Vol 29 No 3 (2020): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Lexical erosion in Yoruba

Kolawole Adeniyi
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife-Ife, Nigeria
Simeon Olaogun
Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria
Published October 24, 2020
  • Yoruba,
  • lexical erosion,
  • descriptive phrases,
  • loan words,
  • synonyms


This study examines the decline in use of some lexical items in Yoruba. 15 competent Yoruba speakers distributed across six communities were tested; 94 words were presented to five speakers in three rural communities, while 62 of the words were presented to 10 speakers distributed across three urban communities. The results showed that the use of the test words had reduced. The test words constituted only 31.8 % of the entire test; in the remaining 68.2 %, where they were not used, participants used alternatives such as descriptive phrases, synonyms, slang terms and the use of generic terms among others. Also, out of the 94 words used in the test, 21 (22.3 %) were not used at all by the respondents and were classified as obsolete, while 41 other words (43.6 %) had a frequency of 40 % or less and were classified as obsolescent. It is noteworthy that loanwords were used in only 3.9 % of the entire test. It is concluded that the Yoruba lexicon is currently undergoing change, but this change has not yet attracted scholarly attention.