Shua language

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Native to Botswana
Native speakers
4,100 Shua and Tshwa  (2008)[citation needed]
  • Kalahari (Tshu–Khwe)
    • East
      • Shua
Language codes
ISO 639-3 shg
Glottolog shua1254[1]

Shua /ˈʃə/, or Shwakhwe, is a Khoe language of Botswana. It is spoken in central Botswana (in Nata and its surroundings), and in parts of the Chobe District in the extreme north of Botswana. There are approximately 6,000 speakers (Cook 2004). The term Shwakhwe means people (khwe) from the salty area (shwa).

Like many Khoisan languages, it has clicks and ejectives and distinctive tones. Unlike most Khoisan languages, but like Nama, the most neutral word order is SOV, though word order is relatively free. As with most Khoisan languages, there are postpositions. There is a tense-aspect marker ke which often appears in second position in affirmative sentences in the present tense, giving X Aux S O V order (e.g. S Aux O V).

For example,

Kʼarokwa ke ǀʼuizi ʼa gam
boys Asp rock-pl obl throw
"The boys are throwing rocks"
ǀʼui-zi ʼa ke kʼarokwa gam
rock-pl obl Asp boys throw
"The boys are throwing rocks"

This marker appears first in certain subordinate clauses in a manner reminiscent of V2 languages such as German, where a clause-initial complementizer is in complementary distribution with a second position phenomenon (in German, it would be the finite verb which appears in second position).


Shwa is a dialect cluster.

  • Deti
  • Ganádi
  • Shwa-khwe
  • Nǀoo-khwe
  • Kǀoree-khoe or ǀOree-khwe
  • ǁʼAiye or ǀAaye
  • ǀXaise or ǀTaise
  • Tshidi-khwe or Tcaiti or Sili or Shete Tsere
  • Danisi or Demisa or Madenasse or Madinnisane
  • Cara
  • ǁGoro or ǀXaio

The term Hietshware (Hietʃware, Hietʃo) is used for varieties of both Shua and its sister-language Tshwa.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Shua". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

External links[edit]