Kongo language

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Kongo
Kikongo
Native toDRC (Kongo Central), Angola, Republic of the Congo, Gabon.
EthnicityBakongo
Native speakers
(c. 6.5 million cited 1982–2012)[2]
5 million L2 speakers in DRC (perhaps Kituba)
Latin, Mandombe
Official status
Official language in
National language and unofficial language:
 Angola
Language codes
ISO 639-1kg
ISO 639-2kon
ISO 639-3kon – inclusive code
Individual codes:
kng – Koongo
ldi – Laari
kwy – San Salvador Kongo (South)
yom – Yombe[1]
Glottologcore1256  Core Kikongo
yomb1244  Yombe
H.14–16[3]
LanguageMap-Kikongo-Kituba.png
Map of the area where Kongo and Kituba are spoken, Kituba as a lingua franca. Kisikongo (also called Kisansala by some authors) is the Kikongo spoken in Mbanza Kongo.
The Kongo language
PersonmuKongo, mwisiKongo
PeoplebaKongo, bisi Kongo, besi Kongo, esiKongo
LanguagekiKongo

Kongo or Kikongo is one of the Bantu languages spoken by the Kongo people living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Angola. It is a tonal language. It was spoken by many of those who were taken from the region and sold as slaves in the Americas. For this reason, while Kongo still is spoken in the above-mentioned countries, creolized forms of the language are found in ritual speech of Afro-American religions, especially in Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It is also one of the sources of the Gullah language[4] and the Palenquero creole in Colombia. The vast majority of present-day speakers live in Africa. There are roughly seven million native speakers of Kongo, with perhaps two million more who use it as a second language.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Kongo was the language of the Kingdom of Kongo prior to the creation of Angola by the Portuguese Crown in 1575 and the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) that balkanized the rest of the kingdom into three territories, which are now parts of the DRC (Kongo Central and Bandundu), the Republic of the Congo and Gabon.

Kikongo is the base for the Creole language Kituba, also called Kikongo de l'État and Kikongo ya Leta (French and Kituba respectively for "Kikongo of the state administration" or "Kikongo of the State").[5] The constitution of the Republic of the Congo uses the name Kituba,[6] and the one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo uses the term Kikongo,[7] while Kituba (i.e. Kikongo ya Leta) is used in the administration. This can be explained by the fact that Kikongo ya Leta is often mistakenly called Kikongo (i.e. KiNtandu, KiManianga, KiNdibu, etc.).[8][5][9]

Kikongo and Kituba are spoken in:

Presence in the Americas[edit]

Many African slaves transported in the Atlantic slave trade spoke Kikongo, and its influence can be seen in many creole languages in the diaspora, such as:

People[edit]

Prior to the Berlin Conference, the people called themselves "Bisi Kongo" (plural) and "Mwisi Kongo" (singular); currently, they call themselves "Bakongo" (pl.) and "Mukongo" (sing.).[10]

Writing[edit]

The Hail Mary in Kikongo.

At present there is no standard orthography of Kikongo, with a variety in use in written literature, mostly newspapers, pamphlets and a few books.

Kongo was the earliest Bantu language which was committed to writing in Latin characters and had the earliest dictionary of any Bantu language. A catechism was produced under the authority of Diogo Gomes, a Jesuit born in Kongo of Portuguese parents in 1557, but no version of it exists today.

In 1624, Mateus Cardoso, another Portuguese Jesuit, edited and published a Kongo translation of the Portuguese catechism of Marcos Jorge. The preface informs us that the translation was done by Kongo teachers from São Salvador (modern Mbanza Kongo) and was probably partially the work of Félix do Espírito Santo (also a Kongo).[11]

The dictionary was written in about 1648 for the use of Capuchin missionaries and the principal author was Manuel Robredo, a secular priest from Kongo (who became a Capuchin as Francisco de São Salvador). In the back of this dictionary is found a sermon of two pages written only in Kongo. The dictionary has some 10,000 words.

Additional dictionaries were created by French missionaries to the Loango coast in the 1780s, and a word list was published by Bernardo da Canecattim in 1805.

Baptist missionaries who arrived in Kongo in 1879 developed a modern orthography of the language.

W. Holman Bentley's Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language was published in 1887. In the preface, Bentley gave credit to Nlemvo, an African, for his assistance, and described "the methods he used to compile the dictionary, which included sorting and correcting 25,000 slips of paper containing words and their definitions."[12] Eventually W. Holman Bentley with the special assistance of João Lemvo produced a complete Christian Bible in 1905.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has published a translation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Fiote.

Linguistic classification[edit]

Kikongo belongs to the Bantu language family.

