Munukutuba is an alternate term used for the Kituba language, which is known by many different names amongst its speakers. In the Republic of Congo either Munukutuba or Kituba is used, with Munukutuba meaning literally “I to speak”, and the latter meaning “speech”. Conversely, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kituba is referred to as Kikongo ya leta, or simply Kikongo. Older monikers have mostly been abandoned, whilst scholars refer to the language as Kikongo-Kituba.
Kituba might best be described as a Kikongo-based Pidgin dialect derived from a group of inter-connected Bantu languages. The official language of the Republic of Congo and the national language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kituba is spoken by roughly 5.4 million people, according to a 1990 study. The DRC Kituba speakers can be found in the regions of Bas-Congo, Kwango, Kwilu, Kinshasa, Mai-Ndombe, and Kasi-Occidental. In the Republic of Congo, Kituba speakers are located mostly in the southern districts of the country, namely Kouilou, Niari, Bouenza, Lékoumou, Pool, and the capital of Brazzaville.
Although many theories exist as to the origin of Kituba, the majority of these notions seem to agree on the fact that the language appears to have grown from a trade language into a new grammatically simplified vernacular. From 1885 to 1960 this dialect was appropriated for administrative purposes by the missionaries in the area at the time, causing Kituba to become the language of choice in the large towns established during this colonial period.
As a national and official language, Kituba is favoured for provincial government, primary education, and public communication (for example, the evening news). There are no known dialects of Kituba, although the vast majority of the Kituba lexicon is taken from Kikongo, Kiyaka, Kimbala, Kisongo, Kiyansi, Lingala, Swahili, French, Portuguese, and English.
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Background and status
Kongo, or more correctly Kikongo, is the Bantu language spoken by the Bakongo and Bandundu people living in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. Congo-Kinshasa, ex-Zaire), the Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. Congo-Brazzaville) and Angola.
It is a tonal language and formed the base for Kituba, a Bantu creole and lingua franca throughout much of west central Africa. Kongo is related to Swahili, Shona, and Bembe, among others. Kikongo is the name used by its speakers. There are many dialects of Kongo such as San Salvador Kongo, spoken in Congo (Kinshasa) and Angola, has more than 1.5 million speakers and is often listed as a separate language because it is not mutually intelligible with other Kongo dialects. There are more than seven million native speakers of Kongo, many of whom live in western Congo (Kinshasa), where Kongo is a national language. The remaining native speakers live in Congo (Brazzaville) and northern Angola.
Growth and usage
Kikongo was spoken by many Africans who were taken from the region and sold as slaves in the Americas. For this reason, while Kongo still is spoken in the above-mentioned countries, creolised forms of the language are found in ritual speech of Afro-American traditional religions, especially in Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. It is also one of the sources of the Gullah people's language and the Palenquero in Colombia.
Kikongo is also a popular language used for radio and television programmes.