Khwe language

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Native to Namibia, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia
Region Northwest District in Botswana, Khwai River, Mababe
Native speakers
8,000  (2011)[1]
(7,000 Khwe and 1,000 ǁAni)
  • Kalahari (Tshu–Khwe)
    • West
      • Khwe
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
xuu – Khwe
hnh – ǁAni (Handa)
Glottolog kxoe1242[2]

Khwe (also rendered Kxoe, Khoe; /ˈkw/ or /ˈkɔɪ/) is a dialect continuum of the Khoe family of Namibia, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, and small parts of Zambia, with some 8,000 speakers.[1]


It is learned locally as a second language in Namibia, but the language is being lost in Botswana as speakers shift to Tswana. Thousands of Kxoe were murdered in Angola after independence, as they had been used by the Portuguese as trackers, and the survivors fled to Zambia. However, some may have returned to Angola more recently.

There is currently a dictionary of the Kxoe language.


Khwe is the preferred spelling of the Khwe people, also commonly written Khoe. Khoe-dam and Khwedam are also seen.

Other names and spellings of ǁAni include ǀAnda, Gǀanda, Handá, Gani, Tanne, and Tsʼéxa (disambiguate Ts'ixa) with various combinations of -kwe/khwe/khoe and -dam.


Eastern and Western dialects, ǁXom-Buma and ǁXo-Buga, have been largely leveled since resettlement in the mid 1970s. Khwe and ǁAni are an ethnic distinction, and in 2000 the two groups founded a committee to establish a common standard language.


Khwe has 32 or 36 clicks, depending on whether one counts the four prenasalized clicks. There are four places of articulation, [ǀ], [ǃ], [ǂ], and [ǁ], each with several "releases". Miller (2011), in a comparative study with other languages, interprets the description in Kilian-Hatz (2003) as follows, illustrated with the palatal articulation:[3]

Click Description
ǂʰ aspirated
ǂ tenuis
ᶢǂ voiced
ᵑǂ nasal
ŋᶢǂ prenasalized
ᵑǂˀ glottalized nasal
ǂ͡q linguo-pulmonic
ǂ͡χ linguo-pulmonic fricative
ǂ͡χʼ linguo-glottalic fricative


  • Kilian-Hatz, Christa (2003) Khwe Dictionary (with a supplement on Khwe place names by Matthias Brenzinger). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe. ISBN 3-89645-083-2


  1. ^ a b Brenzinger, Matthias (2011) "The twelve modern Khoisan languages." In Witzlack-Makarevich & Ernszt (eds.), Khoisan languages and linguistics: proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium, Riezlern / Kleinwalsertal (Research in Khoisan Studies 29). Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kxoe–Ani". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Amanda Miller, 2011. "The Representation of Clicks". In Oostendorp et al. eds., The Blackwell Companion to Phonology.

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