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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Linguistic Etiquette of Yemsa
Author:Yilma, Aklilu
Periodical:Journal of Ethiopian Studies
Notes:biblio. refs., ills.
Geographic terms:Ethiopia
Northeast Africa
Subjects:language usage
Omotic languages
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Yemsa language
social structure
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/41966001
Abstract:Referred to in the literature as 'Janjero', the Yemma (Yam) are one of the indigenous people of southwestern Ethiopia. Their language, Yemsa, one of the Omotic languages spoken in the present Illubabor administrative region, has a rich system of linguistic rules of address which reflect the elaborate political and administrative structure of the former Yemma kingdom. Special items of vocabulary, referring to parts of the body, household objects, food and activities, are stratified into three levels: royal, respectful and informal. While almost all the 'informal' terms of Yemsa are cognates with closely related languages such as Bencho, Chara, Kefa, Mocha, Shinasha and Southern Mao, the 'royal/respectful' forms are neither cognates with closely related languages nor borrowed from neighbouring languages such as Oromo, Gurage (Chah, Walanni) and Hadiya. This indicates that the Yemma ruling class imposed the system of linguistic etiquette, with its royal and respectful forms, on the language behaviour of the ordinary people in order to protect its power. Since the incorporation of the Yemma kingdom into Menelik's central administration in 1894, the special terms which referred to activities of the king and the hierarchical structure of the kingdom have dropped out of the vocabulary. Bibliogr., ref.