Dual Metrics of Contemporary Yorùbá Life

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Abstract

The chapter inquires into the duality of metrics in contemporary Yorùbá life. I begin with an experience had by the author in a Yorùbá primary school classroom in a southwestern Nigerian city where a class of children near the end of their primary school career showed expert capacity in working the two very different metrics of contemporary Yorùbá life together. This ethnographic story provides a framing and offers preliminary data. In the body of the chapter, first I summarise the very different arithmetical workings of the Yorùbá language metric compared to the standard modern decimal system taught in schools and associated with English language. Then I show how numbers sit in the workings of Yorùbá language quite differently than the way decimal numbers sit in the English language. In making something of these differences, after briefly developing the idea that as cultural resources, metrics are linguistic-arithmetical meshes which have life through the sociomaterial happening of numbers in the here and now, I present accounts of bilingual children telling how they see differences between the metrics—literally; they tell of having an embodied sensibility of difference between Yorùbá numbers and decimal numbers. I relate the felt sociomaterial differences to difference between iconic and indexical numbers, noting iconic numbers feature in trade, whereas indexical numbers feature in experimental science.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslating Technology in Africa
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1: Metrics
EditorsRichard Rottenburg, Faeeza Ballim, Bronwyn Kotzen
Place of PublicationNetherlands
PublisherBrill
Chapter7
Pages144-164
Number of pages20
Volume1
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-67835-4
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-67834-7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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