The existence of language surely cannot be separated from our daily life. Through language, the interaction among tribes and religions can be delivered smoothly. As a system of communication, language also helps humans to complete all of their activities without facing the scarcity in understanding of one’s another language. That is under the condition they share the same knowledge of a certain language and utter it as the medium of communication.
1.1. Background of the study
Language shift happens when the people in a particular culture or subculture alter their primary language for communication. It is also the process by which a speech community in a contact situation which is consisting bilingual speakers gradually stops using one of its own vernaculars in favor of the other.
The casual factors of language shift are generally considered as social needs in the era of globalization, where people speak using more modern language, like English and Amharic and Afan Oromo Ethiopia with more improved spelling. That will link to the social status or prestige of the speakers. The more often they speak with dominant language, the easier they get along with people with higher status social.
This paper approached the issue of language shift and maintenance in Shinasha community, Benshangul Gumuz Regional state of Ethiopia.
The Shinasha language or Bowro is a North Omotic language spoken in Western Ethiopia by the Shinasha people (Ashenafi, 1989). Its speakers live in scattered areas in north of the Abay River in Dangur, Dbat'i, Bullen and Wombera districts which are parts of the Benshangul Gumuz Regional State.
In shinasha community the main languages of wider communication are Amharic and Oromo. But it is also quite frequent that Shinasha people know some Gumuz; and a few also speak Agaw (Awngi). There is a strong tendency for highlanders to use Oromo, while the lowlanders use Amharic as their second language. Many of them speak both (Wedekind and Alga, 2002)
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Bilingual and multilingual societies may gradually stop using one of its two languages in favor of another. Today Shinasha people gradually abandoned using their language in favor of other major languages. Previous research has shown that the Boro people, also known as the Shinasha, are in the process of shifting from the Borna language to Oromo and Amharic. According to Wedekind and Alga (2002) their main languages of wider communication are Amharic and Afan Oromo. But it is also quite frequent that Shinasha people know some Gumuz; and a few also speak Agaw (Awngi). There is a strong tendency for highlanders to use Oromo, while the lowlanders use Amharic as their second language. Many of them speak both.
So, researchers are more interested to come up with the factors that lead them to shift from Shinasha language to other languages as well as to show the possible ways to save the language from language death.
To tackle the above indicated problem the researchers addressed the following research questions.
- What are the factors that lead them to shift from Shinasha language to other languages?
- In which domain Shinasha language is preferred?
- What languages do Shinasha people prefer in various domains?
Objectives of the Study
The general objective of the study is to know why Shinasha people shift from their language to other languages.
The specific objectives of the study mainly is
- To identify the factors that leads some of the Shinasha people to use other languages.
- To show in which domain Shinash language preferred.
- To indicate which language is Shinasha people prefer in various domains.
Review of related literature
Nowadays, language shift is a common phenomenon. It occurs when a group progressively abandons its language of origin, at the same time using the language of the socially or economically dominant group (Fishman 1971, Baker-Jones 1998). In such situations, the members of a group start using the more prestigious language in a series of progressively higher number of domains and communicative situations. From this idea we can understand that Language shift is common in all bilingual and multi lingual societies. Bilingualism and multilingualism are known causes of language shift.
The process of language shift does not finish at the end of the life of a person or of a group of people; rather it gradually develops from generation to generation (Fasold 1984). From this we understand that language Shift is the process which leads to language death and it is the last stage language extinction. Similarly, Language shift is sometimes referred to, somewhat dramatically, as language death. Language death occurs when a community shifts to a new language totally so that the old language is no longer used. There is a small controversy about whether language death should apply only when the shifting speech community consists of the last surviving speakers of the language, or whether it can be applied to a total shift in a given community.
Factors that lead a community to Shift from one language to another language
A group or an individual may shift from their original language to another because of several factors. Among this, economic factor, demographic factor, attitudinal factor, social factor and institutional support factor are the major ones (Nawaz’s & et. al. 2012).
Economic/ factor/ Status
Economic status of the speaker/s or the group is the dominant factor in almost all studies of language maintenance and shift. If the old language speakers, who may be minority groups, have low economic status, they shift to the high status language speaker and with high economic status (Nawaz’s & et. al. 2012).
Social /factor/ Status
Social status of the speaker/s or group is another factor. Under it, language status is a considerable factor in bilingual communities. For example French, English, Russian and Spanish have a high status as languages of official communications. Language and social status are interrelated in that the former is influenced by the latter (Veettil’s &et.al. 2020.
Institutional Support factor
If there is one language which is assisted by different constitutions, people of another language may tend to shift to such language. We can take Amharic language of Ethiopia as an example; it is the working language of Ethiopia which is supported by Ethiopian constitution.
The other factors are demographic factors as for example the number of the minority language speakers and their concentration in the settlement area the diffusion of linguistically mixed marriages within the minority group, the status and the prestige of the language on a local and international level, the existing institutional support of the minority language, the intensity of the economic pressure deriving from the wider society, and so on (Veettil’s &et.al. 2020)
Language maintenance occurs when the community decides to sustain using their language. If the member of the speech community are monolingual and do not collectively decide acquiring another language, and then they are obviously maintaining their language. Maintenance, however, is a criterion of bilingual or multilingual communities. This happens when the community is diagnostic. Certain factors which affect language maintenance have been discussed in language shift (Nawaz’s & et. al. 2012).
Language maintenance has a great relation with language shift. That means something which affects language maintenance will be the cause for language shift. Generally, language maintenance is an aspect of using one’s own native language for day to day communication without acquiring another language (Veettil’s &et.al. 2020).