Etymological investigation of tones in the Yorùbá personal praise names: ORÍKÌ ÀBÍSỌ

Oluwole Tewogboye Okewande


To the Yorùbá in particular and African in general, a name is not just a means of individual identity, but it has social, psychological and behavioural effects on the life of the bearer. Yorùbá is a tonal language, in other words, the meaning of a name is greatly influenced by the tones on the name. Previous efforts have been made by scholars to classify Yorùbá names into: orúkọ àbísọ (name given on the eighth day), orúkọ ìnagijẹ (nick-name), orúkọ ìdílé (family name), orúkọ ẹ̀sìn (religious name), orúkọ àmútọ̀runwá (name from birth circumstance and signs) among others Adéoyè (1982), Àlàbá (2007) and Oyètádé (1991).This paper focuses on the tones pattern of oríkì àbísọ (praise name given to a child on the eighth day), which is just a category out of the types of oríkì available to the Yorùbá. This is because oríkì can be realised as oríkì orílẹ̀ (lineage praise name), oríkì Bọ̀rọ̀kìnní (praise name for important personalities in the society), oríkì àbísọ (praise name given on the eighth day) and so on. Till now, the root or origin of LLH (low-low-high) tone pattern on oríkì àbísọ shared by the male and female has not been discovered, the challenge that is taken up by this paper. Orúkọ àbísọ of LLH (low-low-high) tone pattern associated with both male and female are collected and analyzed based on the Two Tones Hypothesis (TTH). Large volumes of oríkì àbísọ are collected from Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́, Ọ̀yọ́ and Ìwó metropolis of Ọ̀yọ́ and Ọ̀ṣun States of Nigeria. These States are where the oríkì àbísọ is most realised among the Yorùbá. In addition, some data relating to oríkì àbísọ are sourced from Adéoyè (1982) and Oyètádé (1991). The paper concludes that, tones of oríkì àbísọ evolve from a category of orúkọ àmútọ̀runwá associated with three children after Ìbejì (twins). These names are ÌDÒWÚ, ÌDÒGBÉ and ÀLÀBÁ. These names have no gender affiliation. Male or female child (exclusively associated with twins) bears any of these names. In other words, the tones on these names are proto-tones to tones on the oríkì àbísọ.


oríkì àbísọ, orúkọ àmútọ̀runwá, low-low-high tone pattern (LLH).

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