Kwa Languages

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Kwa Languages


(Guinean languages), a family of languages spoken in the eastern part of the Ivory Coast, southern Ghana, Togo, Dahomey, and the southwestern part of Nigeria. The Kwa languages are spoken by approximately 34 million people (1967). According to the classification of the American scholar J. Greenberg, they constitute a subfamily of the Niger-Kordofanian language family. He includes in the Kwa language family the Kru, Ivory Coast Lagoon, Akan, Ga, and Adangbe language groups and the Ewe, Yoruba, Nupe, Bini, Ibo, and Ijo languages.

The Kwa languages are of the isolating type. The consonant system includes coarticulated labio-velars: voiced gb and voiceless kp. In Ewe an alveolar consonant is opposed to a retroflex consonant. Tones, including tonal combinations (rising or falling), play an important role in distinguishing words. Most roots are monosyllabic. The rudiments of a noun class system, without concord, exist in the morphology of some languages (for example, Twi). In many Kwa languages, nouns have a special prefix marker (vowel or nasal) that distinguishes them from verbs (in Twi, Yoruba, Ewe, and Nupe). In the verb, grammatical functions are expressed by means of affixes, auxiliaries, reduction, and word order, and, less frequently, by changes in tone (Twi, Azande, Ewe).


Hintze, U. Bibliographic der Kwa-Sprachen und der Togo-Restvölker. Berlin, 1959.
Greenberg, J. H. The Languages of Africa. Bloomington, 1963.
Westermann, D. Languages of West Africa. London, 1970.


References in periodicals archive ?
The Igala speak the Kwa language and are "traders, farmers, fishermen, and healers." Although Emeka has no money, he dreams of buying his grandmother a special present to show his love for her.
And so Charles Puoh becomes Charles Breeze (because "puoh" is the Krahn word for "breeze") and Adolphus Kpeh changes to Adolphus Powers (because "kpeh" is synonymous with "power" in a number of Kwa languages).
Although demonstrative terms in Kwa languages have not been given much attention in the literature, the following interpretive patterns are attested for languages other than Fongbe.
Whether there are Kwa languages other than Gbe that have reflexive anaphors is a question for future research.