Oromo language

Oromo language

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Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromo, Oromiffa(a), Afan Boran, Afan Orma, and sometimes in other languages by variant spellings of these names (Oromic, Afan Oromo, etc.), is an Afro-Asiatic
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

 language, and the most widely spoken of the Cushitic
Cushitic languages
The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947...

 family. Forms of Oromo are spoken as a first language by more than 25 million Oromo
Oromo people
The Oromo are an ethnic group found in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, .and parts of Somalia. With 30 million members, they constitute the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and approximately 34.49% of the population according to the 2007 census...

 and neighbouring peoples in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. Some think of Oromo as a dialect continuum
Dialect continuum
A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the...

, since not all varieties are mutually intelligible. It is a sociolinguistic language, consisting of four varieties: Borana–Arsi–Guji Oromo, Eastern Oromo
Eastern Oromo language
Eastern Oromo is a dialect of the Oromo language. According to the Ethnologue map of Ethiopian languages, it is spoken in the Mirab Hararghe Zone and Misraq Hararghe Zones of the Oromia Region of Ethiopia....

 (also called Qottu), Orma
Orma language
Orma is spoken by the Orma people in Kenya.The origin of the language is from the Oromo language. Other Oromo languages are spoken in extensive areas of Ethiopia....

, and West Central Oromo.

Older publications refer to the language as "Galla", a term that is resented by Oromo people and no longer used.

Speakers


About 95 percent of Oromo speakers live in Ethiopia, mainly in Oromia Region
Oromia Region
Oromia is one of the nine ethnic divisions of Ethiopia...

. In Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 there are also some speakers of the language. In Kenya, the Ethnologue also lists 322,000 speakers of Borana and Orma, two languages closely related to Ethiopian Oromo. Within Ethiopia, Oromo is one of most spoken (more than 40%).

Within Africa, Oromo is the language with the 4th most speakers, after Arabic (if one counts the mutually unintelligible spoken forms of Arabic as a single language and assumes the same for the varieties of Oromo), Swahili
Swahili language
Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by various ethnic groups that inhabit several large stretches of the Mozambique Channel coastline from northern Kenya to northern Mozambique, including the Comoro Islands. It is also spoken by ethnic minority groups in Somalia...

, and Hausa
Hausa language
Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 25 million people, and as a second language by about 18 million more, an approximate total of 43 million people...

.

Besides first language speakers, a number of members of other ethnicities who are in contact with the Oromos speak it as a second language, for example, the Omotic
Omotic languages
The Omotic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic family spoken in southwestern Ethiopia. The Ge'ez alphabet is used to write some Omotic languages, the Roman alphabet for some others. They are fairly agglutinative, and have complex tonal systems .-Language list:The North and South Omotic...

-speaking Bambassi
Bambassi language
Bambassi is an Omotic Afroasiatic language spoken in Ethiopia around the town of Bambasi in the area east of Asosa in Benishangul-Gumuz Region. The parent language group is the East Mao group...

 and the Nilo-Saharan
Nilo-Saharan languages
The Nilo-Saharan languages are a proposed family of African languages spoken by some 50 million people, mainly in the upper parts of the Chari and Nile rivers , including historic Nubia, north of where the two tributaries of Nile meet...

-speaking Kwama
Kwama people
The Kwama , are a Nilo-Saharan-speaking community living in the Sudanese-Ethiopian borderland, mainly in the Mao-Komo special woreda of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in, Ethiopia. They belong, culturally and linguistically, to the Koman groups, which include neighboring communities such as the Uduk,...

 in northwestern Oromia.

Language policy


Before the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, publishing or broadcasting in Oromo was very limited. The few works that had been published, most notably Onesimos Nesib
Onesimos Nesib
Onesimos Nesib , was a native Oromo who converted to Lutheran Christianity and translated the Christian Bible into the Oromo language...

's and Aster Ganno
Aster Ganno
Aster Ganno was an Ethiopian Bible translator who worked with the better known Onesimos Nesib as a translator of the Oromo Bible, published in 1899.She was born free, but was later enslaved by the king of Limmu-Ennarea...

's translation of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 from the late nineteenth century, were written in the Ge'ez alphabet
Ge'ez alphabet
Ge'ez , also called Ethiopic, is a script used as an abugida for several languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea but originated in an abjad used to write Ge'ez, now the liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Church...

, as was the 1875 New Testament produced by Krapf
Johann Ludwig Krapf
Johann Ludwig Krapf was a German missionary in East Africa, as well as an explorer, linguist, and traveler. Krapf played an important role in exploring East Africa with Johannes Rebmann. They were the first Europeans to see Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro...

