A language of Ethiopia

Alternate Names
Bega, Debatsa, Debuga, Dehenda, Gombo, Gumis, Kadallu, Mendeya, “Shankillinya” (pej.)
Bega-Tse, Sigumza

183,380 in Ethiopia, all users. L1 users: 179,000 (2010 UNSD). L2 users: 4,380. 88,200 monolinguals. Total users in all countries: 223,380 (as L1: 219,000; as L2: 4,380).


Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, and Oromia regions: Metemma area on Sudan border south through Gonder and Metekel zones; along Blue Nile south into Wellaga and Didessa valley up to Neqemt-Gimbi road; southwest of Addis Ababa, Welqite area villages.

Language Status

5 (Developing).


Guba, Wenbera, Sirba, Agalo, Yaso, Mandura, Dibate, Metemma. Noticeable dialect differences, and not all dialects are inherently intelligible. Mandura, Dibate, and Metemma form a distinct dialect subgroup.


Tonal, 2 tones plus downstep; large consonant inventory (38 for Southern Gumuz and 39 for Northern Gumuz); AVO and SV but word order is variable depending on discourse context; verbs are highly polysynthetic:verb affixes show person (number of subject, first plural inclusive and exclusive, A versus S bound pronominals, Northern Gumuz has O bound pronominals in addition to A and S), direction, mood, middle voice, aspect,uncertainty, pluractional, reciprocal, tense, incorporated prepositions (dative, comitative and locative); verbs are divided into two templates: future and nonfuture; external possession constructions via noun incorporation; simple verb roots plus verbal classifiers form complex verbal stems; nouns are mostly transnumeral or general and not typically marked for number; N-N collocations exhibit construct form (cf. Creissels 2009); inherently possessed nouns; relator nouns; marked nominative alignment with a split system.

Language Use

Also use Amharic [amh], limited use and comprehension. Also use Eastern Oromo [hae], with limited comprehension. Also use Sudanese Spoken Arabic [apd], especially Muslims near the border of Sudan.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L2: 6%. Grammar. NT: 2003.

Ethiopic script [Ethi], no longer in use. Latin script [Latn], used since 2007, official usage.

Other Comments

Traditional religion.

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