Orphaning the orphan, Geez

By Godofai Tgiorgis
Oct. 13 2010

English did not expand in Ethiopia by itself. The public schools and public officials were the ones who contributed to its expansion. If we dedicate the same effort we gave to English there is no way why Geez should not get ground so quickly. Geez needs nothing but our will. We can thus use our schools as a second venue or center to teach Geez. For the critics this proposal does not bear practicality because Geez cannot fly that fast and easy due to lot of shortcomings. The assumption is Geez does not have enough rules and vocabularies like English. We have to create many words for Geez to catch up with the times. We have to spend millions to upgrade and research to make Geez fulfill the demands. Even with that it poses difficulty for teachers to teach and for students to learn because Geez is archaic. The effort therefore should be directed to other projects where we can get good result, they say.

Geez, of course, does not cover terminologies that have been recently discovered as they say. Let alone Geez that has been archived for some time now, even English does not have such capabilities. However rich, all English does is borrow words from other languages to fill in its deficiencies. No language is complete by itself and in itself and one should not be surprised, as if peculiar, if Geez has those shortcomings. Such allegation therefore is only half true and should not be a reason to orphan Geez. The fact that we reinstate Geez as a national language is more than the millions of dollars spent on agriculture or factories can yield. Geez is preserving Ethiopia, Geez is preserving language which cannot be determined by or measured with monetary values.

Even if we buy into their argument, Geez has qualities that they themselves missed to imagine. Geez, contrary to their belief, possess qualities that English and other contemporary languages lack or cannot furnish. First, it is smooth and less confusing. With Geez you do not have to fight with lower and upper case. You do not have to fight with colon and semi colon. You do not have to fight with vowels. Geez is straight to the eye, smooth to the tongue and mouth. For those who doubt that Geez is advanced when told by the indigenous, here is a testimony to point by the people who are more close to Latin and English. Gabriella F. Scelta ‘s “The Comparative Origin and Usage of the Ge’ez writing system of Ethiopia” (December 14, 2001) article is one example.

“Although there are more symbols to learn in the system, in some ways it is easier to use. There is no “misspelling” because a word’s sound dictates very specifically what written syllographs it will contain and vice versa, much in the way a phonetic spelling does in the western world. .., it is possible to “correctly” write any word, in any language in Ge’ez, once the syllographs and the sound associated with them are learned. In conclusion, the Ge’ez writing system is one of the oldest working systems in the world. This African writing system has remained unchanged for 2000 years, attesting to its adaptability and innovative method of organizing sounds….” Second, Geez is the language of sciences such as Math, Physics, astronomy, etc. The immense of wealth it acquired through many centuries is by far enough to cover many of the subjects no matter how wide the field or subject is. With Geez you do not start from Zero. All you need to do is add Zero.

Again Scelta: “The Ge’ez system does not only serve as a visual representation of words and sounds as does the Roman system which has essentially one major property, grammar, and is devoid of any higher meaning. The Ge’ez system has five major properties: pictography, ideography, astrography, numerology and, syllagraphy (Though it could be argued that the Roman system also has numerology in the use of Roman numerals, it is nowhere near the numeric scope of Ge’ez)….” F

rom this one can conclude that Geez is not only about history and culture but also about grammar and more. It is also about science whether this is astrology, physics or mathematics. It is about usage and vocabularies. It is about simplicity and easiness. It is about heritage and uniqueness. Put it this way, Geez is about everything that a language need to be and is. I don’t blame people to have skepticisms. That is human. However the cause to that should not be associated with Geez. It is our dark thoughts not Geez’s poor qualities. It is the obsession we have with anything foreign not the lack of standard on the part of Geez. Geez has all the qualities any language possesses and is pure. If anything looks cloudy, again, it is not Geez’s making but the cynics’ sight that has difficulty to see what is clear.

Geez is us and we are Geez. Geez is Ethiopian that is unique. Bringing back Geez therefore is in our best interest by all means. Geez helps preserve the insight and intelligence our forefather had for our use. We need Geez back and we really have to need it not because it is ours but because it, even as a language, is better equipped with tools that can and will address our communication needs whether this is in office or schools. Debunking or orphaning Geez to welcome a language that is foreign, English for example, does not help Ethiopia in the way the critics want us believe. On the contrary, all it does is ruin what is inherently Ethiopian among which Geez is the prime. Even in other fields, it will aggravate more than it addresses our problems. It will widen our rift more than it mends our relations. And that, I believe, is not healthy.

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