2018

Kola Tubosun

Writer and linguist

Lagos (Nigeria)

From November 12 to November 19, 2018 

Biography —

Personal Web

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún obtained an MA in Linguistics from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2012) and a Bachelor’s from the University of Ibadan (2005). He was also a Fulbright Scholar from 2009 to 2010 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and the founder of the Yorùbá Names Project (2015) at YorubaName.com. His work and writings spanning issues of language, education, technology, and literature, can be found on KTravula.com and elsewhere. He has also written for Brittle Paper, Guardian (Nigeria/UK), 234Next, ThisIsAfrica, and Aké Reiview.

In 2016, he was awarded the ‘Special’ Ostana Prize by Chambra D’Oc in Cuneo Italy, for his work in indigenous language advocacy, becoming the first African to be so honoured. He currently works as a Lexicographical Advisor for Oxford Dictionaries, contract linguist on projects for Google, and a language teacher.

His collection of poetry Edwardsville by Heart will be published in November 2018 by Wisdom’s Bottom Press, UK. He writes in English and Yorùbá and his work has been translated into Korean.  He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Project —

My work over the last couple of years has been in language documentation, trying to find ways to make African languages more compliant with technology, and vice versa. The YorubaName.com and IgboName.com projects stem out of this desire to ensure that young and old people who want to speak their home languages in Nigeria and around the continent have the technological tools to do so without limitation. Creating a free tonemarking software for the languages is also part of this work.

During this week at the residency, I intend to think some more about this new project I’m working on, which is a monolingual dictionary of Yorùbá at YorubaWord.com. There has been no monolingual dictionary in the language which is free, and contains the elements I’ve identified as important for any modern dictionary: geolocation (since some words are peculiar to different parts of the country), universal accessibility (through mobile apps and the internet) and sound. One of the successes of YorubaName.com is our speech synthesis at ttsyoruba.com, which had not been done before, which empowers Yorùbá text to be automatically converted to speech, and which lets users of the dictionary hear the pronunciation of each name. I am thinking also of automatic speech recognition which will empower the language and its users in ways not yet possible in this current environment to be able to use technology, through their voice, in their own languages.