The Socio-Cultural Milieu, Language Use, Language Attitude, And Ethno linguistic Identity in Mesqan

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Addis Ababa University


Various sociolinguistic studies highlight the intrinsic bond between culture and language. However, variations exist in line with the angles from which the studies explain the link. This thesis approaches the issue from a different perspective, with a focus on the reciprocal influence between the socio-cultural context and language as reflected in language use, language attitude, and ethnolinguistic identity. Addressing this issue in the context of the Gurage cluster, which comprises linguistically heterogeneous groups, makes it interesting to discern the interface. Mesqan is an ethnolinguistic group within the Gurage cluster. Both quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques were employed to obtain information in rural and urban areas, namely, Mesqan Woreda, Butajira town, and Yirgalem town. Mesqan is generally used in informal domains of day-to-day interaction, and Amharic is the language of education and administration. Highly valued cultural and social events impose norms of interaction and interpretation on language users, and strict adherence to the rules is sanctified by the exclusive use of their ethnic language, i.e. Mesqan. Language attitude and language use mutually influence each other; however, high level of attitude towards the in-group language neither necessarily points to high degree of use in various domains, nor essentially shows high level of proficiency. Hence, the relationship between language attitude and language use is not necessarily reciprocal. Similarly, there is an inherent link between language and ethnic identity; nonetheless, the bond is stronger in a situation where the ethnic language is dominantly used as a mother tongue in various domains, and serves as a key index of ethnic identity; and, it is weaker in a context the ethnic language holds a symbolic role in the identity construction. The extent to which the speakers have positive attitude towards their in-group language also determines the place language holds in the construction of ethnic identity. The complexity and fluidity of ethnic identity within the Gurage cluster and the role language plays in the identity construction, and a sociolinguistic and grammatical description of the secret language of the Moyat 'a group of people who follow a traditional belief call for a comprehensive study in the future .



Socio-Cultural Milieu, Language Use, Language Attitude