Kuasi is a Central Khoisan language in the Tshwa subgroup (Vossen, 2013), related to Gǀui, G||ana, Tsua, Cua, and Tshila  (Collins and Chebanne, 2016), most of which have very little documentation available. Historically, the Kua people lived in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, but in the 1990s and early 2000s, were forced to migrate onto settlements (reservations) outside of their ancestral lands.

The name Kuasi comes from the word kúā, which means 'person' and a feminine singular person-number-gender (PGN) marker (Collins and Chebanne 2016). When used as a feminine noun, kúā 'person' becomes 'the language of the Kua,' as in the following example from Collins and Chebanne (2016:7):

  • cé kwà kúā sàʔà qχ’úī.
    1SS PROG Kua 3FSO speak
    ‘I speak the language of the Kua.’
    (Collins and Chebanne, 2016:7, ex. 1b)

Kuasi, like other Central Khoisan languages, has a rich pronominal system. Consider that Standard English has 23 personal pronouns (I, me, my, you, she, her, etc.) , whereas Kuasi has 86 (Collins and Chebanne, 2016:24-31). Kuasi has a similarly impressive system of 24 person-gender-number markers whose sole purpose is to disambiguate the person, gender, and number of nouns (Collins and Chebanne, 2016:16-23). Kuasi, having undergone click replacement, has a somewhat reduced click inventory in comparison to a language like N!aq. Apart from this, other notable features of Kuasi include a complex juncture morpheme in serial verb constructions, a nominal linker, and derivational tone sandhi.

In Setswana, the speakers of Kuasi are called Basarwa. A number of exonyms have emerged to refer to speakers of the “click languages.” Basarwa is a Setswana word used within Botswana to refer to speakers of these languages very broadly. Bakua refers specifically to the speakers of KuaBushmen is considered derogatory by some due to its history. San (or Saan) is in common use to describe the hunter-gatherer speakers of the click languages throughout southern Africa.

The social history of the San (including the Bakua) has been changing over time, especially due to contacts with colonizers and neighboring cattle-herding ethnic groups. The San are now adopting the lifestyle of their neighbors. Unfortunately this cultural shift is accompanied by language loss. The the social history and current circumstances of the San bear many likenesses to those of other indigenous peoples around the world. 

Ethnologue lists the status of Kua as 6a, vigorous. However, in the absence of sociolinguistic surveys, it is unclear what the exact status of the language is and it should be assumed to be threatened.

Documentation

As an RA in 2016, I helped enter his transcribed oral texts into a FLEx project for Kuasi. We then glossed these texts fully. I also helped copy edit A Grammatical Sketch of Kuasi.

Phrases

  • tsa ma ka ǂxai?
    You're awake! (said as a morning greeting)
  • ce kwa ǂxai!
    I'm awake! (said in response to the morning greeting)
  • e ka |oo.
    That's all. (It's finished.)

Resources

Literature