“Linguistic Universals: French and Yoruba Languages as Linguistic Twin Sisters”, an Inaugural by Prof Kizito Folorunso


Prof Abayomi KIZITO FOLORUNSO (B.A., M.A., PhD Lyon),   the current Provost of the College of Humanities and Culture, Ikire Campus, presented the Osun State University’s 8th Inaugural Lecture titled “LINGUISTIC UNIVERSALS: French and Yoruba Languages as Linguistic Twin Sisters”. The lecture was delivered on Wednesday, 20th April, 2016, at 2 pm, at the main auditorium of the University in Osogbo.

Melodious statements like “Pendant la récréation, je veux acheter trente oranges, Quand il fait beau temps”  fascinated the young Abayomi, who fell in love with that strange language, eventually known to him as French. Despite his interest in both French and Yoruba languages, he had to choose only one for the WASC, in line with Rev. Father Cloutier who opined that

“the French and Yoruba languages were twin sisters who could not be married by the same person” (p. 5).

Fortunately, Abayomi, the student, discovered that his love for the Yoruba language could be married to his formal education in French language, which led him to the pinnacle of his career as a Professor in French and Yoruba linguistics.
This Inaugural Lecture would afford Professor Kizito FOLORUNSO,  according to Ezeigbo (2008: 1), to

expose the essence of his scholarship and contribution to knowledge in his field and at the same time present these ideas and contributions in a language that a layman or non-expert in the field can comprehend and appreciate. p. 10.

Linguistics Universals are “all features and properties that are common to all or majority of human languages” citing Dubois et.a (1994: 38). There are absolute universals and relative universals. An example of universal is the modifier: ‘l’enfant terrible’ = omo buruku.
Yoruba and French are languages because they enable humans to communicate through verbal meanings. They both have affinities, with proverbs like ‘les murs ont des oreilles = walls have ears = ogiri l’eti / ‘Le chat parti, les souris dansent’ = when the cat is away, the mouse will play = aisi nile olongini, ile di ile ekute. Other similarities are seen in the vocalic phonemes and in their pronominal systems: tu = iwo [you, singular] and vous = eyin [you, plural]. Several articles highlight both the similarities and differences between both French and Yoruba.
Both languages are essential for national development. The promotion of Yoruba, a mother tongue, is paramount to the Yoruba nation, and can lead to technological and economic breakthrough in Nigeria as seen in countries such as Japan, China and India. Thus, Prof Kizito Folorunso advocated that

“the contact of the two cultures should be exploited for the progress and development of each of the two societies and not that one culture should give way for the other.” (p. 32).

The learning of French is important to Nigerians:

“The learning of French for a nation like Nigeria can be a strategy for combating terrorists’ nefarious activities. After all, the Chibok girls kdnapped by the dreadful Boko Haram sect were said to have been distributed to neighbouring countries who official language is French. Were it to be that our girls understand French, probably they could have gotten a way to escape.” p.36

Nigerian languages need to be salvaged and reengineered to form the basis of genuine development. Therefore, for universities in the south-west of Nigeria, such as UI, OAU, UNIOSUN,

“the teaching of Yoruba language and culture should form part of the compulsory GNS programme just like ‘Osun peoples and culture’ is made a compulsory course in GNS programme in Uniosun.” (p 38).

Since the knowledge of French is of great value to Nigeria,

“there should be an attitudinal change on the part of various governments and individuals towards the learning of French. The interest to learn it must be evident.” p 38.

Thus, French should be introduced into the General Studies curriculum of universities, for a period of two sessions. Foreign language centres should also be established across the country to cater for people who could not learn French in school. Along with the present government’s stance to promote science and technology, French should be considered to play vital complementary roles in the promotion of the end-product of our technological breakthrough to other countries.
In conclusion,

“Government should not wait till a time when proven knowledge of a foreign language becomes mandatory pre-requisite for her to take advantage of international appointments before she wakes up from her slumber. Individuals too should continue to see foreign languages, especially the most widely spoken like French, as a passport to their political and economic success in life. They should therefore not relent in their efforts in learning foreign languages at leisure so that in future, they may not say “Had I known?”


Kizito Folorunso, A. “Linguistic Universals : French and Yoruba Languages as Linguistic Twin Sisters, Inaugural Lecture Series, No. 8. Osogbo: Osun State University, 2016.




  1. Il était mon prof de linguistique au VFN. Il était aussi un collègue pour moi au VFN. Il a également enseigné avec moi dans le programme d’enseignement à distance. Sa fille était mon étudiante à UI. Un homme simple, généreux et un bon guide dans ma vie professionnelle. A. Souleymane


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