How to pronounce words in Yorùbá

How to pronounce words in Yorùbá

Welcome! Welcome! Today we will be diving into how to pronounce words in Yoruba.

Yoruba is a tonal language, like many of the languages in Africa. This just means that some syllables (parts of words) are pronounced in a high pitch and others in a low pitch.

Don’t worry though, Yoruba isn’t that complicated, it only has three tones which are called Dò, Re and Mí.

is the lowest tone, which is displayed by a downwards-facing accent, it shows that a syllable is pronounced in a low tone.

Re is a neutral tone, that just means your normal speaking voice. You can tell that you pronounce a syllable with your normal speaking voice when there’s no accent on it.

is the highest tone, which is displayed by an upwards-facing accent, it shows that a syllable is pronounced in a high tone.

One way of memorising the 3 tones of Yoruba is through the Do Re Mi song from the sound of music.

How to pronounce words

I’ve created a simple three step method for beginners to pronounce words in Yoruba:

  1. Split the word up into its syllables
  2. Find out which pitch the syllables are in
  3. Say the word

Example 1

How to pronounce the word Yorùbá

  1. Split the word Yorùbá into its syllables

Yo | rù | bá

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

Re | Dò | Mí

  1. Say the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Tone changes meaning

Lastly, as with many tonal languages the way that you pronounce a word affects its meaning, for example the word ‘bata’ could mean shoes or a type of drum depending on the accents on it.

Example 2

How to pronounce the word bàtà (shoes)

  1. Split the word bàtà into its syllables

bà | tà

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

Dò |

  1. Say the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 3

How to pronounce the word bàtá (a type of drum)

  1. Split the word bàtá into its syllables

bà | tá

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

Dò | Mí

  1. Say the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Another word that has several meanings depending on the pronunciation, is the word ‘Ogun’, two of the meanings of the word ogun are medicine and war.

Example 4

How to pronounce the word ogùn (medicine)

  1. Split the word ogùn into its syllables

o | gùn

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

Re | Dò

  1. Say the word!

Check your pronunciation:

Example 5

How to pronounce the word ogun (war)

  1. Split the word ogun into its syllables

o | gun

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

Re | Re

  1. Say the word!

Check your pronunciation :

We went through quite a bit today and you’ve learnt quite a lot. If you would like to practice your Yoruba pronunciation with a lot more examples check out Sọ̀ Yoruba’s video.

Great effort! You’ve now completed today’s lesson, the next Yoruba lesson is on Yoruba pronouns…

To speed up your Yoruba learning check out our Yoruba games!