Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Dizoid group (Omotic family).

Languages included: Dizi [diz-dzi]; Nayi [diz-nay]; Sheko [diz-shk].



Bender 1971 = Bender, M. Lionel. 1971. The languages of Ethiopia. A new lexicostatistic classification and some problems of diffusion. Anthropological Linguistics 13(5): 165-288. // A lexicostatistical study of most of the languages of Ethiopia. Includes slightly modified Swadesh wordlists for a large number of Cushitic, Omotic, Ethiosemitic, and Nilo-Saharan (Nilotic, Surmic, Koman, etc.) languages. Unfortunately, the survey suffers from numerous inaccuracies of phonetic transcription and semantic glossing, making it practically unusable as a primary source for any of the languages concerned.

Blažek 2008 = Blažek, Václav. 2008. A lexicostatistical comparison of Omotic languages. In: John D. Bengtson (ed.). In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory: Essays in the four fields of anthropology: 57-148. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. // The paper assembles a collection of Swadesh wordlists for most of the known Omotic languages, with data drawn from a large variety of sources, and provides etymological commentary from a general Afro-Asiatic perspective, as well as the author's own glottochronological and classificatory conclusions.

I. Dizi.

Beachy 2005 = Beachy, Marvin Dean. 2005. An overview of Central Dizin phonology and morphology. MA thesis. Arlington: University of Texas. // Detailed description of the phonology and morphology of the Central variety of Dizi. Appendices include a nearly complete Swadesh wordlist for Dizi, reworked from the earlier wordlist by M. L. Bender.

Allan 1976 = Allan, Edward J. 1976. Dizi. In: M. L. Bender (ed.). The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia: 377-392. Michigan: African Studies Center. // A brief sketch of Dizi phonology and grammar, moderately illustrated by lexical material.

II. Nayi.

Aklilu 2001 = Aklilu Yilma. 2001. Sociolinguistic Survey Report of the Nayi Language of Ethiopia. SIL International. On-line version at: // Not so much a true "sociolinguistic survey report" as a small sketch of Nayi phonology and grammar, containing the most reliable, but also, unfortunately, fairly scarce data on Nayi in print so far.

III. Sheko.

Hellenthal 2010 = Hellenthal, Anne-Christie. 2010. A Grammar of Sheko. Utrecht: LOT. // Detailed grammar of the Sheko language based on the author's own research and accompanied with a selection of texts and a representative vocabulary.


I. Dizi.

I.1. General.

According to the description in [Beachy 2005], the Dizi, or Dizin language (also sometimes called Maji, by the name of the principal town around which it is spoken) has approximately 20,000 native speakers and consists of three dialects: Eastern, Central, and Western, of which Western is the most phonetically and lexically divergent.

Our principal source of data is [Beachy 2005], which contains a near-complete Swadesh wordlist (in the "Bender version"), recently and accurately drawn by the author from an active language speaker of Central Dizi(n) (a few items not on the Bender list have also been elicited from the main text of Beachy's thesis, richly illustrated with lexical data).

Unfortunately, there are no dictionaries for any of the Dizi dialects, except for an old and outdated vocabulary by Fr. Giovanni Toselli (1939). We use three additional control sources: (a) Blažek 2008 contains a wordlist originally collected by Harold Fleming and made public by him in his PhD thesis from 1965; (c) Bender 1971 has a Dizi wordlist personally collected by the author during his general survey of Ethiopian languages; (d) Allan 1976 is a useful grammar sketch, also based on original research and containing some illustrative lexical material.

It may be seen that the three main sources occasionally contradict each other; since our primary source is Beachy's thesis, we resolve these contradictions in favor of the entries in [Beachy 2005], at least until more detailed and reliable sources on the language appear in print. It is possible that some of the discrepancies represent dialectal variation rather than simple errors, but since the exact dialect (Central) is only specified in [Beachy 2005], there is no way to demonstrate that.

II.2. Transliteration.

The appendix to [Beachy 2005] uses standard IPA transcription, so only the usual "cosmetic" recodings into UTS are required: j > UTS y, ts > UTS c, ʃ > UTS š, ʒ > UTS ž, > UTS č. In addition, Beachy transcribes the phonemes [a] and [r] phonetically as /ɑ/ and /ɾ/; we simplify these to [a] and [r], since this specification has no phonological significance.

II. Nayi.

II.1. General.

There is very little published information on the Nayi, or Na'o, language. Apart from a brief and clearly inaccurate wordlist in [Bender 1971], essentially the only researcher to have published data on Nayi in more recent times is Aklilu Yilma, on whose brief grammar sketch [Aklilu Yilma 2001] we rely as our primary source; some additional data, also from Aklilu Yilma's research, has been published in [Blažek 2008].

Unfortunately, Aklilu Yilma's data remain insufficient for the compilation of a useful Swadesh wordlist for Nayi, and therefore, we currently have to resort to Bender's wordlist as well in order to fill out several dozen gaps. Since Bender's semantic glossing in his 1971 survey of Ethiopia is frequently inaccurate, and also since the individual subdialects of Nayi as surveyed by Bender and Aklilu Yilma may have been slightly different, this means that the final wordlist is not highly reliable, at least as far as the individual position of Nayi on the Dizoid tree is concerned (it is shown as separating from Dizi and Sheko at a slightly earlier date than the other two languages' split, but this may simply be a consequence of several incorrect inclusions).

II.2. Transliteration.

Aklilu Yilma's transcription of Nayi data conforms to the usual IPA standard and requires only the most basic conversion to UTS. It should be noted that Aklilu distinguishes between three series of affricates and fricatives: alveo-dental (ts = UTS c), retroflex ( = UTS ), and palatalveolar ( = UTS č), although in Blažek's wordlists, the latter series is reflected as simply palatal (c = UTC ɕ).

III. Sheko.

III.1. General.

Our main source for Sheko data is the relatively recently published grammar [Hellenthal 2010], which also includes a comprehensive glossary. For control reasons, they have also been compared to the lexicostatistical data in [Bender 1971], although Hellenthal's description is more detailed, focused, and trustworthy overall.

III.2. Transcription.

Although the main body of Hellenthal's work uses IPA transcription, items in the glossary are given in accordance with the specially devised Sheko orthography that contains a lot of original (and sometimes downright bizarre) orthographic solutions. We adduce Hellenthal's own retranscription of the Sheko alphabet (found on p. 483 of the monograph):

Hellenthal 2010 IPA/UTS
a a
b b
ch tʃ (UTS č)
ʈʂ (UTS c̨)
d d
e e
ǝ ǝ
f f
g g
h h
i i
k k
m m
n n
o o
r r
s s
sh ʃ (UTS š)
t t
ts ts (UTS c)
u u
w w
xh tʃʼ (UTS čʼ)
xs tsʼ (UTS cʼ)
ʈʂʼ (UTS c̨ʼ)
y y
z z
zh ʒ (UTS ž)
ʼ ʔ

Database compiled and annotated by: G. Starostin (last update: April 2016).

To be quoted as: Starostin, George. 2016. Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Dizoid group (Omotic family). In: G. Starostin et al. The Global Lexicostatistical Database. Available online at