The Portuguese colonization of Angola, in western Africa, occurred between 1579, when the first Captain Governor of Angola, Paulo Dias de Novais (c. 1510–1589), conquered Luanda, and 1975, when the territory achieved its independence. The current borders of the Republic of Angola were only defined after the Berlin Conference (1884–1885), and encompass old kingdoms, specifically those of Kongo (northwestern Angola), Lunda and Matamba (northeastern), Ngola-Ndongo and Ovimbundu (central western), and Benguela (south). Angola has almost 50 national (indigenous) languages, and only Portuguese is recognized as the official one (see ).
According to the last census, which was performed in Angola in 2014 (), the six languages most spoken at home are Portuguese (71.15 %; 9,020,404 speakers), Umbundu (22.96 %; 5,449,819 speakers), Kikongo (8.24 %; 1,956,191 speakers), Kimbundu (7.82 %; 1,855,951 speakers), Chokwe (6.54 %; 1,553,019 speakers), and Nyaneka (3.42 %; 812,357 speakers). For the researchers of the Ethnologue (), the national languages with more native speakers in the current territory of Angola are effectively: Umbundu (ca. 6,000,000 in Angola: west central, Huambo, Cuanza Sul, and Benguela provinces); Kikongo (ca. 2,000,000 in Angola: north, along the Congo river, Uíge, and Zaire provinces; northern Bengo and Malanje provinces; southern Cabinda and Cuanza Norte provinces); and Kimbundu (ca. 2,000,000 in Angola: northwest, Cuanza Norte, Bengo and Malanje and Luanda provinces). Nevertheless, Ethnologue researchers consider Cokwe and Lunda two different languages and, thus, Nyaneka has more native speakers (ca. 1,000,000 in Angola: southwest, mainly Huíla and Namibe provinces) than Cokwe (ca. 500,000 in Angola: northeast Lunda district; east Bié, west Moxico, and central Cuando Cubango, Cunene, Malanje, Lunda Sul, Lunda Norte) and Lunda (ca. 200,000 in Angola: northeast, Lunda Norte province: Caungula municipality; Moxico and Lunda Sul provinces) together (see ).
The languages most studied or described by the Portuguese during the colonial period (1570-1975) were, initially, Kimbundu, and more recently, Umbundu and Nyaneka. At the beginning of the Portuguese Discoveries, only Kikongo deserved real attention by missionaries of Portuguese Patronage, mainly in the 17th century, but only Mattheus Cardoso’s (1584-1625) catechism (Lisboa, 1624), and Brugiotti da Vetralla’s (1601-1659) grammar (Roma 1659) are currently remaining (Fernandes 2015). The most relevant dictionary of Kikongo is the Dictionary and grammar of the Kongo Grammar (1886 with the 1895 appendix) compiled by the Baptist missionary William Holman Bentley (1855–1905), who was not a missionary from Portuguese Patronage. It was not until 1964 that the secular priest António da Silva Maia (1905-1981) published a dictionary comparing Kimbundu and Kikongo ().
It is important to highlight a few dates regarding the Portuguese religious history, which concern the expulsion, banishment, and restoration of the religious orders:
― 1759 (September 3): the Portuguese King D. José I (1714-1777) banished the Jesuits from all Portuguese territories;
― 1834 (May 28): the Portuguese Minister of Justice Joaquim António de Aguiar (1792-1884), known by the nickname “The Friar-Killer,” eliminated all Portuguese convents, monasteries, and religious orders;
― 1855 (June 29): the King of Congo, D. Henrique II (d. 1857), sent a letter to the Governor-General of Angola requesting at least one missionary to baptize and hear the confessions of the Catholics. He was very firm regarding this request, leading the Portuguese government to ask that missionaries be sent to the Holy See, a demand made to the Capuchins. However, the Capuchins did not have available missionaries and, in 1865, the General-Council of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (C.S.Sp., Congregatio Sancti Spiritus) accepted the mission of the Congo, which was made effective by the Decree “Saeculo XV Labente” (September 9 1865). The first Spiritans arrived in Angola in 1866, but they did not speak Portuguese. Thus, it was necessary to establish the Portuguese Province, which was founded after 1867. Adélio Torres Neiva, C.S.Sp. (1932–2010), specifically says that:
A Província Portuguesa da Congregação do Espírito Santo foi fundada por causa da evangelização de Angola. Daí que Angola tenha sido, de facto, o grande laboratório da Missão Espiritana. Efectivamente, quase todos os Espiritanos portugueses estiveram como missionários em Angola.” ()
[The Portuguese Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit was founded because of the evangelization of Angola. Hence Angola was, in fact, the great laboratory of the Spiritan Mission. Indeed, almost all Portuguese Spiritans have been as missionaries in Angola.]
