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|4.1 million (2002 census)
Second language: 1 million (1999)
|Latin script (Ganda alphabet)
The Ganda // language, or Luganda (Ganda: Oluganda [oluɡaːnda][missing tone]), is the major language of Uganda, spoken by over sixteen million Ganda and other people mainly in Southern Uganda, including the capital Kampala. It belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Typologically, it is a highly agglutinating language with subject–verb–object word order and nominative–accusative morphosyntactic alignment.
With about seven million first-language-speakers in the Buganda region and about ten million others with a working knowledge, it is the most widely spoken Ugandan language, and as second language it follows English and precedes Swahili. The language is used in some primary schools in Buganda as pupils begin to learn English, the primary official language of Uganda. Until the 1960s, Ganda was also the official language of instruction in primary schools in Eastern Uganda.
A notable feature of Luganda phonology is its geminate consonants and distinctions between long and short vowels. Speakers generally consider consonantal gemination and vowel lengthening to be two manifestations of the same effect, which they call simply "doubling" or "stressing".
Luganda is also a tonal language; the change in the pitch of a syllable can change the meaning of a word. For example the word kabaka means 'king' if all three syllables are given the same pitch. If the first syllable is high then the meaning changes to 'the little one catches' (third person singular present tense Class VI ka- of -baka 'to catch'). This feature makes Luganda a difficult language for speakers of non-tonal languages to learn. A non-native speaker has to learn the variations of pitch by prolonged listening.
All five vowels have two forms: long and short. The distinction is phonemic but can occur only in certain positions. After two consonants, the latter being a semivowel, all vowels are long. Before a prenasalised consonant, all vowels are long. Before a geminate, all vowels are short. The quality of a vowel is not affected by its length.
|Plosive||p b||t d||c ɟ ||k ɡ|
|Fricative||f v ||s z|
Apart from /l~r/, all these consonants can be geminated, even at the start of a word: bbiri /bːíri/ 'two', kitto /cítːo/ 'cold'. The approximants /w/ and /j/ are geminated as /ɡːw/ and /ɟː/: eggwanga /eɡːwáːŋɡa/ 'country'; jjenje /ɟːéːɲɟe/ 'cricket'—from the roots -wanga /wáːŋɡa/ and -yenje /jéːɲɟe/ respectively, with the singular noun prefix e- that doubles the following consonant.
Apart from /l~r/, /w/ and /j/, all consonants can also be prenasalised—prefixed with a nasal stop. This consonant will be /m/, /n/, /ɲ/ or /ŋ/ according to the place of articulation, and belongs to the same syllable as the consonant it precedes.
The liquid /l~r/ becomes /d/ when geminated or prenasalised. For example ndaba /n̩dába/ 'I see' (from the root -laba with the subject prefix n-); eddagala /edːáɡala/ 'leaf' (from the root -lagala with the singular noun prefix e-, which doubles the following consonant.
A consonant can't be both geminated and prenasalised. When morphological processes require this, the gemination is dropped and the syllable /zi/ is inserted, which can then be prenasalised. For example when the prefix en- is aded to the adjective -ddugavu 'black' the result is enzirugavu /eːnzíruɡavu/.
The nasals /m/, /n/, /ɲ/ and /ŋ/ can be syllabic at the start of a word: nkima /ɲ̩címa/ (or [n̩tʃíma]) 'monkey', mpa /m̩pá/ 'I give', nnyinyonnyola /ɲ̩ɲiɲóɲːola/ or /ɲːiɲóɲːola/ 'I explain'. Note that this last example can be analysed in two ways, reflecting the fact that there's no distinction between prenasalisation and gemination when applied to nasal stops.
Luganda is a tonal language, with three tones: high (á), low (à) and falling (â). A falling tone may occur only on the last syllable of a word. High and low tones may occur in any position.
Tones are carried on morae. In Luganda, a short vowel has one mora and a long vowel has two morae. A geminate or prenasalised consonant has one mora. (A vowel followed by a following prenasalised consonant has two morae including the one belonging to the prenasalised consonant.)
