Cua language of Botswana: Resilience or a longer road to language loss?

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 40, issue 1, 2020 , pages: 68–75
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2020.1733831
Author(s): Andy ChebanneFaculty of Humanities, Botswana, Mawande DlaliDepartment of African Languages, South Africa


Cua is a Central Khoisan language spoken by a diminishing population in the central and eastern parts of Botswana. Adults and younger children still speak it. However, school-going children begin to develop negative attitudes towards it and shun the use of the language in public and family domains. Although chiefs in resettlements are Cua-speaking and therefore have to instill positive attitudes in the use of the language, there are no organised advocacy associations and no revitalisation endeavours in place to ensure the promotion and preservation of Cua. While elders speak of the wish to maintain the language for posterity and for the celebration of culture, they are devoid of the means to accomplish that. Because it is spoken in a geographically compact area of 2 400 km2, and by a comparatively sizeable community of 2 000, it shows some resilience. The article discusses the situation of Cua from the view point of language endangerment in the first instance by characterising the sociolinguistic vitality of the Cua community. Secondly, it addresses the conditions (historical, policy, and demographic) that demonstrate that the language is also threatened with extinction, like all other Khoisan languages in the region. The language and cultural policies of Botswana, which do not cater for minorities, are identified as the main forces behind the ethnic and linguistic demise of Cua.

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