Monday, June 9, 2014

Language Profile: Ganda

This week's language profile is on Ganda, also known as Luganda. It has over 4 million native speakers that primarily reside in Uganda. It is also a member of the Bantu language family, which includes other African languages such as Zulu, Shona, and Xhosa.

A majestic Ugandan kob, a type of antelope.
Ganda is the most widely spoken language in Uganda, a country with approximately 40 spoken languages. It is traditionally spoken by the Baganda or Ganda people, the largest ethnic group in Uganda. It is also the second most spoken second language after English, which is the country's official language. It is followed by Swahili, which may or may not be Uganda's second official language depending on who you talk to, as it is a sensitive political topic.

Ganda is a tonal language, which makes it difficult to learn for speakers of languages like English, which is non-tonal. Ganda uses three tones: high, low, and falling. It also has interesting phonological characteristics, as it uses geminate consonants and distinguishes between long and short vowels. For example, the word bana, meaning "four" is distinct from banaa, meaning "children". Luckily, long vowels are generally written using double vowels, so it is easier to tell which word is being used, as phonetically they would be pronounced /bana/ and /ba:na/ respectively.

The Ganda language is written using a Latin based alphabet of 24 letters, including the letter ŋ and the digraph ny. When typing, ŋ is often replaced by ng' since it isn't found on keyboards.