One of the major language
families of the Niger-Congo
superfamily of African
languages. Kwa languages are spoken from Côte d'Ivoire
, to Nigeria
In Ghana the main languages Ewe, Akan, and Ga are Kwa. There are about 40 languages in the group as now defined, with about 20 million speakers.
The name was proposed by Krause in 1895 and used by Joseph Greenberg in his authoritative classification of African languages. However, the only major revision to Greenberg in later years is that his Kwa has been severely cut down. A western group called Kru has been split off, and a small cluster consisting of Ijo and Defaka has been split off as Ijoid. These are now regarded as families of equal status with Kwa. Furthermore, many of the main languages of southern Nigeria, such as Yoruba and Igbo, have been moved into the Benue-Congo family to the east. All that remains of Kwa is the subgroup Greenberg called Western Kwa.
Characteristics of Kwa languages are essential tones on all syllables, nasal vowels, a high frequency of initial vowels, and the labiovelar consonants kp and gb.
Typology: SVO, postpositional, GN, NA.