[Grammar] Nominal Prefix bu-

When bu- is used as a nominal prefix, it introduces an action, a technique, a habit, a concept, etc.

Le préfixe nominal bu- introduit une action, une technique, une habitude, un concept, etc.

Masque Luba en bois
Masque Luba en bois


*madimi (champ/field) -> budimi (agriculture, by extension, ‘budimi’ also means field)
*-pole (tranquille, calme) -> bupole (paix/peace)
*umwe (un/one) -> bumwe (unité/unity)
*muluba (homme luba) -> Buluba (vaste ensemble comprenant : la terre, la langue, la culture, la coutume, la tradition, la société, l’identité, la fierté, le fait d’appartenir à l’ethnie Luba/ensemble including: the land, the language, the culture, the habits, the traditions, the society, the identity, the pride, the fact of belonging to the Baluba people)
*dinyùnguluka (contour) -> bunyùngùlùka (environnement)
*madììkadidi (liberté/freedom) -> budììkadidi (indépendance)
*mulùma (homme/man) -> bulùma (virilité/virility)
*mukàji (femme/woman) -> bukàji (féminité/feminity)
*mubèèdì (un malade/patient) -> bubèèdi (maladie/disease)
*mupika (esclave/slave) -> bupika (esclavage/slavery)
*muzòdi (dessinateur, peintre/painter) -> buzòdi (peinture, dessin/painting)

[Grammar] Classes in Ciluba

No, I’m not talking about school but grammar!!! Here we are going to tackle something essential to understand. A first classification of words has been done in the 19th century. The linguists classified words in main 8 categories but later on, the linguists became more precise and now the number of classes has doubled. Over the years, it came down to the following list. Those classes are important to know because they will determine how you form, not only the plural form of words, but the adjectives and adverbs as well.

1801-1900 PorteuseCoupeDuMaîtreDeBuliBOISLuba

Classe Type Description Examples
1 mu-  words defining people, gender, family members, trades, professions, etc.  mwana (child), muledi (parent), mukaji (woman), mulume (man), mulongeshi (teacher), mufudi (forgeron)
2 ba-  plural form of words from class 1  muntu -> bantu (man, men); muledi -> baledi parent(s); mukaji -> bakaji: woman, women; mukalenge -> bakalenge: chief(s)
3 mu-  animals, inanimated objects, instruments, actions, consequences, body parts, products, etc.  mulangi (bottle), mucima (heart, liver, morals), mwendu (lamp)
4 mi-  plural form of words from class 3  munu -> minu: finger(s); muci -> mici: tree(s); musulu -> misulu: river(s); musoko -> misoko: village(s)
5 di-  body parts going into pairs, liquids, feelings, various objects  dilongu, dici (ear), dikasa (foot)
6 ma-  plural form of words from class 5 & 14  CLASS 5: diboku -> maboku: arm(s); ditama -> matama: cheek(s); dicuwa -> macuwa: rechaud(s)CLASS 14: bwalu -> malu: affairs, problems; buloba -> maloba: land(s); buta -> mata: bow(s); bukalu -> malalu: bed(s)
7 ci-  locations, inanimated agents, instruments, products, Surnames, feelings, vices, etc.  cilamba (bridge), cibota (banana), cikumbi (stable, fence)
8 bi-  plural form of words from class 7  cilembi -> bilembi: hunter(s); cinji -> binji; anger(s); cisalu -> bisalu: market(s)
9 n-/m-  animals,  nzoolu (chicken), ngombe (cow), mbuji (goat)
10 n-/m-  plural form of words from class 9 & 11  CLASS 9: nyoka -> nyoka: snake(s); mbuji -> mbuji: goat(s); mbwa -> mbwa: dog(s)CLASS 11: lusuki -> nsuki: hair(s); lupusu -> mpusu: spot(s); luzadi -> nzadi: nail(s)
11 lu-  lupangu (plot-land), ludimi (tongue), lukambu (powerful man)
12 ka-  kashingi (needle), kapaaya (razor), kambela
13 tu- / ka-  plural form of words from class 12  tushingi, tupaaya, tumbela
14 bu-  concepts, abstract, nature, characteristics, instruments, locations, etc.  budimi (agriculture), bwatu (boat), bukondu
15 ku-  basic forms of verbs  kudya (to eat), kulaala (to sleep), kukwata (to work), kufwidikija (to think)
16 pa-  adverbs  pambelu (at home)
17 ku-  adverbs  kumbelu (from home), kunyima (in the back, behind, after)
18 mu-  adverbs  munjila (on the road, on the way)

I must admit that it is difficult for me to remember what class a word belongs to so what I do is just remember how each word forms its plural. Why is it important to know word classes or at least have a rough idea of what it looks like? Because to build a correct sentence, you have to match the adjectives and determinants that follow a word according to its class.

Sources: CRIC;