― 1901 (April 18): the religious orders were re-established in Portugal;
― 1910 (October 8): just three days after the inauguration of the Republic, the Portuguese Minister of Justice, Afonso Costa (1871–1937), re-established the law of 1759 and 1834, expelling all missionaries;
― 1911 (January 1): all properties of the religious orders and secular church were nationalized and sold. Many of them were handed over to public institutions and others were sold to private people and institutions. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague (the Netherlands), decided on September 2, 1920, that the Portuguese government had to reimburse the religious orders and compensate their losses. However, almost all of the buildings and personal property was lost, including the orders’ archives and libraries! There was one exception: the Procurature (or Headquarters) of the Spiritans in Lisbon! It was registered in the name of an English citizen, the priest Thomas Francis O’ Brien, C.S.Sp (d. 1929). However, the Portuguese authorities could not ultimately take it, because Sir Arthur H. Henderlage, a diplomat of the British government in Lisbon, protested, requesting the return of the property of a British citizen which had been stolen! It was occupied for two years, but in 1913 it was returned to its legal owner (see ). This is the reason why an important library still exists there, which holds several manuscripts, grammars, and dictionaries, written by the missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, mainly in the several languages and dialects of Angola.
― 1940 (May 7): The Concordat and the Missionary Accord between the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic recognized the juridical personality of the Portuguese Church. They re-established the Portuguese Patronage of the Orient and, although they required the use of Portuguese in schools, they allowed the use of the native languages in the teaching of the Catholic religion:
Art. 16: Nas escolas indígenas missionárias é obrigatório o ensino da língua portuguesa, ficando plenamente livre, em harmonia com os princípios da Igreja, o uso da língua indígena no ensino da religião católica. ()
[Article XVI. In the indigenous missionary schools, the teaching of the Portuguese language is compulsory, while the use of the indigenous language, for the teaching of the Catholic religion, will remain entirely free, in harmony with the principles of the Church.]
In fact, the kingdom referred to as Congo was in what is currently northwestern Angola and the southern part of the Lower Congo Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. M’Banza Congo, its “capital,” named by the Portuguese São Salvador do Congo, nowadays belongs to the Angolan province of Zaire in the Angolan northwest, and it is the headquarters of the Mbanza Kongo municipality (see ; ). In the Italian National Library of Rome (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II), there is a manuscript of a Dictionary of Latin–Spanish–Kikongo titled Vocabularium Latinum, Hispanicum, et Congense ad usum Missionariorum transmittendorum ad regni Congi Missiones [Latin, Spanish and Congolese dictionary for the use of missionaries to be sent to the Kongo Missions] (Ms.Varia 274 of Fundo Minori 1896), which, according to John Thornton (2011), was discovered by the Belgian Capuchin Frédégand Callaey, O. F. M. Cap. (1885-1967), in 1912. It mentions two dates, 1651 (f. III v.) and 1652 (), and starts with a note by Giacinto Brugiotti da Vetralla, O. F. M. Cap. (1601-1659), stating that this copy was written for his own use by Giorgio di Ghela, O. F. M. Cap., the Italian religious name of Adriaan Willems (1617-1652), who was killed in Kongo in 1652. In 1928, the Belgian Jesuits Joseph van Wing, S. J. (1884-1970), and Constant Penders, S. J. (1893-1985), published a new edition of this manuscript. They removed the Latin entries and Spanish translations, added French and Flemish translations (), changed the order of the entries starting with the Kikongo words (), and modernized the orthography. In summary, it is a “misleading piece of work,” and “an entire new Congolese–French–Flemish work” (), or, as stated, “such a method of handling the manuscript is the opposite of scientific.”
It is, as far as we know, the oldest extant Bantu dictionary, and was written in 1648 (see ; ; ; ; ; ; ), by several Italian and Spanish Capuchins, led by the mestizo Portuguese–Congolese Manuel de Roboredo, a secular priest (later Francisco de São Salvador, O. F. M. Cap.) (d. 1665). The Fleming Adriaen Willems (later Joris van Gheel or, in Spanish, Jorge de Gela, O. F. M. Cap., 1617-1652) made a copy of this text in 1652. Giacinto Brugiotti da Vetralla sent this copy to the Archivio Provinciale dei Frati Minori Cappuccini [Friars Minor Capuchin Provincial Archives] in Rome in approximately 1657 (see ; ).
The manuscript has 121 folios, 241 pages, and circa 10,000 entries in Latin with their translation (mostly) into Spanish and Kikongo. It is based on Nebrija’s (1441-1522) Latin–Spanish dictionary, probably the 1581 edition, which had been printed in Antequera. It provides an ample portrayal of 17th century Congolese society and culture, but it also registers an African and Congolese society that did not exist; one that was similar to European society, where the authors imagined, for instance, the existence of wardrobes, architects, libraries, book sellers, pharmacies, and vineyards. It sometimes presents Italian translations, instead of Spanish ones, and reveals the incorporation of Portuguese terms into Kikongo, such as “alface,” [lettuce] “cavalo,” [horse] “burro,” [donkey] “prata,” [silver]“bispo,” [bishop] and “tesouras” [scissors] (see ).
