The name was given to the very distinctive variant or dialect of Afrikaans spoken primarily in the Western Cape, principally by the so-called "coloured" or "brown" population of the region, though its distinctive intonation patterns and rhythms are often found among white speakers born in the region as well.
Distinguished by both pronunciation and vocabulary, in later years it was often strongly influenced by and mixed with English slang. An alternative to the more racist "kleurling Afrikaans" ["coloured Afrikaans"] formerly used to distinguish it (and literature in it) from "proper" Afrikaans. With a few prominent exceptions (Mikro, Uys Krige, Cosmo Pieterse, Adam Small, ), most earlier writers tended to use the form for solely comic purposes (from Bain and Rex's revue Kaatjie Kekkelbek and Stephen Black’s Love and the Hyphen and Helena's Hope, Ltd to André P. Brink’s Bobaas van die Boendoe and Kinkels innie Kabel). Numerous traditional songs ("moppies") from the region utilised the form as well.
The specific term “Kaaps” derives from the late 1970’s, when this form of Afrikaans was (re-)appropriated by authors such as Adam Small, Peter Snyders and the writers and theatre companies from the Cape Flats, who began to use it a distinctive and serious literary and political tool, particularly in poetry and drama. Adam Small’s poetry and his superb verse tragedy Kanna hy kô Hystoe - linked to his personal influence and stature as philosopher and academic, had much to do with this new acceptance, while Snyders may even have coined the term and certainly was one of its most active advocates and practioners. By the late 1990’s it had become an accepted and eloquent form of Afrikaans utilized by many writers and performers following up on and reinterpreting the older traditions of entertainment, including the plays of songs and plays of David Kramer and Taliep Petersen (e.g. District Six – The Musical), stand-up comedians such as Marc Lottering, popular bands such as Brasse van die Kaap and a number of films, television dramas and series.
True recognition as a distinctive language is being sought for the language with the announcement of a formal dictionary project announced by the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research (CMDR) at the University of the Western Cape in 2021. According to the project's website, "Kaaps ...[was]].. created in the 1500s. It is today an important linguistic resource for its speakers found in the Western Cape and beyond. But it also one of the most marginalized languages in the history of our country.". The specific project, known as the Trilingual Dictionary of Kaaps (TDK), is seen as a descriptive corpus project that will develop the first dictionary of Kaaps.
See also Afrikaans
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