Luba-Kasai language

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Not to be confused with Luba-Katanga, a related yet smaller Luba language.
"Tshiluba" redirects here. For the Zambian president, see Frederick Chiluba.
Native to Democratic Republic of the Congo


Ethnicity Baluba-Kasai (Bena-kasai)
Native speakers
6.3 million  (1991)[1]
Ciluba-Lubilanji /Cena-Lubilanji (in Mbuji-Mayi, Tshilenge district, and western Gandajika territory )
Cena-Lulua (in Kananga, central-northern Lulua district, and eastern Luebo territory)
Cikwa-Nyambi (in Northern Kamonia territory & Tshikapa)
Cikwa-Luntu (in Dimbelenge territory)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 lua
ISO 639-3 lua
Glottolog luba1249[2]
Pidgin Chiluba
Native to DR Congo
Native speakers
Luba-based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Tshiluba (Ciluba); also known as Luba-Kasai, Luba-Lulua, and Kikasai, is a Bantu language spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is a national language, along with Lingala, Swahili, and Kikongo. It is one of two major Congolese languages called "Luba" (see Luba-Katanga). The prefix Tshi/ or Ci followed by the suffix Luba, means 'Luba language' or language of the Luba people or even the speaking of the baluba.

Geographic distribution and dialects[edit]

Tshiluba is spoken by about 6 million people, chiefly in the Kasaï Occidental and Kasaï Oriental provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.There are significant dialect differences between an eastern dialect of the East Kasai Region, spoken by the Luba people, and a western dialect of the West Kasai Region, spoken by the Lulua people. However, the differences are minor mostly consisting of differences in tones and vocabulary, but speakers understand each other without problem. Both dialects further are made up of sub-dialects. Additionally, there is also a pidginized variety of Tshiluba[3] especially in cities where the every day spoken Tshiluba is enriched with French words and even other languages such as Lingala or Swahili. Nevertheless this variety is not a typical form of a pidgin since it not common to every one, and changes it morphology, the quantity, and the degree to which words from other languages are used. Its form changes depending of whom speaks it and varies from city to city and from one social class to another, however, in general people speak the Tshiluba language itself in their daily lives not the pidgin. The failure of people not actually learning the language at school has resulted in the replacement of native words by French words in most part. For instance, when people are speaking they generally count in French rather than in Tshiluba; this situation where French and Tshiluba are used simultaneously makes linguists think the language has been pidginized while in reality it has not.

western dialects Eastern dialects English
meme mema me
ne ni with
nzolo/nsolo nzolu chicken
bionso bionsu everything
luepu mukela (e) salt
kapia mudilu fire
bidia nshima foofoo
malaba makelela yesterday/ tomorrow
lupepe luhepa wind
Mankaji (shi)/tatu mukaji tatu mukaji aunty
bimpe bimpa well/good


Luba-Kasai uses the following Latin alphabet:

A a B b C c D d E e F f G g H h I i J j K k L l M m N n Ng ng Ny ny O o P p S s Sh sh T t U u V v W w Y y Z z

The sounds q, r, and x do not exist in Ciluba, there are only present in loanwords from French and sometimes Swahili. maringa gives madinga in ciluba; veranda gives velando or balanda in ciluba.

Sample text[edit]

  • Bantu bonsu badi baledibwa badikadile ne badi ne makokeshi amwe. Badi ne lungenyi lwa bumuntu ne kondo ka moyo, badi ne bwa kwenzelangana malu mu buwetu.
  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


  1. ^ Ciluba at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Luba-Lulua". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b c Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  • Samuel Phillips Verner (1899). Mukanda wa Chiluba. Spottiswoode. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 

External links[edit]