Language as an Index of Identity, Power, Solidarity and Sentiment in the Multicultural Community of Wollo

Rukya Hassen

Language serves different functions in different societies. The target group in this study uses their language for different purposes. This study is aimed at investigating the functions of the in-group code of the speech group, the most obvious characteristic feature of which is maintaining their religious and linguistic identity and making use of the language as an expression of power in their social structure. Language serves instrumental, symbolic, cognitive, sentimental, and other functions in the target community. In its instrumental function, language controls access to power, opportunity and material resources. Language carries an enormous political, social and economic power. In its symbolic function, language indexes identity. In terms of the cognitive dimension, language serves to influences the belief and thought systems of the speakers. The sentimental function of the code is maintained as a result of sanctity being attached with their religion. The speech code of the target community makes use of their language as an expression of identity. They reconstructed their religious and linguistic identity in the code they speak. By so doing they maintained Ethiopic or Amhara Identity. They indigenize or localize their religion, Islam, so that they wouldn’t be considered foreign in their own homeland. They also revealed Islamic identity in the speech code. The other significant feature of the speech code is its use as an expression of power. Amharic gained social and political power. Arabic gained sanctity power. By modifying Amharic and using some elements of Arabic lexical and grammatical repertoire, the community empowered Amharic, the local language. They also modified the social structure that helps to accommodate ideological power.