UWC to develop the first Kaaps dictionary

Kaaps is a biryani pot mixture of languages ​​that has always had negative connotations. The University of the Western Cape (UWC) has launched a development project the first dictionary of Kaaps.

The iconic Kaaps greeting word ah ah was developed from its verbal use in Old Javanese (a language spoken in Batavia). It is also a word from the KhoiKhoi language. This is just one of the many Kaaps words that have entered the South African lexicon.

Read more: ‘Tawedes’ to native language as South Africa gets its first Khoi language reader

Kaaps dictionary project

The Multilingualism and Diversity Research Center (CMDR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Heal the Hood Project launched the Trilingual Dictionary of Kaaps (TDK) project on July 26. CMDR Editor-in-Chief and Editor-in-Chief Professor Quentin Williams said Kaaps remains one of the oldest and most marginalized ways of speaking.

“For decades activists, academics, artists, writers have 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 this direction ”, Williams said.

Read more: Politics around identity: Afrikaans conceals many truths and evils

Williams says the dictionary’s purpose is to shed light on Kaaps’ roots and writing systems. The dictionary will document the use of Kaaps across all platforms, genres, practices – and describe the language experiences of Kaaps speakers, Williams said.

How will the dictionary be compiled?

Shaquile Southgate, a TDK editor told Daily Vox, the dictionary will be compiled from different sources and will run for five years. TDK will use publisher’s transcriptions, research papers, musical and oral history sources. The compilers will travel to the communities for a face-to-face collection. “We will be looking at films, documentaries and newspaper articles as sources,” Southgate said.

“When we go out to the public to submit words for inclusion in TDK, it will need to be accompanied by the word’s source, context and etymology,” Southgate said.


Kaaps or Cape Afrikaans was developed in the Dutch colony of Cape Town as early as the 1500s. Kaaps was the language between the indigenous KhoiKhoi people and the slaves. It was a way to have private communication. They wanted to invent a language of their own that was different by referring to Dutch, the language of the settlers.

Standard Afrikaans has been described as formal while Kaaps has been dismissed as slang. This has created a gap between the official languages. Kaaps was meant to be used informally like the street. The vernacular quickly spread and became the mother tongue of more than half of Cape Town’s population. Today Kaaps is spoken by over 70% of the communities in Cape Flats Colored.

Dylan Valleythe first documentary of, Afrikaaps explored the little-known Creole history of Afrikaans, using hip-hop, humor and a personal perspective. The film followed a group of local artists, including Jitsvinger and Black Pearl as they created the staging AFRIKAAPS – by tracing the true roots of Afrikaans to the slaves of Cape Town.

Kaaps writes over the years

Kaaps’s contemporary writing has become more visible over the years. Writer Olivia Coetzee translates the Bible into Kaaps. Coetzee’s first novel, Innie Shadows was also written entirely in Kaaps. Chase Rhys’ debut novel, Kinnes was also written entirely in Kaaps. Kinnes is studied in Afrikaans departments at universities across South Africa. Rhys is currently writing a column in Kaaps for the Afrikaans-language newspaper, Rapport.

“Kaaps is a language … people live their whole life ‘with everything in it’ … Kaaps is not a joke or a funny one … it is a language” the late revered poet Adam Small said.

Read more: Barakat is a must-see South African film

For more information and regular updates, visit the Kaaps dictionary project site here.

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