Documentation of house construction and terrace farming in Zargulla, an endangered Omotic language

Documentation of house construction and terrace farming in Zargulla, an endangered Omotic language

Language: Zargulla (ISO639-3:zay)
Depositor: Azeb Amha
Location: Ethiopia
Deposit Id: 0447
Grant id: MDP0359
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
Zargulla (zay) is an endangered Omotic language spoken by c.a. 8000 speakers in south-west Ethiopia (62.60N 37.19E). Some Zargulla villages are characterized by terrace-farming and clusters of houses commemorating the dead in the higher parts of valleys, and residential areas in foothills and plateaus. The project will produce a linguistic and ethnographic documentation of this parallel and interactive spatial complex of farming and dwelling, which is endangered by socio-cultural changes. Its primary goal is to produce a multi-media digital corpus and a thematic dictionary on house-construction and terrace-farming, and, using these outputs, to study the grammar of space in Zargulla.

Zargulla belongs to the East Ometo branch of the Omotoc language family together with Zayse, Haro, Koorete and Kachama. Zargulla and Zayse are are the closest and they are regarded as dialects of the same language.

Zargulla is spoken in the Bonke District of the Gamo-Gofa Zone, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State of Ethiopia. Zargulla is the name by which the language is known in linguistic research and in some official documents in Ethiopia, e.g. in the 1994 national census report. The speakers identify themselves as Gamo and their language as Gamotso. They use 'Zargulla' to refer to the area where they live.

Group represented
The material in the deposit are contributions from a number of Zargulla speakers from six villages: Zaaga, Koiramukkula, Koshalle, ɗimalle, Fuuddale and Kettele.

Special characteristics
The collection has three parts:
  1. It contains children’s stories, jokes and personal histories of some individuals. These texts are collected by the principal investigator during 2004-2007 as part of an NWO funded project.
  2. It contains video and audio material on house construction and terrace-farming resulting from the ELDP-supported project Placing the dead and nurturing the living: documentation of house construction and terrace farming in Zargulla, an endangered Omotic language.
  3. The deposit also includes photos and annotated ELAN files of audio and video recordings.

Deposit history
The data was collected by Azeb Amha, linguist and principal investigator and community members.

The collection deposited include annotated audio and video documentation of activities, conversations and narratives on house construction and terrace farming. It includes annotated text in ELAN, lexical data-base and photos.

The picture at the top of this deposit page shows a hill in Fuudale kebele-adminsitration area with commemorative houses and farm-fields.

The deposit contains data that are collected in three field work visits during 2004-2007 as part of a project supported by the Netherlands Science Foundation (NWO).

In the ELDP-prject multimedia material are collected in January, February and March 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Acknowledgement and citation
Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Azeb Amha as the principal investigator and the names of community members who helped in the collection and analysis of data. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. For data collected during 2004 and 2007, users should acknowledge the Netherlands Science Foundation (NWO). Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name. Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata. Please make sure to include the following when using data from this deposit:

Azeb Amha. [year]. Placing the dead and nurturing the living: documentation of house-construction and terrace farming in Zargulla, an endangered Omotic language. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: [insert link here]. Accessed on [insert date here].


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Azeb Amha
Responsive image
Affiliation: African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL), Leiden University

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2019 May 24 to 2019 May 24
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
Without statistics

Showing 1 - 10 of 134 Items

Abbaynesh tells about cultivation of ensete: how it is planted and the long process involved in preparing the ripe ensete plant for food material. She tells how the product is sold in the market and how much one can earn from it. She also tells how this material is used to make bread, porridge or various other dishes, some of which she says are important for children, others for women in maternity. Abboye and Asmelash raise various questions to which Abbaynesh gives elaborate answers. Half-way in the recording Abbaynesh demonstrates the way the fibre of ensete is scrapped from the bark. She shows the tools she uses for the work and tells their names. She shows 64 new off-shots (ziɗó) that sprout from an old ensete root which she planted. She tells how these tiny plants are then extracted with care and replanted one by one near the house to be rooted out again when they are strong and planted further back in the backyard. While Azeb (researcher) made the video recording, Asmelash (research assistant) made audio-recording using Zoom4H. The recordings are done in the backyard of Abbaynesh and Mr Ayyano, her husband. The latter's occasional comments, corrections etc. can be heard in the current recorded interview with Abbaynesh

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

Mrs Asalafech answers questions from Asmelash Michael about her garden and how she keeps it. She shows 7uuts (Ensete ventricosum) and shenkora (sugar cane) plants in the garde.

