Symposium – How should we write Yorùbá?

Symposium – How should we write Yorùbá?
Date: Wednesday 2 September – Thursday 3 September
Time: 15:00 – 17:00 (BST/WAT both days)
Tickets: FREE

Two webinars on writing Yorùbá, a major language of West Africa, in the 21st century.


In the Yorùbá language of Nigeria and Benin, writing with diacritics (accents and special characters) is essential. These marks indicate the tone of vowel sounds, and the meaning of words. They’re how we know that owó (money) is not the same as òwò (business), or even ówo (a boil).

The Yorùbá writing system has changed a lot since Bishop Àjàyí Crowther wrote A Vocabulary of Yorùbá (1843). Today the language is at a disadvantage online, because there are few tools to input the diacritics – even though it is spoken by 30-40 million people across the world. Among readers and writers of Yorùbá, there is uncertainty about when and whether to use the marks. How should, and can, diacritics be used today?

This two-session online symposium will address these questions through conversations with writers, academics and other experts including Dr. Túndé Adegbọlá, Professor Karin Barber and Mọlará Wood.

  • Session 1: Yorùbá: From Mission Field to Web Page. BOOK NOW
    Wednesday 2 September, 15.00-17.00 West Africa Time/British Summer Time
  • Session 2: Using Yorùbá Today: Literature, Leisure and the Academy. BOOK NOW
    Thursday 3 September, 15.00-17.00 West Africa Time/British Summer Time

Discussions will be in English and all those with an interest in writing Yorùbá or the broader question of writing other languages in roman characters, are welcome.

The symposium is hosted by the British Library in partnership with Africa Writes and the Lagos Studies Association.

It is convened by Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, currently a Chevening British Library Fellow in the Asian and African Collections.


This event is part of Africa Writes’ 2020 online series as a response to the international lockdown most are facing in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about this here.