Gurbiye Focus: 46th anniversary of the Somali Language

The 46th anniversary of the Somali Language Script is exactly today following the standardization and introduction in 21 st  January 1973 and was based on the Latin alphabet as the Official Somali Language Script, the first of its kind in the chessboard of Somali history initiated by the then central government headed by General Siad Barre barely 5 years into his long military rule.

Somali, which had been until then an oral language, could now be transmitted and preserved in textual form.

Somali is the national language of Somalia. It is also spoken in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as well as by Somali communities in diaspora.

This anniversary comes a time the most comprehensive Somali dictionary is available at the markets, a regional academy dedicated to study and preserve the Somali language is active.

Hundred of Somali language websites, and television stations, radios, and newspapers use the Somali language on a daily basis.

Former Somali military government had heavily invested in culture and language and used songs and plays to deliver nationalist messages. The government employed talented poets and playwrights. It was the golden age of the Somalia language.

Today after a long period of drought Somalia is gradually revisiting this idea of preserving and promoting the Somali language, especially among the younger generation.

Here are some of the notable developments in the history of the Somali language.

1920: In the early 1920s, Osman Yusuf Kenadid in response to settling on a standard orthography for the Somali language devised a phonetically sophisticated alphabet called Osmaniya for representing the sounds of Somali.

July 1, 1961: Months after independence Somali, the government tasked established academics and Somali writers to devise ways of setting up a standard Somali language script for writing. The commission did fail to accomplish the assigned mission because of a dispute on which language alphabet system to be adopted, Latin or Arabic.

The following people were appointed to the commission:

Muuse Haaji Ismail Galaal-Chairperson

Yaasiin Osmaan Yuusuf – member

Mahamuud Saaleh (Ladane)- member

Ibrahim Hashi Mahamuud – member

Khaliif Suudi- member

Mustaf Sheikh Xasan- member

Shire Jaamac Ahmed- member

Husein Sheikh Ahmed (Kaddare)- member

Yuusuf Maygaag Samatar- secretary

October 21, 1969: The head of the Supreme Revolutionary Council who was now president, Siad Barre revived the idea of writing the Somali language script.

21 January 1971:  Somali military government formed a new commission. This time 21 language experts and academics were assigned to adopt a standard orthography for Somali language and in October 1972 the Somali script, based on the Somali Latin alphabet, was standardised and introduced as the Official Somali Language Script.

The following persons were tasked with the responsibility:

Sharif Salah Mohamed Ali- Chairperson

Yaasin Omaan Keenadiid

Mustaf Sheikh Hasan

Ahmed Ali Abokar

Yuusuf Hirsi Ahmed

Muse Haaji Ismail Galaal

Abdi Dahir Affey,

Aw Jaamac Omar Iise

Dahabo Faarah Hasan

Abdulaahi Haaji Abuubakar

Abdullaahi Ardeeye

Hasan Sheikh Muumin

Mohamed Nuur Alin

Mahamed Hasan Aaden (Gaheyr)

Hirsi Magan Iise

Omar Aw Nuuh

Abdullaahi Haaji Mahamuud (Insaaniya)

Iikar Bannaa Hadaad

Aaqib Abdullaahi

Husein Sheikh Ahmed Kadare

Ahmed Artan Haange

Mohamed Haaji Husein Sheeko Hariir

Abdirahmaan Nuur Hersi

Shire Jaamah

Twenty two (22) months after its formation, the commission successfully produced the first official Somali written script which would be adapted for to date. The script had 21 consonants and five vowels.

January 21, 1973: The first primary school curriculum in the Somali language was launched.

The first newspapers fully are written in the new Somali script was also launched March 7, 1974: The government launched a mass literacy campaign targeting all the rural areas to ensure everyone learnt the written language.

By the end of the campaign in early 1975, the literacy levels had significantly increased from 2% to 55%.

January 21, 2015: While marking the 42nd anniversary of the Somali script, President Mohamud ordered that all government communication will be conducted in the Somali language.

The Italian language had been one of the official government languages of communication.

February 21, 2015: Djibouti President Ismail Omar Gelle and Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud together laid the foundation stone of Somali Language and Research Academy in Mogadishu.

January 2016: Banaadir mayor Yusuf Jima’ale orders that all advertising media in Mogadishu be published in Somali language, failure to which none shall be licensed.

January 21, 2016: Somalia and Djibouti presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Omar Gelle respectively meet to mark the second anniversary of the Language Academy.

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