Mbunda language

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Mbúùnda, Chimbúùnda
Native to Angola, Zambia, Namibia
Ethnicity Mbunda people
Native speakers
340,000  (2000–2006)[1]
Standard forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
mck – Mbunda
yax – Yauma (spurious)
nkn – Nkangala

Mbunda is a Bantu language of Angola, Zambia, and Namibia. There are several dialects: Katavola, Yauma,[3][4] Nkangala,[5] Mbalango, Sango, Ciyengele ("Shamuka"), and Ndundu, all of which are close.[6] Mbunda was chosen as one of Angola's six National languages including Kikongo, Kimbundu, Cokwe, Umbundu and Kwanyama in 1987, and as a consequence the Instituto de Línguas Nacionais (National Languages Institute) established spelling rules for Mbunda to facilitate teaching it in schools and promoting its use,[7][8][9][10][11][12] it was later replaced with Ngangela, a standard language created by mixing Mbunda, Luchazi, Luvale, and Lwimbe.[13]

Mbunda is spoken by the Mbunda people of the Moxico Province and Cuando Cubango Province of Angola. From there they migrated to western Zambia at the end of the 18th century,[14] upon the migration of among others, the Ciyengele,[15] and also at the beginning of the 20th century due to their resistance to Portuguese colonial occupation,[16] and later because of the impact of the Angolan War of Independence (1961–1974), the decolonization conflict in Angola (1974–1975),[17] and the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002). As a consequence of the civil war, a number of Mbunda also took refuge in Northern Namibia, the west and east of Kavango Region region, around Rundu and Nkurenkuru and Caprivi Strip.[18]

The Mbunda language in Zambia, Angola and Namibia is not spoken exactly the same way. In Zambia it has a strong upper teeth contact with the tongue, to pronounce words like: "Mundthzindthzime" (shadow), "chithzalo" (dress), "Kuthsa" (death) and many more. The difficult sounds represented by TH.[19] Mbunda language in Angola and Namibia is spoken without the TH sounds, like in the Luchazi language;[20] the words above are pronounced as "Mutzitzime" (shadow), "chizalo" (cloth), "Kutsa" (death). Even within Zambia, the Mbunda language spoken by the Chiyengele group that migrated earlier is different from that spoken by the Mbunda group that fled into Zambia as a consequence of the Mbunda-Portuguese war of 1914. That is why the Mbunda language of the Chiyengele group of the 15th Mbunda monarch, mainly found in Mongu, is nicknamed "Shamuka",[21] heavily influenced by Lozi language. The same term can be attributed to the Mbunda language in Namibia, which is heavily influenced by the Nyemba and Luchazi languages.


Mbunda is similar to Luchazi, but has some differences in the consonants. Among other differences,[clarification needed] where Luchazi has /s, z/, Mbunda has /θ, ð/. Where Luchazi has /ts/, Mbunda has dental /t̪/, contrasting with a Portuguese-like denti-alveolar /t/.


Like other languages in eastern Angola and Zambia, Mbunda language has five contrastive vowels:

high i u
mid ɛ ɔ
low a


Voiced plosives only occur as prenasalized stops, where they contrast with aspirated plosives. Otherwise only tenuis plosives are found in Mbunda.[22]

Prenasalized consonants
Aspirated Voiced Place of formation Sample Word Sound Translation
/mpʰ/ mp /mb/ mb bilabial mbandu
/nt̪ʰ/ nths /nd̪/ ndthz dental ndthzili
/ntʰ/ nt /nd/ nd alveolar ndolome
/ndʒ/ nj alveopalatal njamba
/ŋkʰ/ nk /ŋɡ/ ng velar ngonde

Alphabet: Notably absent from the Mbunda alphabet are the letters q and r.

