Archive for the ‘political power’ Category

Double shift in language with shift in political events

20 June 2011

Spoken on a long archipelago of small islands south of the main islands of Japan, Okinawan (family) is a language family comprising two to eleven languages (depending on who you ask).

In the post “Language revitalization and liberation,” Ingrid Piller describes how language has been used in Okinawa as a political statement, and how a switch occurred from Okinawan to Japanese with the occupation of the US army after World War II.

For more information about Okinawa, see the International Association of Ryûkyûan/Okinawan Studies (IAROS).


The Argobba – assimilation in Ethiopia

16 April 2011

The Argobba are one of about 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia, about 10,000 in number with nearly no monolingual Argobba (agj) speakers. A people skilled at trading, they have adopted major neighboring languages, such as Afar (aar, 1.5 million speakers), Amharic (amh, 17.5 million) and Oromo (orm, 25 million).

As Abebe Kifleyesus writes in “Tradition and transformation: the Argobba of Ethiopia,” the key issue here is that the Argobba are abandoning their ties to their language while maintaining their ties to their culture.

The 1995 Constitution guarantees political representation by all “minority Nationalities and Peoples” (see Articles 54 and 61). However, the Arbogga have many customs similar to the Harari—an ethnicity of 25,000 to 30,000 people who speak Harari (har), a language cousin to Argobba—and were therefore not initially provided legislators in the national houses.

At least two years went by before this error was corrected, and the Argoba Nationality Democratic Organization now has one representative in the lower House of Peoples’ Representatives. More importantly, however, they hold control of the Argobba special woreda, an area that is semi-autonomous due to the ethnic federalism of the country. See this map of Ethiopia for the greater regions. Argobba is in Afar, adjacent to Amhara. This map shows the specific location of Argobba.

While the Argobba have gained political power, whether they will use it or some other means to save their language is a question that has yet to be answered.

See the SILSociolinguistic Survey Report of the Argobba Language of Ethiopia” for information about the Argobba language, including the phonology and a 320-word glossary.

This entry was inspired by “The Argobba: visiting a little-known African tribe” on the Gadling site.