|Native to||Angola, Namibia|
|Native speakers||1.5 million (1993–2006)|
|ISO 639-1||kj – Kwanyama
ng – Ndonga
|ISO 639-2||kua, ndo|
kua – Kwanyama
ndo – Ndonga
kwm – Kwambi
lnb – Mbalanhu
nne – Ngandjera
|Guthrie code||R.20 (R.21–24,211–218,241–242)|
The language is closely related to that of the Hereros and Himba, Otjiherero. An obvious sign of proximity is the prefix used for language and dialect names, Proto-Bantu *ki- (class 7, as in Ki-Swahili), which in Herero has evolved to Otji- and in Ovambo further to Oshi-.
After Namibia's independence in 1990, the area previously known as Ovamboland was divided into the regions of Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana or Otshana, and Oshikoto. The population, estimated at between 700,000 and 750,000, fluctuates remarkably. This is because of the indiscriminate border drawn up by the Portuguese and Germans during colonial rule, which cut through the Oukwanyama tribal area, placing some in Angola and others in Namibia. This results in regular cross-border movement.
There are approximately one million Oshiwambo speakers in Namibia and Angola. Though it is mainly spoken in the northern regions of Namibia, it is widely spoken across the rest of the country by populations of migrant workers from Ovamboland. These workers comprise a large part of the population in many towns, particularly in the south, where there are jobs in the mining industry. For example, in Lüderitz, an 18 hour drive from Ovamboland, at least 50% of the population speaks Oshiwambo.
The names Ambo and Ovambo appears to have originally been exonyms. Despite extensive speculation, their origin remains unknown.
The country was called Ovamboland and Amboland by the German colonial authorities. In English, Ovamboland predominates, though Ambo country is sometimes used, and in English publications from Namibia, Owamboland, Wamboland, and Owambo are seen. The endemic forms are Owambo (Ndonga) and Ouwambo (Kwanyama).
The people are generally called the Ovambo or Ambo in English. The endemic forms are Aawambo (Ndonga) and Ovawambo (Kwanyama); the singular in both cases is Omuwambo. The language is generally called Ovambo, Ambo, or Oshiwambo in English; the endonym in both standards is Oshiwambo.
Ovambo tribes and dialects
There are eight dialects, including the two written standards Kwanyama and Ndonga.
The following table contains the names, areas, dialect names and the locations of the Ovambo tribes according to T. E. Tirronen's Ndonga-English Dictionary. The table also contains information concerning which noun class of the Proto-Bantu language the words belong to.
|Classes 9 (*ny → on-), 11 (uu-/ou-)||Class 2 (*wa-, a-)||Class 7 (*ki → oshi-)|
|Ou-kwanyama||Ova-kwanyama||Oshi-kwanyama||Northern and Eastern Ovamboland, Angola|
|O-mbadja||Ova-mbadja||Oshi-mbadja||Angola, Shangalala vicinity|
Maho (2009) lists the following as distinct languages in the Ovambo cluster:
- Kwanyama reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
Ndonga reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
Kwambi reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
Mbalanhu reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
Ngandjera reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
- "New African Frontiers". Retrieved May 16, 2009.
- "United Nations Information Centre". Retrieved 10 January 2009.[dead link]
- Minna Saarelma-Maunumaa, 2003, Edhina Ekogidho—Names as Links: The Encounter between African and European Anthroponymic Systems among the Ambo People in Namibia. Helsinki.
- Toivo Emil Tirronen: Ndonga-English Dictionary. Oshinyanyangidho shongeleki ELCIN. Oniipa, 1986.