From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Yoruba (native name èdè Yorùbá, 'the Yoruba language') is a dialect continuum of West Africa with over 25 million speakers. The native tongue of the approximately 40 million Yoruba people, it is spoken, among other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and traces of it are found among communities in Brazil , Sierra Leone (where it is called Oku), and Cuba (where it is called Nago). Yoruba is an isolating, tonal language with SVO syntax. Apart from referring to the aggregate of dialects and their speakers, the term Yoruba is used for the standard, written form of the language. Yoruba is classified as a Niger-Congo language of the Yoruboid branch of Defoid, Benue-Congo. Yoruba is the third most spoken native African language.
The traditional Yoruba area - currently comprising the southwestern portion of Nigeria, the republics of Benin and Togo and mideastern Ghana - is commonly called Ìlẹ-Yorùbá or Yorubaland. The Nigeria component comprises today's Ọyọ, Ọṣun, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Lagos states as well as the western part of Kogi state. Geophysically, Yorubaland forms part of a plateau (elevation 366 m) bordered to the north and east by the Niger River. A large part of it is densely forested; the northern part however, including Ọyọ, lies in the savanna to the north of the forest.