Prefixes often change the tones in a word. For example Baganda /bàɡáándà/ has LHHL, but adding the initial vowel a- /à/ gives Abaganda /àbàɡáàndá/ with L-LHLH. (Here, long vowels are transcribed double (/aa/) rather than with the length mark (/aː/), to allow for tones to be written on each mora.)
Syllables can take any of the following forms:
These forms are subject to certain phonotactic restrictions:
This is reflected in the syllabification rule that words are always hyphenated after a vowel (when breaking a word over two lines). For example Emmotoka yange ezze 'My car has arrived' would be split into syllables as E‧mmo‧to‧ka ya‧nge e‧zze.
For example, ekiddugavu /ecídːuɡavu/ 'black' may be pronounced [ecídːuɡavʷu] or [ecídːuɡavʷ]. Similarly lwaki /lwáːci/ 'why' may be pronounced [lwáːci], [lwáːc] or [lwáːtʃ].
Long vowels before prenasalised fricatives (that is, before /nf/, /nv/, /ns/ or /nz/) may be nasalised, and the nasal is then often elided. Additionally, when not elided (for example phrase-initially), the /n/ usually becomes a labiodental in /nf/, /nv/. For example:
The liquid /l~r/ has two allophones [l] and [r], conditioned by the preceding vowel. It is usually realised as a tap or flap [ɾ] after a close unrounded vowel (i.e. after /e/, /eː/, /i/ or /iː/), and as a lateral approximant [l] elsewhere. However, there's considerable variation in this, and using one allophone instead of the other causes no ambiguity. So lwaki /lwáːci/ 'why' may also be pronounced [rwáːci], [ɾwáːci], [ɹwáːtʃi] etc.
|Simple plosive||p b||t d||c ɟ||k ɡ|
|Geminate plosive||pː bː||tː dː||cː ɟː||kː ɡː|
|Prenasalised plosive||mp mb||nt nd||ɲc ɲɟ||ŋk ŋɡ|
|Simple fricative||f v||s z|
|Geminate fricative||fː vː||sː zː|
|Prenasalised fricative||ɱf ɱv||ns nz|
This simplifies the phonotactic rules so that all syllables are of one of three forms:
Vowel length is then only distinctive before simple consonants (i.e. simple plosives, simple fricatives, simple nasals, approximants and liquids)—not before geminate or nasalised consonants or at the end of a word.
Luganda spelling, which has been standardised since 1947, uses a Roman alphabet augmented with one new letter ŋ and a digraph ny which is treated as a single letter. It has a very high sound-to-letter correspondence: one letter usually represents one sound and vice-versa.
The distinction between simple and geminate consonants is always represented explicitly: simple consonants are written single; geminates are written double. The distinction between long and short vowels is always made clear from the spelling, but not always explicitly: short vowels are always written single; long vowels are only written double when their length cannot be inferred from the context. Stress and tones are not represented in the spelling.
The following phonemes are always represented with the same letter or combination of letters:
The following phonemes can be represented with two letters or combinations of letters, with the alternation predictable from the context:
The following phonemes can be represented with two letters or combinations of letters, with unpredictable alternation between the two:
It is therefore possible to predict the pronunciation of any word (with the exception of stress and tones) from the spelling. It is also usually possible to predict the spelling of a word from the pronunciation. The only words where this is not possible are those that include one of the affricate–vowel combinations discussed above.
As mentioned above, the distinction between long and short vowels is phonemic and is therefore represented in the alphabet. Long vowels are written as double (when length cannot be inferred from the context) and short vowels are written single. For example:
In certain contexts, phonotactic constraints mean that a vowel must be long, and in these cases it is not written double:
Vowels at the start or end of the word are not written double, even if they are long. The only exception to this (apart from all-vowel interjections such as eee and uu) is yee 'yes'.
With the exception of ny [ɲ], each consonant sound in Luganda corresponds to a single letter. The ny combination is treated as a single letter and therefore doesn't have any effect on vowel length (see the previous subsection).
The following letters are pronounced as in English:
A few letters have unusual values:
The letters l and r represent the same sound in Luganda—/l/—but the orthography requires r after e or i, and l elsewhere:
There are also two letters whose pronunciation depends on the following letter:
Compare this to the pronunciation of c and g in many Romance languages. As in the Romance languages the 'softening letter' (in Italian i; in French e; in Luganda y) is not itself pronounced, although in Luganda it does have the effect of lengthening the following vowel (see the previous subsection).
