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Mbunda Language

                 Orthographies of the first six National languages of Angola, chosen and developed after independence [1]



Mbunda is a Bantu language of Angola, Zambia, and Namibia. There are several dialects: Katavola, Yauma,[2][3] Nkangala,[4] Mbalango, Sango, Ciyengele ("Shamuka"), and Ndundu, all of which are close.[5] Mbunda was chosen as one of Angola's six National languages including Kikongo, Kimbundu, Cokwe, Umbundu and Kwanyama in 1987, after the Instituto de Línguas Nacionais (National Languages Institute) established spelling rules in 1980[6] for Mbunda, to facilitate teaching it in schools and promoting its use,[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] it was later replaced with Ngangela,[16] a standard language missionary Emil Pearson created by mixing Mbunda, Luchazi, Luvale, and Luimbi.[17]

In this confusion, Emil Pearson's accepts in one of his books, that Ngangela is not a language but a people of the Aurora - meanings East, by adding that in the Ngangela group of languages the prefix “Chi” is never used of a person except in a belittling or opprobrious sense. He further accepts that the name was perhaps originally applied to them by the coastal dwellers and the Ovimbundu.[18]

Above Orthographies are the first ever for the first six National languages of Angola after independence, to have been developed on the basis of a study for their phonological systems, and signed by one of the Angolan research team of the Instituto de Línguas Nacionais (National Languages Institute), the late Camarada Justino Frederico Katwiya, who was the representative at the Mbunda National language desk and a teacher of the Mbunda National language[19]


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,[20] upon the migration of among others, the Ciyengele,[21] and also at the beginning of the 20th century due to their resistance to Portuguese colonial occupation,[22] and later because of the impact of the Angolan War of Independence (1961–1974), the decolonization conflict in Angola (1974–1975),[23] 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.[24]


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.[25] Mbunda language in Angola and Namibia is spoken without the TH sounds, like in the Luchazi language;[26] 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",[27] 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, 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.[28]


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


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


Graphic Representation Phonetic Symbol(*) Word Example   Translation
a /a/ angula   choose
mb /mb/ mbunga   crowd
ch (used with nouns)
/tʃ/ cili   true
chiyambi   hunter
nd /nd/ ndumba   lion
e /ɛ/ ewa   yes
f /f/ fundanga   gunpowder
ng /ŋɡ/ ngombe   cow, ox
ŋ /ŋ/ ŋala   crab
h /h/ hanja   outside
i /i/ imanena   wait
j /ʒ/ jombolola   reveal
k /k/ kovela   enter
l /l/ lilonga   plate, dish
m /m/ mulonga   offence
n /n/ naana   my mother
ndthz /nd̪/ ndthzita   war
nk /ŋkʰ/ nkuta   court
ny /ɲ/   or may be /nʲ/ nyali   brother or sister-in-law
o /ɔ/ owo   that one
p /p/ putuka   start
mp /mpʰ/ mpulu   male animal
t /t/ tulo   asleep, sleepy
th /θ/ thimbu   time
ths /t̪/ thsa   die
thz /ð/ thzala   dress up
u /u/ uli   where is he (she)
v /β/ vwato   boat, canoe
w /w/ wahi   he (she) is not here
x /ʃ/ xwata   forest
y /j/ yange   myself





  1. [1] História da criação dos alfabetos em línguas nacionais, edições 70 - Portugal (History of the creation of alphabets in National languages, 70th editions - Portugal)


[2] Robert Papstein, 1994, The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers Association, page 114 ISBN 99 820 3006X


[3] Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997


[4] Not to be confused with the Ngangela language


[5] Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997


[6] http://glottolog.org/resource/languoid/id/mbun1249 For additional sources


[7] Gerhard Kubit (2003) Minority languages and cultures in Central Africa Page 3


[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] Linguas Nacionais


[14] Angola Harmonização das línguas bantu dificultada pela fonética e grafia


[15] Elaboração do Atlas Linguístico de Angola


[16] http://citizenshiprightsinafrica.org/docs/Brinkman-%20Violence,%20Exile,%20and%20Ethnicity.pdf Violence, Exile and Ethniciiy: Nyemba Refugees in Kaisosi and Kehemu (Rundu, Namibia)Inge Brinkman Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3. (Sep., 1999), pp. 417-439. Ref: page 423


[17] 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


[18] "PEOPLE OF THE AURORA" Copyright@ 1977 by Emil Person, published in California March 1977, 168 pages(copyright@1977 by EP 13260 El Dorado, No. 188-G Seal Beach, CA 90740) (1. Ngangela(Bantu people) l. Title. DP611.42.P43 967 3 004963 77-4662 ISBN 0-89293-013-6)


[19] Tusona: Luchazi Ideographs : a Graphic Tradition of West-Central Africa By Gerhard Kubik, pages 291


[20] 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


[21] Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997


[22] René Pélissier, Les Guerres Grises: Résistance et revoltes en Angola (1845–1941), Montamets(Orgeval: Éditions Pélisier, 1977


[23] Franz-Wilhelm Heimer, Der Entkolonisierungskonflikt in Angola, Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1979 ISBN 3-8039-0179-0


[24] Franz-Wilhelm Heimer, Der Entkolonisierungskonflikt in Angola, Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1979 ISBN 3-8039-0179-0


[25] A.W, July 1, 1917, A Comparative Vocabulary of Sikololo-Silui-Simbunda, African Affairs, Oxford University Press


[26] Tusona: Luchazi Ideographs : a Graphic Tradition of West-Central Africa By Gerhard Kubik, pages 291, 292


[27] Bantu-Languages.com, citing Maniacky 1997

  • [28] 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



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