Gender-Exclusive and Gender-Preferential Speech Forms in the Yorùbá Language



Yeseera Omonike Oloso



Kwara State University, Nigeria








That there are differences between male and female speech forms has been well established in the literature. The differences in speech are sometimes as a result of the emphasis that each gender places on different aspects of the community’s culture or which the community requires that each gender places on different aspects of its culture. This paper examines gender-exclusive speech forms in the Yorùbá language alongside gender-preferential speech features with a view to highlight the greater emphasis that Yorùbá women place or are expected to place on certain aspects of the Yorùbá culture. Ethnographic method was used for data elicitation. Structured interviews were conducted with 30 purposively selected respondents in selected communities in Kwara, Lagos and Oyo States of Nigeria while participant observation at different periods in these communities between 1983 and 2018 also yielded useful data. A highly significant number of female respondents (93.0%) address their spouses’ younger siblings with honourific pronouns regardless of such siblings’ ages contrariwise for all male respondents (0.0%). The use of certain expressions by the majority of married Yorùbá women (93.0%) to show deference to husbands’ relatives who are not older than them, with no corresponding overwhelming use of similar expressions by male respondents (66.7%), not only ironically shows a sharp deviation from the Yorùbá culture which the society embraces, but also, the highly hierarchical nature of the Yorùbá society in which marriage often confers a superior status on the majority of husbands’ relatives. The study shows that gender-exclusive and gender-preferential speech forms are deep-rooted aspects of the Yorùbá culture and that gendered speech style is just, but a means of expressing aspects of that culture.


gender-exclusion, gender-preference, Yorùbá culture, politeness, speech form


doi: 10.26478/ja2018.6.9.4


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