Native toEthiopia
RegionGurage Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region
Native speakers
(260,000 cited 1994 census)[1]
  • Soddo
  • Goggot (Dobi)
Geʽez script
Language codes
ISO 639-3gru

Soddo (autonym kəstane "Christian"; formerly called Aymälläl in Western sources, after a particular dialect of it) is a Gurage language spoken by a quarter million people in southeastern Ethiopia. It is an Ethiopian Semitic language of the Northern Gurage subfamily. Its native speakers, the Soddo Gurage people (Kistane), live predominantly in the Soddo district of the Gurage Zone.[citation needed]



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ
voiceless (p) t t͡ʃ k (ʔ)
voiced b d d͡ʒ g
ejective (pʼ) t͡ʃʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced z ʒ
Rhotic r
Lateral l
Approximant j w


Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid e ə o
Open a


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As in most Ethiopian languages, noun qualifiers generally follow the noun.

The definite article is expressed by the suffix -i, e.g.: goš "boy" > goš-i "the boy"; ätit "sister" > ätiti "the sister"; bayyočč "children" > bayyočč-i. If the noun ends in -a or , it normally loses this vowel when -i is suffixed: angačča "cat" > angačč-i "the cat". A noun ending in -i usually stays the same: abi "(the) father, proprietor". A noun ending in -e, -o, -u adds a y before the suffix: ge "house" > geʸi "the house"; wälläho "neighbor" > wällähoʸi "the neighbor". If the noun has a qualifier, the article is used with the first element: maläk' ge "big house" > maläk'-i ge "the big house"; yä-šum-i ge "the house of the official" (lit. "of-official-the house"); yä-mät't'-i məss "the man who came" (lit. "who-came-the man".)

There is no real indefinite article, though indefiniteness can be expressed by preposing the word attə or k'una, meaning "one".

Nouns have two genders, masculine and feminine, which affect verb concord.

Nouns which are definite objects (direct or indirect) are both marked with the prefix yä- or nä-: e.g. yä-geʸi ažžo "he saw the house"; yä-zämmihʷan abännət "he gave it to his brother" (lit. "to-his-brother he-gave-him"). Direct objects may additionally be marked by adding the object suffix pronouns to the verb: e.g. yabiddi täšakkunnət "I asked my father" (lit. "my-father-obj. I-asked-him".)

A possessed noun is marked by the prefix yä-, and the possessor precedes the possessed: yä-šum-i ge "the house of the official" (lit. "of-official-the house"). If the possessed noun has a preposition prefixed to it, this yä- is omitted: babiddi färäz rather than *bä-yä-abiddi färäz for "on my father's horse".


Personal pronoun

English Standalone form Possessive suffix
(consonant-final nouns)
Possessive suffix
(vowel-final nouns)
I ädi -əddi -ddi
you (m. sg.) dähä -dä -dä
you (f. sg.) däš -däš -däš
he kʷa -äw, -kʷan -w, -hʷan
she kʸa -ki -hi
we əñña -əñña -ñña
you (m. pl.) dähəm -dähəm -dähəm
you (f. pl.) dähma -dähma -dähma
they (m.) kənnäm -kənnäm -hənnäm
they (f.) kənnäma -kənnäm -hənnäm

Possessives can also be formed by simply adding yä- to the standalone pronouns, e.g.: yädähəm t'əb "your clan".

Reflexive pronouns are formed by äras-, gubba-, k'um- plus the possessive suffixes, e.g. ädi äras-əddi mät'afi t'afkunnət "I myself wrote the book".

Demonstrative pronoun

Proximal: zi "this, these"; zini "this one". E.g.: zi məss "this man", zi məšt "this woman", zi säbočč "these men".

Distal: za "that, those, that one, those ones"; zani "that one there". E.g. tä-za məss goy mät't'ahi "I came with that man".

Interrogative pronoun

Indefinite pronoun

kulləm = "all" (placed before or after the noun); kulləm-u, bä-mollaw = "whole". yät'oma = "only, alone". "Each, every" is expressed by noun reduplication.

Copula and existential verbs

The copula (positive and negative) is irregular in the present tense:

English be not be
I am näw(h) ädäbukk
you (m. sg.) are nähä ädäbəkkä
you (f. sg.) are näš ädäbəčč
he is -n, -ən (after a consonant) ädäbəll
she is na ädäbəlla
we are nänä ädäbəllänä
you (m. pl.) are nähəm ädäbəkkəm
you (f. pl.) are nähma ädäbəkkəma
they (m.) are näm ädäbəlläm
they (f.) are näma ädäbəäma

Example: zämmidi nähä "you are my brother".

The past tense ("he was", etc.) is expressed by the verb näbbär conjugated regularly in the perfect; "he was not" etc. is with annäbär. The future tense is expressed by the imperfect of hono: yəhonu "he will be", etc. The negative future tense is likewise expressed by tihon. The present copula in subordinate clauses is expressed by the subordinate perfect of honä, e.g.: däffär yähonä tädi-goy yalfu "he who is courageous will go with me.

"It is he", etc. can be expressed by adding an element -tt between the pronoun and the copula: e.g. kʷa-ttə-n "it is he".