. Following the 1974 Revolution, the government undertook a literacy campaign in several languages, including Oromo, and publishing and radio broadcasts began in the language. All Oromo materials printed in Ethiopia at that time, such as the newspaper Barissa, were written in the traditional script.

Plans to introduce Oromo instruction in the schools, however, were not realized until the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam is a politician who was formerly the most prominent officer of the Derg, the Communist military junta that governed Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987, and the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1987 to 1991...

 was overthrown in 1991, except in regions controlled by the Oromo Liberation Front
Oromo Liberation Front
The Oromo Liberation Front , or OLF, is an organization established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to promote self-determination for the Oromo people against what they call "Abyssinian colonial rule". It has been outlawed and labeled as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government...

 (OLF). With the creation of "Oromia" under the new system of ethnic regions, it has been possible to introduce Oromo as the medium of instruction in elementary schools throughout the region (including areas where other ethnic groups live speaking their languages) and as a language of administration within the region. Since the OLF left the transitional Ethiopian government in early 1990s, the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization
Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization
The Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization is an ethnic-based political party in Ethiopia, and part of the alliance with the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the South Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Front and the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front that forms the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary...

 (OPDO) continued developing Afaan Oromo in Ethiopia.

Oromo is written with a modified Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 called Qubee which was formally adopted in 1991. Various versions of the Latin based orthography had been used previously, mostly by Oromos outside of Ethiopia and by the OLF by the late 1970s (Heine 1986). With the adoption of Qubee, it is believed more texts were written in the Oromo language between 1991 and 1997 than in the previous 100 years.

The Sapalo script was an indigenous Oromo script invented by Sheikh Bakri Sapalo
Bakri Sapalo
Sheikh Bakri Sapalo was an Oromo scholar, poet and religious teacher. He is best known as the inventor of a writing system for the Oromo language.-Life:...

 (also known by his birth name, Abubaker Usman Odaa) in the years following Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and used underground afterwards. The Arabic alphabet
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 has also been used intermittently in areas with Muslim populations.

Within Kenya there has been radio broadcasting in Oromo (in the Borana dialect) on the Voice of Kenya since at least the 1980s. The Borana Bible in Kenya was printed in 1995 using the Latin alphabet, but not using the same spelling rules as in Ethiopian Qubee. The first comprehensive online Afan Oromo dictionary was developed by the Jimma Times Oromiffa Group (JTOG) in cooperation with SelamSoft. Voice of America
Voice of America
Voice of America is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. It is one of five civilian U.S. international broadcasters working under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors . VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio...

 also broadcasts in Afan Oromo alongside its other horn of Africa programs. Afan Oromo and Qubee are currently utilized by the Ethiopian government's state radios, TV stations and regional government newspaper.

Consonant and vowel phonemes


Like most other Ethiopian languages, whether Semitic, Cushitic, or Omotic, Oromo has a set of ejective consonant
Ejective consonant
In phonetics, ejective consonants are voiceless consonants that are pronounced with simultaneous closure of the glottis. In the phonology of a particular language, ejectives may contrast with aspirated or tenuis consonants...

s, that is, voiceless stops or affricates that are accompanied by glottalization and an explosive burst of air. Oromo has another glottalized phone that is more unusual, an implosive
Implosive consonant
Implosive consonants are stops with a mixed glottalic ingressive and pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism. That is, the airstream is controlled by moving the glottis downward in addition to expelling air from the lungs. Therefore, unlike the purely glottalic ejective consonants, implosives can...

 retroflex stop, "dh" in Oromo orthography, a sound that is like an English "d" produced with the tongue curled back slightly and with the air drawn in so that a glottal stop is heard before the following vowel begins.

Oromo has the typical Eastern Cushitic set of five short and five long vowels, indicated in the orthography by doubling the five vowel letters. The difference in length is contrastive, for example, hara 'lake', haaraa 'new'. Gemination
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

 is also significant in Oromo. That is, consonant length can distinguish words from one another, for example, badaa 'bad', baddaa 'highland'.

