Luba-Kasai language

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Ciluba[1] (Tshiluba)
Native toDemocratic Republic of the Congo
EthnicityBaluba-Kasai (Bena-kasai)
Native speakers
(6.3 million Cilubaphones cited 1991)[2]
  • 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)
Official status
Official language in
 Democratic Republic of Congo (national language)
Language codes
ISO 639-2lua
ISO 639-3lua
Pidgin Chiluba
Native toDR Congo
Native speakers
Luba-based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Luba-Kasai, also known as Western Luba, Bena-Lulua, Ciluba/Tshiluba,[5] Luba-Lulua[6] or Luva, is a Bantu language (Zone L) of Central Africa and a national language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, alongside Lingala, Swahili, and Kikongo.

An eastern dialect is spoken by the Luba people of the East Kasai Region and a western dialect by the Lulua people of the West Kasai Region. The total number of speakers was estimated at 6.3 million in 1991.

Within the Zone L Bantu languages, Luba-Kasai is one of a group of languages which form the "Luba" group, together with Kaonde (L40), Kete (L20), Kanyok, Luba-Katanga (KiLuba), Sanga, Zela and Bangubangu. The L20, L30 and L60 languages are also grouped as the Luban languages within Zone L Bantu.

Geographic distribution and dialects[edit]

Tshiluba is chiefly spoken in a large area in the Kasaï Occidental and Kasaï Oriental provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the differences in Tshiluba within this area are minor, consisting mostly of differences in tones and vocabulary, and speakers understand each other without a problem. Both dialects are further made up of sub-dialects. Additionally, there is also a pidginised variety of Tshiluba,[4] especially in cities where the everyday spoken Tshiluba is enriched with French words and even words from other languages such as Lingala or Swahili. Nevertheless, this variety is not a typical form of a pidgin since it is not common to every one, and changes its morphology and the quantity and degree to which words from other languages are used. Its form changes depending on who speaks it and varies from city to city and from one social class to another. However, in general people speak the regular Tshiluba language in their daily lives rather than the pidgin. The failure of the language to be taught at school has resulted in the replacement of native words by French words for the 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 pidginised while in reality it has not.[citation needed]


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 fufu
malaba makelela yesterday/ tomorrow
lupepe luhepa wind
Mankaji (shi)/tatu mukaji tatu mukaji aunty
bimpe bimpa well/good


Luba-Kasai uses the Latin alphabet, with the digraphs ng, ny and sh but without the letters q, r and x:[7]


Tshiluba has 5 vowels: /a, e, i, o, u/.

This chart shows the consonants of Tshiluba. Where the orthography differs from IPA representation, the orthographic symbol is bolded.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
Affricate voiceless c /t͡ʃ/
voiced j /d͡ʒ/
Fricative voiceless f s sh /ʃ/ h
voiced v z
Nasal m n ny /ɲ/ ng /ŋ/
Approximant l y /j/ w

Sample text[edit]

According to The Rosetta Project,[8] Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights translates to:

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."[7]


  1. ^ "Ciluba" is Standard Orthography, pronounced like "Chiluba" and "Tshiluba".
  2. ^ Luba-Kasai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Luba-Lulua". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ a b c Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^ The prefix tshi/ci means "language"
  6. ^ "Luba-Lulua" is too restrictive a name, as the Lulua people speak only the Western dialect of Luba-Kasai.
  7. ^ a b "Tshiluba language and alphabet". Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  8. ^ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Rosetta Project: A Long Now Foundation Library of Human Language (no author). (2010).
  • Samuel Phillips Verner (1899). Mukanda wa Chiluba. Spottiswoode. Retrieved 26 August 2012.


  • Stappers, Leo. Tonologische bijdrage tot de studie van het werkwoord in het tshiluba. 1949. Mémoires (Institut royal colonial belge. Section des sciences morales et politiques). Collection in-8o ; t. 18, fasc. 4.
  • de Schryver, Gilles-Maurice. Cilubà Phonetics: Proposals for a 'Corpus-Based Phonetics from Below' Approach. 1999. Research Centre of African Languages and Literatures, University of Ghent.
  • DeClercq, P. Grammaire de la langue des bena-lulua. 1897. Polleunis et Ceuterick.
  • Willems, Em. Het Tshiluba van Kasayi voor beginnelingen. 1943. Sint Norbertus.

External links[edit]