Hadiya Ethiopia: Leemo Hadiya celebrating the dead with a decorated horse (1970-1)

What is in the Name? Personal Names in Hadiyya – A Review

Analysis of the Study from 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.

In this volume, Dr. Zelealem Leyew’s paper titled What is in the name? Personal Names in Hadiyya (the subject of this review) 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

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

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 and it is the focus of my analysis. 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.

Should we give up on Hadiyyisa names?: The battle to preserver Hadiya names for Hadiya kids seems to be a lost one, but should we give up?  As you can see above, 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  Hadiyyisa itself, don’t be so sure.  A few decades ago our parents and grandparents may have thought the same about Hadiya names disappearing, but the reality now is that it has happened. Almost. We have more in depth article State of Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa) Language of Ethiopia about how Hadiyyisa language is weakening and on its way to endangerment.

We should not lose these meaning-rich names: 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 (I don’t think many people make fun of names these days) 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 and other non-Amharic names only add to the diversity of names in the country, the reflection of its multi-linguistic and multicultural ethnic groups.

Example Hadiyyisa names: 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 Eerbeeto (wonderful/worthy son, Erlande for female ), Haabaame (miraculous girl/woman, Haabaamo for male), Fiito’o (bloom/flower for female), Waamisho (God’s blossom for male, Waamisha for female), Aashaamo (who brings abundance for male), Mixxoore (pronounced mit’-ooree girl who resolved my yearning/longing), Caakkeebo (pronounced t∫’aakk-eeb-o, one who brought light, glory – for male, female version very close to this), Haydaamo (one who brought honor – for male, female version is very close to this), Dileebe (one who ushered victory – for female but male version is Dileebo), et cetera.

If you are of Hadiya background, 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 these 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 do you think about the findings in the study and what solutions do you have?  Your comments below are welcome.

  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)

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