Ekoka !Kung

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Ekoka !Kung
Western !Xuun
North-Central Ju
Native toSouth Africa, Namibia, Angola
  • ǀʼAkhwe
Language codes
ISO 639-3knw
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Ekoka !Kung (Ekoka !Xuun, Ekoka-!Xû, !Kung-Ekoka) or Western !Xuun (North-Central Ju) is a variety of the !Kung dialect cluster, spoken originally in the area of the central NamibianAngolan border, west of the Okavango River, but since the Angolan Civil War also in South Africa.


Heine & Honken (2010) place Ekoka in the Northern–Western branch of ǃXuun (ǃKung), where Ekoka is equivalent to the Western branch. They distinguish three varieties:[2]

  • Western ǃXuun (Kung-Ekoka)
    • Tsintsabis (natively ǃxūún; spoken in Tsintsabis, Tsumeb district, N Namibia)
    • |Akhwe (natively ǃxūún, ǀʼākhòè ǃxòān "Kwanyama ǃXuun"; spoken in Eenhana, N Namibia)
    • [no name] (natively ǃxūún, ǃʼālè ǃxòān "Valley ǃXuun"; spoken in Eenhana district, N Namibia)

Sands et al. place it in its own branch, which they call North-Central Ju:

  • North-Central Ju (Namibia, between the Ovambo River and the Angolan border, around the tributaries of the Okavango River east of Rundu to the Etosha Pan)
    • Tsintsabis
    • ǀʼAkhwe
    • Okongo
    • Ovambo
    • Mpunguvlei



Ekoka ǃKung has a similar sound system to Juǀʼhoansi. However, the series of palatal clicks, [ǂ] etc, have a fricated lateral release (see fricated alveolar clicks). These are provisionally transcribed [ǃ͡s], etc., and behave similarly to palatal (rather than alveolar) clicks in terms of not following the back-vowel constraint.

In addition to the twelve 'accompaniments' of clicks in Juǀʼhoansi, Ekoka has preglottalized nasal clicks, such as /ʔᵑǃ/. These are not common cross-linguistically, but are also found in Taa and ǂHoan.

König & Heine (2001) report the following inventory, with the clicks as analyzed by Miller (2011). One of the click series, called 'fortis' in König & Heine, is only attested at two places of articulation; it is not clear which this corresponds to in the table below. There are also prenasalized /mb, nd, ŋɡ/ in Bantu loans.

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Corresponding
Nasal m
Stop/Affricate p

ᵑ̊ǃˀ ᵑǃˀ
tᵡ dᵡ tʃᵡ ǃᵡ ᶢǃʶ
tʃʼ dʒʼ dʃᵡʼ kxʼ ǃ͡kxʼ ᶢǃ͡kxʼ
Fricative ʃ x ɦ
j w
/tʰ/ is shown as post-alveolar; cf. the epiglottalized /tʜ/ found in Juǀ'hoan, though this could be an alignment error. Similarly, /tʃʰ/ is shown as palatal, along with /tʃᵡ, dʃᵡʼ/ and in contrast to post-alveolar /tʃ/.

More recently, Heine & König find that Ekoka !Kung also has a series of preglottalized nasal consonants, including preglottalized nasal clicks:[3]

/ˀm, ˀn, ˀᵑǀ, ˀᵑǃ, ˀᵑǂ, ˀᵑǁ/


Ekoka has a full set of modal and murmured (breathy) vowels, as well as pharyngealized back vowels, and a reduced set of modal, murmured, and pharyngealized nasal vowels:

i e a o u – ih eh ah oh uh – aq oq uq – in an un – ahn ohn – aqn oqn uqn

rescued edits from 2004 with no ref. go with grammar § below[edit]

Phonemic contrasts in Ekoka include:

  • Pulmonic - click - twa to finish vs ǂwa to imitate
    • Pulmonic consonants
      • Voiced - voiceless unaspirated - voiceless aspirated stop: da skin, ta wild orange, tʰa bee sting
      • Voiced - voiceless unaspirated - voiceless aspirated - ejective affricate: djau expression of surprise, tca to fetch, t͡sʰe week, tcʼa to pour
      • Voiced - voiceless fricative: za to sexually insult, se to see
    • Click consonants
      • Voiced unaspirated - voiced aspirated: ɡǃaĩ puff adder, ɡǃʰeĩ tree
      • Voiceless unaspirated - voiceless aspirated: ǃẽ noise, ǃʰã to know
      • Unaffricated - affricated release: ǃo behind, ǃxo elephant
      • Plain - glottalised release: ǃábí to roll up a blanket, ǃˀàbú rifle
      • Plain - nasalised: ǀi rhinoceros, nǀi to sit
  • Vowels
    • Plain - nasalised: ɡǃa rain, ɡǃã red
    • Plain - pharyngealised: nǀom springhare, nǀo̱m big talker
    • Short - long: ǀu to throw, ǀuː to put in


Linguistically, ǃKung is generally termed isolating, meaning that words' meanings are changed by the addition of other, separate words, rather than by the addition of affixes or the changing of word structure. A few suffixes exist - for example, distributive plurals are formed with the noun suffix -si or -mhi, but in the main meaning is given only by series of words rather than by grouping of affixes.

ǃKung distinguishes no formal plural, and the suffixes -si and -mhi are optional in usage. The language's word order is adverb–subject–verb–object, and in this it is similar to English: "the snake bites the man" is represented by ǂʼaama nǃei zhu (ǂʼaama - snake, nǃei - to bite, zhu - man). ǃKung-ekoka uses word and sentence tone contours, and has a very finely differentiated vocabulary for the animals, plants and conditions native to the Kalahari Desert, where the language is spoken. For example, the plant genus Grewia is referred to by five different words, representing five different species in this genus.


  • Bernd Heine & Christa König, 2010. The ǃXun language: A dialect grammar. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
  • Amanda Miller et al., 2011, "The Phonetics of the Modernday reflexes of the Proto‐palatal click in Juu languages" (Ekoka and Mangetti Dune)
  • Miller, Sands, et al., 2010. "Retroflex Clicks in Two Dialects of ǃXung" (Grootfontein and Ekoka)
  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kung-Ekoka". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Heine, B. and Honken, H. 2010. "The Kx'a Family: A New Khoisan Genealogy". Journal of Asian and African Studies (Tokyo), 79, p. 5–36.
  3. ^ Gerlach, Linda (2015) "Phonetic and phonological description of the Nǃaqriaxe variety of ǂ’Amkoe and the impact of language contact". PhD dissertation, Humboldt University, Berlin

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