Juǀ'hoan dialect

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Southeastern ǃXuun
Native to Namibia, Botswana
Region near border with Angola
Native speakers
4,000[1] (2003)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ktz
Glottolog juho1239[2]
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Juǀʼhoan (also rendered Zhuǀʼhõasi, Dzuǀʼoasi, Zû-ǀhoa, JuǀʼHoansi), or Southeastern ǃXuun (Southeastern Ju), is the southern variety of the !Kung dialect continuum, spoken in northeastern Namibia and the Northwest District of Botswana. Four regional (sub)dialects are distinguished: Epukiro, Tsumkwe, Rundu, and Omatako, with Tsumkwe being the best described; ǂKxʼauǁʼein may be another.


Juǀʼhoan has four tones. There are five vowel qualities, /i e a o u/. However, these may be nasalized, glottalized, murmured, or combinations of these, and most of these possibilities occur both long and short. The qualities /a/ and /o/ may also be pharyngealized and strident (epiglottalized). Thus, there are a good 30 vowel phonemes, perhaps more, depending on one's analysis. There are, in addition, many vowel sequences and diphthongs.

Juǀʼhoan has an unusually large number of consonants, even for a !Kung language. The following occur at the beginnings of roots. For brevity, only the alveolar clicks are listed with the other consonants; the complete set of clicks is found below.

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar
Velar Corresponding
Nasal voiced m n ŋ ᵑǃ
murmured (mʱ) ᵑǃʱ
aspirated ᵑ̊ǃʰ
Plosive voiced b d dz ɡ ᶢǃ
tenuis p t ts k ǃ (ʔ)
aspirated voiceless tsʰ tʃʰ ǃʰ
voiced aspirated b͡pʰ (bʱ) d͡tʰ (dʱ) d͡tsʰ (dsʱ) d͡tʃʰ (dʃʱ) ɡ͡kʰ (ɡʱ) ᶢǃʰ (ᶢǃʱ)
voiceless ejective tsʼ tʃʼ kxʼ ǃˀ
voiced ejective d͡tsʼ (dzʼ) d͡tʃʼ (dʒʼ)
uvularized tᵡ ǃᵡ
voiced uvularized dᵡ dzᵡ dʒᵡ ᶢǃʶ
epiglottalized tʜ kʜ ǃʜ
voiced epiglottalized ɡʢ ᶢǃʢ
Fricative voiced z ʒ ɦ
voiceless (f) s ʃ χ

Tenuis and modally voiced consonants (blue) may occur with any vowel quality. However, other consonants (grey, transcribed with a superscript diacritic to their right) do not occur in the same root as murmured, glottalized, or epiglottalized vowels.

The voiced aspirated and ejective consonants, both pulmonic and clicks, contain a voiceless interval, which Miller (2003) attributes to a larger glottal opening than is found in Hindustani breathy-voiced consonants. Phonetically, however, they are voice contours, starting out voiced but becoming voiceless for the aspiration or ejection.[3]

The phonemic status of [ʔ], [dz] and [dʒ] is uncertain. [ʔ] may be epenthetic before vowel-initial words; alternatively, it may be that no word may begin with a vowel. /mʱ/ occurs only in a single morpheme, the plural diminutive enclitic /mʱi/. /f/ and /l/ (not shown) only occur in loan words, and some accounts posit a /j/ and /w/. Labials (/p, pʰ, b, bʱ, m/) are very rare initially, though common between vowels. Velar stops (oral and nasal) are rare initially and very rare medially.

The consonants listed as epiglottalized, following Miller-Ockhuizen (2003), have uvular frication and glottalization; they are similar to consonants in Nǀu described as uvular ejective by Miller et al. (2009).

Only a small set of consonants occur between vowels within roots. These are:

Labial Alveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
β̞ ɾ ɣ
m n ŋ
k, ŋk qʜ
χ ɦ

Medial [β̞, ɾ, m, n] (green) are very common; [ɣ, ŋ] are rare, and the other medial consonants occur in only a very few roots, many of them loans. [β̞, ɾ, ɣ] are generally analyzed as allophones of /b, d, ɡ/. However, [ɾ] especially may correspond to multiple root-initial consonants.

Juǀʼhoan has 48 click consonants. There are four click "types": dental, lateral, alveolar, and palatal, each of which found in twelve series or "accompaniments" (combinations of manner, phonation, and contour). These are perfectly normal consonants in Juǀʼhoan, and indeed are preferred over non-clicks in word-initial position.

