Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 130

Full Length Research Paper

Writing both difference and similarity: towards a more unifying and adequate orthography for the newly written languages of Ethiopia: the case of Wolaitta, Gamo, Gofa and Dawuro

Hirut Woldemariam
  • Hirut Woldemariam
  • Department of Linguistics, Institute of Language Studies, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 01 July 2013
  •  Accepted: 08 April 2014
  •  Published: 30 September 2014


Among the most important linguistic developments in Ethiopia since 1991, the development of written forms for many languages that did not have orthographies before has been one. By far the most diverse region in terms of the number of languages spoken is the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS).  This paper deals with the pan-dialectal orthography designed for Wolaitta, Gamo, Gofa and Dawuro (WOGAGODA here after), closely related speech varieties spoken in a contiguous territory within the SNNPRS. The orthography has been designed by a team of local experts who comprises of the four groups and has been put to use since February, 2003. The orthography follows the Alphabetic writing system and makes use of an extended version of the Latin script. Among the various limitations the orthography exhibits, over-representation and under-representation of the phonemic inventory of WOGAGODA is one.  The main objective of this study is, therefore, to examine the orthography under concern particularly from the point of phoneme-grapheme relationship, irregularity in symbolizing phonemic features and problems associated with diagraphs, etc. Further, the study tries to look at reading difficulties arising from the interference of readers’ knowledge of the English orthography in using the WOGAGODA orthography and vice versa. The two languages use the same writing system but not always the same conventions of sound-grapheme relationship.  The paper suggests ways of developing a simpler, more systematic, and unified alphabet that is also more harmonious with the English Alphabet. 


Key words: Orthography, script, phoneme, grapheme, diagraph, representation