Recorded on: 2018-07-15

In the start of the recording Abbaynesh shows how she protects the new ensete sprouts. Then Ayyano tells about maize and kidney beans that he had planted side by side explaining that these two plants strength each other. He further talks about the drought that was ongoing during the fieldwork period (April 2017), showing his maize plants that have died and the rest that are not as strong as they should be. Video and audio recording of the session were done simultaneously: Azeb (researcher) made the video recording, while Asmelash (research assistant) made audio-recording usig Zoom4H. The audio and video files are annotated and deposited separately.

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This short recording is interesting for examples of negative expressions. In the back-garden of Mrs. Abbaynesh and Mr Ayyano, Abbaynesh tells that there is no dolo (taro plant) to show us. Her husband makes various suggestions to try and find the plant to show to the researcher but she responds, given that the plant prefers wet-land around rivers, it cannot be cultivated in their farm. The recording is made by Azeb Amha in the compound of the hosts, Abbaynesh and Ayyano, in the presence of Abboye, Asmelash and the children of the hosts.

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This is the first session of 12 short video recordings about Mr Asmamaw Guch’alle and his family. The sessions were not planned. Asmamaw joined us while we were having a conversation with Mr Ayyano Aro (Asmamaw’s neighbor and best friend) and invited us to visit his house and garden. He and his wife Ms Assegedech Yimer’s have main farms for grains such as t’eff and sorghum that are in distant places. In the video recordings reported here, they showed us the plot of land around their house, where they cultivate small amounts of several types of plants including root crops (taro, yam, sweet potato), maize, beans, banana, mango, avocado, sugarcane, pumpkin, ensete, coffee. In the session presented here, Asmamaw first told about how he acquired the land (inheritance), about his parents and brothers. He then walked us to the garden where he showed various plants. In the background of our conversation is the ongoing severe draught in the area (most of the year 2017). Through the middle of Asmamaw’s land runs a river bed, almost dry now, but this makes his and his neighbors’ farms look more promising than other fields in the area. Research assistants Asmelash and Abboye and researcher Azeb Amha raise various questions. Two men and a woman (neighbours) have joined us in various times during the recording but unfortunately metadata information was not obtained for them. While Azeb made the video recordings, research assistent Asmelash made audio recording of the sessions; the audio and video recordings are archived separately becaue the time of the recording was not synchronized.

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This is the second session of 12 video recordings with Mr Asmamaw Guch’alle and his family. In the session presented here, Ms Assegedech demonstrates the harvest of doló (taro species). She points out what the signs are when the plant is ripe and shows how new taro plants are planted and the care she needs for the new plants.

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This is the third session of 12 short video recordings of Mr Asmamaw Guch’alle and his family. In the session presented here, Asmamaw and the others present talk about the use of a tree nearby (species of juniper). Then Asmamaw tells as about various garden plants which we see (yam, green pepper, calabash, guava etc) as we walk towards his house.

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This is the fourth session of 12 video recordings of Mr Asmamaw Guch’alle and his family. In the session presented here, Asmamaw shows maize and kidney beans that are sown near each other in the same plot of land. He shows his land up in the hill where he grows t’eff and that different crops are raised in different places (e.g. maize and beans are grown closer to home t’eff and sorghum farther away from home).

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This is the fifth session of 12 video recordings of Mr Asmamaw Guch’alle and his family. In the current session, Asmamaw shows some split wood he has gathered with a plan to build a new house (with corrugated iron roof). When asked why he wanted to shift to a house with corrugated iron, he mentions various reasons (including durability, easy maintenance).

Recorded on: 2017-04-06

This is the sixth session of 12 video recordings of Mr Asmamaw Guch’alle and his family. We continue walking back from the back garden towards their house. On the way, Asmamaw and Assegedech show and talk about the way pumpkin grows, the use of gourds as containers for butter and Assegedech tells how she prepares purified butter using various spices. Subsequently, on a request from Asmelash, Assegedech demonstrates the way grinding stone is sharpened.

Recorded on: 2017-04-06