In the Qubee alphabet, a single "letter" consists either of a single symbol or a digraph ("ch", "dh", "ny", "ph", "sh"). Gemination is not obligatorily marked for the digraphs, though some writers indicate it by doubling the first symbol: qopphaa'uu 'be prepared'. In the charts below, the International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 symbol for a phoneme is shown in brackets where it differs from the Oromo letter. The phonemes /p v z/ appear in parentheses because they are only found in recently adopted words. Note that there have been minor changes in the orthography since it was first adopted: ([tʼ]) was originally represented as "th", and there has been some confusion among authors in the use of "c" and "ch" in representing the phonemes /tʃʼ/ and /tʃ/, with some early works using "c" for /tʃ/ and "ch" for /tʃʼ/ and even "c" for different phonemes depending on where it appears in a word. This article uses "c" consistently for /tʃʼ/ and "ch" for /tʃ/.
Consonants
Bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

/
Labiodental
Labiodental consonant
In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

/
Retroflex
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

Palato-alveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

/
Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Stops
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

 and
affricates
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

Voiceless (p) t ch /tʃ/ k ' /ʔ/
Voiced b d j /dʒ/ g
Ejective ph /pʼ/ x /tʼ/ c /tʃʼ/ q /kʼ/
Implosive
Implosive consonant
Implosive consonants are stops with a mixed glottalic ingressive and pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism. That is, the airstream is controlled by moving the glottis downward in addition to expelling air from the lungs. Therefore, unlike the purely glottalic ejective consonants, implosives can...

dh /ɗ/
Fricatives
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

Voiceless f s sh /ʃ/ h
Voiced (v) (z)
Nasals
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m n ny /ɲ/
Approximants
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

w l y /j/
Rhotic
Rhotic consonant
In phonetics, rhotic consonants, also called tremulants or "R-like" sounds, are liquid consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including "R, r" from the Roman alphabet and "Р, p" from the Cyrillic alphabet...

r

Vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s
Front Central Back
close i /ɪ/, ii /iː/ u /ʊ/, uu /uː/
Mid e /ɛ/, ee /eː/ o /ɔ/, oo /oː/
Open a /ʌ/ aa /ɑː/



Gender


Like most other Afro-Asiatic languages
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

, Oromo has two grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

s,
masculine and feminine, and all nouns belong to either one or the other.
Grammatical gender in Oromo enters into the grammar in the following ways:
  • Verbs (except for the copula be) agree with their subjects in gender when the subject is third person singular (he or she).
  • Third person singular personal pronoun
    Personal pronoun
    Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

    s (he, she, it, etc., in English) have the gender of the noun they refer to.
  • Adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender.
  • Some possessive adjectives ("my", "your") agree with the nouns they modify in some dialects.


Except in some southern dialects, there is nothing in the form of most nouns that indicates their gender. A small number of nouns pairs for people, however, end in -eessa (m.) and -eettii (f.), as do adjectives when they are used as nouns: obboleessa 'brother', obboleettii 'sister', dureessa 'the rich one (m.)', hiyyeettii 'the poor one (f.)'. Grammatical gender normally agrees with biological gender for people and animals; thus nouns such as abbaa 'father', ilma 'son', and sangaa 'ox' are masculine, while nouns such as haadha 'mother' and intala 'girl, daughter' are feminine. However, most names for animals do not specify biological gender.

Names of astronomical bodies are feminine: aduu 'sun', urjii 'star'. The gender of other inanimate nouns varies somewhat among dialects.

Number


Oromo has singular and plural number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

, but nouns that refer to multiple entities are not obligatorily plural. That is, if the context is clear, a formally singular noun may refer to multiple entities: nama "man" or "people", nama shan "five men" or "five people". Another way of looking at this is to treat the "singular" form as unspecified for number.

When it is important to make the plurality of a referent clear, the plural form of a noun is used. Noun plurals are formed through the addition of suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

es. The most common plural suffix is -oota; a final vowel is dropped before the suffix, and in the western dialects, the suffix becomes -ota following a syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

 with a long vowel: mana 'house', manoota 'houses', hiriyaa 'friend', hiriyoota 'friends', barsiisaa 'teacher', barsiiso(o)ta 'teachers'. Among the other common plural suffixes are -(w)wan, -een, and -(a)an; the latter two may cause a preceding consonant to be doubled: waggaa 'year', waggaawwan 'years', laga 'river', laggeen 'rivers', ilma 'son', ilmaan 'sons'.

Definiteness


Oromo has no indefinite articles
Article (grammar)
An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

 (corresponding to English a, some), but (except in the southern dialects) it indicates definiteness
Definiteness
In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context and entities which are not ....

 (English the) with suffixes on the noun: -(t)icha for masculine nouns (the ch is geminated though this is not normally indicated in writing) and -(t)ittii for feminine nouns. Vowel endings of nouns are dropped before these suffixes: karaa 'road', karicha 'the road', nama 'man', namicha/namticha 'the man', haroo 'lake', harittii 'the lake'. Note that for animate nouns that can take either gender, the definite suffix may indicate the intended gender: qaalluu 'priest', qaallicha 'the priest (m.)', qallittii 'the priest (f.)'. The definite suffixes appear to be used less often than the in English, and they seem not to co-occur with the plural suffixes.

