|Native to||Namibia, Botswana and South Africa|
|Region||Orange River, Great Namaland, Damaraland|
|Ethnicity||Khoikhoi, Nama, Damara, Hai?om|
|200,000 ± 10,000 (2011)|
Official language in
The distribution of the Nama language in Namibia.
|The Khoe language|
The Khoekhoe language , Khoekhoegowab, also known by the ethnic term Nama  and formerly as Hottentot, is the most widespread of those non-Bantu languages of southern Africa that contain "click" sounds and have therefore been loosely classified as Khoisan. It belongs to the Khoe language family, and is spoken in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa by three ethnic groups, the Nama, Damara, and Hai?om.
It appears that the Damara picked up the language along with the Nama in Botswana, and that they migrated to Namibia separately from the Nama. The Hai?om, who had spoken a Juu language, later shifted to Khoekhoe. The name for Nama speakers, Khoekhoen, is from the Nama word khoe "person", with reduplication and the suffix -n to indicate the plural.Georg Friedrich Wreede was the first European to study the language, after arriving in Cape Town in 1659.
Khoekhoe is a national language in Namibia, where it is used for teaching up to the university level as well as in the public administration. In Namibia and South Africa, state-owned broadcasting corporations produce and broadcast radio programmes in Khoekhoegowab.
Modern scholars generally see three dialects:
There are 5 vowel qualities, found as oral /i e a o u/ and nasal /? ã ?/. /u/ is strongly rounded, /o/ only slightly so. /a/ is the only vowel with notable allophony; it is pronounced [?] before /i/ or /u/.
Nama has been described as having three or fourtones, /á, ?, à/ or /a?, á, à, ?/, which may occur on each mora (vowels and final nasal consonants). The high tone is higher when it occurs on one of the high vowels (/í ú/) or on a nasal (/? ?/) than on mid or low vowels (/é á ó/).
The tones combine into a limited number of 'tone melodies' (word tones), which have sandhi forms in certain syntactic environments. The most important melodies, in their citation and main sandhi forms, are as follows:
|?m?s||òm?s||butting, hitting s.t.||low|
|s||an udder||low rising|
|òm?s||forcing out of a burrow||mid|
|òm?s||òm?s||a pollard||high rising|
|óm?s||óm?s||coagulating, prizing out [a thorn]||low falling|
|s||óm?s||a fist||high falling|
Within a phrase, lexical words receive greater stress than grammatical words. Within a word, the first syllable receives the most stress. Subsequent syllables receive less and less stress and are spoken more and more quickly.
Nama has 31 consonants: 20 clicks and only 11 non-clicks.
|Plosive||p ~ ?||t ~ ?||k||?|
Between vowels, /p/ is pronounced [?] and /t/ is pronounced [?]. The affricate series is strongly aspirated, and may be analysed phonemically as aspirated stops; in the related Korana they are [t?, k?].
Beach (1938) reported that the Khoekhoe of the time had a velar lateral ejective affricate, [k'], a common realisation or allophone of /kx'/ in languages with clicks. This sound no longer occurs in Khoekhoe but remains in its cousin Korana.
The clicks are doubly articulated consonants. Each click consists of one of four primary articulations or "influxes" and one of five secondary articulation or "effluxes". The combination results in 20 phonemes.
|accompaniment||affricated clicks||'sharp' clicks||standardised |
|Voiceless aspirated nasal||?||?||?||?||⟨?h⟩|
The aspiration on the aspirated clicks is often light but is 'raspier' than the aspirated nasal clicks, with a sound approaching the ch of Scottish loch. The glottalised clicks are clearly voiceless due to the hold before the release, and they are transcribed as simple voiceless clicks in the traditional orthography. The nasal component is not audible in initial position; the voiceless nasal component of the aspirated clicks is also difficult to hear when not between vowels, so to foreign ears, it may sound like a longer but less raspy version of the contour clicks.
Tindall notes that European learners almost invariably pronounce the lateral clicks by placing the tongue against the side teeth and that this articulation is "harsh and foreign to the native ear". The Namaqua instead cover the whole of the palate with the tongue and produce the sound "as far back in the palate as possible".
Lexical root words consist of two or rarely three moras, in the form CVCV(C), CVV(C), or CVN(C). (The initial consonant is required.) The middle consonant may only be w r m n (w is b~p and r is d~t), while the final consonant (C) may only be p, s, ts. Each mora carries tone, but the second may only be high or medium, for six tone "melodies": HH, MH, LH, HM, MM, LM.
Oral vowel sequences in CVV are /ii ee aa oo uu ai [?i] ae ao au [?u] oa oe ui/. Due to the reduced number of nasal vowels, nasal sequences are / ãã ã?  ã?  õã /. Sequences ending in a high vowel (/ii uu ai au ui ã? ã? /) are pronounced more quickly than others (/ee aa oo ae ao oa oe ãã õã/), more like diphthongs and long vowels than like vowel sequences in hiatus. The tones are realised as contours. CVCV words tend to have the same vowel sequences, though there are many exceptions. The two tones are also more distinct.
Vowel-nasal sequences are restricted to non-front vowels: /am an om on um un/. Their tones are also realised as contours.
Grammatical particles have the form CV or CN, with any vowel or tone, where C may be any consonant but a click, and the latter cannot be NN. Suffixes and a third mora of a root, may have the form CV, CN, V, N, with any vowel or tone; there are also three C-only suffixes, -p 1m.sg, -ts 2m.sg, -s 2/3f.sg.
There have been several orthographies used for Nama. A Khoekhoegowab dictionary (Haacke 2000) uses the modern standard.
In standard orthography, the consonants b d g are used for words with one of the lower tone melodies and p t k for one of the higher tone melodies. W is only used between vowels, though it may be replaced with b or p according to melody. Overt tone marking is otherwise generally omitted.
|kao||/kà?/||high rising||'be dumbfounded'|
|?hubu (or ?huwu)||/wú/||low rising||'to stop hurting'|
|?hupu (or ?huwu)||/ùw?/||high rising||'to get out of breath'|
Nasal vowels are written with a circumflex. All nasal vowels are long, as in hû /h/ 'seven'. Long (double) vowels are otherwise written with a macron, as in ? /?àa?/ 'to cry, weep'; these constitute two moras (two tone-bearing units).
A glottal stop is not written at the beginning of a word (where it is predictable), but it is transcribed with a hyphen in compound words, such as gao-aob /k?ò?ò?p/ 'chief'.
Nama has a subject-object-verb word order, three nouns classes (masculine/gu-class, feminine/di-class and neuter/n-class) and three grammatical numbers (singular, dual and plural). Pronominal enclitics are used to mark person, gender, and number on the noun phrases.
The PGN (person-gender-number) markers are enclitic pronouns that attach to noun phrases. The PGN markers distinguish first, second, and third person, masculine, feminine, and neuter gender, and singular, dual, and plural number. The PGN markers can be divided into nominative, object, and oblique paradigms.
(PGN + i)
(PGN + a)
Examples from Haacke (2013):
Following is a sample text in the Khoekhoe language.