Ekoka ǃKung
Western ǃXuun
North-Central Ju
Native toSouth Africa, Namibia, Angola
Native speakers
16,500 (2013)[1]
  • ǀʼAkhwe
Language codes
ISO 639-3knw
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Ekoka ǃKung (Ekoka ǃXuun, Ekoka-ǃXû, ǃKung-Ekoka) or Western ǃXuun (North-Central Ju) is a variety of the ǃKung 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]

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

Tsintsabis might actually be Central ǃKung.



Ekoka ǃKung has an indistinguishable sound system to Juǀʼhoansi. However, the series of palatal clicks, /ǂ/ etc, have a fricated lateral release (see fricated palatal clicks). These are provisionally transcribed ⟨ǃ͡s⟩ or ⟨⟩, 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 ᵏǃᵡ ᶢǃʶ
tʃʼ dʒʼ dʃᵡʼ kxʼ ǃ͡kxʼ ᶢǃ͡kxʼ
Fricative ʃ x ɦ
j w
/tʰ/ is shown as post-alveolar; cf. the epiglottalized /tᵸ/ 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 ǃKung 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


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.


  1. ^ Ekoka ǃKung at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)
  2. ^ Heine, B. and Honken, H. 2010. "The Kxʼa Family: A New Khoisan Genealogy" Archived 2018-11-02 at the Wayback Machine. Journal of Asian and African Studies (Tokyo), 79, p. 5–36.
  3. ^ Gerlach, Linda (2015) "Phonetic and phonological description of the Nǃaqriaxe variety of ǂʼAmkoe and the impact of language contact". PhD dissertation, Humboldt University, Berlin

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