During the colonial period (1570-1975), Kimbundu had five main published dictionaries, three from the 19th century and two from the 20th century. The first known / ‘remaining’ dictionary of Kimbundu by missionaries under Portuguese Patronage was only published in 1804 by the Italian capuchin Bernardo Maria [Cassaro] da Canicattì, O. F. M. Cap (1749-1834). It received harsh criticism because it mixed three Angolan languages, at least, of African origin, such as Kimbundu, Kikongo, and Umbundu (). Saturnino de Souza e Oliveira precisely refers to his confusion regarding the words from the various languages spoken in the provinces of Kongo, Angola, and Benguela, but he also mentions the history of the Kimbundu language over the last 60 years:
(...) este autor confundio vocabulos de linguas differentes, como são as do Congo, de Angola e de Benguella (...), alem de que contêm muitas phrases abreviadas e dicções que o estylo tem modificado e feito variar dos preceitos gerais da lingua (...). Demais o idioma nbundu de hoje tem variado um pouco, segundo affirmão os indigenas que melhor o fallão, daquelle que se fallava ha 60 annos, quando Cannecatim colligio o diccionario que publicou (...). ()
[... this author misunderstood words from different languages, such as those of the Congo [Kikongo], Angola [Kimbundu] and Benguela [Umbundu] (...) besides it contains many abbreviated phrases and expressions that the style has modified and has varied from the general precepts of the language (...) Moreover, the Kimbundu language of today has varied somewhat, according to the indigenous people who speak it best, from that which was spoken 60 years ago, when Cannecatim collated the dictionary which he published.]
In 1894, the Swiss Héli Chatelain (1851–1908) added that the Canicattì’s dictionary had several instances of “incorrectness, confused spelling, and erroneous renderings of words” and it “has never been of any use to students of Ki-mbundu.” (). Canicattì was aware of his scientific limitations and the constraints of his metalinguistic work (), but he was effectively the author of the first printed dictionary of any language spoken in Angola. The English Baptist Missionary William Holman Bentley (1855-1905), still one of the greatest linguistic authorities on Kikongo, and author of an English-Kikongo and Kikongo-English dictionary and a Grammar of Kikongo (still in use), dismissed these criticisms, and thanked Canicattì for his philological contributions, stating, for example, that, in effect “there are many mistakes, and many words which it is impossible to trace; but as he acknowledges his imperfect acquaintance with Kongo, and only gives his list as philological study, we must not criticize, but be thankful for his contribution.”()
Saturnino de Souza e Oliveira (1820–1871), a Brazilian born in Coimbra, Portugal, who assumed the post of Consul-General of Brazil in Angola (), layman, Doctor, published a Kimbundu-Portuguese dictionary in Luanda in 1864, or, as Chatelain stated at the beginning of the publication:
In 1864, Dr. Saturnino de Souza e Oliveira began the publication of his “Diccionario da lingua n'bundu.” A large part or the whole was printed, but never stitched, and only a few unique manuscript slips and printed pages of this valuable work are left. ()
Nevertheless, the cover refers to the fact that these leaves were the “únicas folhas que se publicaram” [unique pages that have been published]. The single copy currently belongs to the Library of Congress, in the USA, and it previously belonged to Héli Chatelain, as is confirmed on the manuscript flyleaves at the beginning. Less than 30 years after it was published, Cordeiro da Matta stated that the dictionary was little known and had just a few pages: the letter from A to Cuban; from “Ma” to “Nden”; and from “Zam” to “Cuzuku” ().
(...) o «Diccionario da lingua Nbundu ou Ngolense - Tomo 1 - Nbundu para Portuguez – colligido pelo dr. Saturnino de Sousa e Oliveira, – Loanda, Imprensa do Governo, 1864» – é pouco conhecido e d’elle apenas se vê em Loanda algumas folhas (da letra A a Cuban, de Ma a Nden e de Zam a Cuzucu) nas mãos do sr. dr. Alfredo Troni e nós tivemos de transcrever esses fragmentos dos «Apontamentos sobre a lingua Kimbundu» que o nosso prestante patricio e amigo Lino de Araujo emprestára ao nosso amigo Héli Chatelain, e este tivera a condescendencia de nol-os ceder temporariamente (...). ()
[...The dictionary... is little known and only a few leaves can be seen in Loanda (from the letter “A” to “Cuban”, from “Ma” to “Nden”, and from “Zam” to “Cuzuku”) in the hands of Mr. Doctor Alfredo Troni, and we had to transcribe these fragments of “Apontamentos sobre a lingua Kimbundu” [Notes on the Kimbundu language] that our generous countryman and friend Lino de Araújo lent to our friend Héli Chatelain and he had the kindness to lend them temporarily...]
