The Ethiopian Language Policy: A Historical and Typological Overview
This paper describes the Ethiopian language policy from the historical and typological perspectives. In the historical overview, the different covert and overt language policies so far encountered are examined. A comparison is made among the language ideologies of the Imperial (1930-1974), the Derg(1974-1991) and the EPRDF (1991 – ) governments. In the typological overview, the language policies implemented by different governments are classified by type based on the existing literature on language policy. Issues surrounding language diversity, status and corpus planning and policy formulations are addressed. An attempt is made to assess and compare the Ethiopian experience with experiences of other multilingual countries. Ethiopia is not only a multilingual but also a biscriptual country in which the Ethiopic and Latin scripts are competing. Due to its historical trajectory, Ethiopia is neither Anglo-Phone nor Franco-phone in the strict sense of the terms. It promotes an endoglossic language policy with English playing an important role, but without connection to the colonial legacy. These and other complex sociolinguistic profiles make the prevalence of an optimal language policy in Ethiopia somewhat complex as compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries that promote exoglossic or mixed language policies.
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