Documentation and Grammatical Description of Chabu

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Addis Ababa University


The main objective of this study was documenting Chabu language: collecting a representative natural linguistic data with a view to multifunctional later use in scientific work and practical applications and to archive in digital archives as important repositories of the language. To make the documentation a good representative of the Chabu language, variety of natural texts of multiple genres have been collected, although only a few are used for the dissertation. This thesis, as part of the documentation’ investigated the endangerment situation of Chabu and described the grammar of the language. To this end, the study employed the Community Based Language Research (CBLR) model (Czaykowska-Higgins, 2009) in its loose sense and Basic Linguistic Theory (Dryer 2006) as theorethical framework. Although the community members did not participate in the planning stage most of the data collection and organisation activities were done in collaboration with members of the Chabu community. In order to make the documentation comprehensive the study followed an extended documentation format that enabled it to document various texts from multiple genres, compile the grammar of a language and produce a dictionary with about 1700 lexical items. The data were gathered in six months stay over three years period through participant and non participant observations, interview, and elicitation techniques with the help of multimedia technology (video and photo cameras and audio recorder) both in natural and induced settings. The elicitation and the cross checking of the data was also done during our stay with Chabu assistants in Meti, Tepi and Addis Ababa in about 10 additional months. The study explored that Chabu is facing a danger of extinction because of multiple factors among which lack of recognition is the most important. Chabu is found to score the lowest point in most of the parameters set by UNESCO as indicators of vitality. The study also disclosed that the name “Shabo” which is found in most recent literature of Chabu has no base from the speaker community and neighboring ethnic groups. The grammatical description revealed that Chabu has twenty four consonant and seven vowel phonemes in which consonant gemination, vowel length and tone have phonemic states. As the study result revealed, Chabu nouns are found to be inflecting for number, gender, definiteness and case. Chabu has a three way number and a two-way gender system that are morphologically marked. Chabu pronoun system is found to be unique in distinguishing gender in three persons and three numbers. The person oriented demonstrative system distinguishes four distance categories (proximal, medial (near the hearer), distal and invisible). The language is found to be having productive system of noun formation. Chabu does not have a separate word class of adjectives; all words that serve as adjective have derivational relation with verbs. Chabu verbs found to be inflected for person, gender, number, tense, aspect and mood by attaching `suffixes and prefixes to the main verb or to the auxiliary. The language has four tenses, three morphologically marked aspects, and a variety of directive moods. In verb stem formation, Chabu displays suffixation of derivational morphemes to verb roots and partial root reduplication in some cases of frequentative formation. The findings also disclosed that Chabu is an SOV language which allows some degree of flexibly. Serial verbs, complement clauses, adverbial clauses, converbs, relative clauses, and coordination construction are among the attested multi clausal construction of Chabu. Finally, the study suggests that the Chabus and their heritage language need to be recognized and protected by both regional states and federal government. Thus, different strategies should be designed to salvage, preserve and promote the language and the cultur of the Chabu by the regional administrations and by national policy makers.