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Pronunciation kʰaβaʕiri
Region Ekuosia
Ethnicity Kaffa-Jené
Native speakers 4.4 million  (2017)
Language family
  • Kavahiri
Official status
Official language in Tabiqa
CWS code KVR

Kavahiri is a regional language in Tabiqa's northwestern Kasingadh province. It is spoken natively by about 2 million people and as a second language by a further 3 million. It is the most populous remaining language of the Kaffic family, which was largely replaced by Adzamic languages.



Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Radical
Nasal m n [ɲ] ŋ
Plosive p b t d [c ɟ] k g
Glottalic [p'] ɓ t' ɗ [c' ʄ] k' ɠ
Affricate ts [cç] kx
Fricative ɸ β θ ð s z [ç ʝ] h ʕ
Liquid l r [j] [w]

The palatal series are allophones of the alveolars when in contact with /i/. The glides are allophones of /i u/. (/ʕ/ is a phoneme in its own right and also an allophone of /a/.) Voiceless and ejective stops become aspirated word-initially. Voiceless stops become ejectives in clusters with glottalic stops.


Front Central Back
Close i [ɪ] [y~ʉ] u [ʊ]
Open a

/u/ becomes [y~ʉ] when the previous syllable contains /i/. /i u/ [y] become [ɪ ʊ~o ʏ] before liquids, nasals, and the pharyngeal fricative. All diphthongs are permitted.


Kavahiri prefers fairly simple syllables, and almost all are CV(V)(C). However it does allow a variety of bizarre sonority-hierarchy-defying clusters, especially those involving liquids.


Kavahiri natively uses the Adzamic script (or Letsic?). Its romanization has some rather unintuitive values, namely <w y> [θ ð]. The implosives are written with dots (<ḃ ḋ ġ> /ɓ ɗ ɠ/). The ejectives are <c q> /t' k'/. /ʕ/ is <x>. Finally, the affricates are <ţ kh> /ts kx/.



Kavahiri is a relatively analytical and isolating language. Its nouns are marked for number (singular, plural, collective) and case (direct, genitive). The verbs do take polypersonal prefixes which also indicate transitivity, and some TAM suffixes, but otherwise use auxiliaries.


The basic word order is SOV. Copular phrases use SVO or the basic SOV. Imperative clauses raise the verb to initial.

Nouns precede their adjectives and possessors, likewise verbs precede adverbs and auxiliaries.