The Oyda people live in south-west Ethiopia, within a district administration also known by the name Oyda. Elderly members of the group mention that this ethnonym, which is also used to refer to their language, originates from the cognate noun oyda ‘seat’. It reflects ‘comfort’ and ‘hospitality’ the place offered/offers to the various clans, some of whom relate their ancestry to neighbouring groups such as the Maale to their south.
The linguistic neighbours of Oyda are Gofa in the North and East, Aari in the West and South-west and Maale in the South. A large number of speakers of Oyda are bilingual in Gofa, which is also used as a medium of instruction in local primary schools. Oyda speakers in the West are also reported to be bilingual in Aari, a Southern Omotic language). In Shafite and Garda villages, where the members of the research team conduct field work, it is observed that most people also speak Amharic, one of the three official languages of the federal government of Ethiopia.
The Oyda language is classified as part of the Ometo branch of Omotic, itself one of the six language families within the Afroasiatic phylum (cf. Bender 2000; Fleming 1976). The linguistic affinity of Oyda to members of the Ometo group is generally accepted. However, opinions differ as to which branch of Ometo the Oyda language is closest to. Fleming (1975: 267) writes: “[a]lthough there is not enough grammatical data available to say much, it appears that Oyda leans toward Basketo more than to Central Ometo.” In his (1976) classification of Omotic languages, Fleming nevertheless places Oyda in the Central Ometo branch (also known as North Ometo), together with e.g. Gamo, Gofa, Kullo, Wolaitta. Haileyesus Engedashet (2002) suggests a reconsideration of Oyda’s classification claiming that while most members of North Ometo have a high percentage of shared vocabulary and are mutually intelligible, the same cannot be said of Oyda. New field work on the language is invaluable for a better overview of its structure and lexicon because, besides some wordlists, the paper by Haileyesus Engedashet (2002) about the case system and an unpublished MA thesis by Abraham Dilnesaw (2003) about word formation are the only known materials at hand. With further grammatical and lexical data, the research team hopes to be able to determine the status of Oyda within Ometo.
Abraham Dilnesaw. 2003. Word Formation in Oyda. MA thesis, Addis Ababa University.
Bender, M. Lionel. 2000. Comparative Morphology of the Omotic Languages. Lincom Studies in African Linguistics no. 19. München: Lincom Europa.
Fleming, Harold C. 1975. Recent Research in Omotic-Speaking Areas. In: Marcus, Harold G. (ed.), Proceedings of the First United States Conference on Ethiopian Studies, pp. 261-278. East Lansing: African Studies Center (Michigan State University).
Fleming, Harold C. 1976. Cushitic and Omotic. In: Bender, M. Lionel, et al. (eds.), Language in Ethiopia, pp. 34-53. London: Oxford University Press.
Haileyesus Engdashet. 2002. Aspects of Case in Oyda. In: Baye Yimam, et al. (eds.), Ethiopian Studies at the End of the Second Millennium. Proceedings of the XIVth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, vol. 3, pp. 1745-1764. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies (Addis Ababa University).