Languages

Oromo, West Central

Fact corner

Introduction

Oromo is a Cushitic language spoken in most parts of Ethiopia and northern parts of Kenya. It is the third most widely spoken language in Africa, after Hausa and Arabic. Oromos live in many regions as a result of expansion from their homeland in the highlands of Ethiopia beginning in the 16th century. Despite this wide geographic spread Oromos from inside and outside of Ethiopia can communicate with each other with relative ease.

The verb

Verbs inflect for person, gender, number, tense-aspect, mood, and voice. Tense marking does not play a major role in the language – the language divides events in time in two ways: complete (perfective/past) and incomplete (progressive – involving the present or future). Compound tenses are possible and are formed with a variety of auxiliary verbs. Several grammatical moods are attested: indicative, interrogative, imperative, and jussive (a directive mood that signals a speaker’s command, permission, or agreement).

Sample verb: beek- 'to know'

The first person singular present and past affirmative forms require the suffix -n to appear on the word preceding the verb or the word nan before the verb. The negative particle hin, shown as a separate word in the table, is sometimes written as a prefix on the verb.

Past tense Present tense Jussive, Imperative
Main clause Subordinate clause
Affirmative Negative Affirmative Negative Affirmative Negative Affirmative Negative
Sg.1 -n beeke hin beekne -n beeka hin beeku -n beeku hin beekne haa beeku hin beekin
Sg.2 beekte beekta hin beektu beektu beeki hin beek(i)in
Sg.3 m beeke beeka hin beeku beeku haa beeku hin beekin
Sg.3 f beekte beekti hin beektu beektu haa beektu
Pl.1 beekne beekna hin beeknu beeknu haa beeknu
Pl.2 beektani beektu, beektan(i) hin beektan beektani beekaa hin beek(i)inaa
Pl.3 beekani beeku, beekan(i) hin beekan beekani haa beekanu hin beekin

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