Nigerian Kola Tubosun is passionate about African languages and in particular Yoruba, his mother tongue and one of the most popular languages in Nigeria, and he sees the internet as a unique existential threat to local tongues which he wants to try and protect.

The Nigerian native began working on an ongoing project to get Twitter translated into Yoruba last year. Now he has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to create an online database of all Yoruba names mainly to help Yorubas, especially those of Yoruba descent who were born and are living outside of Nigeria, to explore their roots and “find a lost connection… with the Yoruba culture”, its names, spelling, etymology, meanings and stories.

“To the Yorubas (and most African cultures), a name is not just a name. Names have meanings. Names are powerful,” Tubosun writes, “Sadly, today our names are being washed away by ‘civilisation’. We are raising children who are ignorant of this power (or meaning) of their names. Soon, one child at a time, a Yoruba name will be lost. Soon, one name at a time, the significance of the naming tradition will disappear.”

According to Tubosun, the database currently available aren’t user-friendly or don’t have enough information on their databases.

Tubosun hopes his Yoruba Names Dictionary will be a kind of Wikipedia where content will be sourced from names, spelling, etymology, meanings and stories as well as crowd-sourced entries created by users around the world, which will be vetted and edited.

Each entry in The Yoruba Names Dictionary will have the following:

  • searchability
  • etymology
  • phonological information
  • audio
  • sources
  • stories
  • other relevant cultural information

Tubosun is looking to raise $5 000 (around R60 000) to pay for the website designer and the project’s software and hardware.

Tubosun hopes The Yoruba Names Dictionary will start a trend that could expand into a multimedia dictionary of other African names or a crowd-sourced Yoruba lexical dictionary.

“In a little way, we would be saving one language from extinction (even though it currently has over 30 million speakers,” he says.

“Like the Tweet Yoruba Project, this will be another contribution to the documentation (and eventual survival) of the language in the 21st century and beyond. Not just for Yoruba, but for indigenous languages everywhere.”

Check out The Yoruba Names Dictionary campaign on Indiegogo.

[Source – Indiegogo via Tech Cabal]