Case


An Oromo noun has a citation form
Citation form
In linguistics the citation form of a word can mean:* its canonical form or lemma: the form of an inflected word given in dictionaries or glossaries, thus also called the dictionary form....

 or base form that is used when the noun is the object of a verb, the object of a preposition or postposition, or a nominal predicative
Predicative (adjectival or nominal)
In grammar, a predicative is an element of the predicate of a sentence that supplements the subject or object by means of the verb. A predicative may be nominal or adjectival . If the complement after a linking verb is a noun or a pronoun, it is called a predicate nominative...

.
  • mana 'house', mana binne 'we bought a house'
  • hamma 'until', dhuma 'end', hamma dhuma 'until (the) end'
  • mana keessa, 'inside (a/the) house'
  • inni 'he', barsiisaa 'teacher', inni barsiisaa (dha) 'he is a teacher'


A noun may also appear in one of six other grammatical case
Grammatical case
In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

s, each indicated by a suffix or the lengthening of the noun's final vowel. The case endings follow plural or definite suffixes if these appear. For some of the cases, there is a range of forms possible, some covering more than one case, and the differences in meaning among these alternatives may be quite subtle.
Nominative
The nominative is used for nouns that are the subjects
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 of clauses.
  • Ibsaa man's name, Ibsaan 'Ibsaa (nom.)', makiinaa, qaba 'he has', Ibsaan makiinaa qaba 'Ibsaa has a car'
Most nouns ending in short vowels with a preceding single consonant drop the final vowel and add -ni to form the nominative. Following certain consonants, assimilation
Assimilation (linguistics)
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

 changes either the n or that consonant (the details depend on the dialect).
  • nama 'man', namni 'man (nom.)'
  • namoota 'men'; namootni, namoonni 'men (nom.)' (t + n may assimilate to nn)
If a final short vowel is preceded by two consonants or a geminated consonant, -i is suffixed.
  • ibsa 'statement', ibsi 'statement (nom.)'
  • namicha 'the man', namichi 'the man (nom.)' (the ch in the definite suffix -icha is actually geminated, though not normally written as such)
If the noun ends in a long vowel, -n is suffixed to this. This pattern applies to infinitives, which end in -uu.
  • maqaa 'name', maqaan 'name (nom.)'
  • nyachuu 'to eat, eating', nyachuun 'to eat, eating (nom.)'
If the noun ends in n, the nominative is identical to the base form.
  • afaan 'mouth, language (base form or nom.)'
Some feminine nouns ending in a short vowel add -ti. Again assimilation occurs in some cases.
  • haadha 'mother', haati (dh + t assimilates to t)
  • lafa 'earth', lafti

Genitive
The genitive is used for possession or "belonging"; it corresponds roughly to English of or -'s. The genitive is usually formed by lengthening a final short vowel, by adding -ii to a final consonant, and by leaving a final long vowel unchanged. The possessor noun follows the possessed noun in a genitive phrase. Many such phrases with specific technical meanings have been added to the Oromo lexicon in recent years.
  • obboleetti 'sister', namicha 'the man', obboleetti namichaa 'the man's sister'
  • hojii 'job', Caaltuu, woman's name, hojii Caaltuu, 'Caaltuu's job'
  • barumsa 'field of study', afaan 'mouth, language', barumsa afaanii 'linguistics'
In place of the genitive it is also possible to use the relative marker kan (m.) / tan (f.) preceding the possessor.
  • obboleetti kan namicha 'the man's sister'

Dative
The dative is used for nouns that represent the recipient (to) or the benefactor (for) of an event. The dative form of a verb infinitive
Infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

 (which acts like a noun in Oromo) indicates purpose. The dative takes one of the following forms:
  • Lengthening of a final short vowel (ambiguously also signifying the genitive)
  • namicha 'the man', namichaa 'to the man, of the man'
    • -f following a long vowel or a lengthened short vowel; -iif following a consonant
  • intala 'girl, daughter', intalaaf 'to a girl, daughter'
  • saree 'dog', sareef 'to a dog'
  • baruu 'to learn', baruuf 'in order to learn'
  • bishaan 'water', bishaaniif 'for water'
    • -dhaa or -dhaaf following a long vowel
  • saree 'dog'; sareedhaa, sareedhaaf 'to a dog'
    • -tti (with no change to a preceding vowel), especially with verbs of speaking
  • Caaltuu woman's name, himi 'tell, say (imperative)', Caaltuutti himi 'tell Caaltuu'

Instrumental
Instrumental case
The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action...

