Oromo language is one of the Cushitic languages (such as Somali, Afar, Sidama, Geedo, and ancient Egyptian), the language of the ancient Cush that was spoken all over East Africa. Today, Afaan Oromo is spoken in most parts of Ethiopia, some parts in Kenya and is arguably the second largest language in Africa.
Afaan Oromo is a phonetic language, which means that it is spoken in the way it is written. Afaan Oromo uses the Roman alphabet but it has its own consonants and vowels. Afaan Oromo has 28 letters called ‘qubee’. However, a new letter ‘Z’ is now included in the alphabet as there are words which require letter ‘Z’. Therefore, now it is correct to say that Afaan Oromo has 29 letters called qubee. Examples of words with the letter ‘Z’ include Ziqaya (gold), Zeeytuuna (guava), Azoole (river in Arsii), Zeekkara (Opera), Awaazoo, Zalmaaxaya (mess), Waziiza (fire place or fire work) and Zawii (insanity).
Eaga ani qubee –za itti eda’ee booda, Afaan Oromo qubee 29 qaba.
Qubeen gugurdaa fi qubeen xixiqaan kanaa gadittii bareefama:
Upper case = Qubee gugurda
Lower case = Qubee xixiqu
Afaan Oromo vowels are represented by the five letters, a, e, o, u and i.
All vowels are pronounced basically the same way throughout Oromia. These vowels when stressed may be opened: deemu (go), nyaadhu (eat) or closed: bada, rafi.
The Afaan Oromo vowels always are pronounced in sharp and clear fashion which means each and every word is pronounced strongly, for example:
A: Ar’bba, Fardda, Haadha
E: Gannale, Waabee, Noole, Roobale, colle
I: Arsii, laali, Rafi, Lakki, Sirbbi
O: Oromo, Cilaalo, Haro, caancco, Danbidoollo
U: Ulfaadhu, Gudadhu, dubadhuu, arbba guugu, Ituu
Most Afaan Oromo constants do not differ greatly from Italian, but there are some exceptions and few special combinations.
- The consonant “g” has a hard sound. Gaari, gadi bayi, gargaari.
- The combinations NY and DH have a hard sound. e.g Nyaadhu, Dhugi.
DOUBLE CONSONANTS – SAGALEWWAN DACHAA
All Afaan Oromo consonants except the combination consonants ny, dh, ph, and sh have double consonant combinations if the syllable is stressed. Failure to make this distinction results in miscommunication. Examples: Bilisumma, walqixumma, walabumma, fardda, lolttu
STRESS – JABAATA
Some Afaan Oromo words are pronounced with the stress on the last syllable:
e.g fanno, harre, gaarre.
On the other hand, few words are stressed on the first syllable. These words always have a combination consonant:
e.g nyaadhu, dhayi,nyaara nyaapha (foreigner).