'noisy' clicks 'sharp' clicks series
dental lateral alveolar palatal
ǀ ǁ ǃ ǂ Tenuis
ᶢǀ ᶢǁ ᶢǃ ᶢǂ Voiced
ᵑǀ ᵑǁ ᵑǃ ᵑǂ Nasal
ǀʰ ǁʰ ǃʰ ǂʰ Aspirated
ᶢǀʱ ᶢǁʱ ᶢǃʱ ᶢǂʱ Murmured? (or pre-voiced aspirated)
ᵑ̊ǀʰ ᵑ̊ǁʰ ᵑ̊ǃʰ ᵑ̊ǂʰ Aspirated nasal
ᵑǀʱ ᵑǁʱ ᵑǃʱ ᵑǂʱ Murmured nasal
ǀˀ ǁˀ ǃˀ ǂˀ Glottalized nasal
ǀᵡ ǁᵡ ǃᵡ ǂᵡ Linguo-pulmonic contour
ᶢǀʶ ᶢǁʶ ᶢǃʶ ᶢǂʶ Voiced linguo-pulmonic
ǀʜ ǁʜ ǃʜ ǂʜ Epiglottalized (heterorganic contour)
ᶢǀʢ ᶢǁʢ ᶢǃʢ ᶢǂʢ Voiced epiglottalized

As above, tenuis and modally voiced consonants (blue) may occur with any vowel quality. However, other consonants (grey, transcribed with a superscript diacritic to their right) do not occur in the same root as murmured, glottalized, or epiglottalized vowels.

Glottalized clicks occur almost exclusively before nasal vowels. This may indicate that these clicks are nasalized [ᵑǃˀ], etc., as is the case in most if not all other languages with glottalized clicks. The nasalization would not be audible during the click itself due to the glottalization, which would prevent any nasal airflow, but the velum would be lowered, potentially nasalizing adjacent vowels.

The 'uvularized' clicks are actually linguo-pulmonic contours, [ǃ͡qχ] and [ᶢǃ͡ɢʁ], etc. The 'epiglottalized' clicks are heterorganic affricates, and equivalent to linguo-glottalic consonants transcribed [ǃ͡kxʼ] and [ᶢǃ͡kxʼ], etc., in other languages (Miller 2011).

See Ekoka !Kung for a related variety with a somewhat larger click inventory.


In the 1960s the South African Department of Education set about establishing official orthographies for the languages of Southwest Africa (Namibia). Jan Snyman was selected to develop an orthography for the then-unwritten Juǀʼhoasi, which was accepted in 1969. In this orthography, the name of the language is spelled Žuǀʼhõasi. A slightly modified form (Snyman 1975) is shown below.

In the 1980s the Bible Society of South Africa requested a new orthography, one that used only letters of the Latin alphabet, avoided diacritics as much as possible, and conformed as much as possible to the conventions of Afrikaans. This second orthography was accepted in 1987, in which the language is spelled Zjuc'hôa.

A third orthography was developed by the Ju|wa Bushman Development Foundation in 1994. The three are compared with the IPA below. Tone is evidently unmarked:

Three Juǀʼhoan orthographies
Labial plosives Alveolar plosives Velar plosives Alveolar affricates Postalveolar affricates
IPA [b] [p] [bʱ] [pʰ] [d] [t] [dʱ] [tʰ] [ɡ] [k] [ɡʱ] [kʰ] [ts] [dsʱ] [tsʰ] [ds’] [ts’] [tʃ] [dʃʱ] [tʃʰ] [dʃ’] [tʃ’] [kx’]
1975 b p bh ph d t dh th g k gh kh ts dsh tsh ds’ ts’ dšh tšh dš’ tš’ kx’
1994 ds tz tc dch tch dc tj kx
1987 gh ’gh ds’ ts’ tj djh tjh dj’ tj’ kg
Hetero-organic affricates Fricates Nasals Syllabic
IPA [dʶ] [tᵡ] [tʜ] [dzʶ] [tsᵡ] [dʒʶ] [tʃᵡ] [z] [s] [ʒ] [ʃ] [χ] [h] [ɽ] [m] [n] [m̩] [ŋ̍] [m̰] [m̤] [j] [w]
1975 dx tx tx’ dzx tsx dx tx z s ž š x h r m n m ang mh y w
1994 tk djx tcx j c mq
1987 dg tg tg’ - tsg djg tjg zj sj g
Dental clicks Alveolar clicks
IPA [ᶢǀ] [ǀ] [ᶢǀʱ] [ǀʰ] [ǀˀ] [ᵑ̊ǀʰ] [ᵑǀ] [ᵑǀʱ] [ᶢǀʶ] [ǀᵡ] [ᶢǀʢ] ʜ] [ᶢǃ] [ǃ] [ᶢǃʱ] [ǃʰ] [ǃˀ] [ᵑ̊ǃʰ] [ᵑǃ] [ᵑǃʱ] [ᶢǃʶ] [ǃᵡ] [ᶢǃʢ] ʜ]
1975 ǀ gǀh ǀh ǀ’ ǀ’h nǀ’h gǀx ǀx gǀx’ ǀx’ ǃ gǃh ǃh ǃ’ ǃ’h nǃ’h gǃx ǃx gǃx’ ǃx’
1994 nǀh gǀk ǀk nǃh gǃk ǃk
1987 gc c dch ch c’ c’h nc nch dcg cg dcg’ cg’ gq q dqh qh q’ q’h nq nqh dqg qg dqg’ qg’
Palatal clicks Lateral clicks
IPA [ᶢǂ] [ǂ] [ᶢǂʱ] [ǂʰ] [ǂˀ] [ᵑ̊ǂʰ] [ᵑǂ] [ᵑǂʱ] [ᶢǂʶ] [ǂᵡ] [ᶢǂʢ] ʜ] [ᶢǁ] [ǁ] [ᶢǁʱ] [ǁʰ] [ǁˀ] [ᵑ̊ǁʰ] [ᵑǁ] [ᵑǁʱ] [ᶢǁʶ] [ǁᵡ] [ᶢǁʢ] ʜ]
1975 ǂ gǂh ǂh ǂ’ ǂ’h nǂ’h gǂx ǂx gǂx’ ǂx’ ǁ gǁh ǁh ǁ’ ǁ’h nǁ’h gǁx ǁx gǁx’ ǁx’
1994 nǂh gǂk ǂk nǁh gǁk ǁk
1987 ç dçh çh ç’ ç’h nçh dçg çg dçg’ çg’ gx x —* xh x’ x’h nx nxh dxg xg dxg’ xg’
Plain vowels Pressed
Nasal vowels Pressed
Nasal vowels
IPA [i] [e] [a, ə] [o] [u] [aˤ] [oˤ] [ĩ] [ã] [õ] [ũ] [ãˤ] [õˤ]
1975 i e a o u ĩ ã õ ũ ã̭ õ̭
1994 aq oq in an on un aqn oqn
1987 a, e î â ô û â̦ ô̦

The 1994 orthography also has ih, eh, ah, oh, uh for breathy (murmured) vowels, and ihn, ahn, ohn, uhn for breathy nasal vowels. However, Snyman maintains that these are positional variants of low-tone vowels, and not needed in an orthography (at least, not if tone were marked).

One of the clicks (*) is not attested.



  • Dickens, Patrick J. (2005) A Concise Grammar of Ju|’hoan With a Ju|’hoan-English Glossary and a Subject Index, ISBN 978-3-89645-145-3, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag: Köln.
  • Miller-Ockhuizen, Amanda (2003) The phonetics and phonology of gutturals: case study from Ju/'hoansi. Psychology Press.
  • Snyman, Jan W. (1975) Zuǀʼhõasi Fonologie en Woordeboek. Cape Town: AA Balkema.
  • Snyman, Jan W. (1983) 'Zuǀʼhõasi, a Khoisan Dialect of South West Africa/Namibia', in Dihoff, Ivan R. (ed.) Current Approaches to African Linguistics Vol 1, 115–125.
  • Snyman, Jan W. (1997) 'A preliminary classification of the ǃXũũ and Zuǀʼhõasi Dialects', in Haacke, W.H.G. & Elderkin, E.D. (eds.) Namibian Languages: Reports and Papers. (Namibian African Studies, 4). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 21–106.
  • Snyman, Jan W. (n.d.) An Official Orthography for Žu|'hõasi Kokx'oi. Pretoria.


  1. ^ International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: AAVE-Esperanto. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press. 2003. ISBN 9780195139778. 
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ju'hoan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 63, 80–81. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. 

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