A study of dialectal and inter-linguistic variations of Khoekhoegowab: towards the determination of the standard orthography
Fredericks, Niklaas Johannes
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Nama is a Khoekhoe-language variety spoken in more than three countries namely Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Angola. The language was previously called the Nama language, however, for pragmatic reasons, to cater for a Damara/Nama union, it is called Khoekhoegowab in Namibia. As far as I know there has been no comprehensive study on Nama/Damara/Khoekhoegowab. A preliminary study was done by Haacke, Eiseb and Namaseb (1997). However, as can be seen from the title of this study, it was ‘preliminary’ which means the authors are the first to admit that their study was not complete. The aim of this thesis was to undertake an extensive linguistic analysis of Khoekhoegowab as a way to come up with a comprehensive dialectal inventory. The established dialectal inventory will not only help in the linguistic development of Khoekhoegowab, but also in the determination of a standard linguistic code, leading to development of materials. This is important in grammatical descriptions needed for literacy material development and language policy implementation. Following Haacke, Eiseb and Namaseb (1997) and Guldenmann (2000, 2003, 2008), the study employed a dialectal difference or comparative approach. Considering the nature of the study, a mixed research design was used to collect the data. The data was drawn from the few available studies on Nama/Damara or Khoekhoegowab dialects such as those by Haacke, Eiseb and Namaseb (1997) and Du Plessis (2009). This was supplemented and complemented by document analysis and the various Khoekhoegowab literature. Interviews of limited key informants and focus groups were undertaken in various regions namely (Hardap, Karas and Kunene). The narratives from these interviews were used to determine the dialects currently in place as well as the differences and similarities. The collected data was then treated to a linguistic and dialectal analysis (cf. Guldenmann 2000, 2003, 2008; Du Plessis, 2009) as a way to discover similarities and differences, which will in turn inform the proposal on a possible standard form and composite orthography. The phonological differences of the three dialects under discussion were identified where the vowel system was discussed. With regard to the plain vowels, an argument was made that the Central Nama and Central Damara are in fact similar in terms of vowel inventory compared to Central Nama and the Bondelswarts dialects. The phonetic aspects of the consonant system of the identified dialects were also discussed. A discussion on clicks and click consonants was also made where a distinction was drawn between plain clicks and complex clicks. The morphosyntax of Khoehoegowab was also discussed where it was obvious that there were mainly more similarities than differences between the dialects. The phonetic inventories identified in chapters 4 and 5 were assessed using data from different sources such as the Bible, the Social Security booklet, the grade 9 school textbook, Facebook (a social media page), Google maps, Khoekhoegowab orthography (2003), and the Ministry of Health booklet. The aim of this was to account for differences and similarities between various materials in terms of symbols used for writing Khoekhoegowab. There were differences observed which were because of the influence of modern technology (especially the electronic keyboard) on the writing practices of Khoekhoegowab speakers. The proposed orthography takes technological developments into account. As a contribution, this study provides new insight into the issues of voicing, and voiced and voiceless consonants. In terms of theory the handling of tone and length was discussed in detail where it was established that tone is phonemic and not vowel length. The issue of whether or not complex clicks should be treated as units or clicks plus an accompaniment was discussed where I argued that the sounds are co-articulated and should be treated as one. Regarding the orthography, although there is orthography, the existing orthography is clearly not adequate as some of the sounds were not correctly captured. This has an implication on teaching the language in the schools. It will help in the revitalizing of Khoekhoegowab compared to more established Bantu languages.