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Kni k<yc
(What is K>YC?)

Zrz Npa Yorb
(About Yorb)

xcnupe de Yorb
(Yorb Pronunciation)

Grm de Yorb
(Yorb Grammar)

wvn xxc k<yc
(K>YC Team)




Yoruba is a tonal language and so it is important to acquire the tones in the language. Tones occur on the syllable in Yoruba but in the orthography, tones are marked on vowels and syllabic nasals. There are three basic tones of different pitch levels in Yoruba: High, Mid and Low. In the writing system, the High and Low are marked with () and (`) respectively, over the vowel. The mid tone is generally unmarked except where there might be ambiguity or confusion. In this case, it is marked with an over-bar.


The High tone (H)                    as in         w     ;    r     ;   d            wrd

The Mid tone (M)   unmarked    as in        wa   ;   ri    ;    de            waride

The Low tone (L)    `                 as in         w     ;  r     ;    d            wrd

A way to consider the three level Yoruba tones is to think of the music note to which they correlate:

Tone    Musical note correlation                                 

  H                  mi         as in           r         tie around (waist)       b   to meet up   

   M                 re         as in            ro         to hoe/farm                ba        to hide

`  L                  do         as in           r         to think (about)           b        to strike/hit


Other examples (listen to the sequences):                             Musical note correlation

H:         wl                 kr                dr                 k<k<         mimi                     
            lgbj             k<k<r<            swl            b<lj    mimimi

M:        ore                   ogun               epo                  rcja          rere                        ariwo               aago               pclcbc             agolo       rerere

L:         xk                 kt                bb                rn            dodo             tm|d            xkt            jj                 gxz        dododo   


A consequence of the three basic tones in Yoruba is that in bi-syllabic words (words with two vowels) there are nine possible combinations of tones:  <Listen to the sequences> 


            L         H         as in                gb              n         |gb<n

            L         M        as in                gba               na         zgv

            L          L        as in                gb               n         dd


            M         H         as in              ogn               ir           ad

            M         M        as in              ogun               iru           rere

            M         L         as in              ogn               ir           pad


            H       H        as in                 kk              mm       mm                           

            H       M       as in                 kko              mmu       dkun

            H       L       as in                 kk              mm       r<b


More examples (listen to the sequences):          TONES

A.              k<       kv       kz                      H      M     L
gb     gb     gba                     L       H     M
              ro       r       r                        M      L     H
E.              x}       xe       x|                    H      M      L  

C            ajz       sieve                         igb    climbing rope      :ML                
                 ik       hunchback                 igb    calabash             :MH              
ike       plastic                      igba    200                  :MM


F.             pzn     type of soup               gb    period                :LL    
                 p<n   bachelor                     gb    garden egg         :LH
                 gbvn coconut                      |gbc   nonsense            :LM


G.   kk    wateryam                   mj     two                    :HL    
grass                           m}ta   three                  :HM               
knot                            papa   field                    :HH


GB.            MH               vs.      LH
or        head          r        balm 
ix}       work         x}       poverty     

                  cgb}   group         |gb}   side 


H.                MH              vs.          LL           ow     money       w     trade                         
                    ap     sheath        p bag                                              


I.                MH   vs.                 LM
vl       wealth               zla       tomorrow

                     vp}     thanks/gratitude zpc     palm tree   


J.                  MH   vs. ML                                                                         

                     vgb<n   wisdom       vgbzn     thirty    

                     agb<n   wasp           agbzn      basket


K.        LL     vs.       LM      vs.        MM             zt    Nigerian town   zt  enemy    vta       bullet                         
zr|    Nigerian town   zr}  friend     vrc      gift

L.        LLL:         xkt   pants/trousers       kkr   insect
          HHH:    xkt  Nigerian City           b<lj     female name  
          MMM:     garawa  pail/bucket            kokoro   corn snack       


M.          LML        lap      pudding     

  LLL         lp    broken/broken and abandoned wall  

  MHH      alp       owner of arm 

African Studies Institute, University of Georgia