The instrumental is used for nouns that represent the instrument ("with"), the means ("by"), the agent ("by"), the reason, or the time of an event. The formation of the instrumental parallels that of the dative to some extent:
  • -n following a long vowel or a lengthened short vowel; -iin following a consonant
  • harka 'hand', harkaan 'by hand, with a hand'
  • halkan 'night', halkaniin 'at night'
    • -tiin following a long vowel or a lengthened short vowel
  • Afaan Oromo 'Oromo (language)', Afaan Oromotiin 'in Oromo'
    • -dhaan following a long vowel
  • yeroo 'time', yeroodhaan 'on time'
  • bawuu 'to come out, coming out', bawuudhaan 'by coming out'

Locative
The locative is used for nouns that represent general locations of events or states, roughly at. For more specific locations, Oromo uses prepositions or postpositions. Postpositions may also take the locative suffix. The locative also seems to overlap somewhat with the instrumental, sometimes having a temporal function. The locative is formed with the suffix -tti.
  • Arsiitti 'in Arsii'
  • harka 'hand', harkatti 'in hand'
  • guyyaa 'day', guyyaatti 'per day'
  • jala, jalatti 'under'

Ablative
The ablative is used to represent the source of an event; it corresponds closely to English from. The ablative, applied to postpositions and locative adverbs as well as nouns proper, is formed in the following ways:
  • When the word ends in a short vowel, this vowel is lengthened (as for the genitive).
  • biyya 'country', biyyaa 'from country'
  • keessa 'inside, in', keessaa 'from inside'
    • When the word ends in a long vowel, -dhaa is added (as for one alternative for the dative).
  • Finfinneedhaa 'from Finfinnee (Addis Ababa)'
  • gabaa 'market', gabaadhaa 'from market'
    • When the word ends in a consonant, -ii is added (as for the genitive).
  • Hararii 'from Harar'
    • Following a noun in the genitive, -tii is added.
  • mana 'house', buna 'coffee', mana bunaa 'cafe', mana bunaatii 'from cafe'
An alternative to the ablative is the postposition irraa 'from' whose initial vowel may be dropped in the process:
  • gabaa 'market', gabaa irraa, gabaarraa 'from market'

Personal pronouns


In most languages, there is a small number of basic distinctions of person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

, number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

, and often gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 that play a role within the grammar of the language. Oromo and English are such languages. We see these distinctions within the basic set of independent personal pronouns, for example, English I, Oromo ani; English they, Oromo isaani and the set of possessive adjective
Possessive adjective
Possessive adjectives, also known as possessive determiners, are a part of speech that modifies a noun by attributing possession to someone or something...

s and pronouns
Possessive pronoun
A possessive pronoun is a part of speech that substitutes for a noun phrase that begins with a possessive determiner . For example, in the sentence These glasses are mine, not yours, the words mine and yours are possessive pronouns and stand for my glasses and your glasses, respectively...

, for example, English my, Oromo koo; English mine, Oromo kan koo. In Oromo, the same distinctions are also reflected in subject–verb agreement: Oromo verbs (with a few exceptions) agree
Agreement (linguistics)
In languages, agreement or concord is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. Agreement happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates....

 with their subjects
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

; that is, the person, number, and (singular third person) gender of the subject of the verb are marked by suffixes
Affix
An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

 on the verb. Because these suffixes vary greatly with the particular verb tense
Grammatical tense
A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

/aspect
Grammatical aspect
In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

/mood
Grammatical mood
In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

, they are normally not considered to be pronouns and are discussed elsewhere in this article under verb conjugation
Grammatical conjugation
In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

.

In all of these areas of the grammar—independent pronouns, possessive adjectives, possessive pronouns, and subject–verb agreement—Oromo distinguishes seven combinations of person, number, and gender. For first and second persons, there is a two-way distinction between singular ('I', 'you sg.') and plural ('we', 'you pl.'), whereas for third person, there is a two-way distinction in the singular ('he', 'she') and a single form for the plural ('they'). Because Oromo has only two genders, there is no pronoun corresponding to English it; the masculine or feminine pronoun is used according to the gender of the noun referred to.

Oromo is a subject pro-drop language
Pro-drop language
A pro-drop language is a language in which certain classes of pronouns may be omitted when they are in some sense pragmatically inferable...

. That is, neutral sentences in which the subject is not emphasized do not require independent subject pronouns: kaleessa dhufne 'we came yesterday'.
The Oromo word that translates 'we' does not appear in this sentence, though the person and number are marked on the verb dhufne ('we came') by the suffix -ne. When the subject in such sentences needs to be given prominence for some reason, an independent pronoun can be used: nuti kaleessa dhufne 'we came yesterday'.

