The languages of Ethiopia

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This chapter discusses the design and methodology of the research used in this study. The population studied, the sample taken and the procedures used to gather data from the sample and ways of analyzing them are discussed. Furthermore, instruments used for data collection are presented and discussed. Finally, ethical issues are addressed.
The terms design and method are used to express different meanings in some literature whereas others use them interchangeably. This research follows the meaning that Hofstee (2005) gives to research design which refers to the means and procedures used in the research process to arrive at some conclusion, whereas research method is concerned with the specific techniques employed in conducting the research. According to Hofstee (2005:108),
the word ‘method’ is used to mean your specific way of testing/probing your thesis statement (in other words, your methodology-how you apply one or more research designs to your problems)” and research design is “the way you choose to design your study, i.e. how you went about coming to a conclusion about your thesis (see also Kothari, 2004:7-8).
Thus, it is with this understanding that the two terms were used in this research.

Research objectives

The research design selected for this study follows from the research objectives given in § 1.6:
1. To evaluate the contribution the church made to the development of the language in the past.
2. To identify the current activities of the church which have contributed towards the development of Oromo under the new favourable situation of the country.
3. To identify the prevailing views and attitudes in the EECMY towards the development and use of Oromo.
4. To identify the reasons for the conflict over the use of Oromo in the EECMY.
5. To identify the consequences of the conflict for the development of Oromo.

Research design

This study used a qualitative research design in order to explore and describe the role of evangelical Christianity in the development of Oromo. According to Dornyei (2007:32), qualitative studies describe social behaviours as they are, and are conducted in a natural setting without any manipulations by the researcher. Dornyei (2007:32) further notes that “[q]ualitative research is concerned with the subjective opinions, experiences and feelings of individuals and thus the explicit goal of research is to explore the participants’ views of the situation being studied” (see also Given, 2008: xxix). Thus, as they are the feelings and opinions as well as experiences of the leaders and members of the church concerning the contribution of evangelical Christianity to the development of Oromo is what this study is mainly concerned with, the qualitative design was preferred. Thus, it was decided that the objectives of this research, could best be achieved through the application and use of a qualitative research design.
Thus, in order to get a full insight into the role which evangelical Christianity played in Oromo language development, a qualitative survey-based research design was chosen for this study. This design enabled the researcher to gather the necessary data to investigate the contribution of evangelical Christianity to development of Oromo. Through the use of a qualitative survey, the researcher was able to extract data that provided this study with valuable information.
Furthermore, the qualitative research design enabled the researcher to participate within the community as well as to objectively observe the behaviour of community members in order to extract the necessary information which would answer to the objectives of the study. Corbin and Strauss (2008:13) claim that through qualitative research, researchers can have access to something they are interested in which they may not come across by any other means. Dornyei (2007:32) calls this issue an ‘inside perspective’’ and that it is very important in qualitative research design.
A historical research design is also employed to some extent to trace the contributions of Christianity towards the development of the language from its inception to its current state. Hofstee (2005:126) confirms that this design can be used in addition to other designs to give supporting ideas or background information to current developments. Accordingly, this research design was used in this study in addition to the other design discussed above.

