This Living Dictionary project is led by Nigerian linguist Dr. Bolanle Elizabeth Arokoyo, who holds a PhD in Linguistics, and has been documenting the grammar of Olùkùmi since 2011. Dr. Arokoyo is a Lecturer at the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. She is a Living Tongues Fellow and coordinates many ongoing documentation projects in Nigeria.
Background on this dictionary
Dr. Arokoyo collaborated with Dr. Greg Anderson and Dr. K. David Harrison at Living Tongues Institute in 2012 to create the Olùkùmi Talking Dictionary (a previous version of this dictionary that contained about 500 entries). With support from Living Tongues, Dr. Arokoyo then published the first-ever print dictionary for Olùkùmi in 2017 which was printed and distributed in Olùkùmi communities. In 2021, Dr. Arokoyo collaborated with Anna Luisa Daigneault at Living Tongues Institute to organize and import the 1600+ entries of print dictionary into a new Olùkùmi Living Dictionary. This was accomplished with digital assistance from Living Tongues intern Ashlie Devenney, programming by web developer Jacob Bowdoin and supervision by Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson.
Background on the language
Olùkùmi is in danger of disappearing in the coming generations if steps are not taken now to preserve and revitalize this language. Olùkùmi is a Yoruboid language spoken in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State Nigeria. It belongs to the Kwa family, of the Niger–Congo language family. Ugbodu, Ukwu-Nzu, Ubulubu, Ugboba, Idumogo, Ogodor and Anioma are the seven towns making up the Olùkùmi clan.
According to the National Population census of 2006, Olùkùmi has a population of 13,750. They are neighbours to many ethnic groups which are all reflected in their language. They are bounded on the East by Anambra state, South-East by Imo state and River states, in the South by Bayelsa state, in the South-West by Isoko, in the West by Urhobo, North-West by Edo state and in the North by Kogi State.
At present, the Olùkùmi language is going into extinction and the biggest challenge in our current generation is taking steps to protect the language and culture. Once the language is gone, a culture and a heritage also die. Olùkùmi parents speak Igbo with a mixture of Olùkùmi and English to their children, while the youth speak Igbo. The educated and the elite gravitate towards English. At the market, pidgin, Igbo or English is used as the language of transaction.
The Olùkùmi that is spoken now is an amorphous language, a hybrid of Yorùbá, Igbo and some other languages like, Benin, Ishan, Urhobo and Igala. According to an elder in the town of Ugbodu town, “this language may die if care is not taken.”
The Olùkùmi people are making efforts at revitalization through different programs organized to sustain the interest of the youth. One of these programmes is the Olùkùmi Reciting Competition, organized by the The Oloza of Ugbodu, HRM Obi Ayo Isiyemenze. The competition is about knowing who can speak Olùkùmi, without code-mixing or code-switching. People are also now being encouraged to give their children Olùkùmi names, and to also pray in the language. The publication of the first-ever Olùkùmi-English Dictionary will help preserve and promote the language for generations to come.
In 2022, Dr. Bolanle Arokoyo and her student assistants Olanrewaju Samuel and Akano Johnson conducted a field trip to Ugbodu, Nigeria to work with fluent Olùkùmi speaker Mr Emmanuel Ugwu.
Their goal is to collect language materials to contribute to the Olùkùmi Living Dictionary as well as new data that will be studied in upcoming linguistic research projects.