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Research Highlights 6
September 2001

Dialects and Peoples
A major resource in our understanding of peoples of the world is the Ethnologue, the primary authority on languages of the world. The entries in the Ethnologue indicate the main name of a language. Dialects of the language are given, as well as alternative names under which the language or dialects have been listed previously.

In many cases the name of a dialect corresponds with the name of an ethnic group that speaks that form of the broader language. In other words, the "dialect" is referred to by the name of the people that speak that form. In many cases the Ethnologue indicates this, and includes some information about the peoples. In many cases no further comment is given.

In some cases the dialects do correspond with sub-groupings which consider themselves part of a larger group called by the main name under which that language is listed. In these cases, we consider all these ethnic groups as part of one main ethnic group, called by the name of the group as a whole.

In other cases, the peoples whose speech forms are listed as dialects consider themselves separate peoples, but do acknowledge that they speak the same language. In these cases we list them as separate ethnic groups with the same language code and a code for the appropriate dialect, where known. In the new Registry of Peoples such groups will have their own unique People Code, but share the same Language Code as given in the Ethnologue.

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 form of speech that is grouped together as the Gawwada Language.

In my profile on the Gawwada I report it this way:
The speech form of the Gawwada is greatly similar to other related peoples living near them, whose speech forms are classified by linguists a be 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.

The other 6 peoples speaking the Gawwada language are:

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 varies also. This would mean that the Gawwada people proper (speaking the Gawwada and Gobeze dialects) number from 42,000 to 45,000. Some figures include these all as the Gawwada people.

There is no population given for a Gobeze people, but this is the name given for one dialect of Gawwada. Thus I would like more information on the Gobeze dialect or people, as well as a clarification on whether the others listed as peoples consider themselves as separate ethnic groups, or simply sub-divisions of the larger Gawwada "family."

I have found no other sources giving such information, and I am personally unable to make a trip into their deep mountain area to determine this for myself. We need someone actually on the spot with the training necessary to determine this.

So what do you do?
At this point, I will assume that the report in the Ethnologue indicates that there are some separate ethnic groups who all speak forms of the same language. But I do not know how closely related they consider themselves. And why is no separate population or information given on the Gobeze people/dialect?

I will tentatively consider that those listed with populations consider themselves separate ethnic groups, but closely related. I will consider that the name Gobeze is an identifiable variation of speech, but if this name also indicates a discrete group of people (like a family, a village, a region, etc.), they consider themselves still to be part of the Gawwada.

With the uncertainty, I will not enter separate ethnic names in the main people group database, but indicate them in the profile. I will watch for further information and make updates as needed. Anything that will clarify the communication patterns affecting strategy will be critical for those who wish to work with this people cluster.

Who Cares?
Well, basically, you must know who they are to open communication with them. So this is the first step to any advocacy or strategy. This same situation occurs with many larger people and language groups. Why not have one strategy for all these people who speak the same language?

Ethnic identities and animosities must be considered in gospel strategies. Thus separate targeting strategies may be necessary if two peoples who speak the same language do not consider themselves one people, or worse when they consider themselves enemies. 

For more on how to define a "people," check: What is a People Group? Cities and People Groups

Check out our many resources in the Strategy Leader Resource Kit.

Additional resources are available on Thoughts and Resources

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Last Updated 03 January 2005

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-Orville Jenkins (OBJ) <researchguy@iname.com><orville@jenkins.nu>
Copyright Orville Boyd Jenkins 2001, 2004
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