Sampling techniques

The potential population for this study consisted mainly of the speakers of Oromo who are members of the EECMY, whereas speakers of other languages (especially the dominant language) were also included to provide views from a different perspective. As the population of the church is very large, there was a need to select a sample that best represents this population. The literature on research methods (e.g. Ritchie & Lewis, 2003:78) that indicates a qualitative study can employ non-probability sampling techniques in order to generate detailed data from those participants who have enough experience of the issue under investigation. Thus, sample participants were chosen from Oromo speakers who are members of the EECMY as well as a few speakers of the dominant language. According to Johnstone (2000:92), “sampling techniques are ways to make sure you are not just describing a few people and assuming without evidence that what is true for them is true for everyone in the group you are studying.” Participants for this study were chosen from the CO of the EECMY, EECMY congregations from the capital, Addis Ababa, the church units and joint programmes found in Addis Ababa city and Oromia Region.
In this study, different non-probability sampling techniques have been applied for different reasons. The main sampling technique was purposive, whereby church leaders and intellectuals as well as community representatives who it was believed could give factual and reliable data were selected from among the speakers of the language in this Christian denomination to provide data. These were those people who had rich experience in the church through leadership as well as membership, and those who had experienced the conflict around language in the church in one way or another (see § 4.2). Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009:187) describe this sampling technique to be “comprised of people based on a particular attribute, and are often designed to arbitrarily include equal representation of groups that may not be equally represented in society” (see also Ritchie & Lewis, 2003: 79). This was done by following Johnston’s (2000:89) advice who maintains that it is necessary to carefully decide whom to use as a sample when one is engaged in sociolinguistic studies. Dornyei (2007:113) also supports this view by stating that in a qualitative study sampling is mainly applied in order to get rich and varied insights into the issue under investigation, which is only possible by using people with such experiences, by the means of purposive sampling. This is why this sampling technique is mainly used in this study.
A choice of participants was strategically made based on their varied attitudes and belief systems. In this regard, Ritchie and Lewis (2003:79) contend that all aspects of the issue should be addressed and that a variety must be secured in the selection of the sample. It is well known that some groups in the church have favoured an Amharic-only attitude whereas others believed that all languages must be used for worship and other religious purposes, depending on the needs and abilities of the faith community. Thus, samples were selected from both groups in order to get views from both perspectives. This is what Dornyei (2007:116) calls ‘maximum variation sampling.’ In line with Ritchie and Lewis (2003:80), using participants from different attitude groups helps in minimizing the bias of the researcher. Hence, this maximum variation of the data has helped the researcher to attain data from groups within society with different attitudes.
Furthermore, a snowball or chain sampling technique was applied where the chosen individuals pointed to other potential interviewees who could provide additional insights into the phenomenon of the church and language development. Again these are people who have been involved in the leadership of the church as well as evangelical ministry.
In other cases also, what is known as theoretical sampling, where previous discoveries lead to additional sampling, has been used for this study. Corbin and Strauss (2008:143) have defined this method as:
[a] method of data collection based on concepts/themes derived from data. The purpose of theoretical sampling is to collect data from places, people, and events that will maximize opportunities to develop concepts in terms of their properties and dimensions, uncover variations, and identify relationships between concepts.
The impetus for the use of theoretical sampling was generated by the information extracted from individuals and a given setting which prompted the need to investigate other settings. For example, after having discovered that the Bible was translated into different dialects of Oromo, the researcher had to locate those who participated in the translation work to obtain further information from them. Corbin and Strauss (2008:145) maintain again that theoretical sampling is done on the basis of previous collection and analysis of data. They state that “[t]heoretical sampling is based on the premise that data collection and analysis go hand in hand”. According to Ritchie and Lewis (2003:80), such sampling process continues until the researcher reaches the point of saturation.
There were cases also where what Dornyei (2007:117) calls ‘within-case sampling’ was used. This sampling method is employed by deciding on issues to be emphasized with different informants or in different settings after having chosen the participants. Dornyei (2007:117) points out that “we have to make regular decisions about when and how to collect data from a particular respondent, what aspects of the case to direct our attention to and which activities, locations or events to focus on.” Accordingly, in this study, while there were some issues that were common to all participants such as the contribution of the church to language development, some individuals or church institutions are more concerned with some aspects of language development (for example, translation work, mass media issues, literacy and education, etc.), and with such people and at such settings the different specialization areas were given emphasis.

