Khoekhoe is a Khoisan languages spoken by approximately 250,000
people in parts of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. It is spoken
by three ethnic groups of people: the Nama (Khoekhoen),
Damar and Haiǁom, and is also known as Nama.
Khoekhoe is a national language in Nambia and is used
in education at all levels, as well as on the radio. There are
also Khoekhoe radio programmes in South Africa.
In the past the term Hottentot was used to refer to the Khoekhoe
language and those who spoke it. This name was coined by early
Dutch settlers, who, upon hearing the language spoken,
thought that all the natives were saying was 'hot' and 'tot'.
It is now considered rascist and is no longer used.
The first European to study the Khoekhoe language was Georg
Friedricj Wreede, who arrived in Cape Town in 1659.
Khoekhoe alphabet and pronunciation
- The letters F, J, L and V are used only in foreign loanwords,
usually from Afrikaans, English and German.
- Between vowels p = [β] and t = [ɾ].
- 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.
- á - rising tone
- a - level tone
- à - falling tone
- ā - lengthens vowel
- ã - nasal
- ä - separates a vowel from a diphthong
Sample text in Khoekhoe
ǂKam ǃũi-aob gye ǁẽib di gūna ǃhomi
ǃna gye ǃũi hã i. ǀGui tsēb gye ǃgare-ǀuiï
di ǃkhareï ei heiï di somi ǃna gye ǂnõa i,
tsĩb gye ǁom tsĩ sĩgurase gye ǃgan-tana, tanaba ra
ǃhororose. Ob gye ǁẽib ǁgūse gyere ǃũ
beiraba ǃũi-aob ta ǃkamsa ǁgoa bi, ti gye ǂẽi.
ǁNatib gye ǂnirase gye ǂhomisen, tsĩb gye ǁhei-ǂnu
ei bi nĩse ǃgũṅ tsĩ ǀnĩ dā-ǃharoroti
gose gye ǂgai-ǃoa-ǃoasen, tsĩb gye ǃũi-aob ei
ǁhei-ǂnũ tsĩ ǁkhōse gye ǃkhā bi.
Ob gye ǃũi-aoba ǁkhōse ǂkon ǂoms ãba xu
ǂkei-ǂkeihe, tsĩ gye ǁgao tsĩb gye ǁeixa
hãse uri-khài tsĩ beiraba gye ǃkhō, tsĩ
ǁnāba gye ǀgūse mã i tsouï ǃna gye
ǀnami-ǁna bi. Xawe ǁnāsan nĩ nou gūna mũ,
timis ǀkan gye beiraba sau tsĩ tsoub ǃna gye uri-ǁgõa tsĩ
ǀkhom-ǀkhomsase ǃgaregu ei gye ǂku. ǁNatib gye
ǃũi-aoba ǃgawua-ǃna hãse ǀũn ãba
ra tsuru-!ã gye ǂgei. "ǂKawa ǁeiba xu ǂgosen tama
īs gye ǂkhõas tsĩ ǀam-ǂgōsens tsĩna
One day a young shepherd was watching his sheep on a mountainside. While he was
sitting on a rock in the shade of a tree, his head nodded forward and fell asleep.
A ram grazing nearby, seeing the shepherd lower his head, thought he was threatening
to fight. So he got ready, and drawing himself back a few paces he launched himself
at the shepherd and butted him severely.
The shepherd, thus rudely awakened from his sleep, arose angrily, caught the ram,
and threw him into a well standing nearby. But the moment the other sheep saw their
leader fall into the well, they followed him in and were dashed to pieces on the rocks.
So the shepherd, tearing his hair, cried out: "What sorrow and trouble are brought
about by useless anger!"
Tower of Babel in Khoekhoe
Information about the Khoekhoe (Nama) language
Video lessons in Khoekhoe
Words and phrases in Khoekhoe
Information about the Khoekhoe People
Other languages written with the Latin alphabet