Publication on the Grammar of Questions in Baskeet

[Back again on wordpress after a long silence:] There are not yet many publications on the Baskeet language (see a list of references here) but recently an article of mine on the grammar of questions (“Interrogativity in Baskeet”) has occurred in the following edited book.

Meyer, Ronny, Yvonne Treis & Azeb Amha 2014. Explorations in Ethiopian Linguistics: Complex Predicates, Finiteness and Interrogativity. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

The book assembles most linguistic papers that were presented at the 18th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES18) in Dire Dawa, 29 October-2 November 2012.

My article (“Interrogativity in Baskeet”) analyzes the grammar of questions in Baskeet. First I give an overview of interrogative marking on verbal and non-verbal predicates. Depending on the type of predicate, direct questions are marked by intonation, by an interrogative morpheme –a, or special interrogative verb forms (from so-called “interrogative paradigms”, an Omotic peculiarity). In the second part I discuss the forms and functions of the six simplex interrogative pronouns, i.e. person (‘who?’), thing (‘what?’), time (‘when?’), quantity (‘how much’), manner (‘how’), place (‘where’), and selection interrogatives (‘which?’), as well as pronouns derived from them, are discussed. Finally, I take a look at the use of question words in non-interrogative contexts, especially as indefinite pronouns (e.g. ‘someone’, ‘whoever’).

Question words in Baskeet

Question words in Baskeet

Most of the language examples quoted in my article are from my corpus of recorded texts, especially from the interviews between my language assistant Ambaye Tsedeke and Baskeet lyre and bamboo trumpet players. Each language example in the article is linked to a sound file. Most of the data for this article has been collected during fieldtrips sponsored by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (IPF-Project: Documentation of Baskeet song, verbal art and ceremonial language).

For those of you who are interested in the Baskeet language but for whom my article is “too linguisticky” I’ll give a summary of its contents in my next post.

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Gamo and Dorze music

Have a look at this fantastic video of the performances of the Tsalke Ha Hu Folk Group from Gamo – filmed by Vincent Moon and Jacob Kirkegaard in Addis Ababa. An interview with the French film-maker can be read here.

The Gamo video includes four performances. The lyre performance (second part) and the fourth song (which is very probably a mourning song) remind me very much of the music I recorded in Baskeet. (Note that some Baskeet clans, among them the Goshina’ and Goryina’, claim to originate from Gamo.) Unfortunately, there is not no background information about the songs recorded. If there is any Gamo-speaking person out there who could comment on the contents and contexts of the songs, please don’t hesitate to do so in the comment section below.

Another filmy by Vincent Moon documents Dorze songs.

The film is taken in the Dorze area and captures the landscape very well. The Dorze live in an altitude up to 3000m above sea-level. The video seems to have been taken on a foggy cold day. Apart from the Dorze songs, the video demonstrates how cotton is spun, how clothes are woven, how enset is harvested and enset bread is baked. If you have read my last post on coffee in Baskeet, then also pay attention to the coffee and the common coffee cups in the middle of the video. Again, I can only guess about the context of the songs (no information is made available by the film-maker): most of them sound like wedding songs or songs for happy occasions to me. The third song (after the coffee), however, sounds like a mourning song which is also common in Baskeet (where it is called Lameyssa). But again, any input by Dorze speakers is very much appreciated.

Other equally fascinating films taken by Vincent Moon in Ethiopia in May and June 2012 can be found here.

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Baskeet Coffee. Part 2: Bean Coffee

The Baskeet people in South Ethiopia produce two different types of coffee: leaf coffee and bean coffee. Leaf coffee has been introduced in my last blogpost, here’s part 2 about bean coffee.

Flowering branch of a coffee tree

Flowering branch of a coffee tree

The Baskeet word aap has several meanings, among them are ‘eye’ and ‘seed/bean’. Therefore, the local name (buni aap) for the drink made from coffee beans can either be translated as ‘eye coffee’ or ‘seed/bean coffee’. The preparation of bean coffee is much less common in Baskeet than the preparation of leaf coffee. Coffee beans are usually sold at the market or to merchants to generate cash; they are less often used for one’s own consumption. The consumption of bean coffee in private households in the town is much higher than in the rural areas. Besides that, about 20 (or more?) little cafés serve bean coffee in Laska (but no café in Baskeet would ever serve leaf coffee).

