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Home An Introduction to aspects of Yorb Grammar 

Kíni Àk<yc
(What is ÀK>YC?)

Zrz Nípa Yorùbá
(About Yorùbá)

Ìxcnupe Ède Yorùbá
(Yorùbá pronunciation)

Gírámà Ède Yorùbá
(Yorùbá grammar)

Àwvn Òxìxc Àk<yc
(ÀK>YC Team)


As noted in the description of the Yoruba sound system, the syllable in Yoruba is the smallest tone bearing unit. The three basic syllable types in Yoruba are Vowel (V) only, Consonant and a Vowel (CV) and a Syllabic Nasal (N). All multi-syllabic words in the language are combinations of these three syllable types:

V: o you (2nd/sing/subj) She/He/It (3rd/sing/subj)

a we (3rd/plural/subj)             v you (2nd/sing/obj)

CV: j󠠠 to dance wᠠ to come/to search for

  gn  to pound jc to eat

N: A n j we are dancing n w v He is looking for you

Yoruba Nouns have two or more syllables and can occur independently or with qualifiers. They can serve as the subjects and objects of a sentence (as do pronouns and pronominals). In Yoruba, nouns are not marked for gender or number. A noun phrase in Yoruba consists of the noun and if any, one or more qualifiers. The language is head-initial and as such qualifiers occur after the noun, which is the main element of the clause. There are very limited exceptions to this head-initial configuration of the clause in the language:

1a. Nouns: ow󠠠 money il頠 house Garawapail

Ad crown Bt shoe ferese window

b. Noun + qualifier(s): il pupa red house bt yn your shoes

Yoruba Verbs can be divided into two groups based on form. There are the simple (monosyllabic) verbs, of the CV form, and the complex verbs with more than one syllable (polysyllabic). A verb phrase in Yoruba consists of a verb or a combination of verbs and their one or more objects. Yoruba verbs can be divided into three types in terms of their positioning within the verb phrase. These are preverbs, main verbs and post verbs. A main (sometimes referred as free) verb can occur by itself in the phrase but a preverb must be followed by a main verb while post verbs occur only after main verbs. Examples of preverbs in Yoruba include gbodo must, koko first, ma will, l can, sese (recently), jumo and k a negator. There are five post verbs in the language. These are s into, l on, d for ones arrival, and n in. Yoruba verbs are not conjugated and tenses are marked with overt tense markers such as n (progressive); ma (future), k n (future-negative) and ma n (habitual).

2a. Simple Verbs: sn to sleep j to wake up rn to walk

Complex Verbs: feran to like gbgb to forget rnt to remember

The word order for a simple sentence in Yoruba is the Subject Verb Object (SVO). Both the S and O position are dominated by the noun phrase but the O is dependent on whether the V has an object or not. Transitive verbs in Yoruba require an object while intransitive verbs do not. There are also neutral verbs that may or may not require an object.

3. Simple sentences:

a. Mo r Ad I saw the crown

I see crown

b. Mma Wl n jc onjc Yorb Mama Wale is eating Yoruba foods

Mother Wale is eating Yoruba food

c. Wvn j akk They are students

they is student

4. Olk< mz w dradra The teacher knows us well

Teacher to know us good

5. ra bt He bought shoes

He buy shoes

For more information on the grammar of the language, please refer to the grammar notes in the different units as well as any of these references:

1. Delano, I.O. 1965. A Modern Yoruba Grammar. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons
2. Bamgbose, Ayo. 1966. A Grammar of Yoruba. London: Cambridge University Press.
3. Bamgbose, Ayo. 1967. A Short Yoruba Grammar. Ibadan: Heinemann Educ. books
4. Bamgbose, Ayo. 1990. Fonoloji ati Girama Yoruba. Ibadan: University Press Plc.

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