Sample size and selection

Ritchie and Lewis (2003:83) contend that the size of the sample in qualitative studies is relatively small as an in-depth investigation is conducted on the chosen sample. Dornyei (2007:115) also states that the number of participants in a qualitative study is small in such a way that it provides data that enable the researcher to obtain the data he/she requires for the phenomenon under investigation. Thus, 30 participants were chosen for the interviews and five groups were chosen for the focus group discussion from among the speakers of the language and from other languages, especially Amharic. The participants in both the interview and the focus group discussions consisted of leaders, other church ministers and community representatives with different opinions about the use of language in the church. The number of participants increased continuously both for the interview and the focus group discussion until the researcher believed that the point of saturation (or redundancy) had been reached. According to Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009: 188), “the size of a qualitative sample is considered sufficient when the criterion of redundancy is met.” Hence, it is when the data he had gave him the confidence that the research questions had been answered and no more new data were elicited, that the researcher realized that he had reached the point of saturation.
The researcher obtained data mainly from the following well-known church fathers and other current leaders and members through semi-structured interviews:
1. Rev. Dr. Tasgara Hirpo, who now lives in Germany, but regularly visits Ethiopia. He had served the church in different capacities including teaching at Mekane Yesus Seminary, serving as president of the first EECMY-Western Synod, working on the second translation and the later transliteration of the Bible into Oromo; and is now engaged in producing religious and cultural literature in Oromo on his own.
2. The former General Secretary of EECMY, Rev. Dr. Magarsa Guta, who also had served in different capacities in the church as Executive Secretary of the Western Synod, President of CES, instructor at Mekane Yesus Seminary and General Secretary of EECMY until he retired in 2010.
3. The other major informant from the EECMY was Rev. Dr. Debela Birri, who had also served as a pastor of a congregation, a teacher and a principal at Mekane Yesus Seminary and a director of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology before he retired in 2011.These three people are now on pension but continue serving the church on their own.
4. Other church leaders and ministers at the CO and in units (Western Synod, Birbir Dilla Synod, Gimbi-Jorgo Synod, Central Synod, Illubabor Bethel Synod, South Ethiopia Synod and Central Ethiopia Synod) as well as the church joint programmes (Mekane Yesus Seminary and YDCS) have also been interviewed, but most of these did not want that their names are mentioned in this report. Accordingly, codes are given to represent them in using information obtained from them.
5. Different congregations were visited, and believers were also interviewed and observations made. Document analyses were also conducted at some of these places.
6. The researcher organised three focus group discussions in Addis Ababa (at the EECMY-CO, at YDCS and Mekane Yesus Seminary) for leaders and intellectuals in the church and other two focus group discussions at the units (one at Western Synod and another at Birbir Dilla Synod) in which again leaders and ministers of the church took part.
7. Some informants were interviewed and documents were analysed from the EOC, especially, EOC intellectuals working both in the church Central Office and in Addis Ababa University. Material which could be accessed through these informants and found in the library of Addis Ababa University and Mekane Yesus Seminary were also examined.
8. The majority of the participants were also Oromo speakers whereas some speakers of the dominant language, Amharic, were also interviewed in order to get variations of data. Speakers of other minority languages were also included. A section head of the
‘Translation and Literacy Service’ of the EECMY, who is also from one of the minority ethnic groups in the southern part of Ethiopia as well as others leading and working in special offices relevant to this research such as YDCS, Aster Ganno Literature Society and JFLP were interviewed. These helped as experts and leaders engaged in the work related to language development, representatives of the community as well as church members.


Research instruments

The research instruments used in this study were multifaceted following the suggestion made by Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009:242), who maintain that using a variety of instruments helps in fulfilling the wish of answering the research questions satisfactorily. Thus, in order to get rich and varied data, the researcher used a variety of tools such as interviews, focus group discussions, document analyses and personal observations. This was done in the belief that information about the contribution of the EECMY to the development of Oromo, (the types of the development as well as the causes and effects of the obstacles to the language development efforts of the church such as conflict over language use in the church) could best be obtained in these varied ways. Corbin and Strauss (2008:27) emphasize the importance of such triangulation of instruments for the sake of cross-checking and adding more data to that previously collected by use of one or more tools. Some of these instruments have been used more intensively than others. Some instruments were used to confirm or cross-check the information gathered through other means. Each of these instruments is presented in the following sub-sections.


