The Academy of Ethiopian Languages and Cultures
Established in 1950, Addis Ababa University is the oldest institution of higher education in Ethiopia. It is one of the oldest in Black Africa, excluding South Africa. Today, it is the largest university in Ethiopia, admitting over forty thousand students and giving degrees up to the doctoral level in practically all fields of study. It is Ethiopia’s premier institution of advanced research in the humanities, in cultural studies and in the hard, as well as in the social, sciences. Among its many faculties and institutes, it houses the Academy of Ethiopian Languages and Cultures.
The Academy of Ethiopian Languages and Cultures (AELC) is established to inspire, support and recognize excellence in the scholarly study of all aspects of Ethiopian languages and cultures. It is a learned society. Its highest decision making body is composed of the Council of Scholars and an Executive Committee of fifteen members. The Academy thus aims at providing a national forum for cultural and linguistic studies. It will further create opportunities for the publication of research reports in books and articles. It is hoped that these publications will advance knowledge, and develop and elaborate the languages and cultures of the Ethiopian peoples. The Academy will also organize conferences at which the latest research findings will be shared and disseminated. It will further strive to bring about the standardization of the many languages of the country that are recently alphabetized and are vigorously being developed into written languages.
Located on the main campus of AAU, AELC was first established in 1968 under the name the Academy of Ethiopian Languages, and under the auspices of the then Ministry of Education and Arts. However, in 1972, the name was changed into the Academy of the Amharic Language. It was again renamed the Academy of Ethiopian Languages in 1975, and was transferred to the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Again, it was decided to move it to Addis Ababa University in the middle of 1997 where it eventually assumed the name, Ethiopian Languages Research Centre. In consultation with the Ministry of Culture and other concerned governmental and non-governmental organizations, the University decided to upgrade it to an Academy and renamed it the Academy of Ethiopian Languages and Cultures (AELC) on April 30, 2010. The University agreed to give it considerable autonomy to enable it to carry out successfully its national mandates.
AELC is mandated to undertake research on the languages and cultures of the linguistically and culturally diversified Ethiopia. Its major responsibilities are studying, documenting, preserving and promoting Ethiopian languages and cultures, and disseminating research outputs. In spite of frequent change of names, for the last 42 years, this research organization has gone through the process of promoting the various languages and cultures of the country in as many spheres of use as possible. It has, among other things, designed (and continues to design) orthographies and done grammatical descriptions. It was further engaged in collecting and, documenting oral literature, indigenous knowledge, and wisdom. It has compiled and published dictionaries and textbooks in different languages such as Amharic, Afan-Oromo, Tigrigna, Wolaitgna and Sidamigna. As Ge’ez is a store house of classical literary works of ancient and medieval Ethiopia, the Academy has taken up the task of translating and publishing time honoured works into Amharic. It has also accomplished cross-disciplinary projects on terminologies and translations of scientific and technological terms in 13 interdisciplinary fields of study in the natural sciences funded by UNESCO.