Sociolinguistic Survey of Kwanza Sul Province, Angola: With a Special Focus on the Kimbundu Variants

Statement of Responsibility:
Jordan, Linda and Isata Manuel

Kwanza Sul Province in Angola has twelve municipalities and as many as thirteen local language variants recognised by the provincial government. Based on the data available so far, it appears that Kwanza Sul Province contains as many as five separate languages, in terms of comprehension and identity. These include the following: Kibala-Ngoya, Hele, Nsume, Ndongo-Mpinda and Kissama [smd].

The thirteen variants of Kwanza Sul Province are divided into two groups depending on whether they are considered to be part of Kimbundu [kmb] or Umbundu [umb]. The survey team further divided those considered to be Kimbundu variants, the focus of this survey, into three subgroups according to linguistic relatedness.

The first subgroup is made up of varieties that can be classified as Kibala-Ngoya, which is different enough from standard Kimbundu to be considered a separate language. Kimbundu speakers from Kwanza Norte Province and Malanje Province cannot understand it, nor can Kibala-Ngoya speakers understand standard Kimbundu well unless they have learned it.

There are peripheral varieties of Kibala-Ngoya, like Lubolo [blv], which show more influence from a larger neighbouring language such as Kimbundu. However, these peripheral varieties still have a shared origin with the more central ones and can be considered part of the distinct Kibala-Ngoya language. The results of the dialect mapping interviews, comprehension tests and wordlist analysis indicate that the speakers of the Kibala, Hebó, Ucela, Mbwĩ and Lubolo variants share a common identity and can for the most part communicate in their mother tongue without switching to Portuguese. Kibala is the most likely choice for a central dialect.

Though Kibala-Ngoya was the main focus of this research, the results of the study also show that Nsume is clearly a language distinct from the above listed variants, forming the second subgroup under Kimbundu. The coastal variants of Kissama, Ndongo, and Mpinda make up the third subgroup according to linguistic relatedness, though further research is required in this area.

Regarding the name of the language here designated as Kibala-Ngoya, there remains some controversy. Nearly everyone seems to agree that in the past “Ngoya” was a derogatory term, but now it is accepted by many as being the name of the ethnolinguistic group. According to Angenot, Mfuwa and Ribeiro (2011), it was decided at a conference that the language is best designated as “Kibala.” This is also the solution supported by Angola’s Institute of National Languages, the Instituto de Línguas Nacionais (ILN). It does seem to be the most reasonable and historically valid choice, though not without opposition.

37 pages
Language surveys
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