Kwakum language

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Native toCameroon
Native speakers
10,000 (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kwu

Kwakum (ISO [kwu]) is classified as belonging to the Bantu subgroup A90 (Kaka) of the Zone “A” Bantu languages, and specifically labelled A91 by Guthrie[4]. According to one of the newest updates to the Bantu classification system,[5] other languages belonging to this subgroup are: Pol (A92a), Pɔmɔ (A92b), Kweso (A92C) and Kakɔ (A93). The Kwakum people refer to themselves (and their language) as either Kwakum or Bakoum (sometimes spelled Bakum). However, they say that the "Bakoum" pronunciation only began after the arrival of Europeans in Cameroon, though it is frequently used today.[6] Kwakum is mainly spoken in the East region of Cameroon, southwest of the city Bertoua.


Kwakum is listed by Simons & Fennig[7] as having three dialects: Til, Beten (or Mbeten, or Petem), and Baki (or Mbaki). According to David Hare[6], there are two main districts in which Kwakum is spoken: Dimako and Doumé. The Dimako district has 8 villages centered around the town of Dimako. The Doumé district has 8 villages centered around the town of Doumé. The lexical similarity between the Kwakum spoken in these two districts is 92.3%. Among these villages are the two villages of Baktala and Longtimbi. The people who live in these villages consider themselves to be Kwakum, but also call themselves Til. There is a lexical similarity of 91.4% between the Kwakum spoken in the Dimako district and the language spoken in the Til villages.

There are four villages of people who consider themselves to be Mbeten (and not Kwakum). The lexical similarity between the Kwakum of the Dimako district and the Mbeten villages is 81.3%. The Mbaki live far from the Kwakum and the lexical similarity is only 47.7%. It is thus unlikely that Mbaki should be considered a dialect of Kwakum.


Kwakum is a tonal language, and has been analyzed by Stacey Hare as having three tones.[8]

Current Literature[edit]

The first analysis of Kwakum was completed in 2005 by François Belliard.[9] Though this work focused on the music of the Kwakum, there is a brief description of the phonology and grammar. This dissertation was simplified into the form of a book entitled Parlons Kwakum (Let's Speak Kwakum) and published in 2007.[10] Both works by Belliard are only available in French.

David Hare completed an MA thesis entitled Tense in Kwakum Narrative Discourse in June 2018.[6] Stacey Hare wrote her MA thesis on Tone in Kwakum (A91) with an application to orthography.[8] Elisabeth Njantcho Kouagang wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled A grammar of Kwakum in 2018 as well.[11] These three works are only available in English. All data used for David Hare's thesis can be found on his blog.[12]


  1. ^ Kwakum at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kwakum". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ Guthrie, Malcolm. 1953. The Bantu languages of western equatorial Africa. London: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Maho, Jouni. 2003. A classification of the Bantu languages: An update of Guthrie’s referential system. In Derek Nurse & Gérard Philippson (eds.), The Bantu languages, 639–651. London: Routledge.
  6. ^ a b c Hare, David (June 2018). "Tense in Kwakum Narrative Discourse" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Kwakum". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  8. ^ a b Hare, Stacey (June 2018). "Tone in Kwakum (A91) with an application to orthography" (PDF).
  9. ^ Belliard, François. 2005. Instruments, chants et performances musicales chez les Kwakum de l'arrondissement de Doume (est-Cameroun) : Étude ethnolinguistique de la conception musicale d'une population de langue Bantu A91. Paris: Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales PhD dissertation.
  10. ^ "Parlons Kwàkùm - InterCommunications". (in French). Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  11. ^ KOUAGANG, Elisabeth NJANTCHO (2018-07-06). "A grammar of Kwakum". Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  12. ^ "Hare Translation Journey: The Kwakum Language". Hare Translation Journey. Retrieved 2018-09-20.