Nowadays, even though it is the same copy, there are only 14 pages beyond the prologue (3 pages):
At the “prologo” [prologue], the author explains that he had used a manuscript written by an Angolan Kimbundu native speaker named João Vieira Carneiro, who was already dead. He adds that Carneiro had written about many historical and mythological ideas, which “tornão este trabalho curioso” () [make this work curious].
(...) grande parte dos termos que colligi são copiados de um manuscripto que obtive, feito pelo fallecido João Vieira Carneiro, angolense, e ao qual seu autor tinha dado o titulo de glossario. As ideias historicas e de mythologia que elle escreveu a proposito de muitos termos, e que fielmente transcrevi, tornão este trabalho curioso. ()
[...Many of the terms I collected were copied from a manuscript I obtained, written by the Angolan already dead João Vieira Carneiro, and to which the author had given the title of “glossário” [glossary]. The historical and mythological ideas he wrote about many terms, and which I have faithfully transcribed, make this work curious.]
He also says that he had concerns regarding the origin and the roots of the words. For that, he relied on the same Angolan person and his own knowledge of the Greek and Arabian languages. Curiously, he adds that another Brazilian, the journalist and Engineer Francisco Pereira Dutra (1832–1867), found many similarities with several native Brazilian languages:
Sobre a origem de muitas palavras tambem se encontrará noticias, umas das pelo mesmo Carneiro, outras por mim conforme as tradições históricas ou as raizes que a compõe. (...) na língua nbundu encontrão-se raizes de idiomas muito diferentes. Eu encontrei algumas da lingua grega, outras do arabe, e o meu illustre patricio, o sr. Francisco Pereira Dutra, encontrou muitas das linguas indigenas da America do Sul. ()
[...Concerning the origin of many words, one will also find news, ones by the same Carneiro, others by me, according to the historical traditions or the roots that compose them. In the Kimbundu language [there] exist roots from different languages. I have found some from the Greek language, some from Arabic, and my illustrious compatriot, Mr. Francisco Pereira Dutra, found many from the indigenous languages of South America.]
It seems very unlikely, but, unfortunately, Francisco Pereira Dutra died just three years later, in 1867, “condemned for the crime of ‘abuse of the free press’, and (...) did not survive the imprisonment conditions” ().
According to , a new version of his “dictionary” was published in 1881, without his name, as an appendix to the second volume of De Benguella ás terras de Iácca by the Portuguese explorers Hermenegildo Capelo (1841-1917) and Roberto Ivens (1850–1898). In fact, there is a Vocabulario N’Bunda [Kimbundu Vocabulary] between pages 377 and 391(), but it does not mention any author, and it is, in fact, a Portuguese–Kimbundu vocabulary. Interestingly, both separate some prefixes, such as “cu‑” for the verbs, but the translation of the kimbundu terms is not often the same in Portuguese (). However, there are no other arguments to deny Chatelain’s hypothesis.
Joaquim Dias Cordeiro da Matta (1857-1894) was born in Angola and did not have any religious education apart from primary school. He died prematurely, at just 36, having been a poet and a journalist. He is known as the “father of Angolan Literature,” because of the themes of his poetry, which show his love for the Angolan territory and people, and mainly his veneration of Angolan or black women.
refers to Cordeiro da Matta in the following terms:
(...) the negro poet of the Quanza River, has abandoned the Portuguese muse in order to consecrate his talents to the nascent national literature. The autodidactic, and practical Ambaquistas of the interior have begun to perceive the superiority, for purposes of private correspondence, of their own tongue to the Portuguese―to them what Latin is to the Lusitanian peasant; finally, indications are not wanting that the Portuguese authorities, civil and ecclesiastic, are awaking to the importance of a general language like the Ki-mbundu as a link between the official speech and the multitudinous Bantu dialects of their vast province of Angola.
Chatelain also considers his Essay, the Kimbundu-Portuguese Dictionary, the Ensaio de diccionario kimbúndu-portuguez, “the best vocabulary of Ki-mbundu yet published” ().
