A sketch of Ongota a dying language of southwest Ethiopia


  • Graziano Savà
  • Mauro Tosco


Ongota, grammatical sketch, Omotic, Ts'amakko, Cushitic, endangered language


The article provides a grammatical sketch of Ongota, a language on the brink of extinction (actively used by eight out of an ethnic group of nearly one hundred) spoken in the South Omo Zone of Southwestern Ethiopia. The language has now been largely superseded by Ts'amakko, a neighboring East Cushitic language, and code-switching in Ts'arnakko occurs extensively in the data. A peculiar characteristic of Ongota is that tense distinctions on the verb are marked only tonally. Ongota's genetic affiliation is uncertain, but most probably Afroasiatic, either Cushitic or Omotic; on the other hand, it must be noted that certain features of the language (such as the almost complete absence of nominal morphology and of inflectional verbal morphology) point to an origin from a creolized pidgin.