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

Luba-Kasai, also known as Western Luba, Bena-Lulua, Ciluba/Tshiluba,[4] Luba-Lulua or Luva, is a Bantu language (Zone L) of Central Africa, and an official 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 the Kasaï Occidental and Kasaï Oriental provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 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 everyday 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

Phonology and alphabet[edit]

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

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 phoneme r has no parallel in Ciluba. The graphemes q, r and x appear in writing only in loanwords from French and sometimes Swahili. The phoneme r in loaned words is adapted as either d or l; e.g. maringa to madinga, veranda to velando or balanda.[citation needed]

Sample text[edit]

According to The Rosetta Project,[year needed] [5] 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."


  1. ^ Ciluba at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Luba-Lulua". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b c Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ The prefix tshi/ci means "language"
  5. ^ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Rosetta Project: A Long Now Foundation Library of Human Language (no author, no date).
  • Samuel Phillips Verner (1899). Mukanda wa Chiluba. Spottiswoode. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 


  • Stappers, Leo. Tonologische bijdrage tit 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]