Languages maintain relationships with each other for hundreds of years. Just think of the word “bar”, which comes from English. Today, we use this linguistic loan – that is, a foreign word that is adopted without translating it – quite naturally.
These loans usually originate with immigration, commerce and exchanges, when people face different languages and cultures. In these interactions, the vocabulary adapts according to the situation.
The same goes for Yoruba. This language is spoken by about 40 million people in Nigeria and has been influenced by the English spoken by the British colonists who occupied the country between 1914 and 1960.
More than half of the vocabulary of this language comes from English. For example, the word cup was adapted as kó̩ò̩pù; the word phone, how fóònù; ball It is said that bó̩ò̩lù, Y TV, te̩lifís̩ó̩ò̩nù.
These English loans were expanding Yoruba vocabulary over time. In some cases, the Yoruba also takes words from Hausa, spoken by 44 million people in northern Nigeria. In turn, this language uses many Arabic loans, such as words àlùbáríkà (blessing), àlùbó̩sà (onion) and wàhálà (problem).
The charm of language loans in the case of Yoruba is that speakers use them in their daily conversations as they integrate into the language. It is not uncommon to hear phrases like “Ba ormor Yandn mú bó̩ò̩lu è̩ ”, that is,“ Help the child to catch the ball ”. Although the underlined word (bó̩ò̩lu) is not of Yoruba origin, the speakers end up appropriating it.
One of the challenges of the Yoruba language in relation to language loans is the fact that native speakers love to translate words into English while speaking their own language. The case of the word àkàrà It is very illustrative: many often replace this term with their English translation (bean cake), especially if they talk to foreigners.
The use of words in their original form helps the culture of the language of origin spread through another language. For example, nobody refers to the Japanese specialty of sushi with another name: sushi is sushi.
If the same happens with a good number of Yoruba words, this language and culture could expand beyond Nigeria and the areas where this language is spoken. Take, for example, the term àmàlà. It is a famous Yoruba meal, even for those who live abroad. If Yoruba speakers insist more on its use, this term could easily be incorporated into the lexicon of other languages. The translation yam flour (“Yam flour”) takes away status and deprives it of its “Yorubanity.”
On the contrary, the English word fanimorious, derived from the Yoruba, is gaining popularity and already appears in the Urban Dictionary. It means “attractive” or “beautiful” and comes from the word fanimó̩ra.
This adaptation can be explained from a phonorphological point of view: in Yoruba the words cannot end in consonant nor contain consonant groups. That's why the suffix was added -ious to the root fanimó̩r-. However, the important thing is that this word comes from Yoruba, which can be considered a victory for this language.
Lately, several words of Nigerian origin have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The Yoruba language can only grow with the help of its speakers; Its use in the media is also important, given that today's world is increasingly digitalized. A greater digital presence will favor the development of research on the language of Nigeria and the Congo.