THE POWER OF THE TEXT:Ge’ez: An Ancient Ethiopic Script in Prince George’s County, Maryland Janet Chernela, Bethany Applebaum, Amy Carattini, Rachel Menyuk, Noelle Haile, and Shoshi Weiss (U Maryland)
Ge’ez: An Ancient Script • Ge’ez (ɡɨʕɨz), also known as Ethiopic, is a Semitic language that developed in the horn of Africa. It was the official language of the Kingdom of Aksum and the Ethiopian imperial court. It was a spoken language until the tenth century. • Versions of Ge’ez formed the languages of present-day Ethiopia: Tigrina in the north and Amharic in the south. • A written form of Ge’ez was preserved specifically for religious purposes.
Ge’ez: A Written, But Not Spoken, Language • Ge’ez is an alphasyllabary script, called an abugida, in which a character represents a consonant and a vowel together. This is different from alphabetic script, where each character denotes one sound -- either a consonant or a vowel. • Ge’ez has 26 main symbols. Some Ge’ez symbols appear to be pictographic, such as the symbol for house, while others are phonetic – indicating sound.
More on Ge’ez • Ge’ez characters also carry numeric values; the numeric system reaches the number 5600. The symbols can also be organized into a calendar of one-half year or one equinox, with months of 30 days each. • Unlike other Semitic scripts that are written right-to-left, Ge’ez is written left-to-right.
Today, Ge’ez is the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This Ethiopian Orthodox Church is in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church This is the entrance to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Temple Hills, Maryland.
African immigrants are among the newest citizens of Maryland. • There are about 400,000 African born residents in the US. • Nearly 70% of Africans living in the US today arrived within the past 25 years. • Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area (including Maryland and Virginia suburbs) is site of the largest concentration of African immigrants in the country. • Ethiopian immigrants constitute largest subset, 18,000 people.
Ethiopian Immigrants in Maryland Of the 18,000 Ethiopian immigrants in the Washington, D.C. Area, over half (10,712) reside in Maryland.
Ethiopian Community and Church Location Church Location
Ethiopian scriptures are written in Ge’ez. They combine New and Old Testament texts.
The Ethiopian Holy Scriptures in Processions Ethiopia Maryland
Another Sacred Ethiopian Text: The Kebra Nagast • The Kebra Nagast (also Kebra Negast) is a sacred book of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. In English it is called The Book of the Glory of Kings. • The Kebra Nagast was first written in Coptic. It was later copied by hand into Arabic, and finally, into Ge’ez. • In its present form, the Kebra Nagast is at least 700 years old.
The Kebra Nagast Text and the Arc of the Covenant • According to the Kebra Nagast, the Arc of the Covenant with the tablets received by Moses on Mt. Sinai, was taken from Jerusalem to Ethiopia by Menelik I. • This is an important foundational text for Ethiopians.
The Covenant: A Sacred Text Replicas of the powerful text are carried throughout Ethiopia in processions of the important Tabot ceremony.
The Covenant: A Sacred Text A replica is also carried in the Tabot ceremony in Maryland. Tabot procession, EthiopiaTabot Procession, Maryland
Musical Texts Liturgical music written in Ge’ez, requiring lessons and memorization, is part of the religious service.
A screen projects song texts in three languages: Ge’ez, Amharic, and English
The Power of Writing: Similarities and Differences • The way Ge’ez is preserved for religious texts is similar to the way Hebrew was kept as a written language when it was not spoken. Hebrew was revived as a spoken language after 1600 years. • Latin, another language that is written but not spoken, has a special role in religious and legal matters. • Ge’ez is kept alive by a specialized priesthood that is able to read it and to write it.
Who We Are Noelle Haile, Amy Carattini, Bethany Applebaum, Shoshi Weiss
We Thank Reverend Zebene Lemma Rachel Menyuk and Reverend Zebene Lemma
Bibliography Adugna, Gebeyehu 1998. African Immigration in the Modern Era. College Park: Center for Information Policy, University of Maryland. Arthur, John. 2000. Invisible Sojourners: African Immigrant Diaspora in the United States. Westport: Praeger. Bakhtin, Mikhail Brandon, George. 1997. Yoruba. In American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation. David Levinson and Melvin Ember, eds. New York: MacMillan Bucholtz, Mary 1996 Cultural Performances: Proceedings of the Third Berkley Women and Language Conference April 1994. Berkley: Berkley Women and Language Group, University ofCalifornia. Chacko, Elizabeth 2003. Ethiopian Ethos and the Creation of Ethnic Places in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Journal of Cultural Geography. 20 (2): 21-42. Chambers, Erve. 2006. Heritage Matters: Heritage, Culture, History, and the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland: Sea Grant Publication. Eckert, Penelope 2000 Linguistic Variation as Social Practice: The Linguistic Construction of Identity in Beltin High. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Holmes, Janet & Miriam Meyerhoff 1999 The Community of Practice: Theories and Methodologies in Language and Gender Research. Language in Society 28(2): 173-183.
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Photo Images and Acknowledgments All photographs in Maryland were taken by our research team. Ethiopia photo images from www.brigish.com/wazee/ethiopia/legend.htm www.selamta.net/Ark%2520of%2520the%2520Covenant We wish to thank the Center for Heritage Resource Studies and the Department of Anthropology of the University of Maryland. We can be reached email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org