Yoruba - Yorùbá

1.  Classification / Classification

Yoruba belongs to the Yoruba Group of Kwa. (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri. The closely related Ede language cluster has the same classification.

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken in the southwestern part of Nigeria (Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, and parts of Kwara and Kogi states). It is one of the important local languages in Benin, and it is also spoken in enclaves in Togo. (Webbook). The Yourba language and other cultural elements also feature prominently in the Lucumi and Santeria religious practices in Cuba and Brazil.

A map showing areas with Yoruba speakers is available at http://www.molli.org.uk/yoruba/1_about_yoruba/maps.htm

A variant known as Itsekiri is spoken in Warri in the Niger delta of Nigerian and closely related Ede languages (including Nago, Ife) are spoken into Benin and Togo.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • 18,850,000 in Nigeria (1993 Johnstone)
  • 465,000 in Benin (1993 Johnstone)
  • Population total all countries: 19,327,000
  • 2 million second language speakers

Some estimates of speakers range much higher.

Speakers of the Ede languages total several hundred thousand.

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Herault (1981) states there are 17 dialects of Yoruba. Various respondents consider Oyo-Ibadan Yoruba to be the literary standard. (Webbook)

According to Ethnologue:

  • Oyo
  • Ijesha
  • Ila
  • Ijebu
  • Ondo
  • Wo
  • Owe
  • Jumu
  • Iworro
  • Igbonna
  • Yagba
  • Gbedde
  • Egba (spoken also in Benin)
  • Akono
  • Aworo
  • Bunu (Bini)
  • Ekiti
  • Ilaje
  • Ikale
  • Awori

The Ede language cluster, including Ife/Ana, is closely related.

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Yoruba is one of the major languages of Nigeria, dominant in the southwest, and is a national language.

Taught in primary and secondary schools. (Ethnologue)

Literacy rate (according to Ethnologue, accessed 2007):

  • L1: ?
  • L2: 35%

There is an association of authors writing in Yoruba called Egbe Onkowe Yoruba (Yoruba Writers Association)

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Oyo-Ibadan Yoruba is generally taken to be the literary standard, thus representing a standardized orthography. (Webbook)

The orthography, established in the mid-19th century, is Latin-based, with three additional characters with diacritics underneath (either a dot or a small vertical line), and accents for tone marks above vowels (indications of tone are especially important in this language).

There is also an orthography in the Arabic script, "anjemi" (Ajami), primarily used by Muslim Yorubaphones (Ogunbiyi).

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

According to several sources, the alphabet (including one digraph) is:
a b d e ẹ f g gb h i j k l m n o ọ p r ṣ t u w y

Tones are marked as follows:

  • High tone with acute accent: á é ẹ ́ í ó ọ ́ ú
  • Mid tone with no marking: a e ẹ i o ọ u
  • Low tone with grave accent: à è ẹ ̀ ì ò ọ ̀ ù

Hartell's (1993) data on Yoruba is available as:

See also:

A sample text is shown on the "Language Museum" site: http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/yor.htm (NB- the diacritic used under certain characters is not a standard form)

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Unicode fonts. Most Unicode fonts will have the necessary dot-under characters (which are in the "Latin Extended Additional?" range) and combining diacritics. A good list of Unicode fonts is available at http://www.alanwood.net/unicode/fonts.html :

"8-bit" fonts. Several different ones with non-intercompatible encodings (not recommended for web content or document sharing) including:

7.2  Keyboards / Claviers

a) Keyboard Layouts / Dispositions de clavier

b) Production Keyboards / Claviers de production

Lancor's "KỌNYIN" keyboard for Windows includes all needed characters and tonal marks for Yoruba - http://www.konyin.com/

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Universal Declaraton of Human Rights in Yoruba: http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/yor.htm (NB- the diacritic used under certain characters is not a standard form)

Wikipedia in Yoruba at https://yo.wikipedia.org/ (over 30k articles as of 11-2015)

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program in Nigeria will include some Yoruba content: Kọ̀ǹpútà Alágbèéká fún Ọmọ Kọ̀ọ̀kan - http://laptop.org/index.yo.html

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

There are some software like Paradigm Lingua Software - a wordprocessor / translator for Yoruba and several African languages. http://www.paradigmint.net/lingua.htm

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

  • ISO 639-1: yo
  • ISO 639-2: yor
  • ISO 639-3: yor

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

Locale for OpenOffice was written for Yoruba of Nigeria (yo_NG) in early 2006, and submitted also to CLDR.


7.7  Other / Autre

Online dictionaries:

The Motherland Nigeria site has some items on Yoruba: http://www.motherlandnigeria.com/languages.html

Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC) of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, US) is beginning a corpus-building effort for Yoruba.

There is a text-to-speech (TTS) program for Yoruba developed by Odetunji Odejobi (Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

  • Tunde Adegbola, ALT-I
  • Dr. Olaoba F. Arasanyin, Georgia Southern University / Èdèyèdè Yoruba Digital Dictionary Project
  • Dr. Olumuyiwa S. Asaolu, University of Lagos / Paradigm International Limited
  • Dr. Yiwola Awoyale, University of Pennsylvania
  • Andrew Cunningham, Victoria State Library
  • Lawal Olalekan, YorubaWorld
  • S.K. Olamijulo, Hope Africa Publishers
  • A.O. Onayemi, Learn Yoruba Website
  • Adé G. Oyegbọla, LANCOR Technologies
  • Dr. Yetunde Antonia Schleicher, University of Wisconsin-Madison Yoruba Program

8.2  Institutions / Institutions



Government agencies:

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

The "Yoruba language & ICT" board has discussion and information on fonts, keyboards & applications - http://www.quicktopic.com/15/H/KKgbRqJUAR8

"Yoruba Accent Codes" (TLT, Penn State Univ.) http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/international/bylanguage/yoruba.html

Latin & diacritic character picker http://people.w3.org/rishida/scripts/pickers/latin/

9.  Comments / Remarques

Normalization permits composition with precomposed dot-under characters and combining diacritics for tones, or precomposed accented characters with combining diacritic dot-under.

There is significant interest in keyboard layouts for Yoruba and for the ensemble of Nigerian languages. Here too, there would seem to be a need for some standard.

10.  References / Références

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS, http://sumale.vjf.cnrs.fr/phono/

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/hiermenu.html (page on "Yoruba," http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/Yoruba_root.html )

Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993), The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. (The French edition, published the same year, is entitled Alphabets de Langues Africaines).

Ogunbiyi, Isaac Adejoju. "The Search for a Yoruba Orthography Since the 1840s: Obstacles to the Choice of the Arabic Script." http://www.smi.uib.no/sa/14/14Ogunbiyi.pdf

Omniglot, "Yorùbá," http://www.omniglot.com/writing/yoruba.htm

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Edekiri" (Language Family Tree: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri) http://www.ethnologue.com/subgroups/edekiri-0

______, "Yoruba," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/yor

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Èdè Yorùbá," https://yo.wikipedia.org/wiki/Èdè_Yorùbá

______, "Yoruba language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoruba_language

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