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Documentation and grammatical description of Shabo


Language Shabo
Depositor Kibebe Tsehay
Affiliation Addis Ababa University, department of Linguistics
Location Ethiopia
Collection ID 0074
Grant ID IGS0135
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection includes documentation and description of Shabo, a seriously endangered language of Ethiopia (also called Mikeyir, Mekeyer). Shabo (ISO 639-2/3 Code: sbf) is spoken by about 600 (probably less) people around the Sheka Forest in Southwestern Ethiopia. The language is still used in some of the daily life domains, but only a few children of the ethnic group are acquiring it as their mother tongue. Moreover, since the Shabos are scattered amongst the Majangir and Shekkacho people, almost all of them are multilingual with the languages spoken by these groups.


Group represented

Shabo people of south-western Ethiopia.

The Shabo were nomadic hunter-gatherers who follow traditional religion. But recently, most of them have converted to Protestant Christianity and have abandoned their ancestors’ traditions and language. By contrast, the Shabo who live in the bushes up on the hills remained culturally intact and continued leading a traditional life of hunting, bee keeping and subsistence farming. Those who live in the villages among Majangir and Shekacho are planting cereals.

The actual number of both the Shabo ethnic group and the speakers of the language is unknown. In
the literature of the Shabo, the information concerning the size of the ethnic population is conflicting. Anbessa (1991) and Gorden (2005) estimate the total ethnic group about 600, while UNESCO (2005b)discusses the Shabo as a large ethnic population among which 400 to 1,000 speak the ethnic language.


Language information

Alternate names: Mekeyer, Mikair, Mikeyir, Sabu, Shako.

Shabo is a language spoken by nomadic hunter gatherers around Shekka forest, South-western Ethiopia. It is among a few seriously endangered languages of Ethiopia. Shabo is highly dominated by the neighboring Majang and Shekacho languages. Its classification is not defined. However, there are two main hypotheses, both of them consider it an isolate. The first sees it as an independent single remnant of an otherwise completely lost and unknown African linguistic phylum. The second one defines the language as an isolate in the Nilo-Saharan phylum. Shabo is among the least studied and poorly documented languages of the world.


Collection contents

As Shabo is a seriously endangered language, its time of extinction seems not very far. Thus, the
emphasis of this study will be on the effective and systematic collection of representative natural
linguistic data with a view to multifunctional later use in scientific work and practical applications.

To make the documentation a good representative, a great deal of natural linguistic corpus is audio and video recorded from a range of genres and topics: natural environment, social stratification,
government, settlement, agriculture, crafts, nutrition, medicine, religion, village history, personal
experiences, tales, jokes, riddles, song, children’s rhymes, games and counting systems, ceremonial
speechs, greeting dialogues and terms of address, appology, offer, donation, thanks, speech act
sequences etc. Elicited utterances for morphosyntaxtic analysis and for phonetic and phonological analysis are also included.

To produce a relatively complete and satisfying data base for the description of the language, linguistic data was collected by conducting interviews and elicitations. The information obtained through interviews consists of word lists, paradigms, and short phrases,traditional texts such as myths and legends and stories from daily life and personal experiences among other things.


Collection history

The study follows the Community Based Language Research (CBLR) model in its loose sense(Czaykowska 2009). The CBLR model is chosen because it involves a collaborative relationship and partnership between researchers and members of the community within which the research takes
place. Therefore, the Shabo speaking community is involved in the research not only by simply
contributing their knowledge of the language and the culture to the project: some members of the
community are trained in documentation and participate in interviewing other members, in video
and audio recording and photo taking, in transcribing and translating the recorded audio and video
texts. They can also help in educating other members about the current situation of Shabo, the
importance of using the language, its documentation and preservation.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows.

Tsehay, Kibebe. 2013. Documentation and grammatical description of Shabo. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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