Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Khoekhoe group (Central Khoisan family).

Languages included: Nama [kkh-nam]; !Ora [kkh-kor].
Reconstruction: Preliminary version available.


I. Nama.

Haacke & Eiseb 2002 = Haacke, Wilfrid H. G.; Eiseb, Eliphas. A Khoekhoegowab Dictionary (With an English-Khoekhoegowab Index). Gamsberg Macmillan. // Huge dictionary that covers most of the dialects of Khoekhoegowab, including Nama, Damara, Haiǀǀom and others. All words are given with their full tonal characteristics, for the first time in Nama history.

Krönlein & Rust 1969 = Krönlein, J. G.; Rust, F. Nama Wörterbuch. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press. // The oldest dictionary of Nama, originally published in 1889 by J. G. Krönlein; edited and expanded more than half a century later by F. Rust. This was the largest Nama dictionary in existence before Haacke and Eiseb's collective effort made it into a document of historical importance. Still, the dictionary remains useful in that it captures a hundred year old picture of Nama, including some archaisms that would no longer be in use by the end of the XXth century.

Additional source: Vossen 1997 = Vossen, Rainer. Die Khoe-Sprachen. Rüdiger Köppe Verlag (used as a convenient source to extract the complete complex paradigm of the 1st p. pl./du. pronoun).

II. !Ora.

Meinhof 1930 = Meinhof, Carl. Der Koranadialekt des Hottentotischen. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag. // Mid-size grammatical sketch of !Ora, together with some text samples and a representative vocabulary. Based on the author's personal fieldwork as well as a selection of earlier sources.

Wuras 1920 = Wuras, C. F. Vokabular der Korana-Sprache. Herausgegeben und mit kritischen Anmerkungen versehen von Walther Bourquin. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag. // A small vocabulary of !Ora; transcription quality is notably less reliable than in Meinhof's monograph, but the source is important for including some material not attested by Meinhof, as well as independently confirming some of Meinhof's data.


I. Nama.

I.1. General.

The 100-wordlist is targeted at "Nama proper", i.e. a set of subdialects of Khoekhoegowab ("language of the Khoekhoe") that underlies Nama as one of the major languages of Namibia. Although there are important dialectal differences between Nama, Damara, Haiǀǀom, Topnaar, ǂĀkhoe, and other dialects of Khoekhoegowab, including a few basic lexicon items, there are no separate dictionaries for these dialects, and constructing separate lexicostatistical lists for all of them would be superfluous (in most cases, the forms would coincide both lexically and phonetically).

I.2. Transliteration.

Each form is given in the UTS transliteration as well as official Nama orthography. In Haacke & Eiseb's dictionary, the official orthographic variant mostly differs from the authors' "own" transcription by the presence of tonal markings on the latter and their omission in official orthography. However, the older Krönlein/Rust dictionary has some orthographic peculiarities of its own, some of which may have been due to careless transcription, but others may have reflected some phonetic features of the original dialect. Cf. the table that illustrates the main distinctions:

UTS Official Nama orthography Krönlein/Rust
ɡǀ, ɡǂ, ɡ!, ɡǀǀ ǀg, ǂg, !g, ǀǀg ǀg, ǂg, !g, ǀǀg
ǀʼ, ǂʼ, !ʼ, ǀǀʼ ǀ, ǂ, !, ǀǀ ǀ, ǂ, !, ǀǀ
ɳǀ, ɳǂ, ɳ!, ɳǀǀ ǀn, ǂn, !n, ǀǀn ǀn, ǂn, !n, ǀǀn
ǀx, ǂx, !x, ǀǀx ǀkh, ǂkh, !kh, ǀǀkh ǀk, ǂk, !k, ǀǀk
ǀʰ, ǂʰ, !ʰ, ǀǀʰ ǀh, ǂh, !h, ǀǀh ǀh, ǂh, !h, ǀǀh
k k g
k g g
t d d ~ t
c ts ts
ai ai ei
ae ae ai
ao ao au ~ ao
au au ou

Note: Most, if not all, Nama dialects do not preserve the distinction between original voiced and voiceless word-initial consonants, but it is still indirectly reflected in tonal characteristics (high tone next to former voiceless, low tone next to former voiced segments). The official Nama orthography preserves the "historic" voiced / voiceless distinction, but in reality the difference between k- and g-, d- and t- etc., is purely suprasegmental.

The rest of the consonants and vowels are the same in all transcription systems and need not be listed.