For Cordeiro da Matta, it is remarkable that Kimbundu had maintained its autonomy from the Portuguese, and retained the same language that had been spoken one hundred years ago, despite the Portuguese occupation which lasted for four centuries, contrasting with the Creoles of Cape Verde and S. Tomé e Príncipe:
Sendo o auctor d'este Ensaio angolense, que cresceu, aprendeu e viveu entre os seus, esmerou-se quanto lhe foi possivel em escrever se não bem, com todo o desvelo, a lingua da sua terra, que apezar de quatrocentos anos de dominio portuguez, conserva inalteravel —coisa que é para admirar— a pureza da sua dicção (...). O que é notavel tambem é que a lingua portugueza, apezar da sua preciosidade e da influencia que exerce sobre os idiomas africanos, não tem transformado completamente o idioma Kimbundu (angolense), como aconteceu, talvez, com os dialectos de S. Thomé e Cabo Verde, que parece serem um misto de portuguez; porque poucas palavras aportuguezadas se encontram no idioma angolense (...). ()
[Being Angolan the author of this “Essay”, who grew up, learned and lived among his people, he made every effort to write ―if not well― with all care the language of his land, that, after four hundred years of Portuguese domination, preserves unchangeable ―which is admirable― the purity of its diction (...) What is also remarkable is that the Portuguese language, despite its preciousness and the influence that [it] exerts on the African languages, has not completely transformed the Kimbundu (Angolan) language, as happened, perhaps, with the dialects of S. Tomé and Cape Verde, which seems to be a mixture of Portuguese, because only few Portuguese words can be found in the Angolan language]
Matta had a very progressive perspective concerning the neologisms from Portuguese, believing that it would be impossible not to include them, because the new social realities needed to have new vocabularies:
Era impossivel deixar de incluir no nosso Ensaio os vocábulos aportuguezados pela seguinte razão: Não é raro ouvir-se fallar nbundu (kimbundu) percebendo-se no discurso muitos adverbios e preposições portuguezas: e é certo que os naturaes do paiz adoptaram todos os termos portuguezes que exprimem objectos que lhes eram extranhos antes de se relacionarem com os de Portugal. ()
[It was impossible not to include in our “Essay” the Portuguese words for the following reason: It is not uncommon to hear Nbundu (Kimbundu), perceiving in the discourse many Portuguese adverbs and prepositions; and it is certain that the natives of the country have adopted all the Portuguese terms which express objects that were strange to them before related to those of Portugal.]
He gives the example “ngálûfu” (plural “jingálûfu”) (from the Portuguese noun “garfo” [“fork”]). Until the occupation by the Europeans, they just used the knife to eat, and, for that, they had the noun “pôku” (plural “Jipôko”) ():
Assim, tendo os ngolenses (angolenses) o termo pôku (poko) para exprimir a ideia de faca, instrumento de que se serviam, adoptaram o termo garfo para exprimir este instrumento que só mais tarde conheceram: e, adoptando-o, sujeitaram-lhe a pronunciação e a formação do plural aos preceitos do seu proprio idioma, e dizem no singular ngálûfu, e no plural jingálûfu. ()
[Actually, having the Angolans the term “pôku” [poko] to express the idea of a knife, an instrument they used, and adopted the term fork to express this instrument, which only later they have learned, and, when they have adopted it, they subjected the pronunciation and the formation of the plural to the precepts of their own language, and they say in the singular “ngálûfu”, and in the plural “jingálûfu”.]
On the other hand, after the foundation of the Portuguese Province of the Congregatio Sancti Spiritus (C.S.Sp.) in 1867, the most relevant dictionaries and grammars of Angolan languages in the 20th century were written by the Holy Ghost Fathers. Father Adélio Torres Neiva mentions their extraordinary work in the description of the following native languages (some of them are currently classified as dialects): Fiote, Kioco, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Umbundu, Nganguela, Kwanyama, Kwangar, Dyiric, and Muila:
Apesar de o campo científico não ser o objectivo específico dos missionários, a necessidade de conhecer a terra ainda por explorar (...) fez com que um bom número de missionários aliasse o estudo e a investigação científica ao labor missionário (...). Destes estudos (...) em grande parte tomados à guisa de apontamentos, poucos viriam a ser publicados (...) São cerca de 110 os livros relacionados com a linguística, publicados pelos missionários espiritanos de Angola (...). As línguas mais estudadas são: fiote, quioco, quicongo, quimbundo, mbundo, ganguela, cwanhama, cuangar, e muíla.” ()
[Although the scientific field was not the specific objective of the missionaries, the need to know the land still to be explored (…] has made a good number of missionaries allied [to] the study and scientific investigation of missionary work. Of these studies (...) largely taken as notes, few would be published (...) There are about 110 books related to linguistics, published by the Spiritan missionaries of Angola (...) The languages most studied are: Fiote, Kioco, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Umbundu, Nganguela, kwanyama, Kwangar, Dyiric and Muila].
In effect, for instance, the Dicionário Etimológico Bundo-Português [Kimbundo-Portuguese Etymological Dictionary] (Lisboa 1951) by [João] Albino Alves [Manso], C.S.Sp. (1908-1956), is a remarkable piece of scholarship. It analyzes the etymology of almost 20,000 words, and provides an explanation of ca. 2,000 proverbs and 200 riddles. It was published in two heavy volumes, and had approximately 2,000 pages. In the prologue, Albino Alves stated that in the course of writing the dictionary, he consulted 60 books and opuscules, and provided data from his own knowledge, acquired through 14 years dedicated to learning Kimbundu, with direct contact with the native people. Nevertheless, he recognized that he had no help in the description of the etymology: “Quanto à parte etimológica, porém, não encontrei autoridade a que me encostasse, sendo obrigado a valer-me dos recursos pessoais e dominantemente de muita reflexão.” () [For the etymological part, however, I did not find the authority to which I could appeal, being forced to rely on my personal resources and mainly on a lot of thought.]
