SOAS University of London

Africa Section, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Amharic 1 (PG)

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

PLEASE NOTE: This module will be divided into two 15-credit modules next academic year (i.e Language A and Language B). The overall objectives and outcomes for the year will not change. There may be some slight changes to the formal assessment. Students will be required to take a written test in the last week of Term 1 and should therefore not plan to be absent from SOAS at this time.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. knowledge and understanding of basic Amharic grammar
  2. knowledge and understanding of essential Amharic vocabulary
  3. knowledge and understanding of the appropriateness of basic Amharic structures and expressions in a given context
  4. the ability to understand short passages in written Amharic on everyday topics
  5. the ability to produce short passages in written Amharic on everyday topics
  6. the ability to understand spoken Amharic and to engage in short spoken discourse on everyday topics
  7. knowledge and understanding of the role of language in general, and Amharic in particular, in language-based scholarship and research (specific learning outcome for PG students)


A total of 22 weeks teaching with 4 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

This module provides an introduction to Amharic language with emphasis on practical written and spoken Amharic.  It covers phonetics and phonology, verb and noun morphology and basic syntax including the use of the gerundive and relative clauses. Communicative practice is established through learning language around dialogues dealing with a range of everyday situations, including travelling, buying and selling, and urban and rural life.

This module provides students with a basic knowledge of Amharic and practice of using Amharic in a variety of everyday situations. It allows students to interact with Amharic speakers in Amharic and to use original Amharic language sources within the level covered in the module. This provides students with a basis to approach research topics relating to Amharic language and the history, culture and society of Amharic speakers in Ethiopia.

A series of special PG lectures with associated seminars structured around the six themes Structure, Texts, Identity, Society, Translation and Transformation (provided for PG students studying different languages) introduces students to general questions of the role of language in language-based scholarship and research and provides them with the critical and methodological skills to relate their language acquisition to the thematic aspects of the studies.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written paper taken in May/June (50%); portfolio of language homework (30%); one 15 minute oral examination (20%).

Suggested reading

1) The module will be based on
  • Appleyard, D.. 1995. Colloquial Amharic.  London: Routledge.

and additional materials which will be made available throughout the course.

2) Additional Amharic References
Amharic Learning Resources
  • Leslau, W.  1976.  Concise Amharic Dictionary: Amharic-English, English-Amharic.  Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Leslau, W.  1965.  An Amharic Conversation Book.  Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Leslau, W.  1967.  Amharic Textbook.  Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
Linguistic Studies
  • Kane, T.L.  1990.  Amharic-English Dictionary.  Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Richter, R.  1987.  Lehrbuch der Amharischen Sprache.  Leipzig: VEB Verlag Enzyklopädie.
  • Cohen, M.  1936.  Traité de langue amharique (Abyssinie).  Paris: Institut d'Ethnologie.
3) Additional resources relating to language-based scholarship discussed in the PG lectures
  • Austin, Peter, ed., 2008, 1000 Languages: The world-wide history of living and lost tongues, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Baker, Mona, 1992, In Other Words: A coursebook on translation, London: Routledge.
  • Duranti, Alessandro, 1997, Linguistic Anthropology, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Geertz, Clifford, 1973/2000, The Interpretation of Cultures: selected essays, New York: Basic Books.
  • Pinker, Steven, 1994, The Language Instinct: the new science of language and mind, London: Allan Lane.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules