The YorubaName Project

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The Yoruba Names Project is a documentation project set up to ensure the transfer of language and cultural resources of Yoruba language into a publicly accessible online format. The first effort of the project, an online database of Yoruba names, is located at www.YorubaName.com. It was launched on February 19, 2016.[1]

Origin[edit]

The project was first conceived in 2005 as an undergraduate thesis in the Department of Linguistics and African Language, University of Ibadan, Nigeria by Kola Tubosun then an undergraduate.[2] At the time, the database, called "A Multimedia Dictionary of Yoruba Names" only had about 1000 names curated on a compact disk, with meaning and pronunciation.

In January, 2015, over $5000 was raised via a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign[3] to support a larger effort to document all the names of Yoruba people in Nigeria and all over the world. As at January 2018, there are 6019 names in the dictionary.[4]

Aims and description[edit]

The Yoruba Names Project is set up to help document the Yoruba language first through all the names borne by its people, and later through an online dictionary.

It is part of a larger effort to help document the African cultural experience on the internet by making them easy to write and access via information technology.

The project also aims to bring together a community of interested linguists and other culture enthusiasts to help facilitate the use of the these languages on the internet through the creation of relevant tools and applications.

The first effort at YorubaName.com is a crowdsourced database for Yoruba names everywhere (in Nigeria and elsewhere on the globe) where individuals and users are able to submit their name on the website or use the current database to search for meanings of other specific names.

Project advancement[edit]

Launch[edit]

The project was first publicly presented at Goethe Institut, Lagos, on February 24, 2015 during the Social Media Week.[5]

The web application was launched online in its beta version on February 19, 2016.[6]

On May 30, 2016, the team made the codebase of the project available online at GitHub as a way to allow other software developers have access to the tools in order to create similar projects for different languages.[7][8]

On June 26, the project was featured on the Chimurenga (magazine) Space Radio at Freedom Park, Lagos.

In July 2016, the project was publicly presented at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, with the support of the Institute of French Research in Africa (IFRA) to students and professors alike. The event "was attended by a motivated and very reactive public of professors and students of all levels. After the presentation, the conveners facilitated an interactive workshop, followed then by the screening of the documentary Family Name (USA, 1998) by Macky Alston, organised by the Thursday Films Series movie club."[9]

Yoruba and Igbo language keyboards[edit]

On August 8, 2015, the YorubaName team released Yorùbá Keyboard layouts for Mac and Windows to allow its users type in Yorùbá in anticipation of the dictionary itself.[10][11]

An update for Igbo language was released in July 2016.[12][13] Of the effort, Laila le Guen, the keyboard project supervisor, said "the keyboard enables users to type English, Yorùbá and Igbo without switching language preference settings. The key combinations to type characters such as ṣ or á are easy to memorise which makes for a fast learning process."[14] The update was also for Mac and Windows.

Lukumi and French Yoruba Inclusion[edit]

On October 15, 2015, the first blog post on Yoruba names from the Republic of Benin was published. It featured names from the Sabe group of Yoruba speakers in the country.[15] The blog post, written by Dr. Moufoutaou Adjeran, a sociolinguistics lecturer at Abomey-Calavi University (Republic of Benin), was the first indication of the presence of Yoruba names from Benin Republic in the Yoruba Name Dictionary project, curated by Laila le Guen.

On August 31, 2016, it was announced that Yoruba names from a Cuban variant of the language called Lucumi (or Lukumi) are being added to the dictionary.[16][17] This is achieved with collaboration with Cuban babalawo and scholar Nathan Lugo who, by his knowledge of Lukumi and Yoruba language phonology and use, is able to provide relevant information about names to users from both sides of the Atlantic.

TTS-Yoruba and Audio Element[edit]

On October 21, 2017, the audio element of the dictionary, created by speech synthesis, was announced in a blog post,[18] and described as being part of a dream to create "interesting speech synthesis applications that can enhance African languages in technology." The work was supported by a crowdfunding effort started on March 13, 2016[19]

In a blog post explaining the motivation, Kola Tubosun explains that the effort is "an attempt to solve an old problem" but also "a push to achieve an important leap towards proper integration of African languages into the information technology age."[20] In an interview with OkayAfrica, he added that the motivation includes the fact that "African languages have been left out, for too long in global conversations in technology... because we don’t care." One of the overarching purposes of the new project is "to show that more can be done for any African language, and more should be done... (since) one of the ways to keep a language from being endangered is not only to speak it to our children, but also to have them capable of adapting to changing times, in this case with technology."[21]

YorubaWord.com[edit]

In April 2018, the project proposed to build the first multimedia Yoruba language dictionary on the internet, using the same open-source model it had used for YorubaName.com in the past. The project will be hosted at YorubaWord.com[22]

Team[edit]

The project is led by writer and linguist Kola Tubosun and supported by a team of volunteer web developers, language scholars, linguists, web designers and other culture enthusiasts.[23][24] Other members of the team include Dadepo Aderemi, Laila Le Guen, Koko Godswill, Esther Olatunde, among many others. The work of the team includes lexicography and management, and support for other projects of this nature in other languages in the country or around the continent.

