06 August 2012

Ethiopia's Hidden Peoples

Have you ever heard of the Gawwada people of Ethiopia?  Not many people have.  They are one of about 140 different ethnic groups of Ethiopia.  There is little information available about them.

This cluster of related peoples is respresentative of people groups all over the world who are closely related genetically and culturally to neighboring peoples and whose language is very similar.

Language and ethnicity correlate only about 50% worldwide.

The Gawwada people of Ethiopia present a case which is unclear.  Information on this people is limited, and they live in an area with limited access, making further investigation or verification difficult.

Ethnologue information indicates that separate ethnic identities are involved, and gives the number of speakers of each variety of the Gawwada Language.  Total speakers of the Gawwada language are reported to be 32,700 (1994 census).  Previous estimates were over double that population.

The total number of Gawwada ethnicity is reported as 33,971 (1994 census), meaning some people who are part of the ethnicity do not speak the Gawwada language as a mother tongue.

In my profile on the Gawwada I report it this way:

The speech form of the Gawwada is very similar to other related Cushite peoples living near them, whose speech forms are classified by linguists as dialects of one language called by the Gawwada name.

Dialects of the language, as classified by the Ethnologue, are called by the names of the other peoples who speak the Gawwada language.  Earlier versions of the Ethnologue reported individual populations for sub-groups of the Gawwada speakers, though population numbers do not appear in the current version.

The other 6 peoples speaking the Gawwada language are:
Dihina 2700
Gergere 2500
Gollango 5000
Gorose 2500
Harso 10,000

The total figure of all these Gawwada-speaking peoples is about 64,000 - 76,000 (from 1995 figures by SIL in the Ethnologue).

Figures on their population vary also.  This would mean that the Gawwada people proper (speaking the Gawwada and Gobeze dialects) number about 10,000.  Some figures include all these as the Gawwada people.

The Ethnologue gives is no population for a Gobeze people, but this is the name given for one dialect of Gawwada.  Thus we need more information on the Gobeze dialect or people, as well as a clarification on whether these various peoples see themselves as separate ethnic groups, or simply sub-divisions of the larger Gawwada "family."

A linguist working with them now reports that each group is resisting identification with a different variety of the language, making standardization of printed materials a problem.

See the full profile of the Gawwada people on my website.
Read cultural profiles of other peoples of Ethiopia.

The Afar People
The Beja People of Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt
The Borana of Kenya and Ethiopia
The Gabbra of Kenya and Ethiopia
The Somali People (Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia)
The Amhara People of Ethiopia

This blog article includes some content originally published in September 2001 in Research Highlights, a research and culture newsletter published in Cyprus
This article posted 6 August 2012

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