The Bayso (also known as Baiso, Gidicho or Alkali) people live in the villages along the western shores and islands of Lake Abaya in the South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State of Ethiopia.
Although the reports of different writers differ concerning the population size of the Bayso people, it is between 2,000 and 3,500 (Cf. SIL International (2005), Brenzinger (1999) and Siebert & Hoeft (2001)). According to CSA (2007), the total population of the Gidicho community which includes the sum total of the Bayso and the Harro1 peoples is 5483.
The Bayso people live on fishing, cultivating maize, rearing cattle and goats, and weaving. Bayso is the name used by the entire community to refer to themselves and to their language. The language belongs to a Low-Land East Cushitic group, and it is one of the least studied and little-known languages of Ethiopia. Bayso is spoken at the frontier between languages belong to Cushitic and Omotic families. The geographically nearest languages to Bayso are Oromo and Gedeo from Cushitic, and Haro, Gamo and Wolaitta from Omotic. The Bayso living in the villages along the western shore of Lake Abaya have better competence in Gamo and Wolaitta where as those living on Gidicho Island have better competence in Haro and Oromo languages. Due to the interactions of the two people at Malka Market (a market situated in Gedeo land), the Bayso living on Gidicho2 Island also speak Gedeo. However, all Bayso speak their language with no sign of language shift (Brenzinger, 1999).
Brenzinger (in Mous, 2002) reports that Bayso is under gradual shift to the dominant languages namely Wolaitta and Oromo. Moreover, the interactions of the people with different neighboring ethnic groups and the fact that the language is not taught and/or not the medium of instruction at least in elementary schools may put the language in a precarious situation. The majority of the Bayso people speak quite a number of languages including Gamo, Wolaitta, Gats’ame, Oromo, and Amharic besides Bayso and Harro. According to (R. Siebert & L.Hoeft 2001), though all the Bayso children speak their language, they question whether it would make sense to use the language, as the Bayso speakers are few in number. This kind of attitude by the Bayso children towards their language is an indicator of the endangerment situation for the language.