The Connection Between Yoruba and Arabic Language via Common Words

Language is the fundamental means of expression and communication in daily life, and speaking, writing, and reading are essential parts of that process. It is also typical for some words in one language to sound and mean similarly in another, either because they share a root term or because they were taken from the vocabulary of another nation. Yoruba and Arabic are wonderful examples of such languages.

There are many languages and many cultures, all different but fundamentally the same, because there is only one human nature, and this human nature has the fundamental characteristic of allowing such diversity in both language and culture. Language, like culture, that other most human attribute, is notable for its unity in diversity.

Researchers in linguistics try to understand what makes language special and universal, how it is learned, and how it evolves over time. They view the phenomenon of language as cultural, social, and psychological. Dan Jurafsky, the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor in Humanities and chair of the Department of Linguistics in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford noted that, “Understanding why and how languages differ tells about the range of what is human.” “Discovering what’s universal about languages can help us understand the core of our humanity,” he added.

It is also typical for some words in one language to sound and mean the same in another, whether they came from the same root term or were taken from the language of another country.

In the Yoruba Language, which is used frequently in this culture, there are numerous terms and phrases that are not wholly from the Yoruba culture.

These terms and expressions are frequently used in both spoken and written language. It is also not unusual to discover words with Yoruba roots in other languages.

One of the most extensively used languages in West Africa, Yoruba is also the second language in Nigeria with the largest speaker population.

With centuries of cultural blending and word borrowing from different languages, the Yorubas have a rich culture. Arabic is one of these languages from which Yoruba has borrowed several words.

The Yoruba Language

The theory of the Arab origin of the Yoruba people is seemingly the oldest amongst other theories of their origins. This is because the original Yoruba oral tradition pertaining to their origin subscribes to the ‘East’ as the location of their origin. The East is believed to be Arabia or Mecca. There are many reasons why scholars from the 19th to the 21st centuries dissociated themselves from the Arab theory of the Yoruba origin, yet some scholars uphold the theory in high esteem. The religions of Christianity and Islam might have influenced the interpretation of the Arab theory of the Yoruba origin.

The notion that Oduduwa, the ancestor of the Yoruba, descended from Heaven to Ile-Ife is unfounded and misguided, according to some historians. According to some historical evidence, the current Yoruba tribes descended from four different ethnic groups: Negroes, Nubians, Berbers, and Arabs. The last three of these groups were thought to have lived in Egypt as previously mentioned, and they brought their languages and cultures with them to Yoruba territory.

In various regions of West Africa, Yoruba people are among the ethnic groupings with the greatest ethnic diversity. As natives, they are reported to live in significant numbers in Nigeria, Togo, and the Benin Republic. More than 40 million people speak Yoruba only in Nigeria. Nigeria is home to many Yoruba people. They are said to be natives of the states of Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, and Oyo in western Nigeria. In the north-central region of Nigeria, they also share the states of Kogi and Kwara. Additionally, the Yorubas’ religion is likely to have had a significant impact on a large number of people in the Caribbean as well as North and South America.

The Arabic Language

Arabic Language has been around for well over 1000 years. It is believed to have originated in the Arabian Peninsula. It was first spoken by nomadic tribes in the northwestern frontier of the Peninsula. Arabic belongs to the Semitic language family, and is hence closely related to Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia) and Hebrew. Even though Arabic is mainly subdivided into three main versions as Qur’anic or Classical Arabic— is based on Qur’anic Arabic, the language used in the Qur’an, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and Colloquial or Daily Arabic. It is understood by most, but not all, speakers of Arabic. Many Muslims around the world try to pray and read the Qur’an in its original language of revelation. It would not be wrong to estimate that over 25 dialects of Arabic are spoken globally.

It not clearly known when Islam found its way into Yorubaland, as it was unplanned and unannounced. The Arabs came to Yorubaland in the 14th and 15th centuries for trade and for Islamic evangelism, but their activities were not officially recorded until the 18th century when the Hausa-Fulani people from northern Nigeria began to preach Islam in Yorubaland. There is little or no record that the Arabs who initiated Islam in Yorubaland were dark-skinned people like the original Yorubas were. The Yorubas followed their traditional religions before the 14th century when Islam allegedly arrived in Yorubaland.

Yoruba-Arabic Language Mix

Arabic words in Yoruba fall into two categories: those that date back to the pre-Islamic Arab and those that were taken from Yorubaland, which was impacted by Islam. However, a lot of writers have confused and misrepresented the subject of Arabic words in Yoruba language. Since the 15th century, the following Arabic words have been incorporated into Yoruba:

  • Sábàbí – Sabab [reason, cause]
  • Kádàrá – qadar [destiny, fate]
  • Àlámòrí – al’amr [affair]
  • Túbá – Taubah [repentance]
  • Àníyàn – Anniyah [intention]
  • Ìbáádà – ibaadah [divine service, act of devotion or worship]
  • Àléébù – al’aib [fault,defect or demerit]
  • Sàdánkátà – sadaqta [bravo, you have spoken the truth]
  • Sèríyà – shari’ah [Islamic law]
  • Rìbá – riba [usury, bribe]
  • Hàrámù – Haram [illegal act,cheating]
  • Màkàrúrù – Makruh [a detested thing, a dishonest act]
  • Àláfíà – Al’afiyah [good health,well-being]
  • Àdúà – Ad-dua [prayer]
  • Kálámù – Qalam [pen]
  • Wòlíì – Waliy [saint,holy man]
  • Àlùbáríkà – Al-barakah [blessing]
  • Àsírí – Assirr [secret]
  • Wákàtí – Waqt [hour]
  • Àlééfà – Khilafah [caliphate]
  • Àlùbósà – Al-basal [onion]
  • Árísìkí – Ar-rizq [good fortune]
  • Fáàrí – Fakhr [pride, bluff]
  • Fìtínà – Fitnah [worry, trouble]
  • Màléékà – Mala’ika [angels]
  • Mùsíbà – Musibah [misfortune]
  • Sáà – Sa’ah [time,term, regime]
  • Súúrà – Surah [picture, form]
  • Súnà – Sunnah [tradition]
  • Sìná – Zina [adultery, fornication]

Around 7,000 languages are spoken by people globally. Despite the fact that languages have many characteristics, each one is distinct in terms of both its grammatical structure and the ways in which it reflects the culture of the speakers. It is crucial to examine various languages and how they change through time since it can aid scholars in understanding the fundamentals of humans’ distinctive means of communication. We can learn more about what it means to be human thanks to all of this study.


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