The Practices and Challenges of Gedeo Orthography

Authors: Fekadu Nigussie, Ongaye Oda Orkaydo (Dilla University, South Africa)
Speaker: Ongaye Oda Orkaydo 
Topic: Text, Context, Entextualization
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The written form of a language requires the choice of a script, the development of orthography and the approval of the writing system by the members of the speech community. This paper presents the practices and challenges of Gedeo orthography, a Highland East Cushitic language spoken in south Ethiopia. The findings show that the development of Gedeo orthography has entertained the choice and use of two scripts: the Saban (Geez) and the Latin scripts. The former was introduced in 1976 and used until 1993 for the purpose of state-induced adult literacy programme, and the latter in 1993 following the ratification of the present constitution which recognizes the equality of all languages in the country and allows the development and promotion of vernacular languages for status planning. The Saban script was rejected and replaced by the Latin script because it lacked the approval by the Gedeo community, did not represent some consonant phonemes and vowel length, and did not facilitate the transition from the Gedeo language to English. The adoption of the Latin script, on the other hand, solved most of the shortcomings of the Saban script. However, issues related to low self-esteem of the native speakers, inclusion of symbols in the present alphabet for non-native sounds, financial shortage, expansion of mainstream religions, limitation in the vocabulary standardization remain serious challenges. We recommend that the revision of the orthography, raising community self-esteem, using new insights from recent linguistic research findings, etc. are required.

Keywords: orthography, Latin, Saban, Gedeo, Cushitic, Ethiopia