What Is Unique About The Lingala African Language?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
Lingala has no articles, either definite or indefinite, and no troublesome genders to learn. Therefore it quickly endears itself to the one who finds language study difficult. The verbs are simple to construct, the verb root stays the same for one verb, with few exceptions. The person and tense are determined by adding suffixes and prefixes to the root or stem of the verb.

For example, the root word for "preach" is "sakol." In the word "kosakola" (to preach) the prefix "ko" is the equivalent of "to" in the English infinitive. If "na," instead of "ko," is used as the prefix and "I" instead of "a" is used as the suffix, the word formed is "nasakoli," meaning "I preach." To say "I preached," "ak" is added to the suffix, forming the word "nasakolaki." So precision of expression can be obtained in Lingala.

Some persons, however, complain about the lack of adjectives in the language. And it is true that there are not many, but this lack is easily compensated for. Abstract nouns can be used with a preposition. Thus instead of saying that "The Lord is a loving God," one says, "The lord is a God of love." The meaning is still clear.

Something often difficult for a European or an American to get used to is forming the plurals of nouns with a prefix rather than a suffix. In Lingala "Nzambe" means one God, but "ba-nzambe" is the word for more than one god. A person is "mutu," while "batu" is the word for people.

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