Akʼmo wandi bisshi

The dialects of the language here classified as ‘Hozo’ ([hoz]) are spoken in the westernmost part of the Oromia Regional State, Western Wollega zone as well as in minor parts of Kelem Wollega zone, by people generically known as ‘Mao’. The term ‘Hozo’ is by the local people usually understood to refer to a specific clan and is not generally accepted as a language designation by all the speakers. Other names for varieties of the same language are clan names such as Maramo. Alternatively, the term Shuluyo is used, which likely is a label given to ‘Hozo’ speakers by speakers of the Mao language ‘Seze’. The Hozo word for ‘Mao’ is Ak’mo and may be a term accepted by all speakers of the language but not used except when speaking in the language. Consequently, the self-designation in the language is Ak’mo Wandi, meaning ‘the mouth of the Mao’. The reason why we here use the term ‘Hozo’ is that this is the most widely used term in academic writing and research .

Another language spoken by the Mao people in the same area is Seze, closely related to Hozo and, like this, belonging to the Omotic language family. Around Begi and across the border in Mao Komo Special District, a considerable number of the speakers of the Gwama language (Koman branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family) also self-identify as ‘Mao’. The number of speakers is estimated to be 6,000 for Hozo and 13,000 for Seze. This may, however, be conservative and outdated estimations and takes no account of the actual language skills of the speakers

Most villages west of the Dabus River equally house both Seze and Hozo speakers; but there is less use of Seze the further east one goes. In all kebele (sub-districts) of the area, Hozo is a minority language with an Oromo speaking majority. Only a few small and very remote settlements without road access may have a Hozo-speaking majority. Neither Hozo nor Seze have an official orthography and none of the Mao languages are officially recognised and formally used in education or religious institutions.

According to The Ethnologue, the Hozo language is classified as 7, ‘shifting’; the same is Seze. Gwama appears as 6b ‘threatened’ with large differences between individual speaker groups and different regions.