New Release: A Dictionary of Yoruba Monosyllabic Verbs

The ingenious assemblage of A Dictionary of Yoruba Monosyllabic Verbs is chief among Chief Isaac Oluwole Delano’s contributions to the lexicography of the language. The laborious effort of documenting and entering the unique lexical items into a single voluminous text for the Institute of African Studies of the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Ile-Ife is a historical undertaking. No one before or even after Delano has attempted a dictionary of this magnitude, let alone of the Yoruba monosyllabic verbs. Reprinting this seminal work is an attempt to invoke the magnanimous memory of this giant lover of the language and it is our way of honoring the fortieth anniversary of his death. Chief Delano, who passed away on December 15, 1979, left a treasure trove of unforgettable works on the Yoruba language and literature. The current dictionary constitutes the most ambitious and arguably most voluminous of a single work in the Yoruba language. This dictionary is time-tested and has constituted a quintessential legacy that will always pass the test of time.

Isaac Delano’s “A Dictionary of Yoruba Monosyllabic Verbs” comes across to people like me as a surprise, “a bolt from the blues,” as they say. I am aware that references are made, occasionally, to the dictionary in passing, but never did many of my generation set our eyes on a copy to appreciate the magnitude of its worth as a goldmine for all lovers, scholars and students of the Yoruba language and of the culture that foregrounds it. It is also mindboggling the extent to which the author’s patriotism and dedication to advancing the cause of the Yoruba language and culture could have motivated him to have embarked on such a noble task of producing the Dictionary to assist students, so early in the life of this country, and more significantly, without any funding support that researchers and scholars enjoy today. It is much more curious that a great work like that had been gathering dust for decades unattended to! It is a great relief, and no doubt, spirit-lifting that Professors Toyin Falola and Michael O. Afolayan, two of a kind, to have made the Dictionary accessible to the reading public. It is a must read to all scholars and students of Yoruba language and culture.

Ademola O. Dasylva, FNAL, Professor of African Literature, Oral Poetics & Performance

Clarence Shepard Day Jr (1874-1935), an American author and cartoonist, best known for his 1935 work, Life With Father, once said “The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else, that he builds, ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the worlds of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.” Chief Delano has, with his Dictionary of Monosyllabic Yoruba Verbs, written one of those books and led us into the “magic world of books”. But more importantly, Toyin Falola and Michael Afolayan have not only been our guards into the heart of Chief Delano but have led us out of the long era of darkness over Chief Delano’s legacy and have guided us into the remarkable everlasting world of books where everything is alive, young and fresh. With the reissue of Chief Delano’s book, the lives of the Yoruba as a language, a nation, and a people will never be the same again. I commend the book to all students and lovers of etymology.

Bola Dauda, author of Life Begins at 70!