YouTube channel that uses Hadiyyisa as a medium of communication (even in mix manner) in any way, a Facebook page using/promoting Hadiyyisa, a Podcast in Hadiyyisa, et cetera.  Hadiyyisa speakers can change this. Otherwise, we would not fulfill Yamamoto’s language preservation requirements 2, 3, 6, 8, and 9.

The video I found on YouTube is an exceptional example that in fact great quality, pure Hadiyyisa contents can be produced. However, the availability of video content is more important than production quality – in which this documentary excels. We just do not have video content online to speak of.

In my list of solutions above, I may have missed others. You may have more innovative ones.  Propose your own, but more importantly take your own action no matter how small you think it is.


I am optimistic that Hadiyyisa heritage language community will wake up and start taking action to preserve/develop its ancestral tongue and other cultural assets. My research on the subject showed that the key for successful culture/language preservation is the motivation level of the owning community. I also found out that the community’s motivation is driven by the awareness the loss is in fact occurring and what it means in the first place.

Indications are that Hadiyyisa community lacks awareness of the danger as the process of language and cultural losses are slow, spanning a generation or more – not easy to appreciate without reflective thinking.The main goal of this article is to increase the community’s awareness that there is a danger of Hadiyyisa becoming and endangered language, possibly in one generation. Hadiyyisa baby names disappeared (almost) in couple of generations as we saw from research above. If that is not a warning and wake up call to the community, then I do not know what is. We do not want to see a future when it may be too difficult to reverse the direction. Now is the time for action.

If young and old generation urbanized Hadiya are using less Hadiyyisa, the zonal government is not using it as administrative medium of communication, universities are not making their Hadiyyisa work visible, we are mixing more and more of Amharic into Hadiyyisa, we are not developing Hadiyyisa through literature and tools (online, media, et cetera), then we will not have Hadiyyisa as we know it in couple of generations.  But I am also hopeful we can change that fate as a community.

Your helpful discussions and feedback are welcome. I respect all opinions and I trust you do the same.

A note about the image above – It is selected to illustrate a point about how Hadiyyisa is losing ground.  Even the officials in food exhibition have incorrectly labeled Hadiya’s own food “cuukaa” as “cuuko” which is the Amharic language name of a very similar food. Understandably, Ge’ez script is used to label the food for pragmatic reasons, but it would be more helpful to show that the food has its Hadiyya name as part of the showcasing.  

  1. Simons, Gary F. and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2018. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
  2. Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia: 2013 Population Estimate for 2014-2017
  3.  The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Cia.gov. Retrieved 26 March 2018
  4. Endangered Languages Project: By Country – Ethiopia http://www.endangeredlanguages.com. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  5. 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)I include here some project information from the volume because it encompasses a number of admirable efforts – Addis Ababa University, Hawassa University, University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology initiated the international project , which  is 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.
  6. Crystal, David (2014-11-06). Language Death. Cambridge University Press. p. 191. ISBN 9781316124093.
  7. Leyew, Zelealem; Mazengia, Shimelis. Field Report of The Cushitic Group, Linguistic Capacity Building: Tools for Inclusive Development in Ethiopia–NORHED project (2014). Retrieved 30-Mar-2018 from website: http://www.hf.uio.no/iln/om/organisasjon/tekstlab/prosjekter/Ethiopia/report-by-cushitic-group-(zelealem-and-shimelis).pdf
  8. Braukämper, Ulrich (2012). A history of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 9783447068048
  9. 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.
  10. Getahun Waatummo Doolle. 2002 H.D (2009/10). Hadiyy Heessechchaa Kobi’llishsha (Hadiyyisa Stories and Proverbs). Addis Ababal: Nigd Mattemiya Dirijjit.
  11. Hadiya Zone Education Desk. 1996 H.D. (2003/04). Hadiyyis-Ingilliisis Saga’l Doona (Hadiyya-Engilish Dictionar). Waachchamo.
  12. Braukämper, Ulrich and Tilahun Mishago. 1999. Praise and Teasing: Narrative Songs of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia. Frankfurt: Frobenius Institute.

Leave a comment

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

15 thoughts on “State of Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language of Ethiopia”