State of Language Maintenance and Language Shift among the Saho Speakers: the Case of Irob

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Addis Ababa Universiy


This study investigates the state of stability in Saho- Tigrinya bilingualism among the Saho speaking group in Ethiopia - lrob. It has been conducted among members of the community in Oowhan - administrative center of the homeland for the lrob community. It examines various aspects of bilingualism of the target community. These include language use pattern, language attitude, and proficiency. In addition, the study describes various group and individual factors that would possibly influence intergenerational continuity of Saho in the context of the homeland (Irob Wereda) . The investigation is based on sociolinguistic data that has been obtained mainly from primary sources. To a lesser extent, it also employs pieces of information produced from secondary sources. Questionnaire is the main data gathering instrument the study uses. Yet, in supplementing and/or complementing the questionnaire data, interview, vocabulary test, and document analysis, as well as observation are made use of. The results of this study in general disclose that Saho-Tigrinya bilingualism does not seem a stable one; they rather suggest that Saho's intergenerational continuity is proceeding negatively among the lrob community. The study identifies various symptoms for a possible shift from Saho to Tigrinya. These comprise presence of functional reduction and/or restriction of the ancestral tongue in various domains; Tigrinya 's spread or intrusion in public and private life of the native community is found to be remarkable; there is language behavior variation between younger and older generations; there is a sign for higher level of language loss among youngsters etc. The study also presents various large-scale factors (historical, social, economic, socio- psychological, cultural etc.) and attempts to demonstrate how such factors could have contributed to the current unsafe state of Saho in Oowhan and/or how they would possibly affect its long-term survival in the Irob district. The thesis is organized in four chapters. The first chapter tackles with a brief description of background of the study. It includes a short introduction of the research topic, the speech community and its language, scope of the study, research methodology and the like. The second chapter presents review of literature and related works. The third chapter analyses the data for the study. In the fourth chapter, the overall discussion is first summarized and then major findings and conclusion of the study are forwarded. The chapter concludes by providing possible recommendations on the measures that ought to be taken to improve the ongoing language shift situation of Saho



State of Language Maintenance and Language Shift among the Saho Speakers