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Language Learning

This is written from a Lukumi-traditional-house perspective.

While learning orisha music, you may encounter words from seemingly different languages.

What is this language? Why does it sound the way that it does?

The Orisa tradition may use terms from five languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Lucumi (language of the Yoruba cultural group arriving in Cuba in the mid-1800’s) and Yoruba.

“Lucumí” language

The Lucumí language is a lexicon of words and short phrases derived from the Yoruba language while in Cuba. The Yoruba language is no longer a vernacular among Yoruba descendants in the Americas since the time of the TransAtlantic slave trade.

Since that time, it has been developed and used as a liturgical language that developed from its remains. It is also influenced by Portugese and Spanish phonetics and pronunciation.

Yoruba tonals that were once essential in traditional Yoruba language have been lost in the Lucumí lexicon of Cuban Orisa tradition.

The Yoruba-Lucumi language is a member of the Yoruboid megagroup. The Yoruba language has nearly 35 million speakers, but it has many different dialects. All dialects within the Ede cluster share about 85-95% lexical similarity and are mutually intelligible without needing specialized literature to achieve universal understanding.

What is Lukuñol? Lukuñol is a hybridization of the words Lucumí and Español (Spanish) coined by Miguel Willie Ramos in Orí eledá mí ó (2011).





Olmsted, David L. “Comparative Notes on Yoruba and Lucumí.” Language, vol. 29, no. 2, 1953, pp. 157–164. JSTOR, Accessed 22 Apr. 2020.