The standard Luganda alphabet is composed of twenty-four letters:
Since the last consonant ŋ does not appear on standard typewriters or computer keyboards, it is often replaced by the combination ng'—including the apostrophe. In some non-standard orthographies, the apostrophe is not used, which can lead to confusion with the letter combination ng, which is different from ŋ.
In addition, the letter combination ny is treated as a unique consonant. When the letters n and y appear next to each other, they are written as nÿ, with the diaeresis mark to distinguish this combination from ny.
Other letters (h, q, x) are not used in the alphabet, but are often used to write loanwords from other languages. Most such loanwords have standardised spellings consistent with Luganda orthography (and therefore not using these letters), but these spelling are not often used, particularly for English words.
The full alphabet, including both standard Luganda letters and those used only for loanwords, is as follows:
Like the grammars of most Bantu languages, Luganda's grammar can be said to be noun-centric in the sense that most words in a sentence agree with a noun. Agreement is by gender and number, and is indicated with prefixes and infixes attached to the start of word stems. The following parts of speech agree with nouns in class and number:
NB: In the study of Bantu languages the term noun class is often used to refer to what is called gender in comparative linguistics and in the study of certain other languages. Hereafter, both terms may be used.
There is some disagreement as to how to count Luganda's noun classes. Some authorities count singular and plural forms as two separate noun classes while others treat the singular–plural pairs as genders. By the former method there are 17 classes while by the latter there are 10, since there are two pairs of classes with identical plurals and one class with no singular–plural distinction.
The latter method is consistent with the study of non-Bantu languages: it is recognised, for example, that German has three genders—masculine, feminine and neuter—and two numbers—singular and plural. To ignore the grammatical and semantic relationship between 'masculine singular' and 'masculine plural' (for example Mann 'man' and Männer 'men') and to treat them as two different noun classes out of a total of six would be artificial; so number is regarded as being distinct from gender, giving three genders and two numbers. Applying this method to Luganda gives ten noun classes, nine of which have separate singular and plural forms. This is the usual way to discuss Luganda (but not when discussing Bantu languages generally).
The following table shows how the ten traditional classes of Luganda map onto the Proto-Bantu noun classes:
|Luganda Class||Number||Proto-Bantu Class|
As the table shows, Proto-Bantu's polyplural classes (6 and 10) are treated as separate in this article.
As is the case with most languages, the distribution of nouns among the classes is essentially arbitrary, but there are some loose patterns:
The class that a noun belongs to can usually be determined by its prefix:
There are a few only cases where prefixes overlap: the singulars of Classes I and II (both beginning with mu-); the singular of Class III and plurals of Classes III and VII (all beginning with n-); and the plurals of Classes V and IX (both ma-). Genuine ambiguity, however, is rare, since even where the noun prefixes are the same, the other prefixes are often different. For example there can be no confusion between omuntu (Class I) 'person' and omuntu (Class II) 'seat' in the sentences Omuntu ali wano 'The person is here' and Omuntu guli wano 'The seat is here' because the verb prefixes a- (Class I) and gu- (Class II) are different, even if the noun prefixes are the same. The same is true with the singular and plural of Class III: Embwa erya 'The dog is eating' vs Embwa zirya 'The dogs are eating' (compare English The sheep is eating vs The sheep are eating where the noun is invariant but the verb distinguishes singular from plural).
In fact, the plurals of Classes III and VII, and those of Classes V and IX, are identical in all their prefixes (noun, verb, adjective etc.).
Class V uses its noun prefixes a little differently from the other classes. The singular noun prefix, eri-, is often reduced to e- with an accompanying doubling of the stem's initial consonant. This happens when the stem begins with a single plosive, or a single nasal stop followed by a long vowel, a nasal stop and then a plosive (called a nasalised stem). For example:
Other stems use the full prefix:
There are also some nouns that have no prefix. Their genders must simply be learnt by rote:
Nouns are inflected for number and state.
