Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 31, 2014

Language contact, agency and power in the linguistic landscape of two regionalcapitals of Ethiopia

Hirut Woldemariam and Elizabet Lanza


The issue of language contact in the linguistic landscape has been rarely addressed, especially in regards to issues of agency and power in this domain of multilingual practices. The linguistic landscape provides an arena for investigating agency as related to literacy, language rights and identity. In this article, we explore the linguistic landscape of two different regions in Ethiopia to provide an analysis of language contact that takes place between regional languages, which only recently have made the transition to literacy in the country as the result of a new language policy, and Amharic, the federal working language, which has a long and established history of literacy. The study is based on data collected through field work and participant observation from two federal regions in the country – Tigray and Oromia – two regions that have fought for the recognition of language rights, for Tigrinya and Oromo, the former a Semitic language like Amharic and the latter a Cushitic language. Results indicate ways in which speakers of the regional languages draw on their multilingual resources to create a new arena for language use and thereby assert their agency in developing new literacy practices.

Published Online: 2014-5-31
Published in Print: 2014-6-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston