Sheko language

Native to Ethiopia
Region Bench Maji Zone, Kafa region
Native speakers
39,000 (2007 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 she
Glottolog shek1245[2]

Sheko is an Omotic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken in the area between Tepi and Mizan Teferi in western Ethiopia, in the Sheko district in the Bench Maji Zone. The 2007 census lists 38,911 speakers; the 1998 census listed 23,785 speakers, with 13,611 identified as monolinguals.[3]

The language is notable for its retroflex consonants (Aklilu Yilma 1988), a striking feature shared with closely related Dizi and nearby (but not closely related) Bench (Breeze 1988). The Ethnologue lists the following linguistic features: "SOV; postpositions; genitives, articles, adjectives, numerals, relatives after noun heads; question word initial; 1 prefix, 5 suffixes; word order distinguishes subjects, objects, indirect objects; affixes indicate case of noun phrases; verb affixes mark person, number, gender of subject; passives, causatives, comparatives; CV, CVC, CVV, CV:C, CVCC; tonal, 3 tones."

Sheko, together with the Dizi and Nayi languages, is part of a cluster of languages variously called "Maji" or "Dizoid".


  1. Ethiopia 2007 Census
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sheko". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Raymond G. Gordon Jr., ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.


  • Breeze, Mary. 1988. "Phonological features of Gimira and Dizi." In Marianne Bechhaus-Gerst and Fritz Serzisko (eds.), Cushitic – Omotic: papers from the International Symposium on Cushitic and Omotic languages, Cologne, January 6–9, 1986, 473–487. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
  • Hellenthal, Anneke Christine. 2009. Handout on Sheko subject clitics. download
  • Hellenthal, Anneke Christine. 2010. A grammar of Sheko. Utrecht: Landelijke Onderzoekschool Taalwetenschap. download
  • Yilma, Aklilu. 1988. The phonology of Sheko. Addis Ababa University MA thesis.
  • Yilma, Aklilu, Ralph Siebert and Kati Siebert. 2002. "Sociolinguistic survey of the Omotic languages Sheko and Yem." SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2002-053.
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