Amharic (Ethiopic) Ethiopian Flag

Table Designator


This is the technical description of a DBT Translation table. If you want more general information about languages and template choices, please see the list of templates.

Initially, the language table for braille translation is determined by the selected template, and may be changed using the Document / Translation Tables menu. Using those menus does not require use of the table designator. However, to switch to a different translation table partway through a file, one must enter a DBT code and the designator for the table to switch to. For switching secondary languages within a base language table, see the [lng~X] command. For switching from one base language to another, see the [lnb~...] command.

Functional Summary

The Amharic (Ethiopic) tables support print-to-braille translation of literary text written in Ethiopic script for Amharic and other Ethiopic languages with similar braille, following the document "Braille" (Ethiopian National Association for the Blind, 1998), and also English literary text according to the codes and customs established by the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom (BAUK), as revised 2004-2005. Several other languages may also be processed as sub-languages, and transcribed in accordance with BAUK practice. Technical codes for math and science (BAUK Math Code) and computer notation (BAUK's Braille Computer Notation [BCN]) are also supported.

Normally, the text is first prepared on Microsoft Word using a Unicode font that supports the Ethiopic script (such as Ethiopic WashRa), and imported to DBT prior to translation.

Braille to Print (Back-translation)

Braille-to-print translation is supported for this language. However, braille-to-print translation may not be perfect, therefore beware that errors can occur. If you find errors or have suggestions, please send both the *.dxb and *.dxp files along with an explanation to: Please be sure to include sample files!

Special Requirements and Limitations

True braille-to-print translation is supported within English text and Computer Braille Code, but not in languages other than English nor in mathematics. This means that any mathematics or non-English portions of a braille file will not translate correctly to print. It also means that the "translated line" will typically contain gibberish when the cursor is in mathematics, Amharic or literary braille in a language other than English. For this reason you may prefer to turn the translated line off when working with Amharic literary braille -- under the View menu, or even under Global/Default if you wish it to be off by default.

Amharic (Ethiopic script) characters may not be shown normally on the "print file" view of DBT. This is the main reason that Microsoft Word should normally be used for entering, editing and viewing the print text and the DBT print view is used only as an intermediary step enroute to the braille.

Secondary Languages Supported

English (contracted or uncontracted) is supported, as noted above. Language switching codes, i.e. [lng~en] to introduce an English passage and [lng] or [lng~am] to revert to Amharic, may be used but are actually not necessary, as the distinction between languages is made on the basis of the script.

Several other languages may be entered and treated as "in English context," using the [lng...] code to switch. For instance, [lng~fr] (or [lng~fra]) would introduce a French passage, which would be terminated, i.e.reverting to English, at [lng] (or [lng~en]or [lng~eng]). The available languages, together with their associated "lng" codes, are:

de (or deu) -- German

en (or eng) -- English

es (or esp) -- Spanish

fr (or fra) -- French

it (or ita) -- Italian

la (or lat) -- Latin

pt -- Portuguese

In German and French secondary language text, contractions as specified by BAUK will normally be used, as long as grade two is in effect. (Those contractions include some but not all of the contractions that would be used in the regular contracted braille for those languages.) The other languages are all transcribed in grade 1 regardless of the grade setting. That is, the [g1] and [g2] codes affect the English text and any German or French text, but not the other languages. Amharic braille is in fact uncontracted, regardless of the grade setting.

Technical Braille Codes Supported

The BAUK math and science code and the BAUK computer notation code, i.e.BCN, are supported.

In addition, it is possible to switch to any of the available translation tables listed in DBT (see the [lnb~...] code below), many of which support various technical codes, such as for mathematics or computer notation, or which support “unified” treatment of technical notation as well as literary text in the base language associated with the table.

Supported DBT Translation Codes

The following DBT translation codes are available when using the Amharic table. Any other translation codes used will be ignored, or indeed may cause unexpected results. If using an alternative translation table, i.e.when switching to another base language table by means of the [lnb~...] code, please refer to the relevant topic and available codes for that table.


[ab] is equivalent to [g2]



[bline]-- ignored.