Number is indicated by replacing the singular prefix with the plural prefix. For example omusajja 'man', abasajja 'men'; ekisanirizo 'comb', ebisanirizo 'combs'. All word classes agree with nouns in number and class.
State is similar to initial vowel.
The topic state is used for nouns in the following conditions:
The base state is used for the following conditions:
In these examples the adjective -lungi changes its prefix according to the gender (Class I or II) and number (singular or plural) of the noun it is qualifying (compare Italian bella ragazza, belle ragazze, bel ragazzo, bei ragazzi). In some cases the prefix causes the initial l of the stem to change to n or r.
Attributive adjectives agree in state with the noun they qualify, but predicative adjectives never take the initial vowel. Similarly, the subject relative is formed by adding the initial vowel to the verb (because a main verb is a predicate.
Here, the verb nywa changes its prefix according to the gender and number of its subject (compare Arabic number and gender agreement in a topicalized-subject construction: ar-rajul yashrib 'the man drinks', ar-rijaal yashribou 'the men drink', al-mara'ah tashrib 'the woman drinks', an-nisaa' yashribna 'the women drink').
Note, in the second and third examples, how the verb agrees with the number of the noun even when the noun doesn't explicitly reflect the number distinction.
When the verb governs one or more objects, there is an agreement between the object infixes and the gender and number of their antecedents:
See also the detailed section on verbs below.
True adverbs in the grammatical sense are far rarer in Luganda than in, say, English, being mostly translated by other parts of speech—for example adjectives or particles. When the adverb is qualifying a verb, it is usually translated by an adjective, which then agrees with the subject of the verb. For example:
Here, 'badly' is translated with the adjective -bi 'bad, ugly', which is declined to agree with the subject.
Other concepts can be translated by invariant particles. for example the intensifying particle nnyo is attached to an adjective or verb to mean 'very', 'a lot'. For example: Lukwago anywa nnyo 'Lukwago drinks a lot'.
There are also two groups of true adverb in Luganda, both of which agree with the verbal subject or qualified noun (not just in gender and number but also in person), but which are inflected differently. The first group is conjugated in the same way as verbs and contains only a few words: tya 'how', ti 'like this', tyo 'like that':
The adverb ti 'like this' (the last word in each of the above sentences) is conjugated as a verb to agree with the subject of the sentence in gender, number and person.
The second group takes a different set of prefixes, based on the pronouns. Adverbs in this group inclusde -nna 'all' (or, with the singular, 'any'), -kka 'only', -mbi, -mbiriri 'both' and -nsatule 'all three':
Note how, in the last two examples, the adverb -kka agrees with whichever antecedent it is qualifying—either the implicit nze 'I' or the explicit emmotoka 'the car'.
Note also, in the first two examples, how the placement of nzekka before or after the verb makes the difference between 'only' (when the adverb qualifies and agrees with the subject—the implicit nze 'I') and 'alone' (when it qualifies the verb nkola 'I work' but agrees with the subject).
The possessive in Luganda is indicated with a different particle for each singular and plural noun class (according to the possessed noun). An alternative way of thinking about the Luganda possessive is as a single word whose initial consonant cluster is altered to agree with the possessed noun in class and number.
Depending on the possessed noun, the possessive takes one of the following forms:
There are also a few nouns that take special forms when used with a possessive:
The subject prefixes for the personal pronouns are:
For impersonal pronouns the subject prefixes are:
When a verb governs one or more objects, they are shown with prefixes that agree with the antecedent in person and number. As with the subject prefix, the third person prefixes also agree with their antecedents in noun class. The personal object prefixes are:
For the third person the object prefixes are:
Note the similarity between each subject prefix and the corresponding object prefix: they are the same in all cases except Class I and the singular of Class III. Note also the correspondence between the object prefixes and the noun prefixes (see Nouns above): when every m- in the noun prefix is replaced by a g- in the object prefix, the only differences are in Classes I and III.