According to Malcolm Guthrie, Kikongo is in the language group H10, the Kongo languages. Other languages in the same group include Bembe (H11). Ethnologue 16 counts Ndingi (H14) and Mboka (H15) as dialects of Kongo, though it acknowledges they may be distinct languages.

According to Bastin, Coupez and Man's classification (Tervuren) which is more recent and precise than that of Guthrie on Kikongo, the language has the following dialects:

  • Kikongo group H16
    • Southern Kikongo H16a
    • Central Kikongo H16b
    • Yombe (also called Kiyombe) H16c
    • Fiote H16d
    • Western Kikongo H16d
    • Bwende H16e
    • Lari H16f
    • Eastern Kikongo H16g
    • Southeastern Kikongo H16h

NB:[13][14][15] Kisikongo is not the protolanguage of the Kongo language cluster. Not all varieties of Kikongo are completely intercomprehensible (for example, 1. Civili is better understood by Kiyombe- and Iwoyo-speakers than by Kisikongo- or Kimanianga-speakers; 2. Kimanianga is better understood by Kikongo of Boko and Kintandu-speakers than by Civili or Iwoyo-speakers).

Phonology[edit]

Consonant phonemes
Labial Coronal Dorsal
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ng /ŋ/
(prenasalized)
Plosive
mp /ᵐp/ mb /ᵐb/ nt /ⁿt/ nd /ⁿd/ nk /ᵑk/
p /p/ b /b/ t /t/ d /d/ k /k/ (g /ɡ/)1
(prenasalized)
Fricative
mf /ᶬf/ mv /ᶬv/ ns /ⁿs/ nz /ⁿz/
f /f/ v /v/ s /s/ z /z/
Approximant w /w/ l /l/ y /j/
Vowel phonemes
Front Back
High i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /e/ o /o/
Low a /a/
  1. The phoneme /ɡ/ can occur, but is rarely used.

There is contrastive vowel length. /m/ and /n/ also have syllabic variants, which contrast with prenasalized consonants.

Grammar[edit]

Noun classes[edit]

Kikongo has a system of 18 noun classes in which nouns are classified according to noun prefixes. Most of the classes go in pairs (singular and plural) except for the locative and infinitive classes which do not admit plurals.[16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27]

Classes Noun prefixes Characteristics Examples
1 mu-, n- humans muntu/muuntu/mutu/muutu (person, human)
2 ba-, wa-, a- plural form of the class 1… bantu/baantu/batu/baatu/wantu/antu (people, humans,)
3 mu-, n- various: plants, inanimate… muti/nti/m'ti (tree)
4 mi-, n-, i- plural form of the class 3… miti/minti/inti (trees)
5 di-, li- various: body parts, vegetables... didezo/lideso/lidezu/didezu (bean)
6 ma- various : liquids, plural form of the class 5… madezo/medeso/madeso/madezu (beans), maza/maamba/mamba/maampa/nlangu/masi/masa (water)
7 ki-, ci (tchi/tshi) -, tsi (ti) -, i- various: language, inanimate… kikongo/cikongo/tsikongo/ikongo (kongo language), kikuku/cikuuku/tsikûku (kitchen)
8 bi-, i-, yi-, u- plural form of the class 7… bikuku/bikuuku/bikûku (kitchens)
9 Ø-, n-, m-, yi-, i- various: animals, pets, artefacts… nzo (house), ngulu (pig)
10 Ø-, n-, m-, si-, zi- plural form of the classes 9, 11… si nzo/zi nzo/zinzo (houses), si ngulu/zi ngulu/zingulu (pigs)
11 lu- various: animals, artefacts, sites, attitudes, qualities, feeling… lulendo (pride), lupangu/lupaangu (plot of land)
13 tu- plural form of the classes 7 11… tupangu/tupaangu (plots of land)
14 bu-, wu- various: artefacts, sites, attitudes, qualities… bumolo/bubolo (laziness)
15 ku-, u- infinitives kutuba/kutub'/utuba (to speak), kutanga/kutaangë/utanga (to read)
15a ku- body parts… kulu (foot), koko/kooko (hand)
6 ma- plural form of the class 15a… malu (foots), moko/mooko (hands)
4 mi- plural form of the class 15a… miooko/mioko(hands)
16 va-, ga- (ha-), fa- locatives (proximal, exact) va nzo (near the house), fa (on, over), ga/ha (here)
17 ku- locatives (distal, approximate) ku vata (in the village), kuna (over there)
18 mu- locatives (interior) mu nzo (in the house)
19 fi-, mua/mwa- diminutives fi nzo (small house)

NB: Noun prefixes may or may not change from one Kikongo variant to another (e.g. class 7: the noun prefix ci is used in civili, iwoyo or ciladi (lari) and the noun prefix ki is used in kisikongo, kiyombe, kizombo, kimanianga,…).

