Kwadi language

Native toAngola
Extinctca. 1960
Language codes
ISO 639-3kwz

Kwadi /ˈkwɑːdi/ was a "click language" once spoken in the southwest corner of Angola. It went extinct some time around 1960. There were only fifty Kwadi in the 1950s, of whom only 4–5 were competent speakers of the language. Three partial speakers were known in 1965, but in 1981 no speakers could be found.

Although Kwadi is poorly attested, there is enough data to show that it is a divergent member of the Khoe family, or perhaps cognate with the Khoe languages in a Khoe–Kwadi family. It preserved elements of proto-Khoe that were lost in the western Khoe languages under the influence of Kxʼa languages in Botswana,[2] and other elements that were lost in the eastern Khoe languages.[3]

The Kwadi people, called Kwepe (Cuepe) by the Bantu, appear to have been a remnant population of southwestern African hunter-gatherers, otherwise only represented by the Cimba, Kwisi, and the Damara, who adopted the Khoekhoe language. Like the Kwisi they were fishermen, on the lower reaches of the Coroca River.[4]

Kwadi was alternatively known by varieties of the words Koroka (Ba-koroka, Curoca, Ma-koroko, Mu-coroca) and Cuanhoca.



Kwadi had at least the oral vowels /a e i o u/, with phonetic [ɛ] possibly either a free variant of /e/ or a surface realization of /ae/. It had at least the nasal vowels /ã ĩ ũ/. Phonetic [ẽ õ] frequently appear to be free variants of /ĩ ũ/, though it's possible that a phonemic /ẽ/ derives from historical *ãĩ.[3]


The tone system is unclear, due to limited data and to the poor quality of recordings. At least two tones (high and low) are necessary to explain that data:[3]

[ʔáú] 'dog', [ʔáù] 'fish'
[k’ó] 'meat', [k’ò] 'man, male'


The following consonants are attested. It's not clear that all are phonemic; [s, ʃ] for example are likely to be allophones, while a [ǀ, ŋǀʔ] distinction might have been lost by the time of the last recordings.[3]

Labial Dental Alveolar Lateral Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m ŋǀ n (ɲ) ŋ
Voiceless stop p, (pʲ)  ? t ts~tʃ c k ʔ, ʔʲ
Voiced stop b d dz (ɟ) ɡ
Aspirated stop kǀʼh tsʰ
Glottalized stop ŋǀʔ tsʼ tɬʼ k(x)ʼ
Velar affrication kǀx
Voiceless fricative (f) (θ) s ʃ ? x h
Voiced fricative v (ð)
Glottalized fricative
Approximant w l j

/ǀ’h/ is a ǃKung loan. Consonants in parentheses derive from Bantu loans. Intervocalic /mb, nd, ŋɡ/ also occur in Bantu loans.

Only dental clicks remain. Proto-Khoe--Kwadi *ǃ, *ǂ, *ǁ are replaced with non-click consonants such as /c, tɬ, c’, tɬ’, x’, ʔʲ/.



Kwadi has personal pronouns for first and second person in singular, dual, and plural numbers. Pronouns have subject, object, and possessive cases.[5] 1st person plural may have distinguished clusivity. Object pronouns are suffixed with -le/-de, except for the first person dual object pronoun, which is just mu. Possessive pronouns are the same as the subject form, except for the first person singular possessive pronoun, which is tʃi. Third person pronouns are simply the demonstratives, which are formed with a demonstrative base ha- followed by a gender/number suffix.[6]

Personal Pronouns
1st ta ʔamu ~ hamu ʔala (EXCL)
ʔuhina, hina (INCL?)
2nd uwa ~ huwa ʔu ~ hu
3rd.masc háde hawa hau
3rd.fem hɛɛ (< ha-e) haʔe

The known possessive pronouns are tʃi 'my' and ha 'his'. From the Khoe languages, it's not expected that all pronouns have distinctive possessive forms.


Kwadi nouns distinguished three genders (masculine, feminine, and common), as well as three numbers (singular, dual, and plural).[7] Some nouns form their plural with suppletion. For example: tçe "woman" vs. tala kwaʼe "women". The attested paradigm of nominal suffixes for masculine and feminine nouns is given below.

Masculine -dɛ -wa -u
Feminine -e -ʔɛ
Common -(n)dɛ -ʔV

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Khoe–Kwadi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Changing profile when encroaching on hunter-gatherer territory?: towards a history of the Khoe–Kwadi family in southern Africa. Tom Güldemann, paper presented at the conference on Historical linguistics and hunter-gatherer populations in global perspective, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Aug. 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d Fehn, Anne-Maria. (2020). Towards a reconstruction of Proto Khoe-Kwadi: The challenges (and benefits!) of applying the historical-comparative method to archival data. Handout of paper presented at the Zoom meeting of the KBA Network, 15 October 2020.
  4. ^ Blench, Roger. 1999. "Are the African Pygmies an Ethnographic Fiction?". Pp 41–60 in Biesbrouck, Elders, & Rossel (eds.) Challenging Elusiveness: Central African Hunter-Gatherers in a Multidisciplinary Perspective. Leiden."Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2011-10-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Güldemann, Tom (2013). "Morphology: 3.5 Kwadi". In Vossen, Rainer (ed.). The Khoesan Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. New York: Routledge. pp. 261–263.
  6. ^ Fehn, Anne-Maria. (2020). Preliminary notes on Kwadi grammar and implications for the morphological reconstruction of proto Khoe-Kwadi. Zoom presentation of the Berlin Colloquium on African Linguistics, 24 November 2020.
  7. ^ Westphal 1971: 395

External links

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