Xiri language

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Native to South Africa, Namibia
Region Cape of Good Hope
Ethnicity (see Griqua people)
Native speakers
30  (2009)[1]
  • Khoekhoe
    • South Khoekhoe
      • Xiri
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xii
Glottolog xiri1242[2]

Xiri or Xirikwa, in Afrikaans orthography Gri or Griqua (Griekwa); ethnonym Xirigowap, also known as "Cape Hottentot", is a Khoe language of South Africa. It is related to Nama.[1] Reports as to the number of speakers are mixed, but it is clear that Xiri is a nearly extinct. A 2009 report by Don Killian of the University of Helsinki estimated that there were less than 30 speakers at the time.[1] Alena Witzlack-Makarevich at the University of Leipzig refers to Xiri in 2006 as "a now extinct language closely related to Nama".[3]. The discrepancy could be due to the fact that the language has multiple dialects and goes by at least eight different names, with scholars seeming to disagree on whether these dialects constitute a single language.[1] Xiri is listed as "critically endangered" in UNESCO's Language Atlas.[4]

Despite the identity of their names, the Xirigowap are not the same as the mixed Griqua people.

General information[edit]

The Griqua people, along with the Xiri language, first began to attract widespread scholarly attention in the 1660s, coinciding with both the Dutch colonial efforts in the Cape of Good Hope and the resulting armed conflicts.[1] At the time, Xiri was a widely spoken language throughout the coastal regions of South Africa. After years of attrition suffered from the Dutch Colonial Era through the 1930s, and apartheid from 1948 to 1994, it has all but vanished.[1] Currently, speakers of Xiri are not only scarce but scattered due to forced migrations during the apartheid era. This has rendered the language particularly vulnerable.[5].


  1. ^ a b c d e f Killian, D. Khoemana and the Griqua
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Xiri". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Witzlack-Makarevich, A. Aspects of Information Structure in Richtersveld Nama
  4. ^ UNESCO UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
  5. ^ Erasmus, P. Dreams and Visions in Koranna and Griqua Revival in Colonial and Post-Apartheid South Africa

Beach, D. M. 1938. The Phonetics of the Hottentot Language. Cambridge: W. Heffer and Sons, Ltd.

Meinhof, Carl. 1930. Der Koranadialekt des Hottentottischen. (Zeitschrift für Eingeborenen-Sprachen, Beiheft 12.) Berlin: Dietrich Reimer; Hamburg: C. Boysen.

Further reading[edit]

Besten, Michael Paul (2006). Transformation and reconstitution of Khoe-San identities: AAS le Fleur I, Griqua identities and post-apartheid Khoe-San revivalism (1894-2004) (PDF) (Thesis). Faculty of Arts, Leiden University. 

Bill, Mary C. (1974). The influence of the Hottentot languages on the Bantu languages 2. Limi. 

Dimmendaal, Gerrit J. (1992). contexts of language death&f=false "Social contexts of language death". CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE SOCIOLOGY OF LANGUAGE (MOULTON DE GRUYTER) 64. 

Halford, Samuel James (1949). The Griquas of Griqualand: A Historical Narrative of the Griqua People, Their Rise, Progress and Decline. Juta. 

Heine, Bernd (1982). "African noun class systems". Apprehension: das sprachliche Erfassen von Gegenstanden 1. 

Holub, Emil (1881). "On the Central South African Tribes from the South Coast to the Zambesi.". Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (JSTOR). 

Kagaya, Ryohei (1993). A classified vocabulary of the Sandawe language 26. Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (ILCAA). 

Killian, Don (2008). Khoemana and the Griqua (Thesis). 

Köhler, Oswin (1963). Observations on the Central Khoisan language group. 

Jenkins, Trefor (1975). "The Griqua of Campbell, Cape Province, South Africa". American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Wiley Online Library) 43. 

Parliament, Great Britain. Irish University Press series of British parliamentary papers: Colonies. Africa. Irish University Press. 

Robertshaw, PT (1978). "The origin of pastoralism in the Cape". South African Historical Journal (Taylor & Francis) 10. 

Sommer, Gabriele (1992). "A survey of language death in Africa" (PDF). CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE SOCIOLOGY OF LANGUAGE (MOULTON DE GRUYTER) 64. 

Tanaka, Jirō (1978). A San Vocabulary of the Central Kalahari: G//ana and G/wi Dialects 7. Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA). 

The Rosetta Project (2010). The Swadesh List. 

Waldman, Linda (2006). "Klaar Gesnap As Kleurling: The Attempted Making and Remaking of the Griqua People". African Studies (Routledge) 65. 

Westphal, Ernst OJ (1971). The click languages of southern and eastern Africa. Mouton Publishers. 

Westphal, Ernst OJ (1963). "The linguistic prehistory of southern Africa: Bush, Kwadi, Hottentot, and Bantu linguistic relationships". Africa (Cambridge Univ Press) 33. 

Witzlack—Makarevich, A. (2006). Aspects of Information Structure in Richtersveld Nama (PDF) (Thesis). Institute of Linguistics, University of Leipzig.