The existential verb "be at", "exist" in the present is:

English be at/there not be at/there
I am yinähi yellähu
you (m. sg.) are yinəho yellähä
you (f. sg.) are yinäšin yelläš
he is yino yellä
she is yinätti yellät
we are yinäno yellänä
you (m. pl.) are yinähmun yellähəm
you (f. pl.) are yinähman yellähma
they (m.) are yinämun yelləm
they (f.) are yinäman yelləma

In the past and future, it is expressed just like the copula, with näbbärä and honä. In subordinate clauses the present is expressed with -allä conjugated in the perfect (negative -lellä), e.g.: bämeda yalləmi säbočč araš näm "the people who are in the field are farmers".

The possessive verb "he has" etc. is expressed with the existential verb yino "it is" (agreeing with the object possessed) plus object suffix pronouns (i.e. "it is to him" etc.)


A Soddo verb may have anywhere from one to four consonants, or may be a compound with balo "say" (e.g. bək'k' balo "appear".) In the former case, they fall into three "conjugations" differing in their vowels and in gemination of the imperfect, illustrated for a three-consonant verb:

Derived stems can be formed in several ways:

There are two tenses/aspects, perfective (past) and imperfective (non-past); each has distinct forms for main versus subordinate clauses, and positive versus negative. There are also distinct jussive, imperative, and impersonal forms.


English main clause subordinate clause relative clause subordinate with -m
I measured säffär-ki säffär-kʷ yä-säffär-k-i säffär-kum
you (m. sg.) measured säffär-ko säffär-kä yä-säffär-k-i säffär-käm
you (f. sg.) measured säffär-šin säffär-š yä-säffär-š-i säffär-šəm
he measured säffär-o säffär-ä yä-säffär-i säffär-äm
she measured säffär-ätti säffär-ät yä-säffär-ätt-i säffär-ättəm
we measured säffär-no säffär-nä yä-säffär-n-i säffär-näm
you (m. pl.) measured säffär-kəmun säffär-kəmu yä-säffär-kəm-i säffär-kəmum
you (f. pl.) measured säffär-kəman säffär-kəma yä-säffär-kəma-yi säffär-kəmam
they (m.) measured säffär-mun säffär-m yä-säffär-m-i säffär-mum
they (f.) measured säffär-man säffär-ma yä-säffär-ma-yi säffär-mam

The form with suffixed -m is used in subordinate clauses to connect verbs not otherwise connected, in a way analogous to Japanese -te; it can be translated as "and", as a gerund, or as a resultative. The perfect in -m followed by näbbär forms the pluperfect.

The negative perfect is formed by prefixing al-, with vowel change; for the conjugations mentioned above, the resulting forms are al-säfärä, al-täkkälä, and al-č'afärä.

Examples: ge aräššo "he built a house"; banätäw k'ən awänna-m bämida tonnaw "having put butter on the top of his head, he sat outside".

English main clause subordinate clause
I advance äbädru äbädər
you (m. sg.) advance təbädru təbädər
you (f. sg.) advance təbädri təbʸedər
he advances yəbädru yəbädər
she advances təbädri təbädər
we advance (ən)nəbädru (ən)nəbädər
you (m. pl.) advance təbädrəmun təbädrəm
you (f. pl.) advance təbädrəman təbädrəma
they (m.) advance yəbädrəmun yəbädrəm
they (f.) advance yəbädrəman yəbädrəma

Like the perfect, the subordinate forms can take the suffix -m to express a series of non-past actions. This can be combined with näbbär to express a habitual past action.

Examples: ahoññ gäbäya nalfu "today we shall go to the market"; yəgädəl məss "the man who kills"; mas tənäsa-m yibara wawt'a tək'ärsi "she picks up the sleeping mats and begins to remove the dung."

It can be augmented by -ən, with no obvious change in meaning.

English negative main clause negative subordinate clause
I do not begin täk'ärs annək'ärs
you (m. sg.) do not begin təttək'ärs attək'ärs
you (f. sg.) do not begin təttək'erš attək'erš
he does not begin tik'ärs ayk'ärs
she does not begin təttək'ärs attək'ärs
we do not begin tənnək'ärs annək'ärs
you (m. pl.) begin təttək'ärsəm attək'ärsəm
you (f. pl.) advance təttək'ärsəma attək'ärsəma
they (m.) advance tik'ärsəm ayk'ärsəm
they (f.) advance tik'ärsəma ayk'ärsəma

Examples: ahoññ yəmät'a timäsəl "it does not seem that he will come today"; ädahʷan t-aykäfəl alläfo "he left without paying his debt".

Jussive and Imperative
person conjugation A conjugation B conjugation C
1st sg. näsfər näšäkkət nägalb
2nd m. sg. səfär šäkkət galb
2nd f. sg. səfer šäkkič galʸib
3rd m. sg. yesfər, yäsfər yešäkkət yegalb
3rd f. sg. tesfər tešäkkət tegalb
1st pl. (ən)nəsfär nəšäkkət nəgalb
2nd m. pl. səfärəm šäkkətəm galbəm
2nd f. pl. səfärma šäkkətma galbəma
3rd m. pl. yesfərəm yešäkkətəm yegalbəm
3rd f. pl. yesfərma yešäkkətma yegalbəma

These are negated by the prefix ay-: ayəsfär, ayšäkkət, aygalb. The 2nd person forms then change to conform to the others: attəsfär, attəsfer, attəsfärəm, attəsfärma.

E.g.: yä-wäzälawan-hom yewsəd "let him take according to his work"; yäsäb waga attəlgäd "don't touch someone's property"; ärəf-əm tona "rest and sit down" (sit down quietly).


  1. ^ Soddo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Belete, Ephrem (2011). The syllable of Kistane: A moraic approach. Addis Ababa University.

Further reading