Language Use on the Internet in Ethiopia

Guest lecture by Dr Binyam Sisay Mendisu from the Dept. of Linguistics, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Open lecture.

Dr Binyam Sisay Mendisu

Dr Binyam Sisay Mendisu

Language Use on the Internet in Ethiopia: Evidence from TemariNet and Facebook 

In recent years, Internet is increasingly adopted among the urban youth in Ethiopia as an alternative and favored means of communication. Hence, this paper explores language use patterns and discourse among young Ethiopians on computer-mediated communication (hereafter CMC). CMC is a type of human-to-human text-based interaction done via the Internet.

The focus of the study is discourse and language use in asynchronous comments and posts made on two social network sites that are frequented by young Ethiopians, i.e. TemariNet and Facebook. Sample language use of members of the online social groups over a period of one month is collected and systematically analyzed with a view to find out language preference, orthography choice, nature and structure of written language and their social as well as cultural implications. 

In order to examine the online communication, Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis (hereafter CMDA) as described and presented by Herring (2004) is adopted. CMDA is an approach that “views online behavior through the lens of language” by means of “the analysis of logs of verbal interactions (characters, words, utterances, messages, exchanges, threads, archives, etc.)” (Herring 2004, 2).

Tentative findings of the study reveal that:

(i) English is the most preferred language of online communication

(ii) the use of Amharic is commonly noted. Yet, more often than not, transliteration in stead of the Ethiopic script is employed

(iii) the style of written communication is informal and it exhibits a lot of code-mixing (English/Amharic), grammatical and typographic errors, the prevalence of structural reduction (including abbreviated words and omissions), the repetition of letters, punctuation and capitalization for emphasis etc

(iv) the online language use behavior has social and cultural implications and in the long term it might instigate language change.


Gao, Liwei (2008). Language Change in Progress: Evidence from Computer-Mediated Communication. In: Marjorie K.M. Chan and Hana Kang (eds), Proceedings of the 20th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-20), Vol 1, Ohio State University, 366-377.

Herring, S.C. (2004). Computer-mediated discourse analysis: An approach to researching online behavior. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. H. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 338-376). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Internet World Stats (2012). Retrieved from:

Published Sep. 10, 2014 10:25 AM - Last modified Sep. 10, 2014 10:28 AM