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Kimbundu language

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Title: Kimbundu language  
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Subject: Portuguese language, Gullah language, Candomblé Bantu, Angolar language, List of ISO 639-2 codes, Comparison of Portuguese and Spanish, Angolan American
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Kimbundu language

Native to Angola
Region Luanda Province, Bengo Province , Malanje Province
Native speakers 4 million  (2012)
Language family
Kimbundu proper (Ngola)
Mbamba (Njinga)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 kmb
ISO 639-3 kmb
Linguist List
Guthrie code H.21[1]

Kimbundu, or North Mbundu, one of two Bantu languages called Mbundu (see Umbundu), is the second-most-widely spoken Bantu language in Angola. It is concentrated in the north-west of the country, notably in the Luanda Province, the Bengo Province, the Malanje Province and the Cuanza Norte Province. It is spoken by the Ambundu.[2]

There are ten dialects of Kimbundu, Ngola, Dembo, Jinga, Bondo, Bângala, Ibaco, Luanda, Quibala, Libolo, and Quissama. However, this classification is European, not Angolan. There is no way to accurately determine the variations in Kimbundu dialects, because most villages where the language is spoken have not been visited; and there appear to be no experts on this matter considering that Angola lacks professionals capable of providing solid information on this. Maho (2009) distinguishes two primary dialects: Kimbundu proper, or Ngola, and Mbamba, or Njinga.[1]

During the Portuguese colonial period, a 1919 decree banned the use of local languages in schools and made Portuguese obligatory. This heavily reduced the use of Kimbundu amongst educated and urban populations in favour of Portuguese. On the other hand, Kimbundu was learned by a significant part of the Portuguese population of the region, and many Kimbundu words passed into the everyday Portuguese spoken there. In the 1960s and 1970s, even white and racially mixed musical groups used to sing songs in Kimbundu, e.g. "Monami" and "Kamba iyami".

In part of the Malanje Province culturally "assimilated" Ambundu populations produced a mix of Kimbundu and Portuguese called Ambaca, whose speakers are called Ambaquistas.


The Kimbundu script was developed by Capuchin and Jesuit missionaries. While they produced many texts and grammars, most of them demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding or oversimplification of the Kimbundu language. The unfortunate effects of this are still felt today, though, since independence, great strides to elaborate and codify the orthography and grammar of the most important languages spoken in Angola, and recognised as "national languages", have been made.

Kimbundu uses the relatively shallow orthography standardized by the ruling MPLA for use in all Angolan "national languages". Important differences from the Portuguese-based orthography used by the colonizers include the omission of the consonant "r" (since there is no [r] in Kimbundu) and the rules governing vowel orthography (diphthongs are not allowed and vowels are thus changed to "w" or "y" depending on the environment). It has 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u), the u also having the function of a semi-vowel. Certain consonants are represented by two letters, such as mb in mbambi (gazelle), or nj in njila (bird).


  • muthu, "person",
  • kima, "thing";
  • kudya, "food";
  • tubya, "fire";
  • lumbu, "wall"
  • kamba, "friend"
  • hoji, "lion"
  • nzamba, "elephant"

Some Kimbundu words were influential to Romance languages like Portuguese, with words like banjo (supposedly from mbanza), bwe, baza, kuatu, kamba, arimo, mleke, quilombo (from kilombo), quimbanda, tanga, xinga, bunda, etc.


External links

  •  By Herbert Willoughby Woodward (1882)
  • Map of Mbundu (Kimbundu) language from the LL-Map Project
  • Emuseum article on Kimbundu
  • PanAfrican L10n page on Kimbundu
  • Kimbundu people
  • Ethnic groups of Angola
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