ATrA 9. Housing and dwelling among the Saho-speaking communities of Eritrea and Ethiopia. History, anthropology and lexicography


This book is the results of field research among the Saho-speaking communities of Eritrea and Ethiopia by a linguists and anthropologists from the non-profit association “Ethnorêma”, the University of Naples L’Orientale, the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and local institutions. It is a product of the “Atlas of the Traditional Material Culture of the Saho” project, which aims at documenting the traditional material culture of the Saho, its variation and terminology across the different Saho-speaking communities of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, and the more general dialect variation in phonology, grammar and the lexicon. In particular, this volume describes the Saho speakers’ knowledge of construction techniques and its lexicon, sociofamilial aspects related to dwelling and the daily activities associated in types of residences and their outbuildings. Comparison with research from the early 20th century provides a diachronic dimension, while the data elicited in some 20 different localities ensure synchronic depth, with a focus on dialectal variation. After a general introduction, Gianni Dore’s contribution is an extensive historical-anthropological description of these issues. Moreno and Roberta Vergari, and Ahmedsaad Mohammed Omer’s one is a rich encyclopedic lexicon of the terms related to dwelling and household activities.

Moreno Vergari is a linguist, director of the journal Ethnorêma. Coordinator of a development cooperation project for the Ogiek (Kenya) and co-organizer of a series of workshops on Language Documentation, he is particularly interested in the language documentation and description of the Saho language of Eritrea and Ethiopia, and responsible for the project Atlas of the Traditional Material Culture of the Saho. He has published two books and several articles on Saho.

Ahmedsaad Mohammed Omer is a Saho-speaking Eritrean scholar with an MA in fieldwork linguistics. He has more than 20 years of research experience on Saho language and culture. Co-founder of the Saahot Makaado, he is volunteering as a journalist for the same cultural organization and is an active collaborator of the Ethnorêma Association.

Giorgio Banti has taught General and Historical Linguistics in Rome, Potenza and Naples. He is now professor emeritus of L’Orientale, and a member of the Board of Directors of the ISMEO. In former Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Northern Sudan he has done fieldwork in linguistics, oral and written local literatures, and Ajami manuscripts and printed writings since 1979. He has published scientific contributions on Somali, Oromo, Saho, Nara, Old Harari, Arabic, Sanskrit, Ancient Greek and other languages.

Giovanni (Gianni) Dore, anthropologist, is affiliated for the scientific research to the Department of Asian and Northern Africa Studies, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice. Latest books: Capi locali e colonialismo in Eritrea. Biografie di un potere subordinato (1937-1941), s. Ex Africa, Viella, Roma 2021; Amministrare l’esotico. L’etnografia pratica dei funzionari e dei missionari nell’Eritrea coloniale, CLEUP, Padova 2017.

Roberta Vergari member and co-founder of the Ethnorêma Association, has a long fieldwork experience both in Eritrea and Ethiopia. She co-authored with her husband Moreno Vergari the lexicographic work on the Saho language.