He was very inventive, inferring many hypotheses. For example, he stated that all words of Kimbundu derive from three onomatopoeic sounds or monosyllables: T, A, HU. The onomatopoeia TA was originally intended to transmit the idea of throwing up an object; the sound HU meant the interior of a person; and so on (). He admits that his theory could be considered awkward by the reader: “Sei que o leitor está a rir, mas espero que o desenrolar do presente volume o venha a fazer pasmar, convencido da verdade deste fenómeno.” [I know that the reader is laughing, but I hope that the unfolding of this volume will astonish him, convinced of the truth of this phenomenon.] ().
On the other hand, he explicitly stated that the dictionary had just 17,200 entries () and explained why he did not repeat all the words which have a known prefix in the following way:
Seria ocioso enumerar todos os verbos terminados em WA, em ISA e em ILA ou ELA, todos os substantivos começados em U e acabados em I ou iniciados por UKWA. De todos os verbos se podem fazer novos vocábulos, mediante estes e semelhantes prefixos e sufixos; não valia, porem, a pena quadruplicar ou sextuplicar o volume do dicionário com termos desta natureza. ()
[It would be tedious to enumerate all verbs ended by WA, ISA and ILA or ELA, all nouns started by U and finished by I or started by UKWA. From all verbs one can make new words, by these and similar prefixes and suffixes; It would not be worth to quadruplicate or multiply by six the volume of the dictionary with terms of this nature.]
Another relevant question is related to description of the tones. For the first time, an author explains that Kimbundu has four tones. He used impressive designations ―“alto,” “normal,” “baixo,” and “plangente” [high, normal, low, and plangent]― and he signed them with the Portuguese diacritics: an acute accent for the high tone; a grave accent for the low tone, and an umlaut for the plangent tone, or, as he said, “lembrando olhos chorosos de fadista apaixonado, sobre a vogal da sílaba de tom menor.” () [...remembering the tearful eyes of the passionate fado singer on the vowel of the lower tone syllable]. Nevertheless, he added that many times, European ears could not distinguish them:
Não faças grande caso deles, porque a sua importância prática não é grande. Esses sinais indicam os tons de altura que distinguem numerosas homónimas, quando pronunciadas isoladamente. No discurso predomina o tom oratório e desaparece o da altura, cuja função diacrítica o contexto bem substitui. Por outro lado, estes tons sucedem-se com tal subtileza que os ouvidos europeus dificilmente conseguem percebê-los.” ()
[Do not make [a] great case of them, because their practical importance is not great. These signs indicate the height tones that distinguish numerous homonym words, when pronounced alone. In the discourse, the oratory tone prevails, and the tone of height disappears, whose diacritical function the context substitutes well. On the other hand, these tones follow with such subtleness that the European ears can hardly perceive them.]
Surprisingly, the first printed Umbundu dictionary was published in Boston in 1885, by two missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, William Henry Sanders, A. B. C. F. M. (1856–1947), and William Edwards Fay, A. B. C. F. M. (1855–1907). It listed approximately 3,000 words over 76 pages, but, unfortunately, it had no linguistic explanations. It did not have an introductory chapter or a preface, or the division of words into prefixes and roots. However, it presented “oku” and “ka” as infinitive and negative prefixes respectively (Sanders & Fay 1885: 55; 42), and the suffixes “-vo” and “-ño” meaning “also” and “only” or “just” ().
Based mainly on Sanders and Fay’s vocabulary, a Portuguese layman, José Pereira do Nascimento (1861-1913), who was a medical officer in the Portuguese Royal Navy, published in 1894 a Portuguese-Umbundu dictionary () appended to his grammar of Umbundu or the Language of Benguela, and an Umbundu-Portuguese dictionary (). This had approximately the same entries as Sanders and Fay’s dictionary, but it also had a few improvements: all prefixes, roots and suffixes were separated, and modern Africanists, as well older grammarians and lexicographers were quoted as authorities.
In 1972, in Luanda, the Spiritan José Francisco Valente, C.S.Sp. (1912-1993), published the Dicionário Português–Umbundu [Portuguese–Umbundu dictionary], eight years after he had published the Gramática Umbundu: A Língua do Centro de Angola [Umbundu Grammar: The Central Angolan Language] (). The dictionary was also authored by Priest Grégoire Le Guennec, C.S.Sp. (1875-1960), who had died twelve years before. His manuscript was, in fact, the main source (). Le Guennec had dedicated 20 years to the composition of the dictionary, but the Portuguese language was not his mother tongue, and he was not comfortable with it. Other Spiritans had written Umbundu vocabularies, but they had never been printed, and the manuscript had been circulated amongst the Spritans, by Ernest Lecomte, C.S.Sp., and Albino Alves, C.S.Sp. In summary, Valente stated that the Priest Le Guennec gave him the manuscript in 1957, and improved and corrected it:
Analisei-o e vi que, de facto, havia algumas imprecisões, já quanto à interpretação de certos vocábulos e sua correspondência exacta, já quanto à falta de certas palavras, omitidas por ele as julgar em desuso, já quanto ao expurgo que se impunha fazer a várias outras, desnecessárias, e que só avolumariam uma obra destinada a ser manuseada. ()
[I analyzed it and saw that, indeed, there were some inaccuracies, concerning the interpretation of certain words and their exact match, concerning the lack of certain words omitted by him because he judged that they were already abandoned, concerning the removal that was needed of several others, unnecessary, and which only will increase the work that was intended to be handled.]
