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Sidama language

Sidaamu Afoo
Native toEthiopia
RegionSidama region
Ethnicity5.1 million Sidama (2022)[1]
Native speakers
4.9 million (2022)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-2sid
ISO 639-3sid

Sidama or Sidaamu Afoo is an Afro-Asiatic language belonging to the Highland East Cushitic branch of the Cushitic family. It is spoken in parts of southern Ethiopia by the Sidama people, particularly in the densely populated Sidama National Regional State (SNRS). Sidaamu Afoo is the ethnic autonym for the language, while Sidaminya is its name in Amharic. It is not known to have any specific dialects. The word order is typically SOV. Sidaama has over 100,000 L2 speakers. The literacy rate for L1 speakers is 1%-5%, while for L2 speakers it is 20%. In terms of its writing, Sidaama used an Ethiopic script up until 1993, from which point forward it has used a Latin script.[1]

Terminology and classification

The term Sidamo has also been used in the past to refer to most Highland East Cushitic languages, earlier even to some Omotic languages.[2] The results from a research study conducted in 1968-1969 concerning mutual intelligibility between different Sidamo languages suggest that Sidaama is more closely related to the Gedeo language, which it shares a border with to the south, than other Sidamo languages.[3] According to Ethnologue, the two languages share a lexical similarity of 60%.[1] Another study shows over 64% lexical similarity with Alaba-K'abeena, 62% with Kambaata, and 53% with Hadiyya, all of which are other Highland East Cushitic languages spoken in southwestern Ethiopia. Sidaama vocabulary has also been influenced by Oromo vocabulary.



Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain b td kg
ejective tʃʼ ʔ
implosive ɗ
Fricative f sz ʃ h
Nasal plain m n ɲ
glottalized ʼm ʼn
Tap/Flap plain ɾ
glottalized ʼɾ
Approximant plain w l j
glottalized ʼl ʼj
  • Other consonant sounds /p/ and /v/ are only heard from loanwords.
  • Gemination is also present for most consonants (e.g. /tː, kː, pʼː/).[4]
  • /ɾ/ can also be heard as a trill [rː] when geminated.


Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e eː o oː
Open a aː


Noun phrases

In Sidaama, not all noun phrases have nouns. This can occur when it is so obvious what kind of thing the referent of the noun phrase is, that it is unnecessary for the speaker to mention it. Sidaama has two types of noun phrases without nouns. One type is made up only of an adjective or a numeral, where the adjective or the numeral agrees in case, number, and gender with the referent of a noun phrase. This is shown in the examples below:





busul-u da-ø-ino.

smart-NOM.M come-3SG.M-PERF.3

‘The smart one (masculine) came.’





sas-u da-ø-ino

three-NOM.M come-3SG.M-PERF.3

‘The three (masculine) came.’

The other type of noun phrase without a noun is formed with a noun-phrase clitic, or NPC. This NPC starts with t (FEM) or h (MASC). This is thought to originate from the Afro-Asiatic demonstrative containing t (FEM) or k (MASC). The Sidaama NPC appears in various forms. Which form is used then depends on the gender of the referent of the noun phrase, and the syntactic role or case of the noun phrase. When a noun phrase without a noun is formed with an NPC, both the speaker and the listener know its referent. In this case, the NPC attaches to the end of a genitive noun phrase or relative clause to form a noun phrase without a noun. This is shown in the examples below:





isí=ti ba’-’-ino.

3SG.M.GEN=NPC.F.NOM disappear-3SG.F-PERF.3

‘His (FEM) disappeared.’









ani ku’uí beett-í=ta seekk-o-mm-o.

1SG.NOM that.M.GEN child-GEN.M.MOD=NPC.F.ACC repair-PERF.1-1SG-M

‘I (MASC) repaired that boy’s (FEM).’[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Sidama at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Ring, Trudy, Noelle Watson, and Paul Schellinger. "International Dictionary of Historic Places: Middle East and Africa, Volume 4." 1994.
  3. ^ Bender, Marvin L. and Robert L. Cooper. "Mutual Intelligibility Within Sidamo." 1971.
  4. ^ Kawachi, Kazuhiro (2007). A grammar of Sidaama (Sidamo): a Cushitic language of Ethiopia. University of Buffalo.
  5. ^ Kawachi, Kazuhiro. "Noun Phrases Without Nouns in Sidaama (Sidamo)." 2011.


