The Busta dell’Ascari: War propaganda in Oromo in Latin script from 1940

  • Mauro Tosco University of Turin


This article describes the first (and possibly only) issue of a four-pages newspaper issued by the Italian military command on the eve of the Second World War and designed to spread war propaganda among the Ascari, i.e., the Italian colonial troops. The main point of interest is provided by the use of four languages: Italian, Amharic, Arabic and Oromo, the latter written in Latin script and following the conventions of the Italian orthography. After an historical introduction (section 1.), sections 2. and 3. describe the orthography, language and contents of the Oromo text. Section 4. presents a large portion of the text itself, comparing it with the Italian text (very possibly its source), analyzing it with the help of morphological glosses and attempting a re-transcription in modern Oromo orthography. In the end, section 5. comments on this historical document and the fate of this early attempt at writing down the Oromo language.


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Author Biography

Mauro Tosco, University of Turin

Mauro Tosco is professor of African Linguistics at the University of Turin. His main area of research is the Horn of Africa, where he has been working on the analysis and description of Cushitic languages in an areal and typological perspective. Among his books: A Grammatical Sketch of Dahalo (Hamburg, 1991), Tunni: Grammar, Texts and Vocabulary of a Southern Somali Dialect (Köln, 1997), The Dhaasanac Language (Köln, 2001), while a grammar of Gawwada is in preparation. A native speaker of Piedmontese, he works on the expansion and revitalization of minority languages, language policy and ideology. Pidgins, creoles and language contact (Pidgin and Creole Languages: A Basic Introduction; München, 2001; with Alan S. Kaye) are his third main domain of research.

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