The Sociolinguistics of Language Shift and Maintenance among the Kwegu Speech Community of the Surmic Language Phyla in South Omo Zone of, Ethiopia

Author: Gebreiyesus Mekt (Jinka University, Ethiopia)
Speaker: Gebreiyesus Mekt
Topic: General Sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


This study focused on investigating the sociolinguistics of language shift and maintenance among the kwegu speech community of surmic language phyla in the South omo zone of, Ethiopia. It has been conducted among members of the community Nyangatom – the administrative center of the homeland for the Kwegu community. It examines the status of language shift and maintenance of the Kwegu speech community. The study attempted to explore the domains of using the Kwegu language and the language of the neighboring dominant group, attitudes held by the Kwegu community towards their language and the language of the neighboring dominant language, variables that help the language shift and maintenance of the Kwegu minority language and the lexical borrowing of Kwegu language.

The investigation was based on sociolinguistics data obtained from primary sources, using interview guides and questionnaires as data collection instruments. The present study included data from the Kwegu, Nyangatom, and Kara. It used two methods: lexical similarity measured statistically with Cog. and Unweighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic means (UPGMA), and borrowing lexical discussed qualitatively to strengthen the finding from the statistical measures. A descriptive survey research design was used to conduct the study, with 150 subjects from the Kwegu covering different ages, gender, educational background, occupation, and residence.

Results revealed that the Kwegu community has a positive attitude towards the language of the dominant group. Economy, Intermarriage, religion, age, Language contact, and social factors have been identified as having an impact on Kwegu’s shifting process. Additionally, lack of institutional support, absence of language policy practice (absence of mother tongue literacy), socioeconomic, and other factors have been held contributing factors for the decline of Kwegu’s functional role in one of its traditional circumstances and the expansion of the Neighboring language into the indigenous community. The Kwegu have maintained their native or ethnic language over the year, they used their ethnic language in different domains, especially at home, with relatives, and with family members, and also, using both languages in various domains like neighborhood, work, school, etc. Social, cultural, and political factors have also played a significant role in maintaining the ethnic language in Kwegu.

Keywords: Kwegu, dominant group, ethnic language, factors, shift, maintenance, Surmic, Phyla