The table below gives forms of the personal pronouns in the different cases, as well as the possessive adjectives. For the first person plural and third person singular feminine categories, there is considerable variation across dialects; only some of the possibilities are shown.

The possessive adjectives, treated as separate words here, are sometimes written as noun suffixes. In most dialects there is a distinction between masculine and feminine possessive adjectives for first and second person (the form agreeing with the gender of the modified noun). However, in the western dialects, the masculine forms (those beginning with k-) are used in all cases. Possessive adjectives may take the case endings for the nouns they modify: ganda kootti 'to my village' (-tti: locative case).
Oromo Personal Pronouns
English Base Subject Dative Instrumental Locative Ablative Possessive
adjectives
I ana, na ani, an naa, naaf, natti naan natti narraa koo, kiyya
[too, tiyya (f.)]
you (sg.) si ati sii, siif, sitti siin sitti sirraa kee
[tee (f.)]
he isa inni isaa, isaa(tii)f, isatti isaatiin isatti isarraa (i)saa
she isii, ishii, isee, ishee isiin, etc. ishii, ishiif, ishiitti, etc. ishiin, etc. ishiitti, etc. ishiirraa, etc. (i)sii, (i)shii
we nu nuti, nu'i, nuy, nu nuu, nuuf, nutti nuun nutti nurraa "keenna",keenya
["teenna",teenya (f.)]
you (pl.) isin isini isinii, isiniif, isinitti isiniin isinitti isinirraa keessan(i)
[teessan(i) (f.)]
they isaan isaani isaanii, isaaniif, isaanitti isaaniitiin isaanitti isaanirraa (i)saani


As in languages such as French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, and Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, the Oromo second person plural is also used as a polite singular form, for reference to people that the speaker wishes to show respect towards. This usage is an example of the so-called T-V distinction
T-V distinction
In sociolinguistics, a T–V distinction is a contrast, within one language, between second-person pronouns that are specialized for varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy, familiarity, or insult toward the addressee....

 that is made in many languages. In addition, the third person plural may be used for polite reference to a single third person (either 'he' or 'she').

For possessive pronouns ('mine', 'yours', etc.), Oromo adds the possessive adjectives to kan 'of': kan koo 'mine', kan kee 'yours', etc.

Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns


Oromo has two ways of expressing reflexive pronoun
Reflexive pronoun
A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that is preceded by the noun, adjective, adverb or pronoun to which it refers within the same clause. In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent...

s ('myself', 'yourself', etc.). One is to use the noun meaning 'self': of(i) or if(i). This noun is inflected for case but, unless it is being emphasized, not for person, number, or gender: isheen of laalti 'she looks at herself' (base form of of), isheen ofiif makiinaa bitte 'she bought herself a car' (dative of of).

The other possibility is to use the noun meaning 'head', mataa, with possessive suffixes: mataa koo 'myself', mataa kee 'yourself (s.)', etc.

Oromo has a reciprocal pronoun
Reciprocal (grammar)
A reciprocal is a linguistic structure that marks a particular kind of relationship between two noun phrases. In a reciprocal construction, each of the participants occupies both the role of agent and patient with respect to each other...

 wal (English 'each other') that is used like of/if. That is, it is inflected for case but not person, number, or gender: wal jaalatu 'they like each other' (base form of wal), kennaa walii bitan 'they brought each other gifts' (dative of wal).

Demonstrative pronouns


Like English, Oromo makes a two-way distinction between proximal ('this, these') and distal ('that, those') demonstrative pronouns and adjectives. Some dialects distinguish masculine and feminine for the proximal pronouns; in the western dialects the masculine forms (beginning with k-) are used for both genders. Unlike in English, singular and plural demonstratives are not distinguished, but, as for nouns and personal pronouns in the language, case is distinguished. Only the base and nominative forms are shown in the table below; the other cases are formed from the base form as for nouns, for example, sanatti 'at/on/in that' (locative case).
Oromo Demonstrative Pronouns
Case Proximal
('this, these')
Distal
('that, those')
Base kana
[tana (f.)]
san
Nominative kuni
[tuni (f.)]
suni

Verbs


An Oromo verb consists minimally of a stem, representing the lexical
Lexicon
In linguistics, the lexicon of a language is its vocabulary, including its words and expressions. A lexicon is also a synonym of the word thesaurus. More formally, it is a language's inventory of lexemes. Coined in English 1603, the word "lexicon" derives from the Greek "λεξικόν" , neut...

 meaning of the verb, and a suffix, representing tense
Grammatical tense
A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

 or aspect
Grammatical aspect
In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

 and subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 agreement. For example, in dhufne 'we came', dhuf- is the stem ('come') and -ne indicates that the tense is past and that the subject of the verb is first person plural.

