Phonology of Yorùbá language

The Yorùbá alphabet consists of 25 letters and uses the familiar Latin characters. Nature

In Yorùbá Alphabet, there are Consonants and Vowels. Consonants are 18 in total while Vowels are 7 in total.


Phonemically, the Yorùbá consonant segments, their orthographic form, and exemplification can be represented as follows:

B  D  F  G  GB  H  J  K  L  M  N   P  R S  Ṣ  T  W  Y

b  d  f  g  gb  h  j  k  l  m  n   p  r s  ṣ  t  w  y

General Rules

  1. 1. Consonant are never marked in Yorùbá language, there is no tone mark on them except those representing vowel namely "n" and "m".
  2. 2. Consonant never end a word in Yorùbá language
  3. 3. Two consonant are never written together in Yorùbá except in 'gb' which represents a letter of the Yorùbá alphabet


a , e ,ẹ ,i ,o ,ọ, u

There are two vowel types in Yorùbá; oral and nasalized. Oral vowels are produced entirely through the mouth and nasalized ones are produced through both the mouth and nose. The representation of the seven Yorùbá oral vowels

  1. 1. Oral vowels are: a , e ,ẹ ,i ,o ,ọ, u
  2. 2. Nasal vowels are: an, ẹn, in, ọn, un
Pronounciation of Yorùbá

The pronunciation of words in Yorùbá language is tonal; where a different pitch conveys a different word meaning or grammatical distinction.

This means that pronouncing words in Yorùbá is based on what is called Àmìn ohùn - Tone Marks.

Yorùbá is a tonal language with three tones: high, mid and low. The high tone is indicated by an acute accent (á, é, ẹ́, í, ó, ọ́, ú). The mid tone is not marked and the low tone is marked with a grave acute (à, è, ẹ̀, ì, ò, ọ̀, ù).

Tone Orthography Musical note
HIGH High with a rising tone, depicted by an acute accent Mi (Mí)
MID Mid with a flat tone, depicted by an absence of any accent Re
LOW Low with a falling tone, depicted by a grave accent Do (Dò)

Here are some paired examples:

  1. 1.   Apá     (Re Mí)     Arm
  2. 2.   Idán     (Re Mí )     Magic
  3. 3.   Orin     (Re Re)     Song
  4. 4.   Owó     (Re Mí )     Money
  5. 5.   Òwú     (Do Mí )     Thread
  6. 6.   Igun     (Re Re)     Edge
  7. 7.   Ewé     (Re Mí)     Leaf
  8. 8.   Ètè     (Do Do)     lips
  9. 9.   Aya     (Re Re)     Wife
  10. 10.   Àyà     (Do Do)     Chest


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