Gbaya languages

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Not to be confused with Kresh language.
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon[1]
Linguistic classification: Niger–Congo
ISO 639-2 / 5: gba
Glottolog: gbay1279[2]

The Gbaya languages, also known as Gbaya–Manza–Ngbaka, are a family of perhaps a dozen languages spoken mainly in the western Central African Republic and across the border in Cameroon, with one language (Ngbaka) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a few small languages in the Republic of the Congo. Many of the languages go by the ethnic name Gbaya, though the largest, with over a million speakers, is called Ngbaka, a name shared with the Ngbaka languages of the Ubangian family.


The Gbaya languages were once thought to be part of the Ubangian family. However, Moñino (2010), followed by Blench (2012), propose that they may instead by most closely related to the Central Gur languages, or perhaps constitute an independent branch of Niger–Congo, but that they do not form a group with Ubangian.[3] Connections with Bantu are mostly limited to cultural vocabulary, and several Central Sudanic words suggest that the proto-Gbaya were hunter-gatherers who acquired agriculture from the Sara.[4]


Moñino (2010)[4] reconstructed proto-Gbaya and proposes the following family tree:




Ɓùlì, Ɓìyàndà



Làì, Kàrà


Ɓòzôm, Gbɛ́yá




ʔÀlī, Ngbākā-Mānzā




Several of these varieties may be mutually intelligible, such as Ngbaka, Ngbaka Manza, and Manza.

There are one or two other small Gbaya languages scattered in Congo and along the Cameroon border, such as Bonjo and perhaps Ngombe.


  1. ^ LL-Map showing where Gbaya Northwest is spoken
    LL-Map showing Gbaya-Mbodomo
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Gbaya". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Roger Blench, Niger-Congo: an alternative view
  4. ^ a b Moñino (2010), The position of Gbaya-Manza-Ngbaka group among the Niger-Congo languages