Guraferdan Sheko: linguistic treasures of a forgotten dialect

Guraferdan Sheko: linguistic treasures of a forgotten dialect

Language: Guraferdan Sheko
Depositor: Anne-Christie Hellenthal
Location: Ethiopia
Deposit Id: 0328
Grant id: SG0211
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
The variety of Sheko spoken by an estimated nine thousand people in Guraferda, SW-Ethiopia, differs drastically from the main variety. However, an influx of settlers with a dominant language and culture accelerates changes in language use. This project documents some of the socio-linguistic context of Guraferdan Sheko and its endangered genres of speech, especially gozha 'song of praise'. The collection also shows some of the material culture of the Sheko, especially their beehives. The annotated texts can be used to investigate clause type marking, a typologically salient aspect of Omotic languages.

Group represented

The Sheko live in the forested hills of South-Western Ethiopia, between Mizan Teferi, Tepi and Megent'aya. The documentation focuses on the Sheko living around the Guraferdan Mountain Plateau in the Guraferda wereda (district) of Bench Maji Zone. The Sheko are subsistence farmers, growing or harvesting from the forests various types of yam, cocoyam, maize, millet and sesame. In addition, they are renowned for apiculture, keeping large beehives that deliver quality honey in the forests and the fields that are not longer cultivated.

Traditionally, homesteads were spread out through the dense forest. Nowadays small villages are formed, and settlers from diverse areas of Ethiopia are accelerating villageisation and deforestation.


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Anne-Christie Hellenthal

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2020 May 29 to 2020 May 29
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
Without statistics

Showing 1 - 10 of 309 Items

Drama in which a father pretends to have exhausted all possibilities of traditional payment so that his son would get better.

Recorded on: 2016-02-12

Examples and short discussion of two types of songs. The first is a game in which friends are approved or rejected and is normally sung by several people, with the leader joking and the others singing the accompaniment. The second is a boastful song sung after killing game, praising the kill.

Recorded on: 2016-04-23

Picture of a boy picking fruit. It is useful to pick fruit somewhat early, before it attracts monkeys. Included in the community outcome as yk59_aab shura.

Recorded on: 2016-02-12

Short folktale. Included in the community outcome as sa12_aataka uutnka.

Recorded on: 2016-02-12

Two girls are making dough on millstones. The first one grinds the soaked grain coarsely and the second grinds it more smoothly.

Recorded on: 2016-02-12

Interview about the changes in Amanuel's life and community related to the traditional religion and Christianity.

Recorded on: 2016-06-23

A visitor from Aroge Berhan was willing to be interviewed about his dialect and language use, to capture dialectal variation in the Guraferda area.

Recorded on: 2015-07-09

Pexros Kiatus tells about the first mission trips into Guraferda and vividly describes some of the encounters he had there. Often the Guraferdan Sheko in one place would not want to guide him to the next, citing danger. Sometimes he and his companions could not find the way in the forest. Sometimes there was initial resistance, sometimes people liked the message.

Recorded on: 2016-04-23

A girl with baaka 'coco yam', one of the most frequently eaten tubers among the Sheko people. Included in the community outcome as yk53_baaka.

Recorded on: 2016-01-29

A woman and her daughter are peeling cocoyam for the evening meal while listening to a discussion.

Recorded on: 2016-02-12