Griqua, Korana, ǃOra, Kora
Native toSouth Africa, Namibia
EthnicityGriqua people
Native speakers
Korana (kqz): 6 (2008)[1]
Xiri (xii): 187[2]
  • Khoe
    • Khoekhoe
      • Khoemana
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
kqz – Korana
xii – Xiri
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ǃOrakobab or Khoemana, also known as Korana, ǃOra, or Griqua, is a moribund Khoe language of South Africa.


"Khoemana" (from khoe 'person' + mana 'language') is more commonly known as either Korana /kɒˈrɑːnə/ (also ǃOrakobab, ǃOra, Kora, Koraqua) or Griqua (also Gri [xri], Xri, Xiri, Xirikwa).[3] The name 'Korana' reflects the endonym ǃOra IPA: [ǃoɾa] or ǃGora IPA: [gǃoɾa], referring to the ǃOra people.[4] Sometimes ǃOra is also known as Cape Khoe or Cape Hottentot, though the latter has become considered derogatory. The various names are often treated as different languages (called South Khoekhoe when taken together), but they do not correspond to any actual dialect distinctions, and speakers may use "Korana" and "Griqua" interchangeably. Both names are also used more broadly, for example for the Griqua people. There exist (or existed) several dialects of Khoemana, but the details are unknown.[5]


Khoemana is closely related to Khoekhoe, and the sound systems are broadly similar. The strongly aspirated Khoekhoe affricates are simply aspirated plosives [tʰ, kʰ] in Khoemana. However, Khoemana has an ejective velar affricate, /kxʼʔ/,[6] which is not found in Khoekhoe, and a corresponding series of clicks, /ǀ͡xʼ ǁ͡xʼ ǃ͡xʼ ǂ͡xʼ/. Beach (1938)[7] reported that the Khoekhoe of the time had a velar lateral ejective affricate, [k͡ʟ̝̊ʼ], a common realisation or allophone of /kxʼ/ in languages with clicks, and it might be expected that this is true for Khoemana as well. In addition, about half of all lexical words in Khoemana began with a click, compared to a quarter in Khoekhoe.

Khoemana vowels
Front Central Back
oral nasal oral oral nasal
Close i ĩ u ũ
Mid e ə o õ
Open a ã

In Korana, [oe] and [oa] can be pronounced as [we] and [wa].

Khoemana non-click consonants
Labial Dental Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d
Affricate ejective tsʼ kxʼ
Fricative s x h
Trill r
Khoemana clicks
dental alveolar lateral palatal
plain (velar stop) ǀ(k) ǃ(k) ǁ(k) ǂ(k)
nasal ᵑǀ ᵑǃ ᵑǁ ᵑǂ
glottalized ǀˀ ǃˀ ǁˀ ǂˀ
aspirated ǀʰ ǃʰ ǁʰ ǂʰ
voiced ǀᶢ ǃᶢ ǁᶢ ǂᶢ
aspirated k ǀᵏʰ ǃᵏʰ ǁᵏʰ ǂᵏʰ
velar affricate ǀkx ǃkx ǁkx ǂkx
velar ejective
ǀkxʼ ǃkxʼ ǁkxʼ ǂkxʼ
velar fricative ǀx ǃx ǁx ǂx

There are four tones in Khoemana:

high- ́
rising- ̌
mid- ̄
falling- ̂


Reports as to the number of Khoemana speakers are contradictory, but it is clear that it is nearly extinct. It was thought to be extinct until the discovery of four elderly speakers around Bloemfontein and Kimberley.[8] A 2009 report by Don Killian of the University of Helsinki estimated that there were less than 30 speakers at the time.[5] Matthias Brenzinger reported in 2012 that one possible speaker remained, but that she refused to speak the language.[9] The discrepancies could be because the language has multiple dialects and goes by several names, with scholars not always referring to the same population.[5] Khoemana is listed as "critically endangered" in UNESCO's Language Atlas.[10] The loss of this endangered language would have a significant impact on the heritage and culture of Khoemana speakers.[11]


Robust Khoemana (before more recent language attrition) is principally recorded in an 1879 notebook by Lucy Lloyd, which contains five short stories; some additional work was done in Ponelis (1975).[12] As of 2009, the EuroBABEL project is searching for remaining speakers.


The people and their language first began to attract scholarly attention in the 1660s, coinciding with Dutch colonial efforts in the Cape of Good Hope and the resulting armed conflicts.[5] At the time, Khoemana was widely spoken throughout the coastal regions of South Africa. After years of attrition during the colonial era to the 1930s, and under apartheid from 1948 to 1994, the language has all but vanished.[5] Currently, speakers of Khoemana are not only scarce but scattered, due to forced migrations during the apartheid era. This has rendered the language particularly vulnerable.[13]


  1. ^ "Khoemana". UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger. UNESCO. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  2. ^ Khoemana at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  3. ^ The -kwa is also a grammatical suffix. The letter "g" for the sound [x] reflects Afrikaans orthography
  4. ^ The -na is a grammatical suffix
  5. ^ a b c d e f Killian, D. Khoemana and the Griqua
  6. ^ An ejective velar "scrape" followed by a glottal stop, a bit different from a typical velar ejective affricate
  7. ^ D. Beach, 1938. The Phonetics of the Hottentot Language. Cambridge.
  8. ^ Du Plessis, Menan (2011) "Collection of sound files for inclusion in a dictionary of Korana and eventual integration with a corpus of heritage texts"
  9. ^ Korana at Endangered
  10. ^ UNESCO Xiri at UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
  11. ^ Brenzinger, Matthias (2007). Language Endangerment in Southern and Eastern Africa. Berlin, Germany. pp. 179–204. ISBN 9783110170498.
  12. ^ Ponelis, F. A. (1975). "ǃOra Clicks: Problems and Speculations." Bushman and Hottentot Linguistic Studies, pp 51–60. ed. Anthony Traill. Communications from the African Studies Institute, no 2. University of the Witwatersrand. Johannesburg.
  13. ^ Erasmus, P. Dreams and Visions in Koranna and Griqua Revival in Colonial and Post-Apartheid South Africa

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