Kongo - Kikongo, Kituba

1.  Classification / Classification

The term "Kongo" encompasses a group of Bantu dialects, Guthrie's general heading (H10) as well as the subbranch (H16). (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, H, Kongo (H.10)

Kituba (or Munukutuba or Kikongo ya leta) is listed by Ethnologue as a Kongo-based creole.

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken in Angola, Congo, Dem. Rep. of the Congo (DRC) and Gabon. (Webbook)

According to Ethnologue (accessed 2007):

  • "Koongo" is spoken in Bas-Congo Province of DRC, as well as in northwestern corner of Angola and "Pool Region, around Boko, west and northwest of Brazzaville" in Congo
  • Kongo, San Salvador: Along the Congo River below Kinshasa in DRC and in Angola
  • Laari: South of Pool Region, west and northwest of Brazzaville (Congo). Also spoken in NW Angola.
  • Yombe: Western Bas-Congo Province, Mayombe Forest, DRC; Cabinda in Angola
  • Kituba (DRC) is spoken in Bas-Congo and southern Bandundu provinces
  • Kituba (Congo) is spoken mainly between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire

A map from Wikipedia on right shows areas where Kikongo and Kituba are spoken.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue (accessed 2007):

  • Kituba of DRC:
    • 4,200,000 (1990 UBS)
    • 800,000 second-language speakers
  • Kituba of Congo:
    • 1,156,800 (1987 SIL)
  • Koongo:
    • 1,000,000 in DRC
    • ? in Angola and in Congo
  • Kongo, San Salvador:
    • 536,994 in DRC (2000 WCD)
    • 328,361 in Angola (2000 WCD)
    • Population total all countries: 865,355
  • Laari: 90,553 in Congo (2000 WCD)
  • Yombe:
    • 669,000 in DRC (2002)
    • 347,723 in Congo (2000 WCD)
    • 39,403 in Angola (2000 WCD)
    • Population total all countries: 1,056,126.

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Heine (1970) reports that the major dialect distinction is between west and east and the influence of the first languages spoken in each area. Voegelin and Voegelin (1977) report nine dialects of Kikongo, while Lay (personal communication, 1983) reports twelve, with eight in DRC, two in the Congo, and two in Angola. (Webbook)

In its listing for "Koongo," Ethnologue states: Other languages of the Kongo group are sometimes regarded as dialects of Kongo (see separate entries for Beembe, Doondo, Kunyi, Vili, Monokutuba, and Kituba)

SIL International's page on Macrolanguage listings, gives only Koongo, San Salvador Kongo, and Laari under the heading of "Kongo." According to information compiled from Ethnologue (to which we include other related tongues):

  • Koongo
    • South Congo
    • Central Kongo
    • West Kongo (Fiote, Fioti)
    • Bwende (Buende)
    • East Kongo
    • Southeast Kongo
    • Nzamba (Dzamba)
  • Kongo, San Salvador (Fioti and San Salvador are different enough to need separate literature)
  • Laari (Laadi)
    • Ghaangala (Kighaangala, Hangala)
  • Yombe (Distinct enough from Kongo-Fioti to need separate literature)
    • Mbala (Mumbala)
    • Vungunya (Kivungunya, Yombe Classique)
  • Kituba of DRC (A creole based on the Kongo dialect spoken in Manianga area, but unintelligible to speakers of it or other Kongo dialects. Influenced by Lingala, French, restructured Swahili, Portuguese, and other local dialects. Kituba of Congo is closely related.)
    • Ikeleve
    • Western Kituba
    • Eastern Kituba
  • Kituba of Congo (Close to Kituba of DRC)

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Kongo is a literary language and a vehicular language (known as Kituba) used throughout this area of Africa. Kongo is used as a lingua franca in DR Congo and in metropolitan Brazzaville. UNESCO/UNDP has prepared materials for a literacy campaign in Angola. Kikongo is heard on La Voix de la Révolution (Congo) and La Voix du Zaïre. (Webbook) [needs more updating]

According to Ethnologue:

  • Koongo is a national language in DRC and an official language? in Angola
  • Kituba is a means of communication among various language groups.
  • Literacy rate of Kituba speakers in Congo (according to Ethnologue, accessed 2007):
    • L1: 5% to 10%
    • L2: 15% to 25%

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

There is a standard Romanized literary orthography, but tones are generally not marked. (Webbook, with modification) [need more info!]

There exists an indigenous script of recent origin called Mandombe which is used mainly in the Kimbaguist church.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Alphabet for Kituba (Congo) as reported by Hartell (1993) and presented in Systèmes alphabétiques: http://sumale.vjf.cnrs.fr/phono/AfficheTableauOrtho2N.php?choixLangue=munukutuba

The "Language Museum" site has sample texts for:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Standard Latin fonts may suffice [verify!]

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

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

Wikipedia in Kongo at http://kg.wikipedia.org/

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

The Liboke ya Congo project may have some plans for this.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Kongo [SIL, the RA for ISO-639-3, groups kng, kwy, ldi under the "macrolanguage" kon]

  • ISO 639-1: kg
  • ISO 639-2: kon
  • ISO/DIS 639-3: kon


  • ISO/DIS 639-3: kng

Kongo, San Salvador

  • ISO/DIS 639-3: kwy


  • ISO/DIS 639-3: ldi

Kituba (DRC)

  • ISO/DIS 639-3: ktu

Kituba (Congo)

  • ISO/DIS 639-3: mkw


  • ISO/DIS 639-3: yom

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

The numerical importance of Kituba might make it a candidate for localisation. The diversity of Kongo dialects might pose challenges for localisation.

Should Kituba and the Kongo cluster be given separate listings? What about Yombe?

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/hiermenu.html (page on "Kongo (Kituba)," http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/Kongo_root.html )

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).

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Kituba [DRC]," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/ktu

______, "Kituba [Congo]," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/mkw

______, "Kongo, San Salvador," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/kwy

______, "Koongo," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/kng

______, "Laari," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/ldi

______, "Yombe," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/yom

SIL International, "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: kon," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/documentation.asp?id=kon

______, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

______, "ISO 639-3 Macrolangauge Mappings," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/macrolanguages.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Kikongo," https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kikongo

______, "Kikôngo," https://kg.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kikôngo

______, "Kisikôngo," https://kg.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kisikôngo

______, "Kituba," https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kituba

______, "Kituba language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kituba_language

______, "Kongo language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kongo_language

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Categories: Languages, CongoDemRep, CongoRep, Angola, S Gabon