Lingála is a Bantu language of Zone C, with a total of approximately 25
million native speakers and lingua franca users. It is spoken in the
western and northern parts of the DR Congo (including in Kinshasa), in the
Republic of the Congo (including in Brazzaville), and in northern Angola.
It is also widely used among members of the Central-African diaspora
throughout the Western world. Lingála’s origins go back to the
pidginization of Bobangi in the 1880s, an episode to which it still owes a
reduced system of noun-class agreement, as well as grammatical and lexical
generalizations. Its grammar and lexicon later expanded under the influence
of other languages. The system of noun-class agreement has remained
limited, while many other grammatical sub-systems, such as verbal TA
categories and the organization of verbal derivations, nowadays display
A wide range of grammaticalization processes are still ongoing, affecting
nouns, pronouns, numerals, as well as verbs. Of note are Lingála’s profuse
application of nominal prefix stacking, especially with the
near-generalized prefix ba-, the rigidity of the use of the connective with
some adnominals in the noun phrase, and the range of periphrastic verb
forms, among others.
Michael Meeuwis is professor of African languages and linguistics at the
University of Ghent, Belgium. He has published widely on the grammar and
history of Lingála.