Conjugation[edit]

Personal pronouns Translation
Mono I
Ngeye You
Yandi He or she
Kima It (for an object / an aminal / a thing , examples: a table, a knife,...)
Yeto / Beto We
Yeno / Beno You
Yawu / Bawu (or Bau) They
Bima They (for objects / animals / things, examples: tables, knives,...)

NB: Not all variants of Kikongo have completely the same personal pronouns and when conjugating verbs, the personal pronouns become stressed pronouns (see below and/or the references posted).

Conjugating the verb (mpanga in Kikongo) to be (kuena or kuwena; also kuba or kukala in Kikongo) in the present:[28]

(Mono) ngiena / Mono ngina (Me), I am
(Ngeye) wena / Ngeye wina (You), you are
(Yandi) wena / Yandi kena (Him / Her), he or she is
(Kima) kiena (It), it is (for an object / an animal / a thing, examples: a table, a knife,...)
(Beto) tuena / Yeto tuina (Us), we are
(Beno) luena / Yeno luina (You), you are
(Bawu) bena / Yawu bena (Them), they are
(Bima) biena (Them), they are (for objects / animals / things, examples: tables, knives,...)

Conjugating the verb (mpanga in Kikongo) to have (kuvua in Kikongo; also kuba na or kukala ye) in the present :

(Mono) mvuidi (Me), I have
(Ngeye) vuidi (You), you have
(Yandi) vuidi (Him / Her), he or she has
(Beto) tuvuidi (Us), we have
(Beno) luvuidi (You), you have
(Bawu) bavuidi (Them), they have

NB: In Kikongo, the conjugation of a tense to different persons is done by changing verbal prefixes (highlighted in bold). These verbal prefixes are also personal pronouns. However, not all variants of Kikongo have completely the same verbal prefixes and the same verbs (cf. the references posted). The ksludotique site uses several variants of Kikongo (kimanianga,...).

Vocabulary[edit]