The interview process is the main data collection instrument that was employed in this research following Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009:224), who maintain that interviewing is one of the most common research instruments in qualitative research undertaking. Semi-structured interviews were used in order to gather in-depth data that help to answer the research questions. Semi-structured interview questions allowed the respondents to give a detailed response, on the one hand, and enabled the researcher on the other hand to probe further on the basis of responses of the respondents whenever necessary. A semi-structured interview was used as it is the best compromise between the structured interview and the unstructured interview processes. Both the structured and unstructured interview processes have their own limitations (Sapsford and Jupp, 2006:95). On the one hand, the structured interview does not allow the researcher to be context dependent, that is, it does not allow flexibility to probe issues raised in the context of the interview as questions have already been set. On the other hand, the fully unstructured interview process can be difficult to control as it allows the interviewees to digress from the issue (Wray and Bloomer, 1998:162). Dornyei (2007:123) also supports this view by claiming that “although there is a set of pre-prepared guiding questions and prompts, the format is open-ended and the interviewee is encouraged to elaborate on the issues raised in an exploratory manner.” Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009:225) also maintain that this type of interview helps to minimize the bias of the researcher while preparing the structured interview. This researcher preferred this semi-structured interview process as he had had some insights about the issues to be investigated by the virtue of his being part of the situation under investigation. Dornyei (2007:123) notes that this type of interview is mainly used:
when the researcher has a good enough overview of the phenomenon or domain in question and is able to develop broad questions about the topic in advance but does not want to use ready-made response categories that would limit the depth and breadth of the respondent’s story.
Prior to the interview, questions were prepared and pretested to ensure that the main issues under scrutiny were considered. Thus, in order to capture all areas of the investigation, interview guide questions were carefully set and conducted concerning issues of language development that the researcher wanted to investigate. The questions set were so general in order to enable the respondents to give their rich and deep experiences concerning the matter, and as to help the researcher also to raise probing questions as needs arise. The questions were also used in a pilot study whereby they were tested on a selected group of respondents in the church. On the basis of the responses elicited, they were modified and put to use.
Furthermore, not all questions were applied to all respondents. In some cases, the respondents specialized in certain aspect of the church work such as mass media, literacy work or literature production. In such cases, questions that were only pertinent to such groups were asked to get in-depth information on those specific areas of the church services (see § 3.4).
The researcher managed to maintain control of the interview process which kept the participants from digressing. However, the researcher did not forget that he had to stay neutral in most of the cases. They were given full freedom to speak from their hearts as much as possible. The rapport which most of the participants had already had with the researcher also contributed a lot to this freedom because of common membership of one speech community and/or denomination.
In order to secure acquiring of the in-depth information, the interview was conducted more than once, following Polkinhorne (2005, cited in Dorneyi, 2007:122) who maintains that “one-shot interviews are rarely able to produce the full and rich descriptions necessary for worthwhile findings”.
Data that were collected during the interview process were recorded and confirmed by participants. This information that was provided by the participants was then transcribed and translated immediately. Dorneyi (2007:126) claims in this regard that:
there is general agreement in the literature that if we want to use the content of a semi-structured or unstructured interview as research data, we need to record it-taking notes is simply not enough as we are unlikely to be able to catch all the details of the nuances of personal meaning; furthermore, notetaking also disrupts the interviewing process.
Many of the interviews were conducted in the local languages which were later translated into English.

1.1. The land and the people
1.2 The languages of Ethiopia
1.3 Christianity in Ethiopia and among the Oromo
1.4 Statement of the problem
1.5 Significance of the Study
1.6 Objectives of the Study
1.7 Overview of thesis
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Language planning and development
2.3 Language development
2.4 Overview of development of African languages
2.5 Language development in Ethiopia
2.6 Role played by Christianity in the development of languages
2.7 Christianity and language development in Africa
2.8 Christianity and language development in Ethiopia
2.9 Language conflict and its management
2.10 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research objectives
3.3 Research design
3.4 Sampling techniques
3.5 Sample size and selection
3.6 Research instruments
3.7 Data analysis procedures
3.8 Ethical issues
3.9 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Church activities that have contributed to the Oromo language development
4.3 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 EECMY language policy
5.3 Current church activities which have contributed to the development of the language
5.4 Obstacles to the development of Oromo in the Church
5.5 Other obstacles
5.6 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Summary
6.3 Significance of the main findings
6.4 Language maintenance and shift
6.5 Interface between Christianity and language development
6.6 Language conflict and politics
6.7 Recommendations for future research
6.8 General recommendations
6.9 Concluding statement

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