CLBA Journal 2000-05
“Yoruba Vocabulary Known As Lukumi in Cuba”
ã Oba Ernesto Pichardo 1998
Yoruba is the mother tongue of millions who live in the Western Region of Nigeria and adjoining areas. Their language was first written by Christian missionaries in the early part of the nineteenth century. Yoruba has certain regional dialects but a generally accepted “Standard Yoruba” is being taught in schools and is found in books. There are two slightly different forms of Standard Yoruba; one that corresponds to the Oyo province and the other is associated with Lagos.
Yoruba is a tone language. It has three tones similar to the Chinese language: high, mid tone, low. There is no grammatical gender in traditional Yoruba (ó=he/she/it). Yoruba language known as Lukumi language in Cuba presents a different challenge.Yoruba slaves in Cuba had no possible access to colonial schools and books from Christian missionaries. The language inherited in Cuba is the traditional oral speech and its regional variables from the homeland.
The documentation of the spoken Yoruba in Cuba reflects the difficult task of writing a vocabulary from oral Yoruba to written Spanish language. The following illustrates how this was accomplished.
The Yoruba alphabet has the letters: a, b, d, e, e, f, g, gb, h, I, j, k, l, m, n, o, o, p, r, s, s, t, u, w, y
Our technology does not allow to place Yoruba language symbols. The following repeated letters carry a period under each:
E = (.) O = (.) S = (.)
Yoruba in comparison to Spanish does not have the letters: c, ch, ll, ñ, q, v, x, z.
Spanish in comparison to Yoruba does not have the letters: e(.), gb, o(.), s(.).
Yoruba alphabet is divided into 7 vowels and 18 consonants. The seven vowels are: A, E, E(.), I, O, O(.), U. In Spanish they are pronounced; A = alabar, E = similar to tenéis, E(.) = similar to remo, I = similar to litro, O = sounds like ou, O(.) = loma, U = similar to luna.
The consonants have the sounds; B (bi) = similar to boca, D (di) = similar to diente, F (fi) = like fuego, G (guí) = similar to garganta, GB (gbíi) = does not exist so the g is low and the b is extended, J (LL) = similar to lluvia, H (ji) = similar to jefe, K (ki) = similar to k, C and q in kilate, casa and querida, L (li) = like luna, M (mi) = like mira, N (ni) = similar to nada, P (pkuí) = similar to kuáa, R (ri) = similar the soft R in artillero, S (si) similar to sabio, S (shi) = similar to the CH in chiva, T (ti) = like tipo, W (ui) = similar to guira, Y (yi) = similar to yema (iema).
Examples of how the words may found written in Spanish:
Kan = kan, or can
Okan = okan or ocan
Nigbàyi = nibàyi
Ohundie = ojundie, ohundie, oundie
Onje = ounye, onye
S(.) E = che, she
Ijoko = iyoko, iyoco, illoco, illoko
Kigbe = quibe, kibe
Following the above can make it possible to restore the words in Spanish writing back to Standard Yoruba. On the other hand, trying to reconstruct the vocabulary would be a long-term task, especially in sentence composition. Standard Yoruba is also modern and presents new language features compared to the old.
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