As in many other Afro-Asiatic languages
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

, Oromo makes a basic two-way distinction in its verb system between the two tensed forms, past (or "perfect") and present (or "imperfect" or "non-past"). Each of these has its own set of tense/agreement suffixes. There is a third conjugation based on the present which has three functions: it is used in place of the present in subordinate clauses, for the jussive ('let me/us/him, etc. V', together with the particle haa), and for the negative
Negation
In logic and mathematics, negation, also called logical complement, is an operation on propositions, truth values, or semantic values more generally. Intuitively, the negation of a proposition is true when that proposition is false, and vice versa. In classical logic negation is normally identified...

 of the present (together with the particle hin). For example, deemne 'we went', deemna 'we go', akka deemnu 'that we go', haa deemnu 'let's go', hin deemnu 'we don't go'. There is also a separate imperative
Imperative mood
The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

 form: deemi 'go (sg.)!'.

Conjugation


The table below shows the conjugation in the affirmative and negative of the verb beek- 'know'. The first person singular present and past affirmative forms require the suffix -n to appear on the word preceding the verb or the word nan before the verb. The negative particle hin, shown as a separate word in the table, is sometimes written as a prefix on the verb.
Oromo Verb Conjugation
Past Present Jussive, Imperative
Main clause Subordinate clause
Affirmative Negative Affirmative Negative Affirmative Negative Affirmative Negative
I -n beeke hin beekne -n beeka hin beeku -n beeku hin beekne haa beeku hin beekin
you (sg.) beekte beekta hin beektu beektu beeki hin beek(i)in
he beeke beeka hin beeku beeku haa beeku hin beekin
she beekte beekti hin beektu beektu haa beektu
we beekne beekna hin beeknu beeknu haa beeknu
you (pl.) beektani beektu, beektan(i) hin beektan beektani beekaa hin beek(i)inaa
they beekani beeku, beekan(i) hin beekan beekani haa beekanu hin beekin


For verbs with stems ending in certain consonants and suffixes beginning with consonants (that is, t or n), there are predictable changes to one or the other of the consonants. The dialects vary a lot in the details, but the following changes are common.
b- + -t → bd qabda 'you (sg.) have'
g- + -t → gd dhugda 'you (sg.) drink'
r- + -n → rr barra 'we learn'
l- + -n → ll galla 'we enter'
q- + -t → qx dhaqxa 'you (sg.) go'
s- + -t → ft baas- 'take out', baafta 'you (sg.) take out'
s- + -n → fn baas- 'take out', baafna 'we take out'
t-/d-/dh-/x- + -n → nn biti 'buy', binna 'we buy'; nyaadhaa 'eat', nyaanna 'we eat'
d- + -t → dd fid- 'bring', fidda 'you (sg.) bring'
dh- + -t → tt taphadh- 'play', taphatta 'you (sg.) play'
x- + -t → xx fix- 'finish', fixxa 'you (sg.) finish'

Verbs whose stems end in two consonants and whose suffix begins with a consonant must insert a vowel to break up the consonants since the language does not permit sequences of three consonants. There are two ways this can happen: either the vowel i is inserted between the stem and the suffix, or the final stem consonants are switched (an example of metathesis
Metathesis (linguistics)
Metathesis is the re-arranging of sounds or syllables in a word, or of words in a sentence. Most commonly it refers to the switching of two or more contiguous sounds, known as adjacent metathesis or local metathesis:...

) and the vowel a is inserted between them. For example, arg- 'see', arga 'he sees', argina or agarra (from agar-na) 'we see'; kolf- 'laugh', kolfe 'he laughed', kolfite or kofalte 'you (sg.) laughed'.

Verbs whose stems end in the consonant ' (which may appear as h, w, or y in some words, depending on the dialect) belong to three different conjugation classes; the class is not predictable from the verb stem. It is the forms that precede suffixes beginning with consonants (t and n) that differ from the usual pattern. The third person masculine singular, second person singular, and first person plural present forms are shown for an example verb in each class.
  1. du'- 'die': du'a 'he dies', duuta 'you (sg.) die', duuna 'we die'
  2. beela'-, 'be hungry': beela'a 'he is hungry', beelofta 'you (sg.) are hungry', beelofna 'we are hungry'
  3. dhaga'- 'hear': dhaga'a 'he hears', dhageessa 'you (sg.) hear', dhageenya 'we hear' (note that the suffix consonants change)


The common verbs fedh- 'want' and godh- 'do' deviate from the basic conjugation pattern in that long vowels replace the geminated consonants that would result when suffixes beginning with t or n are added: fedha 'he wants', feeta 'you (sg.) want', feena 'we want', feetu 'you (pl.) want', hin feene 'didn't want', etc.

