Vol 28 No 3 (2019): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Les réflexes du proto-bantu en cíbìnjì cyà ngúsú, langue bantu L231 (Kasaï Central, RD Congo)

Michel Onokoko Onyumbe
Ghent University
Joseph Koni Muluwa
University of Kikwit
Published December 31, 2019
  • Cibinji cya Ngusu,
  • Proto-Bantu,
  • sound changes,
  • vowel and consonant reflexes


This paper examines reflexes of Proto-Bantu phonemes in Cibinji cya Ngusu, a Bantu language classified as L231 and spoken in the Central Kasaï province of the RD Congo. First, this article shows an overview of the synchronic phonology of this language and its vowel, consonant and tone systems.  In particular, it is shown that the inherited second and third degree vowels *ɪ, *e and *ʊ, *o have an unusual evolution in this language, in contrast to what is evidenced in many other Bantu five-vowel languages. For instance, *e and *o are realized /e/ and /o/ instead of /ɛ/ and /ɔ/, respectively. *ʊ has two regular reflexes, both /u/ and /o/; this change is also exceptional for a five-vowel Bantu language. A peculiar phenomenon in consonant evolution is the spirant devoicing of inherited voiced plosives. A type of Meinhof’s rule called the “Swahili type” is also observed in the evolution of prenasalized consonants. At the tone level, Cibinji cya ngusu has completely inverted the tone scheme of Proto Bantu so that inherited high tones became low tones, and low tones are realized as high tones.