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Sidamo language

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Title: Sidamo language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Highland East Cushitic languages, People of Ethiopia, Cushitic languages, Tsamai language, Baiso language
Collection: East Cushitic Languages, Languages of Ethiopia, Subject–object–verb Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Sidamo language

Sidaamu Afoo
Native to Ethiopia
Region Sidama Zone, south central Ethiopia
Native speakers
3.0 million  (2007 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-2 sid
ISO 639-3 sid
Glottolog sida1246[2]

Sidaama or Sidaamu Afoo is an Afro-Asiatic language, belonging to the Highland East Cushitic branch of the Cushitic family. It is spoken in parts of southern Ethiopia by the Sidaama people, particularly in the densely populated Sidama Zone. Sidaamu Afoo is the ethnic autonym for the language, while Sidaminya is its name in Amharic. Although it is not known to have any specific dialects, it shares over 50% lexical similarity with Alaba-K'abeena, Kambaata, and Hadiyya, all of which are other languages spoken in southwestern Ethiopia. The word order is typically SOV. Sidaama has over 100,000 L2 speakers. The literacy rate for L1 speakers is 1%-5%, while for L2 speakers it is 20%. In terms of its writing, Sidaama used an Ethiopic script up until 1993, from which point forward it has used a Latin script.[3]

The term Sidamo has also been used by some authors to refer to larger groupings of East Cushitic and even Omotic languages.[4] The languages within this Sidamo grouping contain similar, alternating phonological features.[5] The results from a research study conducted in 1968-1969 concerning mutual intelligibility between different Sidamo languages suggests that Sidaama is more closely related to the Gedeo language, which it shares a border with to the south, than other Sidamo languages.[6]

Sidaama vocabulary has been influenced by Ge'ez and Amharic, and has in turn influenced Oromo vocabulary.


  • Grammar 1
    • Noun Phrases 1.1
  • References 2
    • Grammars 2.1
    • Dictionaries 2.2
    • Bible translations 2.3
  • External links 3


Noun Phrases

In Sidaama, not all noun phrases have nouns. This can occur when it is so obvious what kind of thing the referent of the noun phrase is, that it is unnecessary for the speaker to mention it. Sidaama has two types of noun phrases without nouns. One type is made up only of an adjective or a numeral, where the adjective or the numeral agrees in case, number, and gender with the referent of a noun phrase. This is shown in the examples below:

busul-u da-ø-ino.
smart-NOM.M come-3SG.M-PERF.3
‘The smart one (masculine) came.’
sas-u da-ø-ino
three-NOM.M come-3SG.M-PERF.3
‘The three (masculine) came.’

The other type of noun phrase without a noun is formed with a noun-phrase clitic, or NPC. This NPC starts with t (FEM) or h (MASC). This is thought to originate from the Afro-Asiatic demonstrative containing t (FEM) or k (MASC). The Sidaama NPC appears in various forms. Which form is used when depends on the gender of the referent of the noun phrase, and the syntactic role or case of the noun phrase. When a noun phrase without a noun is formed with an NPC, both the speaker and the listener know its referent. In this case, the NPC attaches to the end of a genitive noun phrase or relative clause to form a noun phrase without a noun. This is shown in the examples below:

isí=ti ba’-’-ino.
3SG.M.GEN=NPC.F.NOM disappear-3SG.F-PERF.3
‘His (FEM) disappeared.’
ani ku’uí beett-í=ta seekk-o-mm-o.
1SG.NOM that.M.GEN child-GEN.M.MOD=NPC.F.ACC repair-PERF.1-1SG-M
‘I (MASC) repaired that boy’s (FEM).’[7]


  1. ^ Ethiopia 2007 Census
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Sidamo". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Raymond G. Gordon, Jr, ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  4. ^ Ring, Trudy, Noelle Watson, and Paul Schellinger. "International Dictionary of Historic Places: Middle East and Africa, Volume 4." 1994.
  5. ^ Leslau, Wolf. "Sidamo Features in the South Ethiopic Phonology." "Journal of the American Oriental Society," 1959.
  6. ^ Bender, Marvin L. and Robert L. Cooper. "Mutual Intelligibility Within Sidamo." 1979.
  7. ^ Kawachi, Kazuhiro. "Noun Phrases Without Nouns in Sidaama (Sidamo)." 2011.


  • Abebe Gebre-Tsadik (1982) "Derived nominals in Sidamo," B.A. thesis, Addis Ababa University. Addis Ababa.
  • Abebe Gebre-Tsadik. 1985. "An overview of the morphological structure of Sidamo verbs," The verb morphophonemics of five highland east Cushitic languages, including Burji. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 2. Cologne: Institut für Afrikanistik. Pages 64–81.
  • Anbessa Teferra (1984) "Sidamo verb morphology," B.A. thesis, Addis Ababa University. Addis Ababa.
  • Anbessa Teferra. 2000. "A grammar of Sidaama," Doctoral dissertation. Jerusalem, Israel: The Hebrew University.
  • Cerulli, Enrico (1938) La Lingua e la Storia del Sidamo (Studi Etiopici II). Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente.
  • Cohen, Marcel (1927) "Du verbe sidama (dans le groupe couchitique)," Bulletin de la Société de la Linguistique de Paris 83: 169-200.
  • Gasparini, Armido (1978) Grammatica Practica della Lingua Sidamo. Awasa (Mimeographed: 127 pp.).
  • Kawachi, Kazuhiro (2007) "A grammar of Sidaama (Sidamo), a Cushitic language of Ethiopia," Doctoral dissertation. State University of New York at Buffalo.
  • Moreno, Martino Mario (1940) Manuale di Sidamo. Milan: Mondadori.


  • Gasparini, Armido (1983) Sidamo-English dictionary. Bologna, Italy: E.M.I.
  • Hudson, Grover (1989) Highland East Cushitic Dictionary (Kuschitische Sprachstudien 7). Hamburg: Buske.
  • Sileshi Worqineh and Yohannis Latamo (1995) Sidaamu-Amaaru-Ingilizete Afii Qaalla Taashsho [Sidaama–Amharic–English Dictionary]. Awasa: Sidaamu Zoone Wogattenna Isporte Biddishsha [Sidaama Zone Sports and Culture Department].

Bible translations

  • British and Foreign Bible Society (1933) St. Mark’s Gospel in Sidamo. London.
  • Ethiopian Bible Society (1984) HaÌro GondoÌro [New Testament of Sidamo]. Addis Ababa.

External links

  • Bibliography of Highland East Cushitic by Grover Hudson at the Michigan State University website.
  • PanAfrican L10n page on Sidamo
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