African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 170

Book Review

Ayele Bekerie. Ethiopic: An African Writing System--Its history and principles. Lawrenceville, N.J., and Asmara, Eritrea: Red Sea Press, 1997. xiv + 176 pp. $18.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-56902-021-0; $59.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-56902-020-3.

Dereje Tadesse Birbirso
Assistant Professor, College of Social Science and Humanities, Haramaya University, P.O.BOX 138, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 19 February 2013
  •  Published: 30 April 2013



Ethiopian history is notoriously a history abounded in mystifications, phantasms and de-Africanizations.  A key aspect of these mystifying narratives is about the social origin of the so-called Ethiopic writing system. However, Ayele Bekerie’s Ethiopic is the first break with reproduction of flaw. In his book about the history and principles of Ethiopic system, Bekerie exploits his ideographical, syllographical, astronomical, grammatological and theological knowledge and argues that Ethiopic is part of the Ancient African societies’ philosophy. For the conservative Abyssinianists, Bekerie’s work is disconcerting, while for the few relatively liberal Ethiopianists it is disillusioning. Yet, for a critical Africologist, it is a step in the right direction. Yet, for non-Semitic scholars and peoples in the Horn of Africa it is a swerve between the former two, Abyssinianism and Ethiopianism. In other words, it is reification—a history book without human agents. Using theories in historical linguistics, discourse analysis, social semiosis and history of philosophy, this paper attempts to unveil these anomalies in Bekerie’s Ethiopic. Directions for future research are also pointed out.


Key words: Ayele, Bekerie, Ethiopic, Ge’ez, Oromo, Cush, writing, system.

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