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The Oromo orthography of Shaykh Bakri Saṗalō

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009

Extract

The existence of a totally indigenous Oromo writing system is not something that is very widely known about among Éithiopisants, and our present description of this remarkable achievement is written in the belief that the subject has never before received attention. Remarkable achievements are generally the achievements of remarkable men, and before embarking on a consideration of the writing system itself, it has seemed only appropriate to devote the first section of this paper to a short biographical sketch of the man who devised the system. At this point we are bound to acknowledge our great indebtedness to Shaykh Mahammad Rashād, a student of Shaykh Bakri Saṗalō, who not only gave us copious information about the life of his teacher, but generously provided us with copies of a number of manuscripts, among which is one (shown in Figs. 2–5) which sets out in a clear way the principles of Shaykh Bakri's orthography. Without the Amharic and Arabic explanations of this key we should have been involved in a work of decipherment, and the present study might well have proved impossible. We are likewise indebted to Dīmā Yōnīs, who took great pains on our behalf in interviewing former students and friends of Shaykh Bakri, and subsequently translated into English and typed out the information he collected.

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Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1981

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