Thursday, September 18, 2014

On ebola, in Yoruba

In a previous post, I included a link to a YouTube video on ebola in the Yoruba language. For reference, other videos on the subject in Yoruba and other Nigerian languages are accessible via @LensOnEbola on Twitter.  In this post, however, I'd like to highlight some information in written Standard Yoruba, since that can be read, revised, remixed, and reused in various ways.

First, a quick intro to written Yoruba. The Latin-based script currently used for Yoruba in Nigeria - most of the Yorubaphone population lives in the southwestern part of that country - was developed beginning in the early 19th century (Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a remarkable figure in Nigerian history, was associated with that process). This orthography normally uses some characters with either small vertical lines or dots under (the latter sometimes referred to in English as "subdots") to represent the "open e" and "open o" vowel sounds and the "sh" sound (ẹ, ọ, ṣ). Since it is a tonal language, tone marks help disambiguate meaning, though are sometimes omitted. The Yoruba alphabet is considered a "complex Latin" script (Vietnamese is also in this category).

Yoruba varieties in Benin are written with characters from the African reference alphabet. (Latin-based orthographies for African languages are generally fixed on the national level, and in many other cases have common characters and rules across borders).

The following is a sampling of information mentioning ebola, in written Yoruba, sourced via quick online searches (NB- I do not speak the language so am trusting that the material so accessed is relevant and appropriate):
This is just a sampling for one specific major language of West Africa. Any more complete and useful list of material on ebola in Yoruba would require a more systematic effort, as well as of course people literate in the language  Such collection of material in languages of the region could be used to develop information banks on ebola (and eventually other health issues) in those languages, which could be tapped for a range of public information, health worker training, and general education uses.

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