II. !Ora.

II.1. General.

The main source for data on the extinct !Ora remains C. Meinhof's monograph treatment from 1930, generally reliable in terms of accuracy of transcription and semantic glossing, although some of the details are controversial (e. g. Meinhof's tonal notation). Where possible, we adduce equivalents from C. F. Wuras' small dictionary, although it is notably less accurate and seems to introduce a large amount of pseudo-phonological differentiation, such as dividing each type of click articulation into two "sub-types".

There may have been minor dialectal differences between the !Ora varieties of Meinhof and Wuras, but, concerning the basic lexicon, it is rarely clear whether such differences truly reflect differences between actual dialects or simply inaccuracies in semantic glossing. Where Meinhof and Wuras disagree with each other, for the sake of consistency we always go along with the "Meinhof variety".

II.2. Transliteration.

Forms in the main field are always given only in the UTS transliteration, since there never has been any "official" orthography for !Ora. While the principles of transliteration between C. Meinhof's system and the UTS are fairly simple, C. Wuras' transcription presents more difficulties, because it observes several fine "distinctions" that have not been confirmed outside of his vocabulary. Upon consideration, we have decided to omit these distinctions in the transliteration, since they only complicate the presentation without serving any constructive purposes.

The main peculiarities of the transliteration may be seen from the following table:

UTS [Meinhof 1930] [Wuras 1920]
ǀ, ǂ, !, ǀǀ ǀ, ǂ, !, ǀǀ ǀk, ǂk, !k, ǀǀk
ǀʼ, ǂʼ, !ʼ, ǀǀʼ ǀʼ, ǂʼ, !ʼ, ǀǀʼ ǀ, ǂ, !, ǀǀ
ɳǀ, ɳǂ, ɳ!, ɳǀǀ ǀn, ǂn, !n, ǀǀn ǀn, ǂn, !n, ǀǀn
ǀx, ǂx, !x, ǀǀx ǀχ, ǂχ, !χ, ǀǀχ ǀch, ǂch, !ch, ǀǀch
ǀʰ, ǂʰ, !ʰ, ǀǀʰ ǀh, ǂh, !h, ǀǀh ǀh, ǂh, !h, ǀǀh
ǀkx, ǂkx, !kx, ǀǀkx ǀkχʼ, ǂkχʼ, !kχʼ, ǀǀkχʼ ǀ⋅, ǂ⋅, !⋅, ǀǀ⋅ or ǀ◦, ǂ◦, !◦, ǀǀ◦
x χ ch
kx kχʼ or
V+ V2

Notes: 1. Click influxes in [Wuras 1920] are actually represented by his own specially invented symbols, not all of which have proper equivalents in Unicode fonts. Each click influx is represented by two symbols (simple and inverted) whose phonetic differentiation is very poorly explained; they never correspond to any distinctions in Meinhof's data.

2. C. Wuras notes the existence of two distinct "windpipe gutterals": "deep", "sounding long" (marked as ◦) and "higher", "sounding short" (marked as ⋅). What is meant by these descriptions is unclear, and both symbols correspond to Meinhof's single kχʼ, so we omit this distinction in our transliteration as well.

3. C. Meinhof distinguishes between / and e / o in his transcriptions without writing much about this alleged contrast; this distinction finds no confirmation in external parallels (Nama), and may be safely omitted.

4. Tones are not always explicitly marked in either Meinhof's or Wuras' lexical data; lack of diacritical notation of tonal characteristics indicates uncertainty about a particular word's tonal characteristics, not a specific distinct tone.

III. Proto-Khoekhoe.

All Proto-Khoekhoe forms have been reconstructed or at least "approved" by G. Starostin, although in many cases they do not differ at all or only differ transcriptionally from the forms previously generated by R. Vossen in his Proto-Khoekhoe reconstruction in [Vossen 1997]. All of Vossen's reconstructions are explicitly listed, with reference to the source, in the notes section.

Since the chronological distance between Nama and !Ora is not very large, phonetic correspondences between these two languages are largely trivial or quite straightforward. For a detailed list of correspondences and regular sound changes, see [Vossen 1997]. Specific sound changes (such as, e.g., the deletion of the velar affricate and velar affricate click efflux -xʼ- in Nama) are usually commented upon in the "Reconstruction shape" section of the notes.

Database compiled and annotated by: G. Starostin (last update: May 2012; Proto-Khoekhoe list added, January 2017).