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The history of Yoruba
Names and writing system
More about Yoruba
The writing system
Since the early nineteenth century, Yoruba has been written using a modified Roman alphabet consisting of 25 letters. Sounds peculiar to Yoruba are represented with dots beneath the letters, and two letter combinations (e.g. gb).
Acute and grave accents on vowels indicate tone. The language name, for instance, is written Yorùbá. Here the first syllable is spoken with a mid tone, the second is low and the third is high.
Personal names come first and are chosen to reflect the circumstances around a child's birth, e.g.Taiwo (first born twin), Kehinde (second born twin); Aina (girl born with the cord round the neck); Tokunbo (born overseas); Iyabo (baby girl born after the death of a mother or grandmother) and so on. Muslims take Arabic names, e.g. Abdul Karim.
Family names indicate traditional trades (e.g. Oniko - rafia maker) or ancestral religion (e.g. Ogunbanjo - followers of Ogun).
The father's family name is taken by children; women usually take their husband's family name on marriage.
Children are not given a name on birth. The father's parents choose a name and whisper it into the baby's ear before making the public announcement at a special ceremony on the eighth day.