Fwe language

RegionZambezi region, Namibia and Western Province, Zambia
Native speakers
10,200 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3fwe

Fwe, or Chifwe, is a Bantu language spoken by 10,000 people along the Okavango River in the Zambezi region of Namibia and in the Western Province in Zambia. It is closely related to Kuhane, and is one of several Bantu languages of the Okavango which have click consonants.

Although under the pressure of Lozi and Kuhane (Subiya), Fwe speakers tend to have a positive attitude towards Fwe, and speaking Fwe is often considered an important part of one's identity,[4] and thus underscores the vitality of the language.[5]

Regional variation[]

Main phonological differences between Zambian and Namibian Fwe, as noted by both the speakers and seen in the data:[6]

Zambian Fwe Namibian Fwe
loss of clicks maintenance of clicks
overgeneralization of /l/ [l] only as conditioned allophone of /r/
epenthetic [h] frequently used epenthetic [h] rarely used

Morphological differences between Zambian and Namibian Fwe:

Zambian Fwe Namibian Fwe
past na- a-
reflexive kí- rí-
remote past na- ni-
remote future na- (á)rá-
inceptive sha- shi-
connective PP - o PP - a
persistive shí- shí-/-sí-
negative imperative ásha- ásha-/-ása-
negative infinitive shá- shá-/-sá-
negative subjunctive sha sha-/-sa-
near future mbo-/mba- mbo



Consonant inventory of Fwe[7]
Bilabial Dental/
Alveolar Postalveolar/
Velar Glottal
Click plain [ǀ] [ɡǀ]
prenasalized [ⁿǀ̥] [ⁿǀ]
Nasal [m] [n] [ɲ] [ŋ]
Stop voiceless [p] [t] [k]
voiced [b] [d] [ɡ]
prenasalized [ᵐp] [ᵐb] [ⁿt] [ⁿd] [ᵑk] [ᵑɡ]
Fricative voiceless [f] [s] [ʃ] [h]
voiced [β] [v] [z] [ʒ]
prenasalized [ᶬf] [ᶬv] [ⁿs] [ⁿz] [ⁿʃ]
Affricate plain [tʃ]
prenasalized [ⁿtʃ] [ⁿdʒ]
Tap [ɾ]
Glide [j] [w]


Fwe has five contrastive vowel phonemes: /ɪ ʊ ɛ ɔ a/.


  1. ^ Fwe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Fwe". 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. ^ Gunnink 2018, p. 4
  5. ^ Gunnink 2018, p. 5
  6. ^ Gunnink 2018, p. 5, 6
  7. ^ Gunnink 2018, p. 11, 12
  8. ^ Gunnink 2018, p. 13
  9. ^ Gunnink 2018, p. 19