[bsfe] can be used to end the name of a special math function (see [bsfs] below).

[bsfs] can be used to begin the name of a special math function, in the case of uncommon functions that are not directly recognized (most are recognized). For example, [bsfs]tr[bsfe](x) would cause the "tr" in "tr(x)" to be treated as a function name rather than the product of t and r.

[cap-invert]inverts the normal default case of letters in computer notation (BCN), i.e.changes the default to uppercase since the normal default is lowercase. Note that this is the opposite effect that this control had in the earlier British table, reflecting a change in BCN itself.

[cap-normal] restore the normal default case of letters in computer notation (BCN) to lowercase. (Note that this is the opposite effect that this control had in the earlier British table, reflecting a change in BCN itself.)

[caplv1] starts suppressing the indication of capital letters, except in "technical notation" (mathematics between [ts] and [te] commands) and in computer notation (between [cb...] and [tx...]commands).

[caplv3] restores the indication of capital letters everywhere, including literary text. This is the normal mode for this table.




















[e] -- presently ignored.

[ecane]-- presently ignored.

[ecans]-- presently ignored.














[in] is equivalent to [g1]

[ixrtd0] -- is a special variant form of [ixrtd], to force "simple" treatment of the indexed root delimiter (no brackets).


[ixrte0] -- is a special variant form of [ixrte], to force "simple" treatment of the indexed root end (no brackets).




[lnb~...] (for switching to another base [primary] language table)


[lng~...] (see "Secondary Languages Supported," above)






[sqrte0] is a special variant form of [sqrte], to force "simple" treatment (no brackets) at a square root end.


[sqrts0] is a special variant form of [sqrts], to force "simple" treatment (no brackets) at a square root start.


[tce] -- is allowed but not necessary (ignored).

[tcs] -- is allowed but not necessary (ignored).

[te] cancels the effect of [ts], restoring normal text mode.

[ts] initiates "technical notation," i.e."math mode".






[vrn] cancels the effect of [vrn~s]

[vrn~s]establishes "simplified mode," wherein the characteristic consonant for Amharic syllables U+1230 through U+1237 ("sa" etc.) is transcribed as dots 234 instead of of dots 1456, the same way as U+1220 through U+1227 ("sza" etc.). This assignment is more familiar to some readers. Note that in future versions the definition of this code may in general be changed, e.g. to affect other assignments, or discontinued.


Characters Supported

The table is designed to work with the following groups of characters:

Ethiopic characters used in Amharic (Unicode U+1200 through U+137C, DUSCI pages D+bb..., D+bc..., D+bd..., D+be...)

All ASCII printable characters

Accented characters and punctuation marks typical of French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese

British pound, Japanese yen, and other miscellaneous signs (DUSCI pages D+ec..., D+f5...)

Mathematical signs, shapes, etc. (DUSCI pages D+df..., D+e2..., D+f0..., D+f1...)

The above is a general guide only (see "General Notes" section under the main “Language Translation Tables” topic).

References, History and Credits

These Amharic tables were developed by Duxbury Systems, starting in October 2006 with the then-current English/British tables, working from the document "Braille" provided by Lemma Regassa, Educational Affairs Department Head of the Ethiopian National Association for the Blind. Duxbury Systems is grateful to Tigabu Gebremedhin of Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM), Deputy Regional Chairperson for East Africa in the International Council for Education of the Visually Handicapped (ICEVI), for assistance obtaining the necessary information and for guidance and feedback.

Duxbury Systems also thanks Tamru E. Belay, PhD, of the Adaptive Technology Center for the Blind (ATCB), who has also provided helpful feedback and information, and who adds the following thoughts: "Ethiopic script has been in use since 100 BC. It is the only indigenous African alphabet still in use today. Each character in the Ethiopic alphabet represents a syllable: a combination of consonant plus vowel. There are 33 consonants and seven vowels. Just as we have computerized Braille in Arabic, Hausa, Kiswahili, and Somalia, there was no reason why one cannot develop Ethiopic Braille."

The aspects of these tables related to English literary usage, mathematics and computer notation are all the same as for the English/British tables.

(Documentation reviewed: April 2010.)