The verb dhuf- 'come' has the irregular imperatives koottu, koottaa. The verb deem- 'go' has, alongside regular imperative forms, the irregular imperatives beenu, beenaa.

Derivation


An Oromo verb root can be the basis for three derived voices, passive, causative, and autobenefactive, each formed with addition of a suffix to the root, yielding the stem that the inflectional suffixes are added to.
Passive voice
Passive voice
Passive voice is a grammatical voice common in many of the world's languages. Passive is used in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb. That is, the subject undergoes an action or has its state changed. A sentence whose theme is marked as grammatical subject is...

The Oromo passive corresponds closely to the English passive in function. It is formed by adding -am to the verb root. The resulting stem is conjugated regularly. Examples: beek- 'know', beekam- 'be known', beekamani 'they were known'; jedh- 'say', jedham- 'be said', jedhama 'it is said'

Causative voice
The Oromo causative of a verb V corresponds to English expressions such as 'cause V', 'make V', 'let V'. With intransitive verbs, it has a transitivizing function. It is formed by adding -s, -sis, or -siis to the verb root, except that roots ending in -l add -ch. Verbs whose roots end in ' drop this consonant and may lengthen the preceding vowel before adding -s. Examples: beek- 'know', beeksis- 'cause to know, inform', beeksifne 'we informed'; ka'- 'go up, get up', kaas- 'pick up', kaasi 'pick up (sing.)!'; gal- 'enter', galch- 'put in', galchiti 'she puts in'; bar- 'learn', barsiis- 'teach', nan barsiisa 'I teach'.

Autobenefactive voice
The Oromo autobenefactive (or "middle" or "reflexive-middle") voice of a verb V corresponds roughly to English expressions such as 'V for oneself' or 'V on one's own', though the precise meaning may be somewhat unpredictable for many verbs. It is formed by adding -adh to the verb root. The conjugation of a middle verb is irregular in the third person singular masculine of the present and past (-dh in the stem changes to -t) and in the singular imperative (the suffix is -u rather than -i). Examples: bit- 'buy', bitadh- 'buy for oneself', bitate 'he bought (something) for himself', bitadhu 'buy for yourself (sing.)!'; qab- 'have', qabadh- 'seize, hold (for oneself)', qabanna 'we hold'. Some autobenefactives are derived from nouns rather than verbs, for example, hojjadh- 'work' from the noun hojii 'work'.


The voice suffixes can be combined in various ways. Two causative suffixes are possible: ka'- 'go up', kaas- 'pick up', kaasis- 'cause to pick up'. The causative may be followed by the passive or the autobenefactive; in this case the s of the causative is replaced by f: deebi'- 'return (intransitive)', deebis- 'return (transitive), answer', deebifam- 'be returned, be answered', deebifadh- 'get back for oneself'.

Another derived verbal aspect is the frequentative
Frequentative
In grammar, a frequentative form of a word is one which indicates repeated action. The frequentative form can be considered a separate, but not completely independent word, called a frequentative...

or "intensive," formed by copying the first consonant and vowel of the verb root and geminating the second occurrence of the initial consonant. The resulting stem indicates the repetition or intensive performance of the action of the verb. Examples: bul- 'spend the night', bubbul- 'spend several nights', cab- 'break', caccab- 'break to pieces, break completely'; dhiib- 'push, apply pressure', dhiddhiib- 'massage'.

The infinitive is formed from a verb stem with the addition of the suffix -uu. Verbs whose stems end in -dh (in particular all autobenefactive verbs) change this to ch before the suffix. Examples: dhug- 'drink', dhuguu 'to drink'; ga'- 'reach', ga'uu 'to reach'; jedh- 'say', jechu 'to say'. The verb fedh- is exceptional; its infinitive is fedhuu rather than the expected fechuu. The infinitive behaves like a noun; that is, it can take any of the case suffixes. Examples: ga'uu 'to reach', ga'uuf 'in order to reach' (dative case); dhug- 'drink', dhugam- 'be drunk', dhugamuu to be drunk', dhugamuudhaan 'by being drunk' (instrumental case).

Dictionaries

  • Gragg, Gene B. et al. (ed., 1982) Oromo Dictionary. Monograph (Michigan State University. Committee on Northeast African Studies) no. 12. East Lansing, Mich. : African Studies Center, Michigan State Univ.

External links