Like Albino Alves, Valente also introduces many neologisms, which, in his opinion, enrich the language and reflect the “ação civilizadora” [civilizing achievement] of the missionaries.
Another relevant issue was that Valente adopted phonetic orthography, like the other “new” Spiritans, but he did not accept the change of the Portuguese digraph <NH> instead of <NY> or <Ñ>, as António Silva and Albino Alves had:
NY e NI, com o som NH em bundo, é inadmissível, visto haver os dois sons NHE e NY, ou seja, o N seguida de Y-I breve. (...)
O emprego do NH português, admitido pelo P. Lecomte e empregado pela maior parte dos missionários, deve manter-se em Angola. ()
[NY and NI, with the NH sound in Umbundo, is unconceivable, because there are two NHE and NY sounds, that is, the N followed by brief Y-I… The employment of the Portuguese NH, admitted by Father Lecomte and employed by most of the missionaries, must remain in Angola.]
“Nh-nh — Para o som NHE, tal como em Português: Minho, ninho, vinho.
Esta grafia não se encontra senão nas gramáticas feitas partindo da existência do NH português.
Corresponde ao ñ, Ñ e ao Ni ou Ny.” ()
[Nh-nh - For the NHE sound, as in Portuguese: Minho, ninho [nest], vinho [wine]. This spelling is found only in the grammars written from the existence of the Portuguese NH. It corresponds to ñ, Ñ and Ni or Ny.]
Approximately a century after the arrival of the Spiritans in Angola, António Joaquim da Silva, C.S.Sp. (1909-1995), published the Dicionário Português-Nhaneca (Lisboa 1966). Nyaneka is the language spoken in the southwest of Angola, mainly in the Huíla and Namibe provinces. Silva begins by explaining what is the Nyaneka language, along with its dialects and variants. He also clarifies that this dictionary was not written to be published, but rather just to help the younger brothers and missionaries, like many other missionaries from the same Congregation. Nevertheless, he presents many earlier works which it was based on, namely manuscripts and printed books.
Basta recordar que foram consultadas obras de outros missionários da Huíla, alguns que o autor nem sequer conheceu, nomeadamente o P.e Dekindt, o P.e Villain e o P.e Bonnefoux. Das obras destes faça-se justa menção do Dicionário Olunyaneka-Português do Padre Benedicto M. Bonefoux (1941) ― edição póstuma ― e do Breve Método da Língua Nyaneka. Aquele dicionário é ainda hoje uma ajuda não só utilíssima como indispensável. O P.e Félix Villain escreveu à mão um vocabulário português-nhaneca bastante desenvolvido e esta obra foi inspiradora de um outro manuscrito ainda, que serviu de base ao presente trabalho. Contacto com os «velhos missionários» teve-o o autor com um, e esse conhecedor da língua: O P.e Afonso Maria Lang, que escreveu uma gramática da língua nhaneca, impressa em Portugal em 1906 ― Ensaios de Gramática Nyaneca, «por Afonso Maria Lang, Missionário do Espírito Santo». ()
[It is enough to recall that the works by other missionaries of Huíla were consulted, some of whom the author did not even know, namely P. Dekindt, P. Villain and P. Bonnefoux. Of these works, a mention should be made of the Dicionário Olunyaneka–Português by Father Benedict M. Bonefoux (1941) ―a posthumous edition― and the Breve Método da Língua Nyaneka. That dictionary is not only still a very useful aid, but also indispensable. Father Felix Villain wrote by hand a well-developed Portuguese–Nyaneka vocabulary, and this work inspired another manuscript that served as source for the present work. A contact with the "old missionaries" had the author with one, and this was a language expert: Father Afonso Maria Lang, who wrote a grammar of the Nyaneka language, printed in Portugal in 1906— Ensaios de Gramática Nyaneca, by Afonso Maria Lang, Missionary of the Holy Spirit.]