Graphic Representation Phonetic Symbol(*) Word Example Word Sound Translation
a /a/ angula
mb /mb/ mbunga
ch (used with nouns)
or c
/tʃ/ cili
nd /nd/ ndumba
e /ɛ/ ewa
f /f/ fundanga
ng /ŋɡ/ ngombe
cow, ox
ŋ /ŋ/ ŋala
h /h/ hanja
i /i/ imanena
j /ʒ/ jombolola
k /k/ kovela
l /l/ lilonga
plate, dish
m /m/ mulonga
n /n/ naana
my mother
ndthz /nd̪/ ndthzita
nk /ŋkʰ/ nkuta
ny /ɲ/ or maybe /nʲ/ nyali
brother or sister-in-law
o /ɔ/ owo
that one
p /p/ putuka
mp /mpʰ/ mpulu
t /t/ tulo
asleep, sleepy
th /θ/ thimbu
ths /t̪/ thsa
thz /ð/ thzala
dress up
u /u/ uli
where is he (she)
v /β/ vwato
boart, canoe
w /w/ wahi
he (she) is not here
x /ʃ/ xwata
y /j/ yange


Numerical counting in Mbunda follows the usual numerals but in Mbunda words. Fill ups are easily made using small numerals.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mbunda at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Yauma (spurious) at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Nkangala at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ Robert Papstein, 1994, The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers Association, page 114 ISBN 99 820 3006X
  4. ^ Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997
  5. ^ Not to be confused with the Ngangela language
  6. ^ Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997
  7. ^ Gerhard Kubit (2003) Minority languages and cultures in Central Africa
  8. ^ Colin Baker and Sulvia Prys Jones' (1998) Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education-Multilingial Matters Ltd. pp. 355-367
  9. ^ O desafio de harmonizar os alfabetos das linguas locais de Angola
  10. ^ The Cultural Peculiarity - About Angola
  11. ^ Resolution adopted by Council of Ministers - Official Gazette No. 3/87 of May 1987
  12. ^ Ethnic groups and national languages
  13. ^ Robert Papstein, "The Central African Historical Research Project", in Harneit-Sievers, 2002, A Place in the World: New Local Historiographies from Africa and South Asia, p. 178
  14. ^ The elites of Barotseland, 1878-1969: a political history of Zambia's Western Province: a. Gerald L. Caplan ISBN 0900966386 Publisher: C. Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd, 1970
  15. ^ Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997
  16. ^ René Pélissier, Les Guerres Grises: Résistance et revoltes en Angola (1845–1941), Montamets(Orgeval: Éditions Pélisier, 1977
  17. ^ Franz-Wilhelm Heimer, Der Entkolonisierungskonflikt in Angola, Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1979 ISBN 3-8039-0179-0
  18. ^ Franz-Wilhelm Heimer, Der Entkolonisierungskonflikt in Angola, Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1979 ISBN 3-8039-0179-0
  19. ^ A.W, July 1, 1917, A Comparative Vocabulary of Sikololo-Silui-Simbunda, African Affairs, Oxford University Press
  20. ^ Tusona: Luchazi Ideographs : a Graphic Tradition of West-Central Africa By Gerhard Kubik, pages 291, 292
  21. ^ Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997
  22. ^ Tusona: Luchazi Ideographs : a Graphic Tradition of West-Central Africa By Gerhard Kubik, page 300


  • Jacky Maniacky, 1997, "Contribution à l'étude des langues bantoues de la zone K: analyse comparative et sous-groupements", Mémoire pour l'obtention du DEA de langues, littératures et sociétés, études bantoues, INALCO (Paris - France), 101p.
  • Robert Papstein, 1994, The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers Association, ISBN 99 820 3006X
  • José Redinha, 1975, Etnias e Culturas de Angola, Luanda: Instituto de Investigação Científica de Angola; reprinted fac-simile by the Associação das Universidades de Língua Portuguesa, 2009, ISBN 978 989 8271 00 6

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 14°06′44″S 21°26′07″E / 14.11222°S 21.43528°E / -14.11222; 21.43528Category:Populated places in Moxico Province Category:Populated places in Cuando Cubango Province Category:Municipalities of Angola