  • Abebe Gebre-Tsadik (1982) "Derived nominals in Sidamo," B.A. thesis, Addis Ababa University. Addis Ababa.
  • Abebe Gebre-Tsadik. 1985. "An overview of the morphological structure of Sidamo verbs," The verb morphophonemics of five highland east Cushitic languages, including Burji. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 2. Cologne: Institut für Afrikanistik. Pages 64–81.
  • Anbessa Teferra (1984) "Sidamo verb morphology," B.A. thesis, Addis Ababa University. Addis Ababa.
  • Anbessa Teferra. 2000. "A grammar of Sidaama," Doctoral dissertation. Jerusalem, Israel: The Hebrew University.
  • ANBESSA TEFERRA, Sidaama (Sidaamu Afoo), Languages of the World/Materials, 501 (München: LINCOM GmbH, 2014); 109 pp.
  • Cerulli, Enrico (1938) La Lingua e la Storia del Sidamo (Studi Etiopici II). Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente.
  • Cohen, Marcel (1927) "Du verbe sidama (dans le groupe couchitique)," Bulletin de la Société de la Linguistique de Paris 83: 169-200.
  • Gasparini, Armido (1978) Grammatica Practica della Lingua Sidamo. Awasa (Mimeographed: 127 pp.).
  • Kramer, Ruth, and Anbessa Teferra. "Gender switch in Sidaama." Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics 12, no. 2 (2020): 286-327.
  • Kawachi, Kazuhiro (2007) "A grammar of Sidaama (Sidamo), a Cushitic language of Ethiopia," Doctoral dissertation. State University of New York at Buffalo.
  • Moreno, Martino Mario (1940) Manuale di Sidamo. Milan: Mondadori.


  • ACADEMY OF ETHIOPIAN LANGUAGES AND CULTURES, Sidaamu Afii Dikshinere (‘Sidaama monolingual dictionary’) (Addis Ababa: Academy of Ethiopian Languages and Cultures, Addis Ababa University, 2015)
  • Gasparini, Armido (1983) Sidamo-English dictionary. Bologna, Italy: E.M.I.
  • Hudson, Grover (1989) Highland East Cushitic Dictionary (Kuschitische Sprachstudien 7). Hamburg: Buske.
  • Sileshi Worqineh and Yohannis Latamo (1995) Sidaamu-Amaaru-Ingilizete Afii Qaalla Taashsho [Sidaama–Amharic–English Dictionary]. Awasa: Sidaamu Zoone Wogattenna Isporte Biddishsha [Sidaama Zone Sports and Culture Department].
  • Kjell Magne Yri, & Steve Pepper. (2019). dictionaria/sidaama: Sidaama Dictionary (Version v1.0) [Data set]. Zenodo. doi:10.5281/zenodo.3338363

Bible translations

  • British and Foreign Bible Society (1933) St. Mark’s Gospel in Sidamo. London.
  • Ethiopian Bible Society (1984) HaÌro GondoÌro [New Testament of Sidamo]. Addis Ababa.

Sociolinguistics and pragmatics

  • ANBESSA TEFERRA. Women’s Language of Avoidance and Some Other Sidaama Endangered Cultural Practices. Journal of Afroasiatic Languages 6/1 (2016), 59–78.
  • FEKEDE MENUTA GEWTA. The sociolinguistics and pragmatics of greetings in Sidama. Journal of Languages and Culture 7/3 (2016), 28–36.
  • NIGUSSIE MESHESHA MITIKE and KJELL MAGNE YRI. Sociopolitical Discourse and Communication in Sidaama Folk Media. in Multilingual Ethiopia 339–357.
  • YRI, KJELL MAGNE. School Grammars with Everyday Vocabulary: Suggestion for a Culture Specific Approach, with Sidaamu Afoo as an example. in Multilingual Ethiopia 319–338.
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Sidama language
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