Haiǁom dialect

Not to be confused with ǂ’Amkoe language.
Native to Namibia, South Africa, Angola and Botswana
Region Etosha Salt Pan, Kavango, Mangetti Dune], Omataku, Grootfontein, Baghani], Tsintsabis and Maroelaboom.
Native speakers unknown (undated figure of 50,000)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hgm (Haiǁom)
Linguist List
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ǂAakhoe (ǂĀkhoe) is a dialect of Haiǁom,[1] in turn part of the Khoekhoe dialect continuum. In the sparsely available material on the subject, ǂAkhoe and Haiǁom have been considered a variant of the Khoekhoe language, as separate dialects (Haacke et al. 1997), as virtual synonyms of a single variant (Heikinnen, n.d.), or as "a way in which some Haiǁom speak their language in the northern part of Namibia" (Widlock, n.d.). ǂAkhoe especially is intermediate between the Khoekhoe and Kalahari branches of the Khoe language family.

The people

The Haiǁom are traditionally hunter-gatherers, and many aspects of this traditional culture have been preserved in spite of the political, economic, and linguistic marginalisation of the group. Characteristical features of their culture include healing trance dances, hunting magic, intensive usage of wild plant and insect food, a unique kinship and naming system, frequent storytelling, and the use of a landscape-term system for spatial orientation.[1]

The Haiǁom live in the savannah of northern Namibia, in an area stretching from the edges of Etosha salt pan and the northern white farming areas as far as the Angola border – and perhaps beyond – in the north and Kavango in the east. According to Ethnologue there were 48,400 Haiǁom speakers in 2006, but as with all figures on people and languages of low reputation this count might not be very reliable.


In theory ǂAkhoe possesses free word order, with the subject–object–verb order (SOV) being the dominant preference. In keeping with the typological profile of SOV languages, adjectives, demonstratives and numerals generally precede nouns. Nouns are marked by person–gender–number (PGN) markers. Adjectives, demonstratives and numerals all agree with their head noun.

For example,

Mãa |ũ-ba nde-ba?
what hair-3SGM this-3SGM
"What colour is this?"

Mãa is an interrogative used freely in Haiǁom, the subject takes the suffix -ba, which is a PGN marker denoting the 3rd person masculine singular. The indirect object nde, a demonstrative, follows the noun, and is inflected in concord with the head noun.

Compound structures are highly productive in ǂAkhoe and vary widely in the combination of word categories. The possibilities include: noun+noun, noun+adverb or vice versa, noun+adjective or vice versa, adjective+adjective, adjective+adverb or vice versa, adjective+suffix, or multiple combinations of the above.


Comparing Heikinnen’s[2] and Widlock’s[3] contribution to ǂAkhoe phonology with the more general and theoretical phonological work of Peter Ladefoged (1996),[4] ǂAkhoe can be said to have 47 phonemes. However, an in-depth phonological sketch of the language might show other results where the vowels are concerned.


There are 34 consonants in ǂAkhoe, 20 of which are clicks produced with an ingressive airstream, and 14 of which are pulmonic consonants produced with an egressive airstream.

[Table makes no sense]
Accompaniment and Influx Dental Avleolar Palatal Lateral
VL unaspirated ǀg [kǀ] ǂg [kǂ] !g [k!] ǁg [kǁ]
VL aspirated ǀkh [ǀˣ] ǂkh [ǂˣ] !kh [!ˣ] ǁkh [ǁˣ]
VL nasalised ǀh [ǀ] ǂh [ǂˣ] !h [!ˣ] ǁh [ǁˣ]
VD nasalised ǀn [ŋǀʰ] ǂn [ŋǂʰ] !n [ŋ!ʰ] ǁn [ŋǁʰ]
Glottal closure ǀ [kǀʔ ǂkh [kǂʔ] ! [k!ʔ] ǁ [kǁʔ]
Pulmonic consonants
Bilabial Dental Avleolar Velar Glottal
Stop plain b [p] t [t] k [k]
Stop nasalised mb [ᵐb] nd [ⁿd]
VL affricate tsh [tʃ] kh [kx]
VD affricate ndz [ⁿdʒ]
Fricative s x h [ɦ]
Flap r [ɾ]
Nasal m n


ǂAkhoe Haiǁom has a total of 12 vowel phonemes. These can be divided into monophthongs and diphthongs, with a further subdivision into oral and nasal pronunciation.

/i e a o u/ and /ĩ ã ũ/.
/ai au/ and /ãi ãu/.

See also



  • Haacke, W. (1988) Nama|Damara I, Guide 2: Morpholog and syntax, mimeographed.
  • Haacke, W., E. Eiseb, L. Namaseb (1997) “Internal and External Relations of Khoekhoe Dialects, a Preliminary Survey”, in W. Haacke and E. Elderkin (eds.), Namibian Languages: Reports and Papers, Köln: Köppe.
  • Heikinnen, T. (n.d.), "A Description of the language of ≠Akhoen", unpublished manuscript.
  • Ladefoged, Peter & Maddieson, Ian (1996) The sounds of the world's languages, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Widlock, T. (n.d.) A Haiǁom sourcebook: The T. Heikinnen Papers, unpublished manuscript.

External links

  • Haiom in the Etosha region: a history of colonial settlement, ethnicity and Nature Conservation via Google Books

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