WHILE PHILOLOGISTS have identified at least 250 distinct indigenous languages in Congo, most are members of the Bantu family of tongues related through a common origin in much the same sense that French and Spanish are largely descended from Latin.
In fact it is by the similarity of their languages as much as physical type that anthropologists have identified most Africa people as Bantus.
The Bantu tongues boast a logical and straightforward grammar, with inflections and shifts of meaning achieved by prefixes and suffixes. But this has led to some confusion when two words are used for the same thing in media reports from the region. A prefix primer: *Ba, wa and a signify tribe or people. *Ki and tshi stand for language. *U stands for location or territory. Some examples: *The Kongo people call themselves the ba-Kongo and their tongue ki-Kongo. *The Luba call themselves the ba-Luba and speak tshi-Luba. *Swahili, the universal trade language of central and east Africa is correctly termed ki-Swahili. *The Tutsi people of Rwanda and eastern Congo call themselves the Watutsi. …