Central !Kung

Central !Kung
Native toNamibia
  • Grootfontein !Xuun
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Central !Kung (Central !Xuun), or Central Ju, is a recently[when?] distinguished variety of the !Kung dialect cluster, spoken in a small area of northern Namibia: Neitsas, in Grootfontein district, and Gaub, in Tsumeb district. It is frequently reported as Grootfontein !Xuun, as most work has been done in Grootfontein. A possibly identifying feature of Central !Kung is a distinct series of retroflex clicks. While Northern (Northwestern) and Southern (Southeastern) !Kung are not mutually intelligible, it is not yet clear to what extent Central !Kung is intermediate between them or intelligible with either.


Two dialects are identified as being Central !Kung based on grammatical features:

(C1) Gaub (Tsumeb district, N Namibia)
(C2) Neitsas (Grootfontein district, N Namibia)

In addition, the Tsintsabis, Leeunes and Mangetti (different from Mangetti Dune) dialects of !Kung have retroflex clicks and so may belong here, though no grammatical information is available to classify them.


Grootfontein !Kung is unusual in having true retroflex clicks, which are subapical for some speakers and have lateral release, as in the word for 'water', [‼̬ˡú] (provisionally written g‼ú). There are thus five places of articulation in Grootfontein clicks, /ǃ ǀ ǁ ǂ ‼/. These come in eight series, here represented with the retroflex articulation:

Lingual /‼ ‼ʰ ᶢ‼ ᵑ‼ ᵑ̊‼ʰ/, glottalized /ᵑ̊‼ˀ/, linguo-pulmonic /‼χ/, linguo-glottalic /‼͡kxʼ/

Otherwise, the Grootfontein inventory is similar to that of Ekoka !Kung, except that it lacks the (pre)voiced affricates dχ, dʒ, dʒʼ, dʃχʼ.

The Grootfontein !Kung language has a relatively large phonological inventory:


Grootfontein !Kung consonant inventory[2]
Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive voiceless p t t̠ʰ k ʔ
vl. aspirated
voiced b d ɡ
vd. aspirated ɡʰ
prenasal (ᵐb) (ⁿd) (ᵑɡ)
Fricative ʃ χ ɦ
Affricate voiceless
aspirated tʃʰ
ejective tʃʼ
Nasal voiced m n ɲ ŋ
Lateral l
Approximant w j
Plain + /χ/ tʃχ
Plain + /χʼ/ kχʼ
Grootfontein !Kung click consonant inventory[2]
Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Lateral
Voiceless ǀ ! ǂ ǁ
Vl. Aspirated ǀʰ ‼ʰ ǂʰ ǁʰ
Voiced ᶢǀ ᶢ! ᶢ‼ ᶢǂ ᶢǁ
Vd. Aspirated ᶢǀʰ ᶢ!ʰ ᶢ‼ʰ ᶢǂʰ ᶢǁʰ
Nasal ᵑǀ ᵑ! ᵑ‼ ᵑǂ ᵑǁ
Nl. Aspirated ᵑǀʰ ᵑ!ʰ ᵑ‼ʰ ᵑǂʰ ᵑǁʰ
Fortis ᵏ! ᵏǁ
Ejective ǀʼ ‼ʼ ǂʼ ǁʼ
Ej. Aspirated ǀʼʰ !ʼʰ ‼ʼʰ ǂʼʰ ǁʼʰ
Plain + /χ/ ǀχ ‼χ ǂχ ǁχ
Plain + /χʼ/ ǀχʼ !χʼ ‼χʼ ǂχʼ ǁχʼ
Voiced + /χʼ/ ᶢǀχʼ ᶢ!χʼ ᶢ‼χʼ ᶢǂχʼ ᶢǁχʼ


Five vowel sounds in the !Kung languages are realized as [i e a o u]. The sounds may be articulated with nasalisation [ĩ ẽ ã õ ũ], breathy voice [iʱ eʱ aʱ oʱ uʱ], or pharyngealisation [iˤ eˤ aˤ oˤ uˤ]. Some nasal vowels with diacritics may have combinations such as breathy + nasal [ãʱ õʱ], and pharyngeal + nasal [ãˤ õˤ ũˤ].[2]


Following are sample sentences in Central !Kung.[3]

mí má kȍhà hŋ́ gǀȕì ō ǁȁhìn-ā ō hȁ ō gǀè gù ǀxūúnnu
I must see the hyena to tell it to come catch the crocodile lying there
mtícē kwá bà ǀōā kē gǀè-ā g‼ȍhò
why didn't you come to work?
hȁ má kò kē ǁȁn̏ kú cŋ̏ djūí kā hȁ ǁàȅ-ā tí kē TB ǁ'à-ān tí
he was not supposed to drink beer anymore because he had tuberculosis [lit. he was held by TB sickness]
hȁ má kò ǁáúlè !xō
he is supposed to hunt elephants but he didn't
mí má kā ǁàȅ n!ùm̀ kā ŋ̄ŋ̀ kā-è cālā n‼á'm̀ g‼à è-tcā
I hold this rock so that it cannot fall down and kill us.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Central Ju". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b c Scott, Abigail; Miller, Amanda; Namaseb, Levi; Sands, Bonny; Shah, Sheena (June 2, 2010). "Retroflex Clicks in Two Dialects of !Xung". University of Botswana, Department of African Languages.
  3. ^ Perception and Cognition in Language and Culture. Alexandra Aikhenvald, Anne Storch, 2013

Further reading[]

External links[]