1.  Classification / Classification

Oromo belongs to the Lowland East Cushitic family (Oromo subgroup). (Webbook)

Ethnologue lists the classification as: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken in the southern half of Ethiopia as well as mostly in Eastern Province, Kenya. (Webbook)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

Ethnologue states that "all ethnic Oromo are 30,000,000 in Ethiopia." It also gives the following population breakdown:

  • Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji: 3,634,000 in Ethiopia; 152,000 in Kenya; 41,616 in Somalia. Total: 3,827,616
  • Oromo, Eastern: 4,526,000 in Ethiopia (1998 census)
  • Oromo, West Central: 8,920,000 in Ethiopia (1998 census)
  • Orma: 55,000 in Kenya (1994 I. Larsen BTL)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Some dialect survey work is detailed in Gragg and also in Heine (1980). Gragg (personal communication, 1984) feels that all dialects are "largely mutually intelligible" and that "one Western-based standard, with many Eastern and Southern loan elements, will eventually emerge." (Webbook)

However, SIL International considers Oromo a "macrolanguage" with four languages listed under it. Ethnologue has separate listings for each of them and considers them different enough to require separate materials. These and their subdialects are as follows:

  • Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji
    • Borana (Boran, Borena)
    • Arsi (Arussi, Arusi)
    • Guji (Gujji, Jemjem)
    • Kereyu
    • Salale (Selale)
    • Gabra (Gabbra, Gebra)
    • Harar is closely related, but distinct enough to need separate literature
    • Sakuye
    • (In Kenya, Gabra and Sakuye may have significant dialect and language attitude differences from the Boran dialect)
  • Oromo, Eastern - Close to Borana Oromo, but divergent
  • Oromo, West Central
    • Western Oromo
    • Central Oromo
    • Subdialects are Mecha (Maccha, Wellaga, Wallaga, Wollega), Raya, Wello (Wollo), Tulema (Tulama, Shoa, Shewa)
  • Orma - Distinct from Boran
    • Munyo (Korokoro, Munyo Yaya)
    • Orma
  • Waata (Sanye) (changed added in 2007; not part of Oromo macrolanguage)

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Oromo is a significant regional first language and is spoken by the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. It is broadcast on radio, and there is [was?] a weekly newspaper, Berisa, in Oromo. (Webbook)

Notes from Ethnologue:

  • Oromo is viewed as one people speaking one language
  • (West Central Oromo): Trade language. Used by regional and national government, public media, national commerce, education to eighth grade, variety of literature.
  • Literacy rate of Borana-Arsi-Guji Oromo speakers in Ethiopia
    • L1: below 1%
    • L2: 16%
  • Literacy rate of Eastern Oromo speakers in Ethiopia
    • L1: ?
    • L2: 15
  • Literacy rate of West Central Oromo speakers in Ethiopia
    • L1: 1-5%
    • L2: 22.4%

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

According to Gamta (1992), up until 1974 "writing Afaan Oromo in any script had been banned officially. Although Mengistu's regime lifted the ban and reluctantly allowed the use of the Sabean script, it continued to pay only lip service to the development of Afaan Oromo. For instance, the regime made the teaching of Afaan Oromo illegal at any level in its school system."

Shortly after the fall of the Mengistu government in 1991, "the OLF [Oromo Liberation Front] convened a meeting of over 1,000 Oromo intellectuals to decide which alphabet to use to write Afaan Ormo. After a many hours of debate, they decided unanimously to adopt the Latin alphabet." (Omniglot, based on Gamta 1992)

The Romanized/Latin script is called Qubee.

The Webbook reported earlier: "Gragg (personal communication, 1984) states that 'a written standard using the Ethiopia syllabary is gradually being evolved.'" (Webbook)

"Until 1974 ... writing Afaan Oromo in any script had been banned officially." (Gamta 1992)

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

a b c ch d dh e f g h i j k l m n ny o p ph q r s sh t ts u v w x y z

See also the Omniglot page, http://www.omniglot.com/writing/oromo.htm

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Standard Latin fonts would have the letters necessary for the Qubee orthography.

[Info on Ethipic/Ge'ez fonts?]

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Wikipedia in Oromo at http://om.wikipedia.org/ (Latin script; very little actual content as of 5-2007)

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

In the late 1990s there was an Oromo language wordprocessor using the Qubee transcription, called Oromiffa and produced by a company called Oromosoft. This has apparently been discontinued.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Oromo (macrolanguage including 4 of the below: gax, gaz, hae, and orc)

  • ISO 639-1: om
  • ISO 639-2: orm
  • ISO 639-3: orm

Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji

  • ISO 639-3: gax

Oromo, Eastern

  • ISO 639-3: hae

Oromo, West Central

  • ISO 639-3: gaz


  • ISO 639-3: orc


  • ISO 639-3: ssn

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

7.7  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

"Oromo" (TLT, Penn State Univ.) http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/international/bylanguage/oromo.html

9.  Comments / Remarques

  1. Could a localisation project for a wordprocessor benefit from the work previously done by Oromosoft?
  2. Would a transliteration program between Ethiopic/Ge'ez and Latin be of use for this language? Or is not enough material extant in the former to make it worthwhile?

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://www.isp.msu.edu/AfrLang/hiermenu.html (page on "Oromo," http://www.isp.msu.edu/AfrLang/Oromo_root.html )

Gamta, Tilahun. 1992. "Afaan Oromo." "paper was presented ... at the 1992 Oromo Studies Conference, and Published, among others, in the Journal of Oromo Studies." http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Hornet/Afaan_Oromo_19777.html

Omniglot, "Afaan Oromo," http://www.omniglot.com/writing/oromo.htm

"Qubee on the web / Qubee keenya barannee ittiin dalagna," http://www.qubee.org/

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Orma," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/orc

______, "Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/gax

______, "Oromo, Eastern," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/hae

______, "Oromo, West Central," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/gaz

______, "Waata," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/ssn

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

______, "ISO 639-3 Macrolanguage Mappings," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/macrolanguages.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Afaan Oromoo," https://om.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afaan_Oromoo

______, "Eastern Oromo language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Oromo_language

______, "Orma language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orma_language

______, "Oromo language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oromo_language

______, "Southern Oromo language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Oromo_language

______, "Waata language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waata_language

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