Wiktionary:About Lingala

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At the moment, this page just documents the rules I am making up as I try to enter the few words of Lingala that I know. I came here with the aim of getting help in *learning* some Lingala. My silent hope is that some day, people who actually speak the language and know how to write it will take over and also improve the rules described here. If you are such a person, do not hesitate!!!

I have consulted the Lingala Wiktionary (ln.wiktionary.org), which, at the moment of writing, only contains 14 actual entries, but already differs in spelling from the handful of entries here at en.wiktionary.org.

Rp2 00:43, 23 December 2007 (UTC)


Lingala exists in many different varieties, and (worse for this dictionary) also in different spellings. Even for the handful of words I know, this is already a problem. Examples of dilemmas I've encountered so far:

  • pási vs. mpási (more generally: p- vs. mp-)
  • ɔkɔtɔ́bɛ vs. októbe (more generally: whether to use the characters ɔ and ɛ)
  • ndáko vs. ndáku (generally: whether to spell o as o even when pronounced as u, I understand this is typical of some variants of Lingala)
  • ndáko vs. ndako (generally: whether to use the accent mark to indicate tone)
  • vs. faux (generally: how to spell French loan words that sound as in French)
  • whether to give the singular and plural of nouns separate entries (e.g. likáko vs. makáko)
  • how to represent verbs

Working solutions[edit]

This is a list of what I've decided concerning these issues, with the reasons why. I thought it would be worthwhile to document it; it doesn't mean that I think it's the best way of doing things; it only means that I think a consistent, documented way of doing things is better than nothing at all. So if you decide to do things differently please edit this page and explain it here.

  • on mp- versus p-: the people I know use p- so those are the forms I will generally list
  • on the spelling of ɛ and ɔ: unlike ln.wiktionary.org (which uses them) I have decided to follow the dictionaries available at http://www.suka-epoque.de/, which do not use them; they do occasionally use ê, e.g. in mabêle, in which case I follow them
  • like http://www.suka-epoque.de/, I spell o for both the u-sound and for ɔ
  • I always use the accent (aigu) to indicate tone, even in entry names; e.g. makélélé and makéléle are different entries. But I'm not at all sure this is a good idea, and it is e.g. inconsistent with what the Latin dictionary does. So feel free to change it, as long as you also change all the present entries to follow your new policy and document it here. Consistency is nice.
  • I am labelling many words as adjectives, even though all adjectives I've seen so far are technically nouns used in adjective position. This is reasonable: for many such adjectives, their origin as nouns is little more than a historical coincidence. E.g., adjectives so common that even I know them, such as malíli ("cold"), turn out to be nouns that I never knew ("graveyard", says http://www.suka-epoque.de/). (I sometimes do not even list the noun, when I'm not personally familiar with it.)
  • For French loans I will use the spelling that appears most common to me. Correct me where I'm wrong.
  • For nouns, my plan is to always list the singular form, and list the plural (even when it's completely regular) when I feel like it. Lingala-specific templates and bots can take care of automating that in the future.
  • For verbs, I'll follow li.wiktionary.org and use the verb stem as the entry name. (The tendency in dictionaries is to use the verb stem preceded by a hyphen.) So -lingi ("to love") will be entered under lingi, not "-lingi", "nalingi", "kolingi" or whatever.

Rp2 00:52, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Not at all sure how/where to respond; it would seem to be better if each item was a separate talk page section?
  • mp- vs p- should always be mp-. Likewise nz- (nzambe "god") and others. the m or n sometimes seems to disappear in pronunciation, but that can make a different word. When you say "use" do you mean spoken or written?
  • use o and e and e-circumflex as you say
  • the accent acute is a common feature of the written language, although not always used; do use it. (The example of macrons in Latin is completely irrelevant, macrons never appear in written Latin, only dictionaries.)
  • adjectives, I think you are on the right track; in Swahili "baridi" is cold, heard frequently as an adjective even though a noun. (I don't think I've heard it in the noun sense in four years; but the adjective every day, as in getting a drink baridi instead of the default (warm, sometimes called moto, but that means "hot") English is not that different; we list words as adjectives when that is the common use. (particularly ones that have -ness added to what used to be a noun form to make it surely a noun; cold, coldness).
  • The assimilated spelling should be used unless it is a very recent borrowing, in which case it is probably better to consider it code-switching (vocabulary substitution), and not a Lingala word at all. (When a politician here—I can hear one in Uhuru Park at this moment—says "Tunataka full employment ya wananchi!" it doesn't make "full employment" a Swahili word, just an on-the-fly substitution of an English term.)
  • We want entries for plurals, but as you say it can be automated from the singular.
  • the verbs should be at the "stem" if it exists as a form (almost always, maybe always, I can't think of an exception in a Bantu language at the moment); not a -xxx entry, which is only for suffixes; eventually we want all the forms. Robert Ullmann 12:30, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
Here is my response :
  • mp- vs p-, always use mp- as the main entry, and maybe have p- as alternate spelling
  • w:Standardisation et uniformisation de l'orthographe has some pretty clean rules that can easily be followed. However it is true that not every dictionary, even some great ones, don't follow those rules. I personally always write tones according to those rules and with the two vowels ɛ and ɔ. Merging spelling for tones create unnecessary ambiguities. The spelling mabêle doesn't indicate the proper tone (ê is traditionally éè HL, unless of course your reading it like French which doesn't indicate the tone), and for the speaker who diffirentiates e and ɛ, they should be spelled differently. Besides How are the following spelled with that circumflex to differentiate e and ɛ while using acute for high tone : ebɛlí (it sulks), ebɛ́lí (it is sick) and ebélí (it boils) ?
  • The difference between final o and u (or in prefixes) is dialectical, most dictionaries chose to write them o. Just like they've chosen z over j (nazalí vs. najalí).
  • Using the acute accent for the high tone is good. But circumflex and antiflex (caron) should also be used. For example yɔ̌ (you) can be prononced with LH of H (as yɔ́), the first should definitely be the main entry, the second could be an alternate spelling based on pronunciation (I haven't added many of those on fr.wiktionary.org at the moment).
  • For nouns that are adjectives, it's fine to have entries as non-inflexional adjectives since they are used as such, but I personally also add the nouns. Everyone is free to add what they know.
  • For loan words, I usually use an adjusted spelling when the word is clearly park of the Lingala vocabulary, just like bulangéti or bolangéti for blanket, and not just code switching.
  • For nouns, plural is cool.
  • For verbs, I initially added them without the dash, i.e. linga for kolinga, but I've just move them all on fr.wiktionary to entries with the dash, i.e. -linga for kolinga.

--- Moyogo 01:43, 26 April 2011 (UTC)