Word Translation
kiambote, yenge (kiaku, kieno) / mbot'aku / mbotieno (mboti'eno) / mbote zeno / mbote / mboti / mboto / bueke / buekanu [29] hello, good morning
malafu, malavu alcoholic drink
diamba hemp
binkuti clothes
ntoto, mutoto, m'toto soil, floor, ground, Earth
nsi, tsi, si country, province, region
vata (ou vata), gata (here the letter g can also be pronounce r), divata, digata, dihata, diɣata, bwala (or buala), bwal' (or bwalë), bula, hata, ɣata village
mavata, magata (here the letter g can also be pronounce r), maɣata, mala, maala villages
nzo house
zulu, yulu, yilu sky, top, above
maza, masa, mamba, masi, nlangu, mazi, maampa water
tiya, mbasu, mbawu fire
makaya leaves (example : hemp leaves)
bakala, yakala man, husband
nkento, mukento, m'kento, nkiento, ncyento, nciento, ntchiento, ntchientu, ntchetu, ncetu, nceetu, m’cyetu, m’kyêtu, mukêtu woman
mukazi, m'kazi, nkazi, nkasi, mukasi spouse (wife)
mulumi, m'lumi, nnuni spouse (husband)
muana (or mwana) ndumba, ndumba young girl, single young woman
nkumbu / zina / li zina / dizina / ligina [30] name
kudia, kudya, kulia, kulya to eat
kunua to drink
nene big
fioti small
mpimpa night
lumbu day
kuvana, kugana (here the letter g can also be pronounce r), kuhana, kuɣana to give
nzola, zola, luzolo, luzolu love
kutanga, kutaangë to read
kusoneka, kusonikë, kusonika, kutina to write
kuvova, kuta, kuzonza, kutuba, kutub', kugoga, utuba to say, to speak, to talk, to tell
kuzola, kutsolo, uzola to love
ntangu time, sun, hour
kuseva, kuseha, kusega, kusefa, kusefë, kuseya to laugh
nzambi god
luzitu the respect
lufua, lufwa the death
yi ku zolele / i ku zolele [31] / ngeye nzolele / ni ku zololo (or ni ku zolele) (Ladi) / minu i ku zoleze (Ibinda) / mi ya ku zola (Vili) / minu i ku tidi (Cabindan Yombe) / mê nge nzololo (or mê nge nzolele) (Ladi) / minu i ku zoleze (Cabindan Woyo) / minu i ba ku zola (Linji, Linge) / mi be ku zol' (or mi be ku zolë) (Vili) / me ni ku tiri (Beembe) / minu i ku tili i love you
Days of the week in English Kisikongo and Kizombo CongoleseFlag of the Republic of the Congo.svg Yombe Ladi (Lari) Vili[32] Ibinda Ntandu Kisingombe and Kimanianga
Monday Kyamosi Un'tône Buduka / Nsila (N'sila) / M'tsila Un'tône Tchikunda Kintete Kiamonde / Kiantete
Tuesday Kyazole N'silu Nkênge N'silu Tchimuali / Tchimwali Kinzole Kianzole
Wednesday Kyatatu Un'duka Mpika Un'duk Tchintatu Kintatu Kiantatu
Thursday Kyaya N'sone Nkôyi N'sone Tchinna Kinya Kianya
Friday Kyatanu Bukonzu Bukônzo Bukonz' Tchintanu Kintanu Kiantanu
Saturday Kyasabala Sab'l Tsaba / Saba / Sabala Sab'l Tchisabala Sabala Kiasabala
Sunday Kyalumingu Lumingu Lumîngu / Nsona / Ntsona Lumingu Tchilumingu Lumingu Kialumingu
Numbers 1 to 10 in English Kisikongo and Kizombo Ladi (Lari) Ntandu Solongo Yombe Beembe Vili Kisingombe and Kimanianga Ibinda
One Mosi Mosi Mosi Kosi Mosi Mosi Muek' Mosi Mueka / Tchimueka
Two Zole Zole Zole Zole Wadi Boolo / Biole Wali Zole Wali
Three Tatu Tatu Tatu Tatu Tatu Tatu / Bitatu Tatu Tatu Tatu
Four Ya Ya Ya Ya Ya Na / Bina Na Ya Na
Five Tanu Tanu Tanu Atanu Tanu Taanu / Bitane Tanu Tanu Tanu
Six Sambanu Sambanu Sambanu Nsambanu Sambanu Saambanu / Saamunu / Samne Samunu Sambanu Sambanu
Seven Nsambuadi (Nsambwadi) / Nsambuadia (Nsambwadia) Nsambuadi (Nsambwadi) Sambuadi (Sambwadi) Nsambaadi Tsambuadi (Tsambwadi) Tsambe Sambuali (Sambwali) Nsambuadi (Nsambwadi) Sambuali (Sambwali)
Eight Nana Nana / Mpuomô Nana Nana Dinana Mpoomo Nana Nana Nana
Nine Vua (Vwa) / Vue (Vwe) Vua (Vwa) Vua (Vwa) Vua (Vwa) Divua (Divwa) Wa Vua (Vwa) Vua (Vwa) Vua (Vwa)
Ten Kumi Kumi Kumi / Kumi dimosi Kumi Dikumi Kumi Kumi Kumi Kumi

English words of Kongo origin[edit]

In addition, the roller coaster Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida gets its name from the Kongo word for "roar".

Sample text[edit]

According to Filomão CUBOLA, article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Fiote translates to:

