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27 July 2021
The First Trilingual Dictionary of Kaaps Launched
The Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research (CMDR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Heal the Hood Project launched the Trilingual Dictionary of Kaaps (TDK) project on 26 July 2021. The TDK is a descriptive corpus project that will develop the first dictionary of Kaaps.  

The project is funded by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) and the Centre for Language, Race, and Ethnicity at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States. 

Professor Quentin Williams, CMDR Director, said that Kaaps was created in Southern Africa during the 1500s. “It remains one of the oldest and most marginalized ways of speaking,” Prof Williams noted. “For decades, activists, academics, artists, authors campaigned for the empowerment of Kaaps speakers and the transformation of schools, universities and the economy. With this dictionary project, we are taking the first real step in that direction.”  

The word aweh is an example of a Kaaps greeting. It was lexico-grammatical manipulated from its verb use in Old Javanses but is also a Khoe word and is still used in Indonesia. 

According to Prof Williams, today Kaaps is an important linguistic resource in the Western Cape and beyond. “For a long time, academics, writers, activists and linguists have argued that we need to focus on the linguistic description of Kaaps, the unification of the writing system, as well as the educational advancement of Kaaps for academic literacy in basic and higher education, and the media and economic benefits of Kaaps.”  

The project aims to transform prevailing negative attitudes and perceptions of Kaaps and its speakers by producing an educational resource that will support social and academic literacy practices in the education, religious, cultural, political and economic spheres of our democratic society.  

The specific goals are four-fold: to shed further light on the historical roots of Kaaps; to contribute to current debates about the unification of the writing system of Kaaps; to document the use of Kaaps across all relevant modalities, platforms, genres, practices, performances, interactions and linguistic landscapes; and, to describe the lived linguistic experiences of speakers of Kaaps. 

To learn more about the project’s editorial board and advisory members, visit: http://dwkaaps.co.za/.