Language death in Mesmes: A sociolinguistic and historical-comparative examination of a disappearing language
Mesmes is a recently extinct language within the Peripheral West Gurage subgroup of the Ethio-Semitic Gurage cluster in southwestern Ethiopia. While Leslau (1979) and Hetzron (1972 and 1977), among many others, have examined the history of this cluster, little is known about the Mesmes language. The Mesmes speakers completed a shift to Hadiyya (a Cushitic language) roughly sixty years ago. This thesis considers the social history of the Mesmes in relation to the shift and death of their language and also examines the comparative evidence linking Mesmes with the Gurage cluster and, more specifically, with the Peripheral West Gurage subgroup. Due to contact with Hadiyya, Mesmes has undergone externally-induced changes evidenced in a wordlist (Bender 1971) and a previously unpublished text. The documentation of the Mesmes-Hadiyya contact situation and its effects aids in understanding and identifying processes affecting language contact, language death and historical-comparative studies in general.