Presentation of the project 

© 2005 J. Leclerc  

This online dictionary is one of CIYÈM’s products. Ciyèm, an acronym in Cilubà, means “Research Centre for African Languages”. It is an extension of RECALL (Research Centre for African Languages and Cultures, UGent) and was created in 2003 at Mbùjimâyi University, as a VLIR-UDC project.

VLIR-UDC means “Flemish Interuniversity Council - University Development Cooperation”. The overall objective of the project is to create a scientific frame for theoretical and applied research for the Cilubà language and culture. Cilubà culture includes not only Cilubà (L31) itself as a national language with several million speakers in the DRC, but also the other languages belonging to this group, such as: Kanyok (L32, DRC: Eastearn Kàsaayì), Kilubà (L33, DRC: Katanga), Kisanga (L35, DRC: Katanga), Kisongye (L23, DRC: Eastern Kàsaayì) and even Kaonde (L41: Zambia). The so-called Lubà languages cover thus a large area, extending from north Zambia to the centre of the DRC, with certainly over ten million speakers. These languages originated from a centre situated in the centre of Katanga, where, as archaeological and linguistic evidence tell us, people coming from East and West and speaking Bantu languages, came into contact with each other at least 13 centuries ago and created a new and richer culture. The positive results of this meeting can be seen, among others, in the impressive pottery and art objects that are among the finest in the world.

The specific objectives are the following: 1° updating the lexicography of Cilubà by publishing modern dictionaries and specialised lexicons; 2° creating a model to accelerate the modernisation and standardisation of the language; 3° publishing scientific and literary works, in original form or in translation.

The methodology used is the following: 1° forming a lexicographical team; 2° collecting oral and written texts; 3° building electronic corpora; 4° preparing word lists with frequency counts; 5° creating a database; 6° publishing selected fields from the database; and 7° training the users. The model created will be applicable to the other three national languages as well. Therefore, one of the expected spin-off effects is to design a larger project, at the national level, for the lexicography of Lingála, Kiswahili and Kikongo, in collaboration with other Congolese Universities.

The availability of high quality reference manuals and other documents in African languages will, it is hoped, stimulate reading and studying in these languages. The relevance of education in mother tongues, at least at primary school level, need not be demonstrated. Let’s only point out that foreign languages such as French and English are not at all hereby threatened, since the need for them is strongly felt as communication tools with the outer world; not much will be lost if they are taught at a time that the child has acquired a stronger feeling and knowledge of his own language and culture.

This online Cilubà-French dictionary was designed by Prof. N.S. Kabuta (Ghent University), with the assistance of Ciyèm researchers. A printed version is expected within a few months and a monolingual version is being compiled under the supervision of Prof. Kabuta. Internet is a fantastic tool in this respect, as it allows immediate and continuous feedback. So it is hoped that this dictionary, which is far from being perfect, will continuously be improved by the readers’ remarks and suggestions, in order to make it a powerful tool for translation, writing, teaching, research, terminology, and so on.

When using the existing version, which is already ahead of many other dictionaries in Central Africa, the reader might be disappointed by not finding a few special or even familiar words. We apologize in advance for this and invite her or him to signal this to us and, even better, to suggest words.

The software used is D. Joffe’s TshwaneLex. We thank G.-M. de Schryver for the training of Ciyèm’s collaborators in using this powerful tool inspired by him.


To return to the online dictionary, click here.