Names and Naming: Mesketo (and other variants)

In two previous posts (here and here) I have already talked about some of the names used in the literature to refer to the Baskeet language and their speakers. Unfortunately, *sigh*, there are still some names (or spelling variants) left to be discussed (or should I say “dismantled”?), namely all the variants of the consonant pattern MSKT.

Variant 8: Mesketo

After Basketo (variant 1) and Basketto (variant 2), Mesketo is probably the third most frequent way to refer to the Baskeet language. At least since the early works of the linguist M.L. Bender (see e.g. Bender 1971), Mesketo is regularly listed as an alternative language name.

However, Mesketo is not always considered to be synonymous to Basketo, Basketto and the like. In the unpublished manuscript Report on a trip to Basketto (1987), Eva Hompo applies the term Mesketo to the central settlement in the Baskeet area, i.e. the town Laska, but not to the people, language or the country:

Excerpt from Eva Hompo's Report on a Trip to Basketto (1987)

Excerpt from Eva Hompo's Report on a Trip to Basketto (1987)

(NB: Sawla and Bulki [Bulk’i] are in fact towns in the Gofa area.)

Oddly enough, there is also a place called Mesketo marked on Google Maps. The Mesketo of Google Maps is most likely also meant to point to the Baskeet capital Laska, it is, however, completely misplaced in the lowlands several kilometres to the West of the Baskeet country. Laska is in fact here (zoom in to see how it looks from above) and still an unlabelled place. (I would really like to know on which South Ethiopian data Google Maps is based.)

Whereas the term Mesketo is usually given only as an alternative term in various publications, Mesketo is used as the name of reference in this source. What is more, the author claims that Mesketo is an autonym, i.e. the native term by which the speakers refer to themselves and their language (which is not true!). He contrasts this with Basketo (variant 1), which is said to be a xenonym.

Alemayehu Abebe (1993) on Mesketo / Basketo

Alemayehu Abebe (1993) on Mesketo: Source of widespread misinformation

This misinformation was first published in the series Surveys of little-known language of Ethiopia (SLLE) and then made available and easily accessible online under the name Sociolinguistic survey report of the Mesketo language of Ethiopia (2002) (different title but some content!). Unfortunately, this mistake has had far-reaching consequences: it has been copied over and over again from website to website. However, not without a slight change in spelling (Mesketo → Masketo). Which brings me to my next variant.

Variant 9: Masketo

The variant Masketo is quite rare in reference to the Baskeet language (but see here). However, very unfortunately, Masketo made it into this Wikipedia entry with the wrong explanation that

“[t]he speakers refer to the language as Masketo [sic], while their neighbors refer to it as Basketo.” (Wikipedia entry “Basketo” 31/10/2011)

The origin of this misinformation in Wikipedia is clearly the SLLE-report discussed under variant 8 above. From Wikipedia, the allegation that the Baskeet call themselves Masketo was then copy & pasted to umpteen websites!! The exact word sequence “speakers refer to the language as Masketo” gets already more than 200 hits in Google.

Variant 10: Mesketto

In contrast to the SLLE-report, the author of the following excerpt characterises Mesketto (which is a spelling variant of Mesketo and Masketo) to be a xenonym used by the Gofa neighbours to refer to the Baskeet people and language.

Excerpt from Azeb Amha's 'Case in Basketo' (1995)

Excerpt from Azeb Amha's 'Case in Basketo' (1995)

This seems plausible to me, as I have also heard this pronunciation from non-Baskeet traders in the area. But let me verify this when I pass through Gofa during my upcoming fieldtrip to Baskeet.

Variant 11: Misketto

When I had fiiiinally covered all the variants, I stumbled across Misketto in a historical-linguistic publication. I won’t give you the source, because I am hopeful that it will be deleted before it enters any “alternative names list”.

After variant 11 I’d really like to close the discussion about the terms used to refer to the Baskeet language – please don’t invent any more terms and please take care of what you are copying and pasting. You can probably guess that I’d be really happy if the native term Baskeet were accepted as the name of reference for the language of the Baskeet people. Spread the word!

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2 Responses to Names and Naming: Mesketo (and other variants)

  1. Pingback: Baskeet Language References II: Unpublished Works | Basket to Ethiopia

  2. Pingback: Baskeet language found on YouTube | Basket to Ethiopia

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