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Reviews289 Gragg, Gene B. (with the help of Terfa Kuma and other Oromos), Oromo dictionary. (Monograph No. 12, Committee on Northeast African Studies). East Lansing, Michigan: African Studies Center, Michigan State University, in cooperation with the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. 1982. xxx + 462 pp. This is a long-awaited and much needed publication, the first modern and linguistically adequate dictionary of a language spoken by millidns of people (as there has been no census, no reasonably accurate figures may be given; 10 million is a good conservative estimate). Earlier known as Galla, a term which is offensive to part (though not all) of the speakers, Oromo is spoken mainly in Ethiopia, but is represented in Kenya and Somalia as well. It is an Eastern Cushitic language. In spite of the impressive number of speakers, this language had been neglected, for political reasons. Spoken in Ethiopia where the official language is Amharic, it had been repressed, not used in education or mass media. After the dissolution of the imperial regime and the establishment of the republic, however, the ban on Oromo was lifted. Radio broadcasts and publications were launched. To build up an elaborate culture and literature in a language earlier confined to oral use only is a lengthy process. Oromo seems to be now on the right path. The present dictionary definitely constitutes an important milestone in the progress of this language toward the position it deserves. Gragg has done excellent, exemplary work. The volume is much more impressive than what would be indicated by the statement that it contains "approximately three thousand main entries" (v). Actually, an entry is most often a substantial unit, headed by a basic word, followed by a varying number of derived words: verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and, if applicable, compounds and idioms— 290Reviews complete with a representative set of sentences illustrating the use of the words listed. In this manner, the "subentries bring the total to well over six thousand words" (v). Thus, for example, the entry labelled oduu 'news, story' (p. 303) also contains two transitive verbs 'tell, narrate' and 'gather news, question,' and intransitive verb 'be told, narrated,' a noun for 'narrator, journalist' and an adjective (?) 'talkative woman,' all derived from the same root. Three sentences use these words, two illustrate the base noun and one the first verb. Under ija 'eye' (p. 222), the 11 subentries are all idioms, compounds containing 'eye' and belonging to the semantic domains of 'angry,' 'bold,' 'shy.' After the editor's Foreword and the author's Preface, an introduction in Oromo (xi-xii, in Latin script) symbolizes the impact this dictionary is likely to have on the Oromos themselves. A longer Introduction (xiii-xxx) provides general information: "The language and the people" (including geographic distribution), "Previous lexical work" and an account of the background of "the present dictionary." This is followed by instructions for the use of the dictionary, presenting the system of transcription, the set-up of the entries, a note on Amharic cognates, a note on derivation, some words justifying the Systematic Index (see below), and a bibliography. The body of the dictionary fills the pages 1-408. The top external corner of every page carries the initial letter of the entries. A Systematic Index (409-62) lists the roots according to semantic fields, e. g. four synonyms of 'finish,' names of the months, words denoting quantity, words associated with swimming, giving; parts of the body, diseases, milk products, terms referring to religious belief, etc. At the end, a list of grammatical words and clitics is given. This Index compensates for the absence of an English-Oromo dictionary. Its careful organization makes it an efficient source of information. Reviews291 Some minor points of criticism may be raised. The list of nine particles on p. 462 is not entirely sufficient to understand and interpret all the actual forms appearing in the sample sentences. For example, in the important entry akka 'that (conjunction),' 'like (preposition)' (p. 13), the adverb akkanumas is translated as 'likewise,' whereas in the sentence one finds akkanuma, leaving the reader somewhat puzzled about the final -s. The two examples of ...akka hinqabu are unclear. Qaba with the prefix hin- means 'seize...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 289-291
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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