≠Akhoe Hai//om

≠Akhoe Hai//om is a Central Khoisan language and a member of the Khoekhoegowab dialect continuum. Within southern Africa Khoisan languages are particularly understudied and endangered. ≠Akhoe Hai//om in Namibia is threatened in at least three different ways:

  1. The overall number of speakers is low.
  2. The reputation of the language and its speakers is low.
  3. Standardized neighbouring variants have received much more attention by administrators and linguists.

In this project research focuses on ≠Akhoe Hai//om spoken in the north of the Oshikoto region. Other variants of Hai//om may exist, some already extinct and others already merged into what can be called “mainstream Hai//om”. In terms of lexicon and syntax ≠Akhoe Hai//om preserves old Khoekhoe forms, so that a documentation of these variants helps to rescue forms that are no longer contained in other variants. The project does not treat ≠Akhoe as disconnected or as categorically opposed to Hai//om but rather as the only surviving clear variant in what was probably a larger number of Hai//om variants.

≠Akhoe Hai//om, like the other Khoisan languages, has click sounds that are unfamiliar to speakers of Indo-European languages but also to many speakers of Namibian Bantu languages. In the standard orthography these pervasive click sounds are represented by the signs !, /, //, and ≠.

  • / represents the dental click, resembling the fricative sound of slight disapproval common in many languages.
  • // represents the lateral click, resembling the sound sometimes likened to the command given to make a horse move and previously often rendered as k by speakers of non-Khoisan languages (as in Haikom instead of Hai//om).
  • ! represents the alveolar click, resembling the sound of a bottle being uncorked.
  • ≠ represents the palatal click, resembling the sound of clapping.

Each of these basic clicks may be accompanied by one of the following modifications: nasalisation (!n), aspiration (!h), velar fricative (!kh) and glottal stop (unmarked: !). The unmodified, voiceless release of a click is represented as !g, /g, //g, ≠g.