Bizingi bioso bisiwu ti batu bambutukanga mu kidedi ki buzitu ayi kibumswa. Bizingi-bene, batu, badi diela ayi tsi-ntima, bafwene kuzingila mbatzi-na-mbatzi-yandi mu mtima bukhomba.
"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."[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maho 2009
  2. ^ Kongo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Koongo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Laari at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    San Salvador Kongo (South) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Yombe[1] at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ Adam Hochschild (1998). King Leopold's Ghost. Houghton Mifflin. p. 11.
  5. ^ a b "Kikongo-Kituba". Britannica. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Constitution de 2015". Digithèque matériaux juridiques et politiques, Jean-Pierre Maury, Université de Perpignan (in French). Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Constitution de la République Démocratique du Congo" (PDF). Organisation mondiale de la propriété intellectuelle ou World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (in French). p. 11. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  8. ^ Foreign Service Institute (U.S.) and Lloyd Balderston Swift, Kituba; Basic Course, Department of State, 1963, p.10
  9. ^ Godefroid Muzalia Kihangu, Bundu dia Kongo, une résurgence des messianismes et de l’alliance des Bakongo?, Universiteit Gent, België, 2011, p. 30
  10. ^ Wyatt MacGaffey, Kongo Political Culture: The Conceptual Challenge of the Particular, Indiana University Press, 2000, p.62
  11. ^ François Bontinck and D. Ndembi Nsasi, Le catéchisme kikongo de 1624. Reeédtion critique (Brussels, 1978)
  12. ^ "Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language, as Spoken at San Salvador, the Ancient Capital of the Old Kongo Empire, West Africa: Preface". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
  13. ^ Jasper DE KIND , Sebastian DOM, Gilles-Maurice DE SCHRYVER et Koen BOSTOEN, Fronted-infinitive constructions in Kikongo (Bantu H16): verb focus, progressive aspect and future, KongoKing Research Group, Department of Languages and Cultures, Ghent University, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 2013
  14. ^ Koen Bostoen et Inge Brinkman, The Kongo Kingdom: The Origins, Dynamics and Cosmopolitan Culture of an African Polity, Cambridge University Press, 2018
  15. ^ Raphaël Batsîkama Ba Mampuya Ma Ndâwla, L'ancien royaume du Congo et les Bakongo, séquences d'histoire populaire, L'harmattan, 2000
  16. ^ Amélia Arlete MINGAS, ETUDE GRAMMATICALE DE L'IWOYO (ANGOLA), UNIVERSITE RENE DESCARTES PARIS - UFR DE LINGUISTIQUE GENERALE ET APPLIQUEE, 1994 (in French)
  17. ^ Luntadila Nlandu Inocente, Nominalisations en kìsìkongò (H16): Les substantifs predicatifs et les verbes-supports Vánga, Sála, Sá et Tá (faire), Facultat de Filosofia i Lletres, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, 2015 (in French)
  18. ^ Elise Solange Bagamboula, Les classificateurs BU (CL. 14), GA (CL. 16), KU (CL. 17) et MU (CL. 18) dans l’expression de la localisation en kikongo (lari), Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), 2019 (in French)
  19. ^ Audrey Mariette TELE-PEMBA, Eléments pour une approche comparée des emprunts lexicaux du civili du Gabon, du Congo-Brazzaville et du Cabinda : proposition d’ un modèle de dictionnaire, UNIVERSITE OMAR BONGO – Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines – Département des Sciences du Langage, Libreville, 2009 (in French)
  20. ^ R. P. L. DE CLERCQ, Grammaire du Kiyombe , Edition Goemaere – Bruxelles – Kinshasa, 1907 (in French)
  21. ^ Léon Dereau, COURS DE KIKONGO, Maison d’éditions AD. WESMAEL-CHARLIER, Namur, 1955 (in French)
  22. ^ François Lumwamu, Sur les classes nominales et le nombre dans une langue bantu, Cahiers d’Études africaines, 1970 (in French)
  23. ^ Joaquim Mbachi, CAMINHOS DA GRAMÁTICA IBINDA, Cabinda (Angola), 2013 (in Portuguese)
  24. ^ Robert Tinou, Abécédaire du kouilou zaab’ ku tub’ tchi vili, L’HARMATTAN, 2015 (in French)
  25. ^ Filipe Camilo Miaca, Corpus lexical dos verbos em iwoyo e português, proposta de um dicionário bilingue de verbos em português e iwoyo, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, 2020 (in Portuguese)
  26. ^ Guy Noël Kouarata, DICTIONNAIRE BEEMBE–FRANÇAIS, SIL-Congo, 2010 (in French)
  27. ^ JOSÉ LOURENÇO TAVARES, Gramática da língua do Congo (kikongo) (dialecto kisolongo), Composto e Impresso nas oficinas da Imprensa, Nacional de Angola, 1915 (in Portuguese)
  28. ^ "Kikongo grammar, first part". Ksludotique. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  29. ^ Kiambote kiaku / mbot'aku (hello/good morning to you (to one person)), kiambote kieno / mbote zeno / mbotieno / buekanu (hello/good morning to many people)
  30. ^ The family name and first name were not part of the Kongo culture, meaning the Kongo people gave the children a name based on the circumstances surrounding their birth, significant events, etc. The rule of giving a surname, a first name and a middle name to the children was introduced by the Westerners (Portuguese, French and Belgians).
  31. ^ Yi ku zolele, i ku zolele and ngeye nzolele are used in several variants of Kikongo such as kintandu, kisingombe, kimanianga, kikongo of boko,...
  32. ^ Old version of the days of week in Vili: Ntoonu (Monday), Nsilu (Tuesday), Nkoyo (Wednesday), Bukonzo (Thursday), Mpika (Friday), Nduka (Saturday), Sona (Sunday).
  33. ^ "Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and hundreds more". www.bartleby.com. Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2017-07-21.
  34. ^ Farris Thompson, in his work Flash Of The Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy
  35. ^ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Fiote (Angola)". OHCHR. Retrieved 7 September 2022.

External links[edit]

Kongo learning materials[edit]