The direct object prefix is usually inserted directly after the subject prefix:
The indirect object prefix comes after the direct object:
The negative is usually formed by prefixing te- or t- to the subject prefix, or, in the case of the first person singular, replacing the prefix with si-. This results in the following set of personal subject prefixes:
The negative impersonal subject prefixes are:
When used with object relatives or the narrative tense (see below), the negative is formed with the prefix ta-, which is inserted after the subject and object affixes:
To form some tenses, a special form of the verb stem, called the 'modified form', is used. This is formed by making various changes to the final syllable of the stem, usually involving either changing the final syllable to one of the following suffixes:
The modified form of verb stems is the only real source of irregularity in Luganda's verbal system. Monosyllabic verbs, in particular, have unpredictable modified forms:
The present tense is formed by simply adding the subject prefixes to the stem. The negative is formed in the same way but with the negative subject prefixes (this is the usual way of forming the negative in Luganda).
|nkola||'I do'||sikola||'I don't do'|
|okola||'you do'||tokola||'you don't do'|
|akola||'he, she does'||takola||'he, she doesn't do'|
|tukola||'we do'||tetukola||'we don't do'|
|mukola||'you (plural) do'||temukola||'you (plural) don't do'|
|bakola||'they (class I) do'||tebakola||'they (class I) don't do'|
|gukola||'it (class II) does'||tegukola||'it (class II) doesn't do'|
|bikola||'they (class IV) do'||tebikola||'they (class IV) don't do'|
|zikola||'they (class VII) do'||tezikola||'they (class VII) don't do'|
The present perfect is just the subject prefix plus the modified stem:
The present perfect in Luganda is sometimes slightly weaker in its past meaning than in English. It is often used with intransitive verbs with the sense of being in the state of having done something. For example baze azze means 'my husband has arrived' (using the present perfect form -zze of the verb jja 'to come'; ŋŋenze usually means 'I'm off' rather than 'I have gone'. But to say I have done in Muganda would usually use one of the past tenses nnakoze or nnakola 'I did' because kola is a transitive verb.
The present perfect is also used to show physical attitude. For example, using the verb okutuula 'to sit down': ntuula (present tense) means 'I am in the process of sitting myself down'; to say 'I'm sitting down' in the usual English sense of 'I'm seated', a Muganda would use the present perfect: ntudde.
The near past is formed by inserting the prefix -a- before the modified form of the stem. This prefix, being a vowel, has the effect of changing the form of the subject prefixes:
The near past tense is used for events that have happened in the past 18 hours. The negative is formed in the usual way.
The far past is formed with the same prefix a- as the near past, but using the simple form of the stem:
The near future is used when describing things that are going to happen within the next 18 hours. It is formed with the prefix naa- on the simple form of the stem:
The negative form of this tense is formed by changing the final -a of the stem to an -e and using vowel-lengthened negative subject prefixes; no tense prefix is used:
The far future is used for events that will take place more than 18 hours in the future. It is formed with the prefix li- on the simple form of the stem:
The conditional mood is formed with the prefix andi- and the modified form of the stem:
or using the same forms as the negative of the near future:
Luganda has some special tenses not found in many other languages. The 'still' tense is used to say that something is still happening. It is formed with the prefix kya-:
In the negative it means 'no longer':
With intransitive verbs, especially verbs of physical attitude (see Present Perfect above), the kya- prefix can also be used with the modified verb stem to give a sense of 'still being in a state'. For example nkyatudde means 'I'm still seated'.
The 'so far' tense is used when talking about what has happened so far, with the implication that more is to come. It is formed with the prefix aaka-:
This tense is found only in the affirmative.
The 'not yet' tense, on the other hand, is found only in the negative. It is used to talk about things that have not happened yet (but which may well happen in the future), and is formed with the prefix nna-:
When describing a series of events that happen (or will or did happen) sequentially, the vowel) followed by the present tense:
The narrative can be used with any tense, as long as the events it describes are in immediate sequence. The negative is formed with the prefix si- placed immediately after the object prefixes (or after the subject prefix if no object prefixes are used):
Compare this with the negative construction used with the object relatives.
The meaning of a verb can be altered in an almost unlimited number of ways by means of modifications to the verb stem. There are only a handful of core derivational modifications, but these can be added to the verb stem in virtually any combination, resulting in hundreds of possible compound modifications.
