Lingala - Lingála

1.  Classification / Classification

Lingala belongs to the Ngala Group of Bantu (Guthrie C36). (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? gives the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Northwest, C, Bangi-Ntomba (C.40), Lusengo

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken along the Lomami, the Ubangi, and the Zaire rivers as far as Kinshasa in Dem. Rep. of the Congo, as well as up the Sangha River through Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic. (Webbook)

A map from Wikipedia showing distribution of native speakers (dark green) and other regions of use (light green):

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue: 2,037,929 in Democratic Republic of the Congo (2000 WCD). Second-language speakers together with Bangala in Democratic Republic of the Congo: 7,000,000 (1999 WA). ... 90,553 in Congo (2000 WCD)... Population total all countries: 2,139,202.

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

No dialect survey has come to our attention as of this writing. There are many varieties of Lingala. Most materials are prepared in one of two styles, either in classical/literary Lingala or in popular Lingala. It is felt by many that the two varieties are not mutually intelligible. (Webbook)

[Lingala is] close to Lusengo and Bangala. (Ethnologue)

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Lingala is primarily a lingua franca throughout the area described above. (Webbook)

According to Omniglot, literacy in Lingala is very low.

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

A standardized orthography exists, although tone is not marked in any books. (Webbook)

This Latin-based orthography uses two extended characters (open-e and open-o). The orthography marked with tone (diacritics) is strongly recommended by the CELTA, it is used in some dictionnaries.

According to Omniglot "There is no standard spelling system..." (verify!)

Apparently the recent Mandombe script has been adapted for Lingala. It is not clear to what extent it may actually be used, however.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

a) Alphabet & digraphs

As reported by Hartell (1993):
a b d e ɛ f i k l m n ny ng o ɔ p s t u w y z
*per the presentation in Systèmes alphabétiques:

As reported in the Wikipedia article on Lingala:
a b c d e ɛ f g gb h i k l m mb mp n nd ng nk ns nt ny nz o ɔ p r s t u v w y z

See also:

b) Sample text

Tokosepelaka míngi na botángi o kásá malúli ma báníngá baíké, bakosɛ́ngɛ te báléndisa bolakisi kóta ya Pútú o kelási ya baíndo. Yangó malámu míngi sɔ̂lɔ́. Kási bandeko ba bísó bâná bakobósanaka te malúli ma pámba pámba makomɔ́nisa moto lokóla mwána mokɛ́. Mwána sɔ́kɔ́ azalí na límpa sikáwa, ekomɔ́nɔ yě sukáli, akobwáka límpa pé akolela sukáli. Loléngé lɔ́kɔ́ sɔ́kɔ́ bakolakisa bísó lingála, kiswahíli, kikɔ́ngɔ́, tsiluba, b.n.b., toébi naíno malámu tɛ́, tokoíbwáka pé tokolela français, flamand, anglais. Wâná níni? Tokomɛmya kóta ya bísó tɛ́; tokoíbébisa bobébisi. Na yangó mindɛ́lɛ́ bakolomɔ́na bǒ bána bakɛ̂ ba bilúlélá pé bakosɛkɛ bísó.

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Even though most Unicode fonts have the necessary characters, only a very few have the proper OpenType? table definitions to places accents on base glyphs? correctly, especially for the open e and the open o. Most fonts will simply misplace the acute, circumflex or caron accents ahead, behind or in case of captital, right in the character. Même si la majorité des polices de caractères Unicode contiennent les caractères lingala, très peu les affichent correctment. La plupart ne place pas les caractères diacritiques sur le e ouvert, le o ouvert, ou les majuscules.

Good fonts for Lingala / Polices qualifiées pour le lingala :

  • AfRomanSerif? - Afromanserif Regular, Bold, BoldItalic, Italic, and AfSans Regular and Bold; both with correct diacritics placement.
  • Andika
  • Code2000 - Only Regular face, missing ligatures? for composed characters, requires smart font? renderer, support for most composed characters, $5 shareware
  • DejaVu Fonts - Bitstream Vera fonts derivative with public domain additions / polices dérivées de Bitstream Vera dans le domaine public
  • Doulos SIL - High quality serif font, requires smart font renderer,only Regular face, support for composed character with minor bug, download for free
  • Free UCS Outline Fonts
  • Gentium
  • Junicode
  • Linux Libertine

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

The Liboke ya Congo project and then Éveil du Congo have localized AbiWord. Le projet Liboke ya Congo et ensuite Éveil du Congo ont localisé Abiword.

There are some translated strings on Ubuntu's Rosetta. Quelques chaînes ont été traduitent sur Rosetta.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

  • ISO 639-1: ln
  • ISO 639-2: lin
  • ISO 639-3: lin

7.6  Locale / Locale

7.7  Other / Autre

  • Google in Lingala (ambiguous orthography : not marking tones, without open e and open o) Google en lingala, avec orthographe non conventionel, sans accent pour marque les tons, ni e ouvert ou o ouvert -

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

  • CELTA : Centre linguistique théorique et appliqué, Kinshasa
  • Liboke ya Congo : translation of Abiword and fvwm in lingala - traduction d'AbiWord et de fvwm en lingala'
  • Éveil du Congo, ONG/ASBL, continuation de Liboke ya Congo

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

An article by M. Diki-Kidiri, C. Mbodj, and A.B. Edema on computer terminology in Sängö, Wolof, and Lingala is available (en français) at

Éveil du Congo Asbl (EDUC) has developed a lexicon of ICT terms in Lingala: "Lexique informatique en lingála." For info, see (As of 2007-6-30, it is not yet on the EDUC website.)

  • Latest version of the "Lexique informatique en lingála" (2007): sites)
  • Revised and extended draft for a newer version (never published; 2009): sites)

Lingala spell checker (Hunspell ln-CD) for Firefox sites)

9.  Comments / Remarques

10.  References / Références

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS,

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Lingala," )

Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993), The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. (The French edition, published the same year, is entitled Alphabets de Langues Africaines).

Leitch, Myles. 2005. "Aspects of Multilingualism in the Lingala Zone of Congo." (SIL Electronic Survey Reports)

Omniglot, "Lingala (lingála),"

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Lingala,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2,"

Wikipedia, "Lingala,"

______, "Lingala,"

______, "Lingála,"ála

< Kru, Bassa | Major Languages | Lozi >

Categories: Languages, CongoDemRep, CongoRep