AskDefine | Define Kwa

Dictionary Definition

Kwa n : a group of African language in the Niger-Congo group spoken from the Ivory Coast east to Nigeria

Extensive Definition

"Kwa" redirects here. For the Singaporean lawyer, see Kwa Geok Choo. For the Kwa River see Kasai River The Kwa languages are spoken in the south-eastern part of Côte d'Ivoire, in Ghana, Togo and Benin, and the southwestern corner of Nigeria. The term was introduced 1885 by Krause and used by Westermann (1952) and Greenberg (1963). It is derived from the word for 'people' in many of these languages, which contains the root kwa. The Kwa group of languages is a branch of Volta-Congo and ultimately Niger-Congo.
Bennett & Sterk (1977) argued that Kwa in its original form was not a genetic unit, and proposed a reclassification in which the Yoruboid and Igboid languages are members of the Benue-Congo subfamily. The remaining languages are sometimes labeled New Kwa in order to avoid confusion with the old, larger Kwa family.
Based on historical-comparative analysis, Stewart distinguished the following major branches of (New) Kwa: Several languages of southern Côte d'Ivoire, such as Attie, Adioukrou, Abidji, and Ega are considered Kwa languages, but their exact position within the family is still unclear so they are conservatively left ungrouped.
Ethnologue divides the Kwa languages into two broad geographical groupings: Nyo and Left bank. The Nyo group collapses Stewart's Potou-Tano and Ga-Dangme branches and also includes the ungrouped languages of southern Côte d'Ivoire, while the remaining Kwa languages are called Left bank because they are spoken on the Eastern side of the Volta River in Ghana, Togo, Benin and southwestern Nigeria.


  • Bennett, Patrick R. & Sterk, Jan P. (1977) 'South Central Niger-Congo: A reclassification'. Studies in African Linguistics, 8, 241–273.
  • Hintze, Ursula (1959) Bibliographie der Kwa-Sprachen und der Sprachen der Togo-Restvölker (mit 11 zweifarbigen Sprachenkarten). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
  • Stewart, John M. (1989) 'Kwa'. In: Bendor-Samuel & Hartell (eds.) The Niger-Congo languages. Lanham, MD: The University Press of America.
  • Westermann, Diedrich Hermann (1952) Languages of West Africa (Handbook of African Languages Part II). London/New York/Toronto: Oxford University Press.
  • Williamson, Kay & Blench, Roger (2000) 'Niger-Congo', in Heine, Bernd and Nurse, Derek (eds) African Languages - An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, pp. 11—42.
Kwa in Breton: Yezhoù kwaek
Kwa in German: Kwa-Sprachen
Kwa in Spanish: Lenguas kwa
Kwa in French: Langues Kwa
Kwa in Korean: 콰어
Kwa in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kwaspråk
Kwa in Polish: Języki kwa
Kwa in Portuguese: Línguas kwa
Kwa in Swedish: Kwaspråk
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