In Baskeet the preparation of bean coffee follows the same steps as in other areas of Ethiopia. The coffee beans are first roasted on a griddle on the fire, then pounded in a small mortar:

Mortar and pestle for pounding coffee beans

Mortar and pestle for pounding coffee beans

Water is heated in a coffee-pot. When the water is boiling, the coffee powder is added. The water is again made to boil. Finally, the coffee-pot is taken from the fire and made to rest on a support ring so that the powder settles at the bottom of the pot. The coffee is then poured into porcelain cups, which are arranged on a small coffee table (or chest). The most common porcelain cups in rural areas all over Ethiopia are the sturdy cups with the characteristic flower pattern shown on the picture below. In “modern” households in the towns, these (allegedly) “old-fashioned” cups have been replaced by smaller, thin-walled cups with different designs.

Coffee table with cups

Coffee table with cups

The Baskeet name for the bean coffee-pot is zhabana, which is a loan from Amharic (ጀበና). The bean coffee-pot differs not only in name but also in several other respects from the leaf coffee-pot. The picture below shows that their differences in shape: the leaf coffee-pot (on the right) has a perfectly ball-shaped body and a wider neck than the bean coffee-pot. The bean coffee-pot has an open spout through which the coffee is poured out. The spout of the leaf coffee-pot has only a decorative function; the leaf coffee is poured out at the top end. Apart from differences in shape, there is a difference in use. The bean coffee-pot is used to boil and to serve coffee, while the leaf coffee-pot is never put on the fire and only used to serve leaf the drink.

Bean coffee pot (left) and leaf coffee pot (right) in Baskeet

Bean coffee-pot (left) and leaf coffee-pot (right) in Baskeet

NB: The pots on the picture above have been painted in gold to use them for decoration. Normally, coffee-pots are not painted this way.

Both types of pots are produced locally in Baskeet by specialised potters of the potter’s clan (mani). At the compound of a potter’s family* in Ganshir, I was able to observe the final steps of the bean coffee-pot production. After the pots have been moulded, they are dried outside:

Clay coffee-pots drying outside

Clay coffee-pots drying outside

Then they are coloured in red with a stone (unfortunately, I am unable to say which stone or soil type is used):

Woman in Ganshir (Baskeet) colouring a coffee-pot before it is burnt

Woman in Ganshir (Baskeet) colouring a coffee-pot before it is burnt

Finally, the coffee-pots are burnt one by one in direct fire. The Baskeet potters do not have kilns. While other clay pots are usually placed on the ground outside and covered with branches and straw, which is then lighted, the coffee-pots are burnt on a wood fire in the house. For reasons unknown to me, the potter has to blow air into the pot while it is being burnt.  All this is done under extremely smoky and hot conditions, which makes the coffee-pot production one of the hardest jobs of a Baskeet potter.

Baskeet potter burning a coffee-pot

Baskeet potter burning a coffee-pot

Every pot (and every calabash) with a curved bottom has to be supported by a ring – otherwise it would fall over. This support ring on which the pot (or calabash) is placed is called wancar in Baskeet. The wancar is often made from enset midribs or enset fibres.

Pot support rings made from enset fibres

Pot support rings made from enset fibres

Since the arrival of bottled drinks, pot support rings can also be made from crown caps which are threaded on a wire. On the picture below you can see Imma working on a support ring.

Girl working on a pot support

Girl working on a pot support

She is punching holes into the caps with a nail and a stone:

Girl punching holes into crown caps

Girl punching holes into crown caps

Then she threads them on a wire. When the wire is filled up with crown caps, the ends are joined and knotted together.

© 2011-3 Baskettoethiopia All Rights Reserved
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Acknowledgments
: Thanks to Fatuma and Kasu Mohammed’s family in Laska for daily invitations to coffee!
*Notes: Unfortunately, I can’t remember their names. I will ask for them when I am back in the field next time and add them to this post later.
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