My major research paper (MRP) is grounded in the history of Somalia’s first orthography implemented in 1972 by President Mohamed Siad Barre. This meant that for the first time Somali history, there would be a written
language that mirrored the Somali oral tradition in all its complexity. The nation’s longstanding cultural tradition of oral poetry has both impacted, and been impacted by the implementation of the orthography. Through the use of semi-structured interviews and grounded theory as my method of analysis, the purpose of this MRP is to explore this reciprocal impact between Somalia’s oral tradition and the implementation of the orthography, and also to explore how Somali poetry provides a unique lens into this reciprocal impact. After stating the data, I present the findings in two stages: (a) in the form of short stories that provide insight into the topic from the perceptions and perspectives of each interviewee, and (b) as overarching themes that have emerged from the interviewees collectively. The findings reveal that the colonial period in Somalia gave rise to the necessity of an orthography for the oral Somali language which then introduced a level of cultural anxiety as the oral tradition of knowledge preservation eventually weakened. Nonetheless, although the Somali orthography is now seen first and foremost as a means of knowledge preservation, the Somali culture still demonstrates a deep connection to their oral heritage.