The project has also got support from Tunde Adegbola of the African Language Technology Initiative, Goethe-Institut, Lagos, the Ooni of Ife Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.

Response[edit]

The Yoruba Name project has received positive response and support during its start-up phase, ranging from interviews in prominent publications[25][26][27] to an endorsement from renowned Nigerian film producer Tunde Kelani. The homepage of the dictionary currently features a quote by the current Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi.

On June 13, 2017, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka endorsed the work, saying "Despite the efforts of a handful of pioneers, Yoruba language is still poorly served... advances in software technology notwithstanding. This new initiative promises a quantum leap in finally leveling up with the intrinsic dynamics of this vehicle for a culture that is increasingly acknowledged as one of the richest in the world."[28]

Collaborations[edit]

The project, in December 2017, released a free multilingual audio course in collaboration with the Orisha Image Blog[29] called Yoruba Melody. The course, which was made available in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, "includes 22 unique lessons, covering everything from greetings, compliments and climate to health, appointments, eating and drinking, time and much, much more."[30] A German version is also being planned.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Launch of Yoruba Names Dictionary: Kola Tubosun Speaks
  2. ^ "NIGERIA – IBADAN : Le premier dictionnaire en ligne des noms Yoruba". Le Fil Rouge (in French). 2017-10-10. Retrieved 2017-10-21. 
  3. ^ Indiegogo Funding Page
  4. ^ Eweniyi, Odunayo (2017-03-27). "Kola Tubosun Wants To Create A Yoruba Version Of Siri". Konbini Nigeria. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  5. ^ "Naming Names with Technology - Social Media Week - Lagos". socialmediaweek.org. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  6. ^ Yorubaname.com goes live, to preserve and document all Yorùbá names
  7. ^ "Yorubaname.com has gone opensource, codebase now on GitHub | TechCabal". Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  8. ^ "Yorubanames Make Their Website Code Public For FREE Download". techphorum.com. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  9. ^ Utilisateur, Super. "IFRA Nigeria - Yoruba Name project". www.ifra-nigeria.org. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  10. ^ Yorùbá Keyboard Layouts for Mac and Windows
  11. ^ "Yoruba keyboard layouts for Windows and Mac". Radar from TechCabal. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  12. ^ "Yorubaname Team Launch Yoruba and Igbo keyboards - Gadget Reviews Nigeria". 2016-07-20. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  13. ^ "Combined Igbo, Yoruba keyboard made available on Yorubaname.com". 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  14. ^ "A Specially Designed Keyboard Allows Yorùbá and Igbo Speakers to Type Their Languages". Rising Voices. 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  15. ^ "Guest post: clan names of the Ṣabẹ́ (Republic of Benin)". Yoruba Name. 2015-10-15. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  16. ^ "On Lukumi Inclusion on YorùbáName.com". Yoruba Name. 2016-08-31. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  17. ^ "http://techloy.com/2016/09/07/yorubaname-com-to-include-cuban-version-of-yoruba-in-its-database/". techloy.com. Retrieved 2017-02-28.  External link in |title= (help)
  18. ^ Tubosun, Kola (October 21, 2017). "YorubaName Now Has Audio". Yoruba Names Blog. 
  19. ^ "Support the YorùbáName $4000 Text to Speech (TTS) Fundraiser". Olisa Blogazine. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  20. ^ "What We're Building Next". Medium. 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  21. ^ "A Yoruba Text-to-Speech App Is Being Brought to Life Through This New Tech Initiative". OkayAfrica. 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  22. ^ "It's Time for an Online Yorùbá Dictionary". Yoruba Name. 2018-04-15. Retrieved 2018-05-03. 
  23. ^ Kola Tubosun, the man behind YorubaName.com shows us the future
  24. ^ YorubaName.com Team Members
  25. ^ Global Press Journal Interview of Yorubaname, GlobalPressJournal
  26. ^ This day culture Export, Thisdaylive
  27. ^ Online Dictionary Helps Nigerians Decode Their Names, Voice of America
  28. ^ "Message from Wọlé Ṣóyínká". mailchi.mp. Retrieved 2017-10-21. 
  29. ^ "Yorùbá Melody Audio Course". Orisha Image. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  30. ^ "This Multilingual Audio Course Is a Free Guide to Yoruba for Olorishas Around the World". OkayAfrica. 2018-01-11. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  31. ^ "Conheça um áudio curso que ensina a língua Yorubá". Las Pretas (in Portuguese). 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2018-02-10.