Khoekhoegowab (Nama/Damara)

  • Wilfrid H. G. Haacke


This chapter presents an introduction to the glossonyms of the language; to its genetic classification in the context of Khoe languages; to the main dialects constituting the continuum; to the geographic distribution of the main ethnicities Damara, Nama, Haiǁom and ǂAakhoe; to demographic figures; to multilingualism of the speakers; to the history of codification and production of dictionaries, grammars and school literature; to status and language planning concerning Khoekhoegowab; and to the political significance.

Shortly after Namibia’s attainment of independence in 1990, the forgotten glossonym ‘Khoekhoegowab’ was officially reintroduced for the language that had become known as ‘Nama’ or ‘Nama/Damara’. Khoekhoegowab is the last surviving language of the Khoekhoe branch of the Khoe languages; it is spoken almost exclusively in Namibia and consists of a dialect continuum with Nama as southernmost and Damara, Haiǁom and ǂAakhoe as northernmost dialect clusters. The popular claim that the ethnically distinct Damara have adopted the language from the Nama has been disproved. With just under 12 per cent, Khoekhoegowab is the second largest language group in Namibia; yet it has little esteem among its speakers as vehicle of upward mobility. It has received comparatively much attention by external facilitators in literary development and is one of the local languages selected for language planning purposes. Currently it is one of three Namibian languages offered as major undergraduate subject for degree purposes.


Khoe Khoisan/Khoesaan Nama Damara Haiǁom ǂAakhoe  Language planning 


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Select Web Resources

  1. Maho, Jouni. Khoekhoe bibliography. or (NB: The most comprehensive bibliography for Khoekhoe.)
  2. Ministry of Education: Syllabus for KHOEKHOEGOWAB as FIRST LANGUAGE, GRADES 8–10. (NB: A syllabus in Khoekhoegowab using the official orthography.)
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  4. Widlok, T., Rapold, C., & Hoyman, G. The ≠Akhoe Haiǁom Project
  5. Wikipedia. Kapteine der Nama [Chiefs of the Nama]. (NB: A diachronic list of Nama chiefs of the various clans. A knowledge of German is not essential to glean the essential information.)
  6. Wikipedia: Khoekhoe language. (NB: A fairly comprehensive and – some details aside – reliable treatise.)

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wilfrid H. G. Haacke
    • 1
  1. 1.Formerly of Department of African LanguagesUniversity of NamibiaWindhoekNamibia

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