A language of Botswana

Alternate Names
Ciyei, “Koba” (pej.), “Kuba” (pej.), “Sekoba” (pej.), Seyeyi, Shiyeyi, Siyei, Yeei, Yei

4,800 in Botswana (2003 UNSD). Ethnic population: 47,000. Total users in all countries: 9,800.


North West district: Maun, Shorobe up to Mababe, Sankoyo, Daunara, Nokaneng, Gumare, Sepopo, Ikoga, Shakawe, and Seronga; Central district: Letihakane, Xumu, Rakops, Motopi.

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Language Status

6b (Threatened).


Shirwanga. Not closely related to other languages. Lexical similarity: 47% with Luyana [lyn], 30% with Herero [her].


SVO; postpositions; articles, adjectives, numerals after noun heads; relatives before or after; question word initial; 4 prefixes, one suffix; word order distinguishes subjects, objects, indirect objects; noun affixes indicate case; verb affixes mark person, number, gender; CVC; nontonal.

Language Use

43% who learned Yeyi from their parents said they speak Yeyi best, 57% said they speak Tswana [tsn] best. 12% of respondents said they speak only Yeyi to their children, 9% speak Yeyi and Tswana to their children. In some villages, children speak Yeyi, including Seronga, Sepopa, Ikoga, Jau. In many villages used only by those over 40. All also use Tswana [tsn]. Also use English [eng].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L2: Age 15–29: 95% Tswana, 68% English; age 30–54: 33% Tswana, 20% English; age 55 and older: 33% Tswana, 6% English. High motivation for literacy. Dictionary.

Latin script [Latn].

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