The passive is produced by replacing the final -a with -wa or -ibwa/-ebwa:
Many verbs are used only in their reflexive form:
Reduplication is formed by doubling the stem, and generally adds the sense of repetition or intensity:
The applied, or prepositional, modification, allows the verb to take an extra object and gives it the meaning 'to do for or with (someone or something). It is formed with the suffix ir- inserted before the final -a of the verb:
Adding the applied suffix twice gives the 'augmentative applied' modification, which has an alternative applied sense, usually further removed from the original sense than the simple applied modification:
The causative is formed with various changes applied to the end of the verb, usually involving the final -a changing to -ya, -sa or -za. It gives a verb the sense of 'to cause to do', and can also make an intransitive verb transitive:
Appling two causative modifications results in the 'second causative':
The neuter modification, also known as the stative, is similar to the '-able' suffix in English, except that the result is a verb meaning 'to be x-able' rather than an adjective meaning 'x-able'. It is formed by inserting the suffix -ik/-ek before the verb's final -a:
The intransitive conversive modification reverses the meaning of an intransitive verb and leaves it intransitive, or reverses the meaning of a transitive verb and makes it intransitive, similar to English's 'un-' prefix. It is formed with the prefix uk- inserted before the verb's final -a:
The transitive conversive is similar to the intransitive conversive except that it results in a transitive verb. In other words it reverses the meaning of an intransitive verb and makes it transitive, or reverses the meaning of a transitive verb and leaves it transitive. It is formed with the suffix ul-:
Two conversive suffixes create the augmentative conversive modification:
The reciprocal modification is formed with the suffix -na or -gana (or less commonly -ŋŋa):
This is not really a modification but a clitic, so it is always applied 'after' any grammatical inflexions.
More than one modification can be made to a single stem:
There are some restrictions that apply to the combinations in which these modifications can be made. For example the 'applied' modification can't be made to a causative stem; any causative modifications must first be removed, the applied modification made and the causative modifications then reapplied. And since the reflexive is formed with a prefix rather than a suffix, it is impossible to distinguish between, for example, reflexive causative and causative reflexive.
The Luganda system of cardinal numbers is quite complicated. The numbers 'one' to 'five' are specialised numerical adjectives that agree with the noun they qualify. The words for 'six' to 'ten' are numerical nouns that don't agree with the qualified noun.
'Twenty' to 'fifty' are expressed as multiples of ten using the cardinal numbers for 'two' to 'five' with the plural of 'ten'. 'Sixty' to 'one hundred' are numerical nouns in their own right, derived from the same roots as the nouns for 'six' to 'ten' but with different class prefixes.
In a similar pattern, 'two hundred' to 'five hundred' are expressed as multiples of a hundred using the cardinal numbers with the plural of 'hundred'. Then 'six hundred' to 'one thousand' are nouns, again derived from the same roots as 'six' to 'ten'. The pattern repeats up to 'ten thousand', then standard nouns are used for 'ten thousand', 'one hundred thousand' and 'one million'.
The words used for this system are:
Numerical adjectives (declined to agree with the qualified noun):
Digits are specified from left to right, combined with na (following kkumi) and mu (following any other word). For example:
The numerical adjectives agree with the qualified noun:
The forms emu, bbiri, ssatu, nnya and ttaano are used when counting (as well as when qualifying nouns of classes III and VII).
However, a complication arises from the agreement of numerical adjectives with the powers of ten. Since the words for 'ten', 'hundred', 'thousand' and so on belong to different classes, each power of ten can be inferred from the form of the adjective qualifying it, so the plural forms of the powers of ten (amakumi 'tens', bikumi 'hundreds', bukumi 'tens of thousands'—but not nkumi 'thousands') are usually omitted, as long as this doesn't result in ambiguity.
Note that amanda amakumi ana '40 batteries' cannot be shortened to amanda ana because this means "four batteries", and embwa amakumi ana '40 dogs' cannot be shortened to embwa ana because ana is the form of nnya used with embwa, so this actually means 'four dogs'! Nkumi 'thousands' is also not usually omitted because the form the numerical adjectives take when qualifying it is the same as the counting form, so 3,000 will always be rendered nkumi ssatu.
|Ganda edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|