ISBN 978-3-89645-491-1

A Grammar of Hamar

A South Omotic Language of Ethiopia

Author: Sara Petrollino. Series edited by: Hans-Jürgen Sasse †, Mauro Tosco.

Series: Cushitic and Omotic Studies Volume 6

4th quarter 2016
20 pp. Roman, 344 pp.
3 maps, 9 diagrams, 76 tables, app.: Hamar texts, Hamar–English and English–Hamar lexicons, subject index
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
690 g
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This study focuses on the description of the phonology, morphology and syntax of Hamar, a language spoken by the agro-pastoralist people who are known by the same name, and live in the lower Omo valley of South West Ethiopia. The study is based on 9 months of fieldwork carried out between 2013 and 2014 in Hamar territories. Language data was gathered from 14 native speakers in Hamar villages, and it amounts to 50 texts of varying lengths and genres. While the exact classification of Hamar remains controversial, this work points out, without any claim of completeness, various putative links to language families and groups.

The Hamar language is spoken by approximately 46,500 people (Lewis 2009). The Hamar refer to their own language as hámar aapó and they form a cultural (Lydall 1976:393) and linguistic unit together with the Banna and the Bashadda: their languages are intelligible, but show minor variations in the lexicon and in the phonology. The commonly accepted classification sees Hamar as a South Omotic language within the Omotic family of the Afro-Asiatic phylum. Whereas there is general consensus on the genetic relationship between Hamar (including its dialects Banna and Bashadda), Aari, Dime and Kara (that is, the South Omotic branch of the Omotic family), the controversy concerns the external relationships that this group of languages holds with Cushitic and/or Omotic, and at a higher level, with the Afro-Asiatic or the Nilo-Saharan phylum.

The Hamar live in the South Omo Zone, one of the administrative zones of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ region (SNNPR) in South West Ethiopia. Their territory (including Banna and Bashadda) is contained in between the Lower Omo River to the west, and the Chew Bahir lake (lake Stephanie) to the East. In the north their country ends at Kʼey Afar and the highlands of Jinka, to the south it is delimited by the Kenyan border and the land inhabited by the Dhaasanec people. This area roughly corresponds to the administrative district called Hamar woreda. The neighbours of the Hamar are the Aari to the north (which border with the Banna), the Arbore (Marlé) to the east, the Dhaasanac to the south, and the Nyangatom (Búme) and the Kara to the west. This study is based on the Hamar variety spoken around Dimeka Town and in the wards of the Hamar woreda called Dimeka Zuriya, Shanko, and Lala.


Following the links below you will find further linguistic and ethnographic descriptions of Omotic languages and cultures:

Accompanying material:


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