Of the manuscripts, in addition to the dictionary of the priest Felix Villain, António Silva also refers that he used many other manuscripts, but it was impossible to know their authors, because all missionaries worked for the same purpose, and sometimes the notebook of a missionary was improved and corrected by other(s):
Quanto aos restantes do grupo dos antigos, o contacto terá sido mais indirecto ainda, por meio de achegas encontradas aqui e além e em escritos que talvez se não possam etiquetar devidamente. Os missionários são irmãos que se ajudam e, no caderno conhecido como pertença deste ou daquele, com a sua verdade e os seus erros humanos, não se encontram só achados do dono do caderno. (...). Parece-me que, em resumo, missionários velhos e novos, mortos e vivos, todos nos podemos considerar de acordo num ponto: os direitos de autoria estão entre nós suficientemente protegidos por Aquele que dará a cada um segundo as suas obras (...). Não quero contudo calar os ilustres esquecidos. Refiro-me aos próprios pretos. A língua é deles, e, por muito que se avance no conhecimento do seu idioma, nunca poderá dispensar-se a sua colaboração, preciosa, se bem que anónima e sempre destituída da técnica do estudioso. ()
[Concerning the remaining former group, the contact has been even more indirect through notes found here and there, in writings that one cannot identify properly. The missionaries are brothers who help each other, and, in the notebook known as belonging to this or that, with their truth and their human errors, one not only finds the owner of the notebook (...) It seems to me that, in summary, old and new missionaries, dead and alive, we can all agree on one point: copyright is sufficiently protected among us by the One who will give each according to his works. (...) However, I do not want to silence the illustrious forgotten. I mean the black people themselves. It is their language, and no matter how much progress is made in the knowledge of their language, their collaboration, precious, although anonymous and always devoid of the technique of the scholar, can never be dispensed with.]
António Silva also used phonetic orthography and, for example, the Portuguese digraph <NH> was transcribed as <NY>, unlike Albino Alves, who transcribed it as <Ñ>.
6. CONCLUDING REMARKS
The missionaries of Portuguese Patronage studied and described some of the main native languages spoken in the current territory of Angola, namely Kikongo, Kimbundu, Umbundu, and Nyaneka. Nevertheless, the most studied by the Portuguese during the colonial period (1570–1975) were, initially, Kimbundu, and, more recently, Umbundu and Nyaneka. Surprisingly, however, the first printed Umbundu dictionary was written by two American missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, William Henry Sanders, A. B. C. F. M. (1856–1947), and William Edwards Fay, A. B. C. F. M., (1855–1907). Many dictionaries, vocabularies, or wordlists circulated as manuscripts among the missionaries, and many of them are lost. Nevertheless, the oldest Bantu dictionary has survived in the National Library of Rome, and is waiting for a critical or, at least semidiplomatic, edition.
Since the last quarter of the 19th century, the role of the linguist–missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (C.S.Sp.) should be highlighted; they agreed to replace the Capuchins (O. F. M. Cap.) in the current territory of Angola. As a result, the Spiritans founded the Portuguese Province in 1867. The main lexicographic works by Spiritans had just been published in the second half of the 20th century, approximately a century after the foundation of the Portuguese Province, and after the Concordat and Missionary Accord between the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic. Their works are, in effect, still relevant, and remain, even now, benchmarks of Angolan linguistic studies, used not only by foreign researchers, but mainly by Angolan scholars.
The dictionaries of Angolan native languages were written mainly by missionaries. However, there are, at least, three laymen who should be considered amongst the main Angolan lexicographers: the Brazilian Doctor Saturnino de Souza e Oliveira (1820-1871); the Angolan poet, writer, and journalist Joaquim Dias Cordeiro da Matta (1857-1894); and the Portuguese medical officer José Pereira do Nascimento (1861-1913).
Finally, the first lexicographers of unwritten languages, such as the African ones, used their own orthographic systems, based mainly on the orthography of each lexicographer’s mother tongue. However, in 1848, the Church Missionary Society published the Rules for reducing unwritten languages to alphabetical writing in Roman characters, with reference especially to the languages spoken in Africa. In 1855, they were replaced by the Standard Alphabet for Reducing Unwritten Languages and Foreign Graphic Systems to a Uniform Orthography in European Letters, and, in 1927, the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, founded in London in 1926, published the Practical Orthography of African Languages ( ). The “Portuguese” missionary and laymen lexicographers used their mother tongue orthography, but, for instance, Alves’ Kimbundu dictionary of 1951 used the Practical Orthography of African Languages, and he transcribed the Portuguese digraph <NH> as <NY>, and Albino Alves transcribed it as <Ñ>. However, Valente’s Umbundu dictionary of 1972 also adopted phonetic orthography, but he preserved the Portuguese digraph <NH>.
This research project was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), through the Center for Studies in Letters (CEL), reference nos. UIDB/00707/2020 and UIDP/00707/2020, Portugal. A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 7th International Colloquium of the ACLC Research group “Revitalising older linguistic documentation” (ROLD), at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, November 25, 2016, with the title “A first outline of Angolan lexicography.” We would like to gratefully acknowledge the editorial board and the anonymous referees whose